How to Bear Proof Your Boat-in Campsite
Before you leave to paddle into the wilderness, pack food and other odorous items in odor-proof bags or air tight containers. Bring additional air-tight bags for trash, leftovers, and clothes you used to cook in. Store everything from food to clothing, when not in use, in airtight, odor inhibiting bags or containers. Bag or dispose of anything and everything that smells. Bring extra airtight plastic bags to store odorous trash or, if you can do so safely and properly, burn it. Haul your trash out and dispose of it in proper, bear proof disposal units.
You want to eliminate as much food-like smell from your camp as possible. A black bear’s sense is able to detect odors from more than a mile away. Set up your tent upwind from where you store your food, and away from your cooking and eating area.
The most important thing to remember is to never store food—even snacks and personal hygiene items such as toothpaste in your tent. Some campgrounds provide metal storage boxes designed to thwart wildlife. If suitable trees are available, hang foodstuffs from a rope between two trees, out of a bear’s reach, if a bear box is not available. Secure your food stores in a waterproof and odor-free bear canister inside a critter bag, up and out of reach of a bear 10 or 12 feet up and four to six feet away from the tree’s trunk. Make sure the tree trunk is large enough a bear cannot push it over.
Use a “Critter Bag” designed to keep critters out of your food to hang your food from a tree branch. The bag will not protect against the strength of a bear, but the highly cut-resistant weave prevents sharp-toothed critters from getting into your food, such as raccoons.
“Bear Canister’s” are made of tough, bear-resistant plastic. The canister’s helps suppress strong odors from food, sunscreen, insect repellent, soap and toothpaste, lessening the chance of bear vs. human conflict. Store the bear canister inside a critter bag at least 100 yards downwind of campsite, preferably in the shade to keep contents cool. Never keep a bear canister inside your tent!
The second most important thing to do is keep a clean campsite. No food whatsoever should be eaten, or kept in your tent. Neither should anything that might have the odor of food including you or your clothes. Wash up before entering your tent. Food odors will cling to your clothes, so have a set of clothes for cooking, and change into clean clothes before you bed down.
Bring food that does not require cooking. Or else, cook and eat away from your tent. Try to avoid cooking foods that emit strong smells. Bacon can attract bears from a mile away. Wash your dishes immediately. Waiting to clean up gives food odors a chance to linger and carry on the wind. Dispose of your dirty dishwater downwind and away from your tent. Don’t dump leftovers in the fire pit or fling food-laden washing water into nearby bushes. Once the fire goes out and the dishwater dries, enough food will remain to attract bears.
While launching, watch for bears feeding along the shoreline. In their natural habitats, bears prefer to avoid humans but will react aggressively when startled or protecting cubs.
Avoid surprising bears by making noise, as bears will avoid you if they can hear or smell you. Always give a bear space. Never approach, crowd, pursue or displace a bear you see ahead on the trail. Never get between a mother and her cub even if the cub appears to be alone or sick. Leave pets at home or keep them leashed. Loose dogs can startle bears and cause them to chase the dogs back to their owners.
In the event a bear does come into your camp site, carry bear spray. During the day, the canister can be carried in a holster on the waist. At night keep bear spray and a flashlight next to your pillow for nighttime bathroom walks and unexpected bear visits. Buy the largest size canister you can find. Watch videos prior to camping how to use the bear spray.
Bear spray works by discharging the canister contents toward an aggressive bear, forming an expanding cloud of protection between the user and the animal. Just the sight of the spray or the sound of its woosh has been enough to deter some charging bears. Bears that continue charging encounter the cloud of spray, which causes the animal to succumb to a temporary though violent attack of coughing, sneezing, and short-term sensory loss.
Few campers would ever want to be put in a position of having to use bear spray, that’s why keeping a clean campsite free of odors and accessible food is the best way to detours encounters with bears, while boat-in camping.
If you encounter a bear, whether on the trail or in your campsite, do not run! Remain calm, group together and pick up small children. Continue to face the bear and back away slowly, talking calmly to identify yourself as a human and not another animal. If the bear continues to approach, try to scare it away by making yourself as large and imposing as possible and making loud noises. Carry and know how to use bear spray, which is available at many outdoor retailers and can be used to deter a charging bear