Depending on where you set up camp, meeting a bear can be a real concern. Most campgrounds are great about helping campers be bear aware if they’re located in bear country. But it’s also good for you to be smart about it and do some research before you hit the road to make sure you’re familiar with the area you’ll be visiting and the types of precautions you should put in place. Staying bear safe is simple with a little preparation and common sense.

  • Start by eliminating any reason for a bear to visit your campsite. Just like Yogi at Jellystone, bears are really only interested in food. That means you want to keep food locked up or suspended above your campsite and stored in airtight bags or containers if possible. Most established campsites in bear country have special metal containers in which you can store food and cooking equipment. If that’s not an option, with a good length of rope you can bundle up your food and suspend it 10 or 12 feet in the air out of the reach of a hungry bear.
  • Follow the triangle rule. Start with your camper or tent and plant it upwind from the rest of your campsite. Now imagine your campsite is the apex of triangle. In one direction, set up your fire and cooking area 100 feet from your tent. In the other direction, hang your food from a tree 100 feet from your tent. The three points should form a triangle with 100-foot sides. And what it does is keep your sleeping area well away from those things that will attract the bear.
  • Keep it clean. A black bear has a sense of smell seven times stronger than a dog. That errant Starburst wrapper, believe it or not, can be smelled by a bear hundreds of yards away. So the best thing is to clean up after yourself meticulously and store trash in airtight bags and containers. Wash and clean your cooking and eating utensils immediately after eating.
  • Be aware of what your wear. With a bear’s keen sense of smell, it’s helpful to cook in one set of clothes and sleep in another. That way lingering or potent food and cooking smells don’t waft from your tent in the night.
  • Bring along the pepper spray. Most sporting goods stores sell bear spray, a powerful pepper spray that can be used on bears that amble into your campsite. The spray is potent repellant that wards off the curious and meddling bear by inflaming its mucus membranes and temporarily blinding it.
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