My husband and I are planning a two-month tent/car camping trip in the Rockies for August and September. We will be starting in Canada (Jasper, Banff, and Waterton NP's) and continuing through Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah. We know we will be in prime bear country and have carefully read all the information we could find about proper measures to be taken but still have some remaining questions. Namely:
We plan to store all non-perishables in bear boxes provided in campgrounds and coolers, all cooking equipment, and toiletries in the car. The car is an SUV without an actual trunk and, as it's a rental, we're not sure if it has a security cover for the cargo space. Is it safe enough to cover all items in the car with a tarp?
Several of the campgrounds will have communal kitchen shelters We notice that these shelters which seem to be equipped with what looks like a large oven box for cooking. We don't really know how one cooks in (on top of?) one of these. We were hoping to make dutch oven meals with charcoal briquettes and wonder if it's possible to do that in these shelters.
Where there are no kitchen shelter removed from the campgrounds, we will obviously be cooking at the campsite. We've read that all cooking/food handling should be done at least 100 yards away from one's tent and, given the size of most campsites, that's just not possible. How safe is it to cook at your campsite in bear country?
What about actual campfire cooking? Should we not attempt to cook over the fire?
We know enough not to bring food or toiletries into the tent. But if we should use toiletries (shampoo, toothpaste, etc.) that have lingering odor, will the bears be attracted to the tent?:
We want to be sensible without making ourselves crazy about the bear issue. We'd appreciate any advice you may have!
A lot to converse about, but I'll give you my 2-cents. We camp in bear country all the time and my experience is that bear confrontations are not as common as you may worry about. But bear proof boxes do indicate that bears do come through. We put all food and cooking stuff, charcoal and stove, in the box. Even tooth paste. If a bear spends much time trying to get into your closed up vehicle, the CG has bigger bear problems than normal. That part about cooking far away from your site, hogwash. IMHO
I have done much camping in bear country and there are plenty of dos and don'ts.
1) Bears get into cars easily. Cars are not bear proof.
2) get as much unscented toiletries as you can.
3) you can cook over the fire, but you need the fire to burn all night.
Generally, your not allowed to burn a fire while sleeping, so you prolly shouldn't do that unless someone is staying up to keep the fire going. This is also done to keep the bears from the campsite.
4) Bears will be attracted to the tent if nothing else is there to attract them. You have a smell, and there really isn't much you can do about that.
5) Bears can smell an open bacon package miles and miles away from it.
Usually bears could care less... If fed and not close to waking from hibernation or getting ready for hibernation they really don't want to be around you. Its the food that really brings them in. However, late Sept... your getting close.
That square cooking thing... well, you fill it with wood, and light it, then the entire top is hot. This is a safe cook stove in forested areas. Keeps embers and coals away from things that catch fire. It becomes much like a griddle, although I do not recommend cooking directly on it, us a pan or a pot. And if those are made available, they will likly frown on any ground based fire unless in a fire pit.
I have always put everything smelly, or food like, in the bear box. Safest thing to do, and it draws the bears away from you.
I hope that helps, if I have anything else I will try to add it.
Yeah, small detail, but do remember that bears do not generally find food via sight, they do it by smell. Bears, in fact, have noses that put bloodhounds to shame. Throwing a tarp over food is a total waste of a perfectly good tarp: if the bear SMELLS food, neither the tarp nor the SUV's glass is going to help a whole lot. That is why they install bear boxes!
This may be all good information as long as all the bears have gotten the MEMO, and understand just exactly how they are supposed to conduct themselves. A large black or grisly is nothing to take lightly.
Dale & Sandi
2006 Jeep TJ 4.0 w/33s 4" lift
2008 Winnabago Adventurer 38T
Liberty Lake (Spokane) WA.
I have done quite a bit of backpacking in bear country and had done ALL of those things with no problem (since there is really not much choice when backpacking and the car is 20 miles away in a parking lot. We just built our fire away from the tent, often cooked over portable stoves and hung our packs suspended between trees. It's pretty effective. BIGGEST bear problem you're apt to have is in an area that bears have been fed by campers and hikers but not many of those left anymore. Cleanliness is most important and keeping things easily recognized as food out of sight.
Good luck / Skip
2011 F-150 HD Ecoboost 3.5 V6. 2550 payload, 17,100 GCVWR - 2004 F-150 HD (Traded after 80,000 towing miles) 2007 Rockwood 8314SS 34' travel trailer
US Govt survey shows three out of four people make up 75% of the total population