Imagine this scenario: there you are, camping in the wilderness, maybe with a small group of friends. You’re chilling in your tent—chatting, heating up soup, talking about the amazing things you saw today…and then you realize, to your dismay, that you left some food out by mistake. Okay, you try to tell yourself as you try to calm your raging panic, it’s probably nothing. We’ll just put it away before any of the animals get to it. Gathering up your courage, you hazard a peek outside your tent—only to see a bear right there, eating the food. Smelling you, the bear looks up; your eyes meet….
What should you do in a case like this? Here are some helpful tips.
Don’t approach animals when you’re in the wilderness. Make sure you’re always 100 yards (91 meters) away from wolves and bears; for other animals, this number is 25 yards (23 meters). Don’t feed them, and don’t leave your own food or trash just lying out there on the grass. Instead, store your food and dispose of your waste according to proper procedures. This is because—when animals get used to eating human food—they become aggressive, and park rangers have no choice but to kill them. Another reason to forbid animals from having access to your food is that some animals, such as ravens, will unzip your packs and containers in an attempt to steal your foodstuffs.
When deciding your campsite, stay away from salmon streams, animal corpses, trails, trash, or metal fire pits. Make your campsite in a quiet, open area where you and the animals can see each other. Also, you absolutely need a tent; don’t sleep out on the grass.
When you need to cook, ensure that you’re standing 100 feet or more away from the camp, and that you’re downwind. Likewise, when you’re near your camp area, you shouldn’t be sleeping with stinky clothes, eating, or using lotions; all of these have a noticeable smell, which animals will pick up on. Store your things—food as well as pots, pans, trash, and lotions—away from your campsite. Don’t bury your trash. If there’s a tree, you can make a food cache, which is a system that works something like a washing line, and with which you can reel the food toward you. If there isn’t a tree, store food downwind of camp, where animals can’t see it, or hang it off a bridge or the face of a rock.
When you’re moving through an area where there are bears, it’s better if you’re in a group of people. Make noise as you’re passing through the area, but don’t run away. Get yourself some bear spray, and learn how to use it; it might one day save your life. If you come upon a bear and the bear looks at you, you shouldn’t panic. Chances are, the bear is probably just assessing you, determining whether or not he/she’s in danger. Once he/she has realized that they’re not, they will move away and resume their prior activities.
With all these tips in mind, you’ll definitely fare better in the wilderness than you would otherwise. But there’s another, incredibly important tip, which I haven’t mentioned—and that tip is not to panic. If you stay calm and keep your wits together, you’ll be much better off. So, with all that said, best of luck on your next camping trip! Enjoy the experience while you’re there—the animals, the plants, the independence you get from being in the wilderness—and always be safe.