How to Keep the Bears Away, Gear & Tips

With our passion for backpacking in the backcountry growing, it was inevitable to eventually find ourselves in bear country. Our first experience was on our most recent trip to Northern California and Oregon. With overnights at Point Reyes National Seashore, Redwood National Park, Mount Hood National Forest, and Crater Lake National Park, we knew we needed to prepare for bear country.

Luckily, whether it was the precautions we took or not, our only bear siting was at the Oregon Zoo. Read below about some of our bear-proof gear and how we kept them from joining us for dinner.

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A black bear at the Oregon Zoo.

Bear Proofing

Most (if not all) campsites in the parks we mentioned above had a bear locker, which is a large metal box impenetrable to bears. It’s a safe place to store food and other items. However, in the wilderness (Yocum Ridge at Mt. Hood), there are no such things so we purchased a Garcia Bear-Resistant Container from REI. Some national parks and wilderness areas actually require the use of a bear canister, so make sure to check ahead before reaching your destination.

Without a bear locker present in the Yocum Ridge, Mt. Hood wilderness, we placed our bear canister a good distance away from our tent. Just in case any scent did escape, at least bears and other animals would be drawn elsewhere.

Hiding The Scent of Food & Cosmetics

Although bear lockers and canisters keep the bears out, it doesn’t mean they aren’t still attracted to the scent of what’s inside. Bears are curious animals, and they’re attracted to the scent of really anything. We purchased unscented body wipes, deodorant, soap, and sunscreen.

Prepping before our trip. Our bear canister and food in odor-proof bags.

Prepping before our trip. Our bear canister and food in odor-proof bags.

In addition, we purchased Loksak Opsak odor proof bags. Anytime we were not eating, all of our food was stored in these odor proof bags. When we stored our food in bear lockers and our bear canister, everything was in one of these bags. Even just backpacking to each campsite, all of our food was kept inside them.

We read about some campers who had bears wanting to cuddle in their tents at night because of leaving food around so I was not taking any chances. 🙂

Cooking & Eating

If possible try to cook and eat your meals at least 100 yards away from where you’ll be sleeping. Once finished eating, we cleaned our utensils and stored them along with any trash into another odor-proof bag.

To Prevent Any Following You

Although bears are curious to scents, they are fearful of noise. Any loud noise or chatter along the trail or at camp is an easy way to keep bears away.

Aside from chatting and singing (horribly) on the trail, we also brought a Coghlans Bear Bell. (about $3) While attached to your body or pack, the bell will warn any animals of your presence. If the bell becomes an annoyance, it comes with a magnetic case to stop the ringing.


Here’s a quick list of what was mentioned above:

  • Garcia Bear-Resistant Container
  • Loksak Opsak Odor proof bags
  • Unscented body wipes, deodorant, soap, bug spray, sunscreen.
  • Bear bell, talking, and making noise while hiking to make your presence known.

Find this helpful? Have any other tips to share? Let us know in the comments below.

Safe travels. 🙂

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