Map, Compass & GPS

Map, Compass & GPS
Wild flowers along Fall Creek on the way to the Green Lakes - Oregon

Monday, September 26, 2016

Keep Critters Out of Your Food.

5 Ways to Keep Critters Out of Food While Camping

A new post by guest contributor Lee.
You're on a camping trip. You wake up one morning and climb out of your sleeping bag, ready for breakfast. There's only one problem: an animal got into your food stash and ate everything you had, down to the last granola bar.
This doesn't have to happen to you. There are things you can do to make sure that the local wildlife doesn’t leave you starving in the middle of nowhere. Here are five ways to keep critters out of your food stash while camping.
 1. Bring a Bear Canister
A bear canister is a hard-sided container designed to keep animals, especially bears, out of your food. They weigh anywhere from two to four pounds and can store between six to 15 liters of food. These containers are virtually impossible to break open using brute strength, and they are usually too big to carry away.
Unfortunately, bear canisters aren’t cheap; they cost between $60 to $80. The good news is that, once you buy a bear canister, you don’t have to buy it again. You'll be able to use it on multiple camping trips for years to come.
 2. Use Publicly Established Bear Lockers
Some national parks, such as Yosemite, provides bear lockers in which you can stash your food. These lockers are typically located around parking lots and campgrounds.
If you do use these lockers, make sure your food is clearly marked. You probably don't like it when someone at work accidentally grabs your food from the office refrigerator. The same thing can happen at a public bear locker, especially if you’re using generic-looking coolers or plastic grocery bags.
Make a small label and tape it to your container so that other campers know to keep their hands off of your dehydrated food.

3. Store Your Food High And Out of Reach
If you can’t afford a bear container and there are no bear lockers around, you can try hanging your food from a tree branch.
The best type of cord to use is paracord, and you'll want it to be at least 100 feet in length.
Tie one end of the cord to a rock and the other end to your food bag. Find a branch that’s 20 feet high, and throw your rock over that branch. Pull on the cord until your food is suspended in the air, and tie off the paracord around the tree trunk.

4. Store All Scented Items Along With Your Food
A bear's sense of smell is 2100 times more powerful than a human's, and unfortunately, they don’t know the difference between raspberries and lotions that smell like raspberries. It’s all potential food to them.
Store anything that has a scent inside your food bag, whether that item can actually be eaten or not. The same goes for your cookware, utensils and food waste.
 5. Keep Your Food Far Away From Your Campsite
Even if you manage to firmly secure all of your food items, that doesn’t mean those items still won't attract animals.
This can be a problem, especially at night. Small animals could disturb your sleep, and bigger animals, such as bears, could be potentially dangerous.
Keep your food between 100 to 200 feet away from your campsite. Be sure to store those items downwind from your campsite, so that animals don’t cross your sleeping area on their way to your food.
Additionally, don’t leave anything in your backpack overnight, and leave all its compartments unzipped. If a curious animal does find its way to your bag, it’s less likely to rip or chew it open in order to explore what’s inside.
These five tips to keep critters out of your food will go a long way towards keeping your food secure and helping you stay safe. Properly securing your food doesn't just reduce the chances of a negative interaction with an animal; it also helps ensure that you'll have a great camping trip.

Lee Flynn is a freelance writer. Through small local workshops and articles, Lee trains and teaches others on home preparation, healthy living, food storage techniques, and self reliance.


  1. Blake, thanks for the post. Question: what would your suggestion be for storing food when capacity to carry is limited? A bear canister or locker is probably ideal in the best conditions for established site camping, but in the backwoods it's not really an option when a pack can only hold so much. Are there specific food bags you'd recommend to be hung off of a line?


    1. Good morning Nick, What comes to mind first is to put food in vacuum sealed bags. They are very light weight. I'd carry a zip log gallon bag to carry trash. Bags could be hung in a stuff bag and kept of the ground.

      I used to own an expensive vacuum seal machine that was OK for it's time of service but being rather frugal I bought one at the thrift store for about $15 and it has served me very well.

      Best to you, Blake

    2. Thanks for the advice, Blake. Vacuum bag is not something I'd considered.

    3. Let me know what you come up with. Have a great weekend. Blake