Attentive readers know now that we have been camping in the bear country regularly for the past 2 years. In Canada and America, you are in the area of the bears. Most people are afraid of camping in the bear area. And I have to admit: it was too. In the meantime, I have survived and dare to do it a little better every time. How did I experience camping in the bear area? I share my experience + what you should think of when camping in the bear area, in this blog.
Camping among the bears
If you go camping in nature where bears live, it is useful to know what to keep in mind to keep bears at a distance. You don’t want to get in touch with bears yourself, because 1. that can be dangerous and 2. if bears get used to people, the bigger the chance they will be killed.
Tips for camping with bears
Some tips on how to behave and what to think of when camping in bear-area.
Keep your distance when you spot a bear
Keep your distance. Do you spot a bear along the hike? Stay away. We often saw a row of cars along the Icefields Parkway and even worse: people who get out to take a photo of an insect-eating bear. Stay in your car.
Clean up your campsite
Make sure you clean up food, garbage, and other scented products. Bears must learn that there is no food at campsites. Bears who learn that there is food at campsites, increasingly get brutal and aggressive in their attempts to get this kind of food. They can damage vehicles (yes even that!), tents and other property. Not very good, for your own life, but also for your rental car. Bears that behave aggressively are usually killed, while we are the ones showing ourselves in their habitat. Kinda sad, isn’t it?
Don’t sleep in the clothes you cooked in
Don’t sleep in the clothes you cooked in. Now it falls on the campsites in areas where there are many people, I think. Just in case I have stored my clothes in which I have cooked in the car. Are you really going to camp in the wilderness? Then I would adhere to this rule.
Keeps pet on a leash
Are you traveling with your dog or other pets? Make sure you keep them on a leash.
Camp 100 yards from your food (if backcountry camping)
Are you going to camp in the backcountry (so for example with multi-day hikes?). Make sure you camp around 100 yards (about 91 meters) from cooking and food storage places. Also do not camp on paths or near dead animals, fresh bear marks (note footsteps and bear poop) and near blueberries.
Clean out your tent
Well I don’t mean you should sleep like a princess, but NEVER store food in your tent, even when you are gone.
Pack all trash and food scraps, don’t bury it, because buried food scraps attract bears.
What to do if you come across a bear at the campsite or while hiking?
If a bear comes to the camp and shows aggressive behavior and you cannot chase him away? Then make sure you go to a safe place. Never ever run when you see a bear.
Did the bear not see you? Then walk away quietly so that you can’t be discovered.
If the bear has seen you. Then talk to the bear in a calm tone. Make yourself bigger by slowly moving your arms to the side and up and down. Avoid direct eye contact with the bear, but keep an eye on the bear.
Does the bear run away? Lucky you. Make sure you also leave the area, but in a different direction than where the bear ran to.
Look at the bear but do nothing. Walk back slowly while talking to the bear. Never turn your back to the bear while you are near the bear and he spotted you.
Is the bear getting closer? Even then you should not run away. Stay calm and keep still. Take a good look at what the bear is doing. A bear trying to defend itself feels that you are a threat. What can he do? Jump in, bite his teeth, growl, rock his head back and forth, hit the ground with his front legs and drool.
Does a bear attack you? Read more about what you should do on the Grizzly Discovery website, because we are – of course – not bear specialists.
Running away makes no sense because a bear runs twice as fast as people. Chances are that the bear is used to people. Report the bear to the local authorities.
This is what a bear attracts bears
Food (from chips to meat, it doesn’t matter as long as it is edible and smells)
Pots and pans where you cooked in
Fuel for lanterns etc.
Drinking cans (also unopened!)
Cosmetics and insect repellent such as mosquito repellent, lotions, and toothpaste
Our experience with camping in bear country
Both in America and Canada, we traveled with a tent and every now and then we camped in bear or other wildlife areas (Yosemite and Lone Pines, America).
The big difference between America and Canada is that in Canada, you can leave all your food and smelling toiletries in your car or camper.
In America, the bears seem to be a bit smarter and all scented items such as shampoos, toothpaste etc. have to be put in special bear lockers. When we were camping in Canada I was a bit confused. Should our toiletries and groceries not all be in the bear lockers? Fortunately, that wasn’t necessary.
We have not seen a bear once at a campsite where we spend the night. Bears were spotted at our campsite in Jasper National Park. When we checked in at our campsite, they indicated this and pointed out that you can store your belongings properly in the car/camper or in the bear lockers.
In America, the bears seem to be a bit smarter and all scented items such as shampoos, toothpaste etc. have to be put in special bear lockers.
Do bear spray and a bear bell make sense?
It has been proven that bear spray makes sense to scare away aggressive bears. Research has shown that people survived a bear attack by defending themselves with bear spray. The spray seems to be very painful for bears but is recommended by the local authorities if you are in bear area. Do not use pepper spray. You can buy the spray in the country where bears are found.
Bear bells are recommended but bears get used to the sound
A bear bell is also recommended because you can be heard remotely by a bear. In an outdoor store in Canada, they told us that bears are getting used to the sound of the bell. We did not buy a bear bell but made sure that we always talked loudly to each other. Never use music, you could ruin someone’s hiking experience. I mean we’re all there to enjoy nature, right?
You can buy a bear bell in many stores in the bear area like at MEC or in national park shops.
Do you want to know if there are bears in your holiday destination? Then check this website.