Will unscented foods like rice attract bears?

11:10 a.m. on June 8, 2010 (EDT)
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Hey guys this is my first post here. I am just wondering if im bringing only a big ole bag of brown rice, and mabye some unsalted, raw almonds do i still have to hang my cook wear and stuff?


I probably will keep everything out of my tent at night, but still if im not cooking meat or something very tasty do i have to worry about bears?

Also is it a dumb idea to go to a popular campsite and then hike into the real bush from there so i can be away from people? Granted that i have a compass and map.


Oh yea one more thing, if i make my own homemade toothpaste, should i still hang it in a tree with my other stuff?

11:37 a.m. on June 8, 2010 (EDT)
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Welcome Stoogemeister,

As far as hanging food, personal items, cookware etc, in bear country, the simple answer is yes. How you do so (the method) will be determined by what is recommended for your area. There are several different hanging techniques. There are also tear resistant bags such as the Ursack, and many areas require you to use an approved bear resistant canister like the Bearicade. Some areas provide steel food lockers and trash receptacles and you must use them or face fines. Feeding bears, even by negligence, in one of the Parks close to me can result in a $1500.00 fine. So you need to find out the rules and recommendations for the area you plan to visit, following those rules will help insure you have a fun and safe trip into the back country.

So, what part of the world are you going to be camping in?

I only have experience in the South Eastern US, we find that proper hanging techniques are satisfactory for now. Many of the other members of Trailspace have experience in other parts of the world, and can give you more info.

As far as food and cooking odors go, yes I'm sure bears can smell almonds and rice, they would probably not be as attracted to it as grilled fish or bacon, but they can smell incredibly well, so using your own sense of smell as a gauge for how odorous different items are, is not something I would feel confident in doing.

The general rule of thumb is to hang or use a bear canister for ALL your food, toiletries, lip balm, sunscreen, etc. at least 100 ft. downwind from where you sleep.

Here are some links to more info:

Hanging---------------------

http://www.pineapplefish56.net/Scouting-Fun-DOC/BearBagHangingTech.pdf

http://besthike.wordpress.com/2010/04/09/the-%E2%80%9Cpct-method%E2%80%9D-hanging-a-bear-bag/

Bear canister----------------

http://www.rei.com/expertadvice/articles/bear+resistant+canisters.html

http://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/30876.html

12:03 p.m. on June 8, 2010 (EDT)
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Welcome!

I would most definitely say yes, you should still hang your food and cooking gear. I don't know how interested in dry rice a Bear would be, but other critters will most definitely go after it. However, Bears LOVE any nuts, dried fruits, etc. I am sure they would go after the smell of cooked rive as well. I don't know what your homemade toothpaste is made of, but I think that it would be a good idea to hang anything like that.

To give you an idea of how well critters big or small can smell, consider this: my bother came back from a hike, on which he had taken a small airtight bag of trail food. Nothing smelly, just trail mix, nuts, energy bar, etc., all individually wrapped and sealed. He unloaded his daypack onto a table on his patio and left it for a moment to get something out of his truck. When he turned around a second later a raccoon was making off for the woods with the sealed bag of trail food. It only took a few seconds for that little bandit to smell the food, come out of the woods, snatch it, and scamper off. Bears can smell as well or better than raccoons.

The only concern with "base camping" would be if your gear might get stolen while you are away from camp. I would say the risk depends on where you'll be, what you are leaving at camp, and how long you will be gone from camp. I know many people do it with success.

If you are new to camping or backpacking, make sure you have, understand, and know how to use "The Ten Essentials". That list is a good starting point for learning what you need to have and know to stay alive and whole.

12:39 p.m. on June 8, 2010 (EDT)
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Just because you don't detect a scent doesn't mean that it doesn't have one. Bears have a very keen sense of smell, some 200 to 300 or more times more sensitive than a human. In fact, bears' sense of smell is one of the most keen of all mammals.

Something else to remember is that bears will often check places that humans frequent if they have been able to find food there in the past. Consider that not only for your own safety, but for the safety of those who will come after you have left.

7:38 p.m. on June 8, 2010 (EDT)
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Often bears are not attracted only to smell but just to the fact that its human food. If the bears have become habituated to human food as a food source they will get into anything just to check it out. A young griz once ripped my tent apart looking for food, tho there was none to be found. It probably had seen tents before and associated them with food that it had found in other tents.

10:54 p.m. on June 8, 2010 (EDT)
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A bear's sense of smell is a LOT more than 300 times stronger than a human's. More like thousands of times stronger. Thought... When is the last time you smelled birdseed? Bears sure seem to like back yard feeders, now don't they? I wonder how they find them.

11:30 a.m. on June 9, 2010 (EDT)
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I suppose it's possible. I got my figure from a couple sources, one stating that a bear has a sense of smell 7 times stronger than a bloodhound:
http://www.americanbear.org/senses.htm

An abstract of an episode of PBS' Nature program describes a bloodhound's olfactory cavity has having 40 times the number of sensing cells as a human:
http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/underdogs/the-bloodhounds-amazing-sense-of-smell/350/

I just figured I'd be conservative and multiply the two together, with a generous margin of error. I suppose I could believe that it's not such a linear relationship. =)

12:15 p.m. on June 9, 2010 (EDT)
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I have seen numbers in the millions X better than humans, bears also have an organ in the roof of their mouth called a Jacobson Organ that enhances their sense of smell.

In 1992 while I was in the Chillhowie Recreational Area located in Cherokee NF of TN I & a buddy personally watched a small black bear walk over and sniff a tree where my buddy sat and ate his supper the day before, he had cooked the food well over 200' away and walked down by the stream to sit and eat by that tree. It was interesting that the black bear didn't seem as interested in the ground where my buddy was sitting as he was with the tree.

I guess only the bear knows for sure, but very impressive none the less.

12:23 p.m. on June 9, 2010 (EDT)
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This website states that bloodhounds can smell 1000 time better than humans. The American Bear Association says that bears smell 7 times better than bloodhounds. I just did the math...

One article I read said that bears can smell the presence of us humans 14 hours or more after we have departed the area!

My motto: Hang it, dang it!

5:00 p.m. on June 9, 2010 (EDT)
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Wow. I had no idea their sense of smell was that impressive. I knew it was better than a bloodhound, but holly sniffer batman!

3:40 a.m. on June 10, 2010 (EDT)
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Unscented food… Unless you include rocks, there is no such thing. Just because you can’t smell it doesn’t mean critters can’t. Even if you don’t buy into this advice, and decide to forego bear proofing your pantry, at least store these items away from your tent, there is no reason to flirt with disaster.
Ed

9:23 a.m. on June 10, 2010 (EDT)
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The May-June 20010 isuue of AT Journeys magazine published by the AT Conservancy has an article on Black Bears along the AT. For further info they list:

http://www.state.nj.us/dep/fgw/ (NB article on Bear Management policy in NJ)

12:47 a.m. on June 18, 2010 (EDT)
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A couple of points here and based on extensive personal experience with both Black and Grizzly Bears.

1. There is NO such thing as scentless food to a bear.

2. Bears have scenting abilities in CERTAIN respects so sensitive that you have to SEE it to believe it. I have seen Grizzlies come from MILES around in really rough mountain country to scavenge on winter-killed animals and this where the carrion remains had little detectable odour left.

3. ALL repeat ALL bears are dangerous and should ALWAYS be treated as such by everyone. You will never see an experienced, professional wilderness worker handle ANY bear except with extreme caution. So, if you hang your food and gear, you are just being realistic.

So, I suggest starting your backpacking/camping "career" with caution and taking things a step at a time and thus staying safe out there and having fun.

1:42 p.m. on June 23, 2010 (EDT)
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I was told or heard ir somewhere that a bear can smell an unopened can of tuna a foot under running water. Even if that was a gross exaguration I believe that no food could possibly be unscented to a bear.

2:29 p.m. on June 23, 2010 (EDT)
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I was told or heard ir somewhere that a bear can smell an unopened can of tuna a foot under running water. Even if that was a gross exaguration I believe that no food could possibly be unscented to a bear.

I can’t vouch for that claim, but like grampa in the John Steinbeck novel, Grapes of Wrath, my wife claims I am seemingly stone deaf, yet can hear the word "whiskey" whispered three floors above in a sealed room.
Ed

1:44 p.m. on July 13, 2010 (EDT)
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Hey Ed, Was that picture taken of you after a night of whiskey sippin?

7:31 p.m. on July 13, 2010 (EDT)
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Hey Ed, Was that picture taken of you after a night of whiskey sippin?

No, I am tollaly stome coaled stober there:)
Ed

9:12 p.m. on July 15, 2010 (EDT)
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So if we follow the rules of setting up a kitchen area 100 yards downwind of the tent site, eat it away from there, and finally dispose of all solid waste in a plastic bag hung in the bear bag hanging in the tree, that portion will remain safe.

As far as sleeping in the tent at night, as long as the tent is located following the rules above (i.e. away and upwind from the kitchen/food stuff) the tent area should be safe, correct?

No danger of a denizen of the night attempting to break into the tent for a midnight snack as long as the rules are followed?


I just moved across country and am not used to bear-proofing yet, getting my first experience with it this weekend.

10:13 p.m. on July 15, 2010 (EDT)
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Welcome loykastj,

Exactly how you set up camp has a lot to do with what region or Park you will be in. I only have experience in the Southeast and what you describe is basically how many people do it here.

Other areas require you to use a bear resistant container for food and other smellies. I believe some places rent them.

If you tell us where your going I'm sure someone can tell you about the area, or you can go to:

http://www.nps.gov/index.htm

And get info for your area.

There is also an article on the subject right here on Trailspace:

http://www.trailspace.com/articles/hiking-and-camping-in-bear-country.html

12:22 a.m. on July 16, 2010 (EDT)
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Hi trout,

I am going to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

From the reports I've read of the trails around there, people have seen some black bears, but not as many as on the west coast.

However, the park service's recommendations on the SNPs website requires some sort of bear/skunk/raccoon/squirrel proof food setup. Ranging from bear bag to canister. I'm planning on doing the 12-14 foot up bear bag as that seems adequate with the mammals and sightings that are around there.

8:34 a.m. on July 16, 2010 (EDT)
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No danger of a denizen of the night attempting to break into the tent for a midnight snack as long as the rules are followed?

It wouldn't be accurate to say there is no danger of an unwanted visit if you follow those guidlines, but it will greatly reduce the chance of an unwelcome encounter.

I have been backpacking in the Appalachians most of my life, and I have yet to have a bear come into camp.

The only time I have had a bear come close to me (50ft) was in a car-camping park, and he clearly only cared about what food and garbage he could easily snatch and run away with.

1:30 p.m. on July 18, 2010 (EDT)
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I had a young grizzly bear in the Gros Ventre mountain come into my camp while I was away on a dayhike. My food was hung on a tree cable line. My tent was set up and when I returned to camp, it was obvious a large animal had been in my tent. It had tore up the tent very much, making my 27 year old TNF VE24 unusable again. I had no food or anything with scent in my tent. The bear had probably been accustomed to humans and food. It was in a popular camping area near a lake at 9000 feet.

And the bear came back into my camp the next morning at sunrise, almost walking into my tent with us still in it. It was a young grizzly bear maybe 1-2 years old. It did not appear to be well nurished and thin.

7:20 a.m. on July 19, 2010 (EDT)
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It might have been a sasquatch who was angered by the colors

6:47 a.m. on July 20, 2010 (EDT)
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It might have been a sasquatch who was angered by the colors

I see you tossed you hat into the ring for nomination as the forum Wise Ass. Join the crowd! Be careful, though, a lot of these guys have guns!
Ed

7:37 a.m. on July 20, 2010 (EDT)
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you cant find me in the woods, as I blend in too well

8:25 p.m. on July 20, 2010 (EDT)
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you cant find me in the woods, as I blend in too well

Yea me too, I look like a Bigfoot, no one would ever mistake me for a Trailspace human.
Ed

9:16 p.m. on July 20, 2010 (EDT)
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you cant find me in the woods, as I blend in too well

Well, maybe not humans....haha

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