We don’t hold “exclusive rights” to nature; we share it with countless other critters, big and small. Animals are often best viewed from afar, but when they get too close to you, especially in your campsite, bad things start to happen. That’s why it’s crucial to learn how to keep animals out of your campsite. There are many animals you can encounter in the wild, but we will go over how to keep out the most common ones you will see.
Note: Be sure to check with the park agency for information regarding animals usually seen in your area.
Common animals you will find in the wild include:
Luckily, you can use the following preventive methods for all the animals listed here.
Use bear canisters or bear boxes to keep your food protected.
Bear boxes are big metal trunks with a locking mechanism, designed to keep the animals out of your campsite and food. It is useful for bulk storage of smellables. The downside is that you can’t carry these, and you can only utilize this tool if your campsite already has it installed (again, check with the park to see if they have campsites with bear boxes available).
On the other hand, bear canisters are a portable form of bear boxes, being much smaller and capable of fitting in your backpack. This is best for individuals going on outings, as one cannot store much food in your backpack alone. It also is convenient for non-perishable foods, as you won’t need to worry about keeping the contents cold. Despite the name, bear canisters and boxes help keep out all kinds of creatures, from rodents to raccoons.
Alternatively, hang up your food on a tree.
Hanging your food is surprisingly simple: you simply need a rope and a tree. Tie some knots around the storage container, fastening it securely in place. Then, you have 2 options on how to hang your food: hanging between 2 trees, or off a branch of one. Ideally, it should be up 10+ feet, and a few feet away from the branch, ensuring bears, raccoons, snakes, and other animals can’t get in your food.
Note: You must remember that food + trash should be hung up 200+ feet away from your main campsite.
You can even put your food in your car!
If you don’t have the aforementioned bear box/canister, your car is always a great option to store food. It is pretty much odor-tight, durable, and impregnable to rodents, bears, and the like. Just make sure you have things like coolers to keep your food preserved.
Keep food and smellables OUT of your tent.
Another no-brainer, but one that should be definitely mentioned. Even if you think you ate cleanly enough, there will always be crumbs leftover in your tent. What’s more, the odor of your food stays in the tent for hours, thus enticing critters whether you have food or not.
What might surprise you is that ALL SMELLABLES should be kept out of your tent, including toiletries like deodrants and toothpaste. These should best be kept along with your food in a bear box or similar device until the morning.
Considering getting some bear or bug spray.
Bug spray is definitely a camping staple for an enjoyable camping experience, but bear spray may become a necessity in certain areas. In places such as Yellowstone National Park, bears are frequently spotted roaming the area. As such, one should bring some bear spray to protect them. They are commonly available to rent in the parks that bears live in.
Choose your campsite wisely.
There are definitely pros and cons to all campsites. One with a magnificent view of the valley could have many scattered logs, home to unwanted critters. A stream nearby could mean swarms of mosquitoes in the evening. Different features of a landscape attract different animals.
- Almost everything
- Other insects
Given this, the ideal campsite should be:
- Away from vegetation/trees
- Breezy (optional, but helps to keep out insects)
- Elevated to keep out moisture
Dispose of garbage properly to minimize attraction.
Everyone hates a messy campsite. Even more so when a horde of raccoons rummage through your unorganized and open trash, leaving it strewn everywhere for you and your fellow campers to clean up. IT IS IMPERATIVE to secure your trash properly on a campout. Waste materials should be stored in compartments with similar functionality to bear canisters and should be hung up in a tree. If there is a public trashcan, be sure to place the trash in the correct category, as recycling, compost, and landfill all have their own levels of protection against hungry critters.
Set up camp at least 200 feet away from where you are cooking meals.
Quite simply, if your cautionary measures were unsuccessful, the distance of your kitchen setup from your camp will ensure that the animals aren’t led over from the smells of the kitchen to your tents.
Try to camp in groups to scare animals.
A good rule of thumb for any outdoor activity and to keep animals out of your campsite is to go with multiple people; you should always have at least one other person to get help or tend to the other’s injuries. What scares an animal most is large amounts of loud noise, which a camp of multiple people can easily accomplish. By sticking together, you can easily deter most animal encounters overall.
A similar procedure should be followed while hiking, bringing at least a few people to discourage animals from making a move on you, in fears that they will be hounded by a group of humans. Keep more humans with you to keep the animals out!
And of course, do NOT provoke any animals.
Even if you do carry out all of these precautions, there’s always a chance that an animal might stumble across your path. It’s a good rule of thumb to slowly back away from an animal(for most animals) and do your best to stay in its good books.
Here are some ways to provoke an animal (DO NOT DO THIS):
- Moving closer towards an animal
- Encroaching into their territory
- Putting body parts into their home (especially true for snakes and the like)
- Getting close to their food source
- Surprising the animals (going back to making noise always and being in a group)
- Posing a threat to their young
Instead, you should:
- Stay on the designated trail
- Don’t hike after dark
- Stay away from bushes, rocks, and shrubs
- Back away slowly from any animals you see
If you do by chance encounter an animal, read “How to Survive an Animal Attack” to prepare for the worst-case scenario.
You’ve made it to the end of How to Keep Animals Out of Your Campsite. Encountering an animal in your outdoor experiences is certain. But with these precautions, you can greatly minimize an unfortunate experience with them, limiting your vision of animals only to your binoculars. In particular, remember to do some research about the animals you might find in your area, so you can know exactly how to keep animals out of your campsite. Until then, stay safe!