Last modified on November 23rd, 2020 at 8:04 am

How to Store Food When Camping in Bear Country

Camping in bear country is becoming one of the popular outdoor activities today. It is achievable, but camping in the wild is big on policies, particularly to food handling and storage. All the wildlife camping sites are very firm with their proper food storage procedures to keep both campers and wildlife animals safe.

The aroma of food, whether it is cooked or raw, can attract animals, especially bears. Although it would be nice to see them, it must be at an appropriate distance. So, before you go, read on so you will know how to prepare and store your food at the campsite.

5 Ways to Store Food when Camping in Bear Country

#1. Use Bear Proof Cooler

Bear, raccoons, and other wildlife animals are capable of opening coolers without locks. A certified bear-proof cooler will help you maintain your food fresh and safe. It is a sturdy container with an ice retention feature that can withstand animal attacks and ransacks. Some features that you may find on a bear-proof cooler are wheels for easy transport, wire baskets, a chopping board, and bottle trays.

Bear proof coolers come in various sizes to fit one’s storage needs. If you are going to a camp by yourself for a day or two, you can use the smallest type of cooler, which can hold up to 25 quarts. However, if you plan to stay longer and you are with your family, a large food cooler is your best option as it can store 3x as much as the small ones.

#2. Store in Bear Canister

Hanging the food between trees can impose danger, that is why using a bear canister is more advisable. Place your food inside, leave them several yards downwind away from your campsite, that’s it. The bear canister can store not only food but also other camping stuff that could trigger the bears’ sense of smell, like toiletries.

Unlike coolers, bear canisters are more portable. Although there are campsites that offer bear canisters either for free or rent, it is best if you get to the site prepared with food containers since there is no guarantee that you can get one from there. These canisters are conveniently available online. They also come in different sizes and features.

Most canisters have a built-in lock mechanism, while others use screws, so remember to bring a screwdriver to get access to it. Some campers find the colored canisters helpful as they are easy to find at night. Others prefer the clear ones as they can see what’s inside without opening them. To make them more visible, adding reflective stickers would help.

#3. Use Campsite Locker

There are camping grounds in the bear country that offer food lockers to campers who plan to stay three or more days. It is safer to use these lockers, particularly at night, since they are more securely locked, and located a few meters away from the campsite.

Although metal lockers can keep your food and other camping stuff safe, it is best to seal them first by using bear packs or canister before storing them to eliminate the odor. Just like with food coolers, bears are also capable of opening food lockers. Make sure that you properly latch and lock them before you leave even though you have plans of coming back immediately.

#4. Keep the Food in Car

Keeping the food in a car is an option for those who do not have access to food lockers, but a cooler or canister is required. There are many cases where bears break in cars to get food. Not only they caused damages to properties, but they also became a threat to humans.

Once they had a taste of human food, they will lose their natural diet and will hunt for more human food instead.

Campers must follow the required food keeping in cars, to help prevent bears from getting used to raiding food. If a metal box or cooler is not available, keep the food in an airtight container or odor-proof plastic bag, wrap a blanket around it, then hide it under the seats.

Also, make sure to keep all windows closed. Moreover, avoid making your car to be the next target of rodents by keeping it clean. Plus, make sure you have car insurance.

#5. Make a Bear Hang

Although there are alternatives to keep food safe from bears, there are still campers who use the old-fashioned way, hanging the food between trees. Making a bear hang not only protects food from bears, but it also helps prevent critters attacks.

You may hang the food by using any of these two methods, the PCT bear bag hangs, or the counterbalance hang. It may seem too easy to hang food, but in reality, it takes time and practice to suspend food up in the air. Trying doing it at home first and see if it will work for you.


For your safety and the bears’ welfare, campsites have set ground rules to follow. They never want to kill bears only because they became a nuisance and a threat to campers by inhibiting the human’s way of life. By strictly following food compliance when camping in bear country, you will be able to maintain the balance of the ecosystem.