When going camping, some of the single most debated topics are how to keep bears away from a campsite and what to do with the food.

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In this post, we will break down the basics that you need to know for keeping your campsite a bear-free zone.

Additionally, it is important to note that, while there are various kinds of bears and handling them can be unique to each type, the advice below are general guidelines that should apply to most subspecies of bears.

On that note, let’s get started.

1. Don’t Camp Where There Are Signs of Bear Activity

It should go without saying but if there are signs of bear activity at a campsite you are considering, it is best to set up elsewhere.

Some signs you should look for include:

Bear Droppings

Bear droppings look similar to that of a human’s but larger and will appear in big, loose piles. Bear poop is typically black or brown in color and will often contain insect parts, berries and other forms of vegetation and the remains of small animals.

Bear Markings on Trees

Bears will sometimes leave scratches or gashes on trees. They will mark trees for a multitude of reasons, including scratching their fur when shedding, to show their size and to mark their territory.

Again, if any of these signs appear on nearby trees, it is best to consider camping in a different site.

2. Be Careful When Cooking

Bears have an incredibly powerful sense of smell and can detect food from two to three miles away, if not further.

For those who are camping at a developed campground, it is typically fine to cook on the campsite’s fire ring or on a picnic table using a cook stove.

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However, whenever you are camping out in the backcountry, it is advisable that you adhere to the “Bear-muda Triangle” approach when cooking.

According to this principle, campers will want to form a triangle composed of their sleeping area, cooking area and food storage area. Each of these locations should be 300 feet from one another, at the minimum. Additionally, many advise that food should be hung 12 feet from the ground.

If you are concerned about the presence of bears, it would also be a good idea to avoid cooking meals with particularly strong smells, such as bacon, fish or steak.

3. Keep Your Campsite Clean

Cleaning plays a large part in keeping bears away from your campsite. Therefore, it is vital that your eating area be cleaned thoroughly after mealtime is over as even small morsels of food can attract hungry bears.

Additionally, it is critical to begin cleanup as soon as you are finished eating. The longer the smell of food hangs in the air, the more likely it is to attract unwanted attention.

While some are of the school of thought that food scraps and garbage should be buried, this is not advisable. Instead, these kinds of items should be placed into a bear-proof hard cooler until it can be packed out of the area. If the area has bear-resistant trash cans, these are suitable as well.

Alternatively, while leftover food can be burned, if it is not completely destroyed, the scent will remain, which could potentially attract bears in the area. Thus, this method of disposal is not recommended.

4. Bring Eating Clothes and Sleeping Clothes

Because of how strong a sense of smell that bears possess, it is wise for campers to cook and eat in a designated pair of eating clothes. Then, before bedtime, change into a designated pair of sleeping clothes and lock the other outfit away into a bear bag or other alternative that is far away from your tent.

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5. Store Scented Products Appropriately

When you are out camping, it is advisable to try and avoid using scented products whenever possible. That said, they can sometimes be necessary. In the event that you do need to use any scented products (such as sunscreen or toothpaste), it is best to keep these with your food or eating clothes.

However, most people have found these items to not be a major problem when it comes to attracting bears.

6. Keep Bear Spray in Your Tent

Even if you do all of the above, there is still a chance that a bear could accidentally wander into your campsite. If this should come to pass, you will want to have protection. Thus, it is wise to keep bear spray in your tent with you where it is easily accessible.

Keeping Your Campsite Bear-Free

While bears are no reason to not go camping, it is important to do everything you can to help keep them away from your campsite.

By following the tips outlined above, you and your fellow campers should be able to have a wonderful, bear-free adventure in the woods.