Bear Safety Tips for Campers and Hikers

? Be sure to read and follow all directions at your campground regarding bear safety. Talk to rangers or the campground director to see if bears have been a problem in that area recently.

? Bears have an incredibly acute sense of smell, so you should be extremely careful handling food and all scented items to keep your campground clean and odor-free. If your campground has a bear bin, use it—not just for your food but also for your cooking gear, trash and all scented items like toothpaste, deodorant and lip balm.

? If you are backpacking, always use a bear canister or hang your food and "smellables" in a bear bag between two trees at least 12 feet off the ground.

More: How to Protect Your Food From Animals While Camping

? Cook and clean dishes at least 100 feet downwind from where you set up your tent, never in or near your tent. If you spill food on your clothing, you will need to put that item of clothing in the bear bin, bear bag or canister.

? It's best to have a separate set of clothes just for sleeping. Keep those clothes and your sleeping gear away from the food and cooking area.

? On the trail, the best way to scare off a bear well before you see it is to make noise. Most attacks occur with one or two hikers. Travel in a larger group if possible, and talk loudly and carry bear bells to warn bears you are approaching.

? Bears are most active at dawn and dusk, so plan your hikes with that in mind. And look for signs of recent bear activity, such as footprints or fresh scat.

More: Encountering Wildlife After Dark

What if You Do Encounter a Bear?

If a bear enters your campsite, yell at it and bang pots and pans to scare it away. Make sure the bear has an escape route.

If you see a bear while out on the trail, keep your distance and do not approach it. At Denali National Park, rules require visitors to stay at least a quarter-mile away, approximately the length of four and a half football fields.

More: 5 Backpacking Basics for Your Next Trek

About the Author

Chuck Scott is a freelance editor and writer with 30 years of experience in sports journalism. He is also an avid backpacker and camper.

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