bear on campsite

4 tips for a bear-free campsite

There’s nothing worse than coming back to your campsite after a day of fun and finding a bear has ransacked your cooler.

Stop encouraging Yogi Bear’s pic-a-nic basket habit by keeping your campsite clean.

Here are four ways to keep your campsite clean and bear-free:

1. Hide your food and stash your trash!

Items that attract bears and other wildlife are “wildlife attractants.”


These include obvious items, such as:

  • dirty barbecues and campstoves
  • coolers
  • garbage
  • food / drinks
  • dirty dishes

However, they also include things you might not consider, such as:

  • empty cardboard boxes or moving totes
  • citronella candles
  • toiletries (especially scented products)
  • empty dog dishes

child cooking

Bears are very intelligent animals and can quickly learn that a box near a tent contains food or a black bag beside a barbecue has tasty scraps.

To avoid bears getting too curious around your site, store all wildlife attractants in the trunk of your vehicle with its windows closed where they can’t be seen or smelled.

If your vehicle doesn’t have a trunk, place items in the cab of your vehicle with a blanket over them. Tonneau covers are not bear-proof!

If you don’t like to keep trash in your car, throw out your garbage often. If you can’t, wrap it in several garbage bag layers to trap scents.

Looking for another option for food/scented item storage? Bear bins or storage lockers may be available at your park. Ask staff for more details!

2. Dump grey water responsibly

Grey water is also a wildlife attractant.

Do not dump it on or near your site. Don’t dump it at the water tap.

Grey water should only be disposed of at the trailer sanitation station or by pouring it down the vault toilets (outhouses).

couple washing dishes

Doing dishes properly is also very important when keeping a clean campsite. Are you effectively cleaning your dishes?

3. Obey the “Triangle Rule”

There are three main areas of your campsite: sleeping, cooking, and food storage.

Always keep those three areas far apart from each other. Keep related activities separate as well. For example, never eat dinner sitting in your tent.

Couple Outside of tent

Keeping food scents and supplies away from your tent reduces the chance that you might leave something in it overnight that might attract a bear.

4. Keep your pets on a leash

Pets such as dogs may agitate a bear, causing it to act defensively.

dog on campsite

If a dog is scared, it typically runs back to its owner. If the bear is in tow, it will also come back to the dog’s owner (you!).

It’s safest to keep dogs and other pets on leashes in parks to avoid any conflicts with bears.

Learn more about being Bear Wise!