It’s every backcountry camper’s nightmare - waking up to a huge bear or critter getting into your food or tent! No need to constantly lie awake at night wondering when they are going to strike if you properly critter-proof your campsite! Here’s Pike To Peak’s guide on keeping pests away so you can peacefully enjoy your time in the great outdoors.
First things first, you should find out which animals live in the environment where you’ll be camping to ensure you have the right gear to keep them away. You can search the internet for many useful tips, however, we also suggest calling the local Forest Service or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) station and ask -- there isn’t anything like good ol’ local knowledge! Trust us, they constantly deal with these critters and always have great tips.
Before setting up camp, try mapping it out. Imagine your campsite as somewhat of a baseball diamond. Your tent is home, the kitchen is first base, food storage is second, and washing area is third. If you have enough space, try setting up each “base” 200 feet away from each other.
Once you have your camp set up, follow these tips:
Tips for Critter-Proofing Your Campsite
In some national parks where bears live, rangers will often encourage visitors to carry bear spray. Make sure to read up on the rules and regulations of your destination as well, to see what’s permitted in the area.
Make sure you’re storing food in airtight freezer bags or quality plastic containers to keep the scents away from critters. You should also be storing food in heavy-duty duffel bags or stuff sacks with sturdy handles to keep the critters out. If you want to hang food from a tree you’ll also need about 75 feet of rope. You’ll want to hang the bag 12-20 feet from the ground and far away from the tree trunk to make sure the bear can’t climb the tree and reach for it off the limb.
Pro Tip: If you’re hanging your food, make sure the tree is a significant distance from camp (according to the baseball diamond map, about 200 feet).
Some campers have also had success in hiding these bags or stuff sacks in bushes off beaten paths (as long as you remember where you put it). Bears have poor eyesight in the dark, so if the scents are under control, they probably won’t even notice it.
Bear Proof Containers
If you’re an avid backcountry camper, bear-proof containers are worth the investment. They are portable, hard-sided food lockers that fit in your backpack that bears can’t tear open. They are very durable and mask any and all food odors that entice bears and other animals.
Pro Tip: Some people suggest painting these canisters in a bright color so you can easily find it in the morning since they are also supposed to be stored a significant distance from your tent.
Don’t leave food crumbs in your tent or anywhere near your tent or food storage. At night, you should check all pockets and scan the tent before you hit the hay. While little crumbs won’t attract bears, they will attract smaller animals looking for a late night snack.
Pro Tip: If your clothes have a food scent on them, you should also be storing those in an airtight container. Critters wait for no man.
Most importantly, make sure you are following Leave No Trace principles.