Camping and Food Security

By National Park Service.

In bearcountry, it is imperative that all food, including freeze-dried and canned foods, beverages, and odorous items such as soap, toothpaste, and sunscreen be secured from bears when not in use.
Food security.
Depending on the management area's guidelines, food security may involve hanging your food or keeping it in a bear-proof canister.
  • In Yosemite National Park, the National Park Service strongly advises all backpackers to carry and use bear-resistant food storage canisters.
  • In Yellowstone National Park, most backcountry campsites have food poles from which all food, cooking gear, and scented articles must be suspended when not being used.
  • In most of Denali's backcountry units, all food and garbage must be stored in the special Bear Resistant Food Containers (BRFCs) that are issued with your backcountry permit.

Allowing a bear to obtain human food or garbage, even once, may cause it to seek out more human food. Eventually, if the bear becomes a threat to human safety, it will be killed. For your own protection, as well as to keep the bears healthy and wild, it is important to follow these food security guidelines.

  • Always store garbage, cosmetics, toothpaste, soap, or anything with any odor with food. This includes the clothes worn while cooking and eating.
  • Store water bottles out of sight with cooking gear.
  • Store items properly at all times except when preparing what is needed for your meal.
  • Odors attract bears, so avoid carrying or cooking odorous foods.
  • At night, leave empty packs on the ground with all pockets and flaps open.
  • Never camp in an area that has obvious evidence of bear activity such as digging, tracks, or scat.
  • Sleep a minimum of 100 yards (91 meters) from where you hang, cook, and eat your food. Sleep in a tent rather than in the open. Never bring food into your tent. Keep your sleeping gear clean and free of food odor.
  • Do not leave packs containing food unattended, even for a few minutes.
  • Remember to pack out all trash when you move on to your next campsite. Never burn or bury trash of any kind.
Many areas recommend or require bearhangs as the best way to secure food. Several bearbagging methods are available.
  1. Put all of your food, garbage, cosmetics, and other odorous items in nylon stuff sacks. An alternative is to hang your entire pack.
  2. Tie one end of your 50 foot long nylon rope to the stuff sacks tie a rock to the other end.
  3. Throw the rock over a sturdy tree branch 20 feet above the ground and 10 feet away from the tree trunk. This may take a few tries.
  4. Hoist up your food bags so they are at least 12 feet off the ground. Your food bags should now be 12 feet off the ground, 6 feet below the branch, and 10 feet away from the tree trunk.
  5. Tie the rope off to the tree trunk.
Women's concerns.

Considering bears' highly developed sense of smell, it may seem logical that they could be attracted to odors associated with menstruation. Studies on this subject are few and inconclusive. If a woman chooses to hike or camp in bear country during menstruation, basic precautions should be taken.

  • Wear internal tampons, not external pads.
  • Use only unscented or lightly scented feminine products. Cosmetics, perfumes, and deodorants are unnecessary and may act as an attractant to bears.
  • Double-bag used tampons in a zipper-lock bag and store the same as garbage.

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