How to protect your gear from bears

protect food from bears

Going on a camping trip this summer? Want to ensure that your food supply makes it through the expedition without being devoured by bears?

Here’s how:

Keep your campsite animal-free

It doesn’t matter whether you’re staying at a campground or a backcountry campsite, you’ll want to ensure that animals—be they the feathered or the much larger furry variety—aren’t drawn to your site.

Rumour has it that bears love the smell of bacon cooking (don’t we all?). Regardless of what you’re cooking, smell is the reason that meal preparation and cleanup should happen far away from where you sleep, and downwind if possible.

Never leave any items that smell (including food, scented toiletries, and trash) unattended and don’t keep them inside your tent. (Yes, that includes your secret chocolate bar stash, too.) During the day, these items can be secured in a cooler or car, but at night you’ll want to shift them to a safer storage spot, such as a metal food locker provided by the campsite.

Store food in a bear canister

If your campsite doesn’t provide a locker, then you’ll want to bring your own secure storage solution. Due to their weight and size, bear canisters aren’t ideal for hikers who are looking to lighten their load, but they’re great if you’re driving into your campsite.

Bears may be clever, but they’re not crafty enough to unscrew the lids of these canisters, which may require a screwdriver or a coin to unlock. Since they’re bear-proof, they can be left on the ground overnight and conveniently do double-duty as a makeshift camp stool.

Store food in a bear bag

A better option for backpackers, bears can’t tear through these high-density polyethylene bags. They can, however, carry them away—so although they can be left on the ground like canisters, you’ll want to string them up in a tree overnight.

Make sure your “bear bag” is just that—and not “bear bait”

If you don’t have a bear canister or a food locker, hanging your gear from a tree or a pole (which are offered at some campsites) is the best way to make sure it remains untouched. There’s just one thing you should keep in mind—bears and other hungry critters, such as raccoons, can climb trees. To keep your gear truly safe, it should be hung at least 10 to 12 feet off the ground and 4 to 8 feet from the trunk of the tree.

Prepare your bear bag by putting anything that smells—including food, dishes, and garbage—into a stuff sack or a polyethylene bear bag. Essentially, hanging the bag involves throwing a rope over a sturdy tree limb and hoisting it up, before tying the rope off to the tree’s trunk.

However, there is more than one way to string up a bear bag, including the Marrison Haul Method, the PCT Method, and the Counterbalance Method. YouTube is your friend when it comes to learning these different systems, some of which may require extra equipment like carabiners.

Our top tip? Tie your bag up early in the evening. It will always take longer than you think and defaulting to keeping food in your car means risking your most expensive “camping gear” of all.