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Bear Country Backpacking and Camping

Bears for the most part are not aggressive towards humans. They are magnificent creatures and encountering a bear in the wild is generally a very positive experience. It’s important to remember when you are in bear country, you are on their turf and must respect that; spring time momma bears will be very protective of their cubs, and in the fall all bears are aggressively feeding before hibernation.

Take some time to research the area you will be backpacking or camping to determine if there are bear regulations. And it’s a good idea to call the nearest forest ranger station to check on bear activity in the area. Bears do not want problems with humans. If you are bear smart, you are not likely to have any problems with bears.

  • Never, ever, ever keep food or cooking items in your tent while in bear country
  • Do not keep any other items with tasty smells in your tent like deodorant, tooth paste, lotion, etc
  • Clean up any items used in food preparation and never dump grease or extra food on the ground in camp or an the fire
  • Any items used for food preparation and clean up should not be brought into your tent
  • Wastewater from dish cleaning should be disposed of outside of camp
  • If possible, cook away from your sleeping area
  • Bears are curious. Clutter such as empty coolers, plastic bags, dishes, pots, camp stoves, etc may invite a bear into your camp
  • While hiking or backpacking in bear country:
    • Make some noise while moving through terrain with limited  visibility. You do not want to spook a bear or accidentally sneak up on a bear.
    • A bear canister may be required in bear country. Even if it isn’t required, it may be a good idea.
    • While in grisly bear country, you may want to buy some “bear bells”
  • If you encounter a bear:
    • Don’t stare or look directly at the bear or it may feel challenged
    • Don’t run or you may look like prey. Stand your ground and then back away slowly
  • A word about bear spray:
    • Bear spray is the most effective way to stop an aggressive bear at close range. Proven to be much more effective than a fire arm. But, if you don’t take the time to learn how to use bear spray, it will not help you…may even hurt you.
    • If you buy bear spray, please do the following. 1) Read all instructions; 2) decide exactly where you will carry the bear spray (in your front pocket or in the holster that may be provided); 3) go to a safe area where you can spray approximately one second of the product out just like you would in a potential bear attack (aim low, bears’ heads are low to the ground during a charge); 4) Please be sure your practice spray is downwind or you will hate me!; 5) be certain you are ready to use bear spray within two seconds of when a bear charges because in the unlikely event this happens, that is how little time you are likely to have