How to Keep Animals Away From Food While Camping

How do you keep animals away from food while camping? Let’s face it – having your food decimated by critters when you camp is no fun. It’s not something you want to have to deal with when you are out with your family having a fun time exploring nature.

Animals are just as interested in getting an easy meal as you or I. When camping, it can be a challenge to prevent the critters from helping themselves to our dinner. If you are basecamping, metal containers may be provided, or your car is a relatively safe cache. But what should you do if you are backpacking away from a vehicle?

“Bear,” probably raises the most anxiety when thinking about losing food to an animal. But chipmunks and squirrels can cause complete devastation of food supplies. Mice pollute and ruin foods. Even insects or slugs can create problems if food is handled improperly. So, reading up on preventing animals from sneaking all of your food is a smart move before you launch into your wilderness lifestyle adventure.

How to Keep Animals Away From Food

Here are a few basic tips.

Never keep food in your tent at night. Never leave food open and unprotected for extended periods of time. Try to cook a significant distance from your tent.

There are different styles of camping. In some management areas you will be required to camp in designated locations. These campsites will have greater animal problems than where dispersed camping is allowed. Animals will have identified those established campsites as prime food collection areas. In some areas, such as the eastern High Peaks of the Adirondacks, the bears simply come through every day and take what they want. One has even been observed opening a “bear-proof” canister.

Don’t Let Critters Ruin Your Trip

Here are five tips to minimize the chances that you will need to cut your trip short because some small or large beast has enjoyed a free meal at your expense.

Out of Sight…

Tip #1

Hang your food, toothpaste, lotions, etc. from a high branch or bear pole in order to keep animals away from food while camping. Line your food bag with a plastic bag. Animals can still smell it, but not from as far away, and the plastic will also protect it from rain and heavy dew. There are several methods of roping a cache bag over a high branch out of the reach of animals.

To be bear safe, the bag must be 12 feet off the ground and at least 3 feet from the trunk of any nearby tree. In areas where bears are “savvy,” you can not simply loop the rope over a branch and tie it off; the bear will know enough to slash the rope. Research alternate roping methods.

Bear Canisters

Tip #2

Consider a bear canister. These canisters have smooth sides with nothing for an animal with paws to hold on to.  The disadvantage is that they are too small for extended trips, and they are expensive. The kind that open by using a tool or coin to unscrew the lid are more secure.

Tough Materials

Tip #3

The Ursack  is a bag woven of bullet-proof material that a bear or other animal can not bite through. It packs better than a canister, but is also too small for extended trips.

Dispersed Camping

Tip #4

If dispersed camping is allowed, this will reduce the likelihood of animal encounters. Dispersed camping means that you can create a small, low-impact campsite anywhere you like (usually there are restrictions on distance from waterways, trails, and roads). The local wildlife has not had the chance to learn that people and their foods will be in that location, so animals might stay away from your food.

Time Your Meals

Tip #5

Cook your hot meal at noon. Cooking odors can easily transfer to fabrics. If you cook during the day your tent will have few odors attached. If you must cook in the evening, do so 300 feet and upwind from your tent. Try to keep cooking smells from drifting on the wind toward the place where you will be sleeping.

Clean Up

Leaving food out, or even a cup with a bit of leftover drink in it, is a sure way to attract slugs in damp climates. Keep a clean camp and your will have fewer problems with pests of any kind. Don’t feed the little rodents, no matter how cute they are.

Don’t Be Part of the Problem

Don’t be a camper that contributes to the problems of wildlife/ human encounters over food. Keep animals away from food while camping by being clean and keeping food secure.

Keep Animals Away from Food When Camping

Did you know that animals which become a dangerous nuisance often end up needing to be destroyed.  Instead, secure any items which may be attractive, minimize odors, and be clean. You and the animals will both be happier in the long run.

Mom of two beautiful active girls, traveller, fitness junkie, social media consultant, and keeper of the sanity.