There are many considerations for hiking where there are bears that you should consider before you go out on a trip, and for good reason.
Hiking in bear country can be challenging, primarily because of the added threat of coming face to face with a grizzly bear. Apart from staying calm and backing away slowly, there are a few other tips that you should consider when you're faced with a bear while on a hiking trip.
It is advised to try and avoid hiking at night time, dusk or dawn. Also, never approach a bear from behind as it could startle it, which will cause the bear to attack. Carrying bear spray is also another helpful deterrent when attacked by a bear.
We have reached out to hiking experts who have years of experience to share their tips and secrets on hiking through bear country. They agree that hiking trips can be dangerous, especially when a place is more likely to experience bear sightings. Therefore, it is vital to take all the necessary precautions to keep yourself and those with you safe.
As outdoor enthusiasts, we are always looking for ways to stay safe while out in the open. We have talked to many fellow trekkers and have all the information you need on hiking where there might be bears.
Considerations for Hiking Where there are Bears
Hiking in bear country may be a fun pastime, but you should be aware of the hazards and dangers involved because no one can guarantee complete safety. That being said, you can significantly reduce the chance of a bear attack if you are well-prepared with information on how to trek and camp securely in a bear country.
Walking the trails in bear country isn't any more perilous than walking the streets of a huge city. Although bear assaults are uncommon, they are exceedingly hazardous since they can result in severe injuries and even death. While bear assaults are rare, and black bears are rarely violent when seen, it's advisable to stay away from bears when hiking or camping by using the following tips.
Begin your preparation by researching the bear species that inhabit the region you will be visiting and carefully plan your trip. Read as much as you can about bears and their routines to obtain a better understanding of these interesting animals. However, keep in mind that it is difficult to anticipate a bear's precise behavior at any given moment.
Bears are protected from hunting in national parks and other regions, so you won't be able to use weapons. On the other hand, bear spray is usually quite efficient in keeping bears away. Hiking sensibly is necessary, but not overreacting to the fear of bears.
Find out what bear-related rules are in effect at your destination before heading into the backcountry. It is important to note that bear canisters are required in certain parks but not in others. Rangers recommend carrying bear spray in national parks where grizzlies dwell, such as Glacier or Grand Teton. Also, bear spray is prohibited in certain parks, such as Yosemite, so it is always best to read park regulations first. Also, find out if the wilderness areas where you'll be camping have bear poles or metal lockers before you travel since this may alter your kit options.
Not all bear signs are seven feet tall and made of wood. However, if you know what to look for, they're easy to identify. Claw traces and strong impressions made by the hefty animals as they pass are commonly recognized as bear tracks. Grizzly claws are two to four inches long and curled, but black bear claws are one to two inches long and seem straight.
Keep an eye out for more than just tracks on the path. Take note of any animal droppings you come across. Bears excrete huge, tubular feces. Pellet-like observations, such as deer droppings, are more prevalent. You're better off hiking another path that day if you see fresh footprints and droppings.
Store Food Carefully
Canisters are practically 100% bear-proof, despite their heft and restricted space. Hanging works, but it's inconvenient, and 'smart' bears, such as those in Yosemite, may obtain food bags if you don't follow all of the height/distance-from-tree-trunk criteria. Electric fence solutions that are light and portable are advised, which is why you should use a system that weighs only a pound or two in a field camp and keep the food within the fence that delivers a scorching 8kV to the fence line.
Food, empty food containers, personal hygiene supplies, and even the clothes you use for cooking should be stored in a bear canister or supplied metal food locker (mainly because clothing absorbs food odors). Some hikers even bring their stoves with them.
Keep the Campsite Clean
Paws down, this is one of the most important safety tips to keep in mind when hiking in bear country. According to biologists, bears in the United States can smell a carcass from miles away. Polar bears, which you're rare to see outside of Alaska's coldest, most isolated regions, can track a seal's scent for up to 40 miles. This implies that a hungry bear can quickly identify your leftover bratwurst or a cooler full of beer.
Store garbage, leftovers, and cooking equipment in sealed bags or containers to make your campsite less tempting to bears. Food and other odorous things, such as cosmetics, should be stored in odor-proof bags or containers, such as a bear canister. Bring food that is compacted or has no strong odors, such as protein bars, rice, or spaghetti.
A bear's sense of smell is extremely keen, around 2100 times better than a person's. This implies that the wind may be both a friend and an opponent when it comes to your chances of seeing a bear. The wind's direction and strength are critical. The bear will scent you coming while the wind is at your back.
A bear won't be able to scent you coming if the wind is blowing in your face. Moreover, a strong, loud wind might drastically reduce the bear's ability to hear you approaching, raising the possibility of an unpleasant encounter. So, keep an eye on the wind, and if it blows in your face, make a loud noise to alert any bears around.
Don't Play Dead
This is the worst idea when confronted with a bear. Surprisingly, this is among the most misinterpreted pieces of advice available. And if you warn bears of your presence, carry bear spray, and use it, when needed.
Also, whistling, using a whistle, or screaming are not recommended by the National Park Service. These noises may resemble an animal in distress, attracting a bear. The majority of "bear bells" on the market aren't loud enough to be beneficial. Also, always be mindful of your surroundings. Noisy streams, wind in the trees, path bends, and deep foliage can all make it difficult for a bear to see you.
Don't Stray Off the Trail
This has got to be the most important factor to consider when hiking in bear country. In bear country, avoid taking side journeys. Staying on the route during the day reduces the chances of running across a bear (especially when the trail is heavily used). It's most likely because bears anticipate seeing hikers on paths. As a result, you're far more likely to see bears off trails or on less-traveled paths in the middle of the day.
Boxes vs. Canisters
If you're going into the black bear area, you'll almost certainly need a bear canister. These clever capsules secure your food with a lock system that can be tough to open, even for humans. Olympic, Yosemite, the Rocky Mountains, and the North Cascades National Parks all require them at all backcountry sites, and alpine places where bear hangs are impossible.
Bear canisters are available for hire at many ranger stations, so you don't have to buy one. Despite the fact that they're large and cumbersome to carry in your bag, you'll have peace of mind knowing your food isn't tempting bears into camp. If you're going to use a bear canister in the grizzly area, make sure it's one that the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee has approved.
You'll need a rope (at least 35 feet), a carabiner, and a couple of stuff sacks for your food and fragrant goods if you're utilizing bear hangs. You may need many bear hang systems if you're traveling on a long journey or hauling a lot of food.
If your food bags are very heavy, you’ll probably require a pulley system to transport them — or divide your food into a couple of bear hangs. Then, to keep your meal in place, tie the rope to a nearby rock or tree. Unless you're utilizing your food bags, they should be hanging for the duration of your stay at camp.
When confronted with a bear, one of the essential things to remember is to remain cool. If you panic, you'll almost certainly do something that makes the bear nervous. They are creatures of habit, so any action that throws them off might be problematic.
About THE AUTHOR
I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.Read More About Peter Brooks