ContentsBACKPACKINGBEGINNERS COURSEKNOW YOUR BEARS1. BLACK BEARS…2. BROWN – GRIZZLY BEARS…HOW TO IDENTIFY BEARSBEAR BEHAVIORHOW TO PREVENT A BEAR ENCOUNTER 1. MAKE NOISE2. LEAVE YOUR DOG AT HOME3. NEVER, EVER APPROACH A BEAR4. DON’T HIKE SOLO5. ALWAYS CARRY BEAR SPRAYHOW TO KEEP BEARS AWAY FROM YOUR CAMPSITE1. PICK YOUR CAMPSITE WELL2. USE THE “BEAR-MUDA” STRATEGY3. KEEP SMELLS AWAY FROM YOUR TENT4. CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES AFTER COOKING5. WASH YOUR POTS AND UTENSILS AFTER COOKING6. SLEEP WITH A FLASHLIGHT AND BEAR SPRAYWHAT TO DO IF YOU ENCOUNTER A BEAR WHAT TO DO IF A BEAR ATTACKS Spotting a wild animal in its natural habitat is always an exhilarating experience. Of all wildlife you can encounter on a hike, bears are one of the most dangerous animals. So what should you do to stay safe around these creatures? In this post, we’ll share some tips on how to keep bears away when hiking and camping in the wild. BACKPACKINGBEGINNERS COURSELearn how to plan & prepare for your own overnight hiking adventure.SIGN UP FOR FREEJOIN THE BACKPACKING COURSE KNOW YOUR BEARS It’s important to know what type of bears you might come across on your hike. Doing so you’ll learn the behaviors of each which will help you handle a possible encounter. The Center for Wildlife Information tells us that there are three species of bears in North America – black bears, brown-grizzly bears, and polar bears. Unless you’re adventuring in the far Arctic north of Canada or Alaska, having a polar bear encounter is unlikely. So, let’s put our attention on black bears and grizzly bears. 1. BLACK BEARS… Are by far the most common North American bears. Live in all 50 U.S. States. Are the smallest of the three species. Are gentle and adaptable animals that are generally shy and evasive. Their dominant color is black, however, these bears may also have brown or even blond fur. They live in woods where they find abundant food and shelter. 2. BROWN – GRIZZLY BEARS… Are without question the most dangerous land mammal in North America. There are two subspecies of them—the Alaskan brown bear and the grizzly bear. The Alaskan brown bear is the larger of the two, with a shoulder height of four and a half feet when standing on all fours. Are smaller than Alaskan browns, with a shoulder height of a full foot less. Live in the forests of the Northwestern United States, Western Canada, and Alaska. HOW TO IDENTIFY BEARS How can you tell if it’s a grizzly bear? Two good indicators are its sheer size and distinctive shoulder hump. As opposed to black bears, brown-grizzly bears evolved in open landscapes. This made them much more aggressive and powerful. Their shoulder hump, for instance, is a huge muscle that allows them to dig for roots and other buried foods. MULTI-DAYHIKING PACKING LISTDon't forget important gear at home!Print out this free hiking packing list to prepare for your next adventure.Plus, you'll get exclusive content in our newsletter to help you make the most of your time on the trail!UNLOCK THIS LIST* You will get weekly emails with practical hiking advice that complement the information contained in the packing list. You can always opt out of these emails. BEAR BEHAVIOR The first and most important step to avoid a confrontation with a bear is to inform yourself before heading out into the wilderness. If you want to know how to keep bears away, you need to understand basic bear behavior. While watching animals in their natural habitat, remember they are WILD animals. Bears act instinctively and can be unpredictable. According to the Get Bear Smart Society, there are a few critical things every hiker and camper should know about bears. The first one is bears do not hunt people. To the contrary, they generally try to avoid interactions with people at all costs. When bears and people do meet, it’s often because the bear was looking for food. Bears are not intrinsically aggressive, but they do tend to be quite curious. If you see a bear standing on its hind legs, it never implies aggression. All it means is that the bear wants to get a better look at what’s going on around it. Again, it’s curiosity. Since bears are so curious, they might focus all their attention to investigate an unknown object or on follow a scent. This applies especially to brown-grizzly bears. Consequently, this means they might be less aware of what’s happening around them. To avoid surprising a bear, it’s important to make your presence known. We’ll get to back to how to do that in a just moment. Other bear behaviors that you should know are that they are not territorial and are most active between sunrise and sunset. Black bears’ behavior differs from that of brown-grizzly bears. For one, black bears can climb trees well and are often seen hanging out on high branches. Brown-grizzlies aren’t good climbers, although they can climb a tree if they want to. Black bears tend to be shy and will almost always run away if they meet a human. Brown-grizzly bears are far likelier to defend themselves and can be extremely aggressive. Photo by Oregon State University, licensed under CC BY HOW TO PREVENT A BEAR ENCOUNTER 1. MAKE NOISE The first step to avoid a confrontation with a bear is to make your presence known. No one likes surprises—not even bears. So be loud. Get creative – ring bells, clap your hands, sing, or talk loudly. 2. LEAVE YOUR DOG AT HOME If you have a dog, it’s best to leave it at home when heading into bear country. In case an encounter occurs, a dog might go into protective mode and start barking. This can provoke and set off a bear, initiating an attack. 3. NEVER, EVER APPROACH A BEAR If you spot a bear during your hike, the worst thing you can do is approach it. No, not even to take a better picture. Getting too close to bears, especially those with cubs can lead to a dangerous situation. 4. DON’T HIKE SOLO Bears may act on instinct, but they also always assess a situation. Bears will think twice about approaching or attacking two or more people. Solo hikers are an easy match for a bear. And it knows that. 5. ALWAYS CARRY BEAR SPRAY The folks over at Backpacker.com are crystal-clear: “Do not go into bear country without a deterrent.” It’s just common sense to use all the means available to avoid an actual bear attack. Bear spray may be the last resort, but it is an extra option you can give yourself. It’s stupid not to use it. Gear up for hiking, without breaking the bankGet the Latest Deals on Hiking GearSent straight to your inbox...GEAR UP FOR HIKING HOW TO KEEP BEARS AWAY FROM YOUR CAMPSITE 1. PICK YOUR CAMPSITE WELL Try to choose a campsite that is as uninteresting to bears as possible. Scout the area for tracks, scratched trees or even bear poop. Discarded food is also a clear sign that you better pitch your tent somewhere else. 2. USE THE “BEAR-MUDA” STRATEGY The “bear-muda” strategy borrowed from Wide Open Spaces, is an excellent tip on how to keep bears away. This strategy involves creating a triangle around your campsite. Pitch your tent in one corner and use the other two corners for food storage and to cook a camp meal. Make sure to leave at least 100 yards between all corners. Also, try to put your tent upwind from your cooking and food storage areas. 3. KEEP SMELLS AWAY FROM YOUR TENT According to the number of scent receptors, the bear has the best sense of smell of all terrestrial mammals. Knowing this, everything that has even the slightest scent should not be in or near your tent. This includes food but also things like cooking utensils, pots, stoves, toothpaste and soap. If you’re car camping be sure to pack everything into your car and don’t forget to roll the windows up all the way. For backpacker’s without cars, the best option is to use a bear hang. This contraption makes it impossible for bears to reach it. A bear hang is nothing more than a waterproof and smell-free bear canister hanging from a rope. Try to make sure your food hangs at least 10 feet from the ground and 4 feet from the tree’s trunk. 4. CHANGE YOUR CLOTHES AFTER COOKING The scent of the food you cook will stick to your clothes. Even if you can’t smell it yourself, the bears can. Make sure that you have a separate set of clothes for cooking and for sleeping. Also, don’t change into your sleeping clothes in your cooking area. This defeats the entire purpose of changing clothes. 5. WASH YOUR POTS AND UTENSILS AFTER COOKING Wash your cooking gear and utensils immediately after using them. This eliminates the chance that food odors linger in the air or get caught by the wind. 6. SLEEP WITH A FLASHLIGHT AND BEAR SPRAY Bear spray works, so it would be crazy not to have the option. Sleeping with a flashlight or headlamp is a given. Bears can see in the dark much better than humans. Don’t allow them that advantage. Photo by istockphoto.com/portfolio/webguzs WHAT TO DO IF YOU ENCOUNTER A BEAR Even if you follow all the tips on how to bearproof your campsite and avoid encounters, there is still a chance you cross paths bear on the trail or at your campsite, you’re in their home after all. So what do you do if you run into a bear? RULE #1: DO NOT RUN AWAY. If you turn your back and run, you might trigger the animal’s predatory instinct and cause it to attack. As scary as it might sound, face the bear and slowly back away. RULE #2: Make yourself as large as possible and make noise. If hiking in a group, stand together. Put small kids on your shoulders. This keeps them from running away and makes you appear bigger. If a bear does approach, use your bear spray. Do this before it gets too close. WHAT TO DO IF A BEAR ATTACKS In the rare event that a bear attacks, your response depends on the species. Browns and grizzlies are aggressive and may attack to protect themselves or their cubs. The best approach is to play dead. Stay on the ground face down and spread your legs and elbows, to help stabilize yourself. Clasp your hands around your neck. If the bear turns you over, continue rolling until you’re on your stomach again. If it’s a defensive attack, the bear will stop as soon as it realizes you’re not a threat. Black bears hardly ever attack humans. They’re much smaller and their shy nature causes them to flee rather than fight. If a black bear does attack, it’s almost always predatory. The only thing left to do in that case is fight back—hard. Once a black bear feels that there’s serious resistance, it will most likely back off again. HIKING RESOURCESTABLE OF CONTENTSHIKINGTABLE OF CONTENTS 1. FUNDAMENTALS 5. HIKING TRAILS 2. HIKING GEAR 6. HIKING WITH KIDS 3. HIKING CLOTHING 7. HIKING WITH DOGS 4. CAMPING 8. WOMEN'S HIKING 1. FUNDAMENTALS 2. HIKING GEAR 3. HIKING CLOTHING 4. CAMPING 5. HIKING TRAILS 6. HIKING WITH KIDS 7. HIKING WITH DOGS 8. WOMEN'S HIKING Disclosure: The Adventure Junkies is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost for you. We also use other affiliate programs like REI, LeisurePro, Diviac and Liveaboard.com.