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  • Writer's pictureJared

How to Keep Bears Away When Camping: Ultimate Guide

Infographic Showing How to Keep Bears Away When Camping



Brown Grizzly Bear

Camping in the wilderness is a relaxing way to unwind and unplug from the rush of modern living.

Tent camping allows us a more intimate experience with nature, and it is an outdoor activity best shared with good friends and family.

There are things to be aware of, however, when deciding to camp in a remote location such as the presence of bears and other predatory wildlife.

Bears are curious animals and are attracted to certain smells or sounds, so they might get the inclination to explore your campsite if you don't take the proper precautions.

In this guide, I will be discussing how to keep bears away when camping in their natural habitat.

Things to avoid when choosing a campsite

Often with a little investigation, you can identify if there are bears in the proximity of where you will be camping based on clues that a bear, or other animals in the area, might leave behind.

Be sure to keep an eye out for these signs and clues before deciding on a spot to setup your tent.


Bear Pawprint in Dirt

Bear footprints are typically easy to identify, as they are large and distinctive from other animals.

Black bear and Grizzly bear footprints can be distinguished from one another by the shape of the print. I won't get into the grizzly details (sorry...) here, but essentially Black bear footprints are more rounded, and Grizzly bear footprints are more square with regards to their front feet. Grizzly bears also have longer claws than Black bears.

With all that said, however, if you identify any pawprints as those belonging to a bear of any kind, you should avoid setting up your tent in that area.

Food sources

Wild Berry Bush

The potential food sources of a bear are also things you will want to keep an eye out for before setting up camp.

Things such as animal carcasses or berry bushes are common sources of food for bears, and you will want to avoid setting up a campsite where these might be present.

You should also avoid storing meat or fish outside of a sealed storage container that is rated for protection against bears. Bears have an impressively acute sense of smell, so storing food in baggies or regular containers will not be sufficient.


Bear droppings, or scat, is a good indication of a camping spot you should avoid; if you can identify it.

Bear scat is often found at the base of trees and is large in size.

Bear droppings can be globular if feeding on meat or berries as a more mixed diet, and you can often identify berries or seeds easily in the scat itself. If the bear is feeding on more vegetation, such as in the early summer, the scat might be more tubular in shape.

If you find bear scat and can determine that it's fresh, this is a sign that the bear is still nearby, so you should certainly avoid camping in the immediate area.

Claw marks

Bear Claw Marks in Tree

As a way of marking their territory, and for perhaps other unknown reasons, bears will claw tree trunks or rub their backs against them.

If you stumble upon an area with trees that look like they have been clawed by bears, you should avoid camping here, as the bear that marked the tree has claimed the area.

Avoid certain foods and toiletries

As mentioned before, bears have a keen sense of smell, and they can detect certain scents from over a mile away.

Foods that are particularly aromatic such as bacon or fish can and will peak a bear's curiosity, so you should avoid bringing these foods with you when camping because even raw a bear can smell them.

You should also avoid leaving fruit peels, fruit cores, nuts, seeds, etc. out in the open. These should all be kept in a bear bag or some other bear-proof container away from your campsite.

Never leave any leftovers of any foods or beverages in the open near your campsite, and even leftovers that you have disposed of in the campfire can still emanate an attractive scent to bears in the proximity.

You should also try not to bring toiletries with fragrant smells with you camping because even though they are not food to people, bears might mistake the scent for something they want to eat.

Any toiletries you do have with you should be kept in a sealed container just like you would store food and leftovers.

I also want to mention, you should never leave food inside your tent, as a bear will have no problem approaching your tent to search for the source of the tantalizing smells.

Properly dispose of trash and human waste

Black Bear Rummaging Through Trash

Just like you should avoid bringing or cooking certain foods to your campsite altogether, you also need to be mindful of how you are going to dispose of unwanted food, as well as human waste.

Many campsites have access to bear-proof trash containers, but if yours does not, you will need to pack in something else to store and dispose of garbage.

Bear bags and bear-proof cannisters are great options for storing food that will keep a bear from being able to puncture and open them.

If you don't have or want specialized gear, using a rope and hanging your food from a tall tree limb in a sturdy bag will do the trick as well.

We might not think of human waste as something bears would be attracted to, but that is not the case. Many animals who detect the scent of human waste will avoid the area, as this is a telltale sign of a nearby predator. However, bears will often become even more curious if they get a whiff of urine or feces, so you need to make sure to separate where you're going to do your business from where you're going to setup camp. In other words, don't crap where you eat!

Make some noise!

Bears typically make it a point to stay away from humans when possible, but sometimes it's impossible to predict where the bears are in proximity to you, and startling a bear is the last thing you want to do.

When hiking or camping, you want to try and make noise to let nearby bears know you're in the area.

If you're camping with friends, try to keep the conversation going in case a foraging bear happens to be making their way near you.

If you're planning on camping alone, bring along a radio with you and tune it to a talk station.

If you're planning on hiking, you can also purchase a bear bell to wear on your person to keep your noise level up so as not to startle any surrounding bears.

Bear deterrents

Hopefully the advice in this guide has been effective in teaching you how to keep bears away when camping.

However, in the unpredictable scenario of being approached by, or encountering, a bear, you should be prepared with some kind of bear deterrent.

Bear spray

Hiker Carrying Bear Spray

A tried-and-true method of repelling a bear is using bear spray.

When used properly, bear spray can be an effective method of warding off a threatening bear.

It works because it essentially ejects a cloud of spray that will irritate the eyes and lungs of an encroaching bear.

Always keep bear spray accessible to you when camping, especially when you are sleeping in your tent.


Another effective method of deterring a bear, especially one who is still at a distance, is using a noisemaker.

There are different kinds of noisemakers, such as air horns and pistols that don't shoot projectiles, but rather produce a loud "bang" that can scare the bear off.

You never want to use noisemakers to attempt to startle a bear. These are only effective when used against a bear who is already aware of your presence and might be getting a little too close for comfort.


The presence of bears shouldn't prevent you from camping and enjoying the relaxing tranquility of nature.

You should, however, be aware and prepared to effectively avoid encounters with bears.

Choosing the correct spot to setup your tent, avoiding pungent foods and toiletries, properly disposing of trash and waste, making noise, and being prepared with bear deterrents are all effective methods of keeping bears away while you're camping.

Remember, bears typically want to avoid encounters with humans, but they can be unpredictable, so being respectful of their territory and always being prepared is the best way to safely camp in bear country.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my guide, and I hope it has taught you how to keep bears away when camping.

Thank you for reading.

Black Bear in Campsite

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