3 Ways to Keep Bears out of Camp

Protect yourself from wild bruins with a few simple sprays, sound makers, and food-storage solutions

Anyone who spends serious time in bear country has to consider the possibility of an encounter. Even if you take the standard precautions of making noise, traveling in groups, and storing food out of reach, bears and humans always seem to find each other, whether purposefully or not. These products will help you sleep a little more soundly in camp.

Bear Spray

Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray 7.9 oz
Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray 7.9 ozSabre

There has long been a debate about whether bear sprays or sidearms are the most effective protection against bears, especially grizzlies. But modern bear sprays are so compact and portable that it's really a no-brainer decision to at least carry spray, even if you also pack heat. You can quickly deploy sprays, they don't require precise aim, and generally are regarded as very effective in all but the most extreme situations.

Bells and Fences

Coghlan's Bear Bell with Magnetic Silencer
Coghlan's Bear Bell with Magnetic SilencerCoghlan's

Q: How do you tell grizzly scat from black bear scat?
A: Grizzly poop has bells in it.

Okay, that's a tired joke, and an unfair assessment of the value of the backcountry noisemakers known as bear bells. They're sold in every national park with bruins in the mix. In places like Glacier National Park, you can sometimes here flocks of hikers jingling down the trail from hundreds of yards away. And if you can hear them, so can a mama grizzly. On the other end of the cost spectrum are elaborate fence systems that can be broken down and deployed from camp to camp. They are more expensive, but in the middle of the night, a portable electric fence offers great peace of mind for both you and your pack stock.

Bear Storage

Backpackers Cache - Bear Proof Container
Backpacker's Cache - Bear Proof ContainerBackpacker's Cache

The number one rule in bear country is to stow your food. If you can't hang it, or if you want to leave caches of food along an extended journey, bearproof cannisters are a great option. Some state parks actually feature bear boxes big enough to stow coolers and food bags. But in lieu of that, a manufactured bear cannister may be just the right solution to keep you—and the bears—out of trouble.