Tips for Storing Food While Camping

Here are some tips for storing food while camping on backpacking trips. When car camping the storage of food is generally no big deal as the food can just be placed inside the car. Only in very active bear country is storing food in a car a bad idea. These areas generally provide storage containers that are bear proof for those using campgrounds. However, when you are spending the night camping along a trail when backpacking some precautions are needed to keep annoying and possibly dangerous animals away from your food supply and you. Though there are few truly dangerous animals in most of North America, many nights of sleep have been lost keeping raccoons and other critters out of the food. I have even had raccoons scratch on the side of the tent in pursuit of poorly stored food. For those who camp in bear regions, proper food storage is a matter of safety and not just convenience. These tips will help you to avoid mistakes in food storage, many of these I have learned the hard way.

The first tip is to not cook beside your tent. While this can’t be helped in every location, there will undoubtedly be some spilling to attract small animals and bugs. Keeping this as far away from the tent as possible will help. Extra food needs to be stored properly or destroyed in the campfire and not thrown into the woods. Animals that frequently find food in this manner will become a nuisance to future backpackers and may even have to be killed.

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Next, have proper containers for storing food while camping. Bear-proof canisters are great not only in bear country but in any camping setting. Sturdy and reasonably light, bear-proof canisters make a tidy package out of your food. If you do not have a bear proof container (and plan to camp in an area where it is not a necessity), an old fashion bear bag will work. Basically a duffle bag or similar item containing your food is raised onto a rope suspended between two trees. Simply hanging the bag on a rope over a limb is OK is most areas, but bears can climb the tree and retrieve the rope. Consider bringing along some small bells to attach to the rope to scare away animals climbing on the rope. A large plastic lid with a hole can also be placed on the rope (held by a knot) that will help to keep squirrels and other small animals from climbing down the rope to the food. Your bear container or bear bag is for storing food, not your tent. It may be tempting to keep a small snack in the tent, but don’t. Hang your food well away from your tent, especially in bear country.

One more tip for storing food while camping. Animals are attracted to campsites by scent. Remember to wash dishes and properly store things that smell like food. Toothpaste, gum and other non-food items might attract animals and bugs and should be stored with the food.

By having proper items for food storage and a little planning, storing food while camping can keep the animals and bugs away from your campsite and add to your enjoyment of your time in the woods.