Camping can be a great experience. It can be adventurous, educational, and relaxing. It can also be stressful if you happen to have an animal stumble upon your site. Keeping your campsite, and food, safe from animals is definitely something you should be mindful when you set out on your adventure. Here are some tips for protecting your site from animals.
Choosing a Location
First and foremost you should be aware that various locations might be more prone to certain animals. For example, setting up camp right near water is probably not the best idea. Mosquitoes, raccoons, and bears are attracted to water and will often travel to these locations. On average you should aim to be at least 200 feet from the nearest water source. This should be far enough away that even if an animal does approach they will still be a significant distance from you and your campsite. In addition, tall grasses and fallen trees can be especially attractive to various types of snakes.
It is best to find a place that is in a little bit of a clearing or at least has some open area around it. The more surrounded you are by trees and other plant-life the more likely it is that you will encounter an animal during your stay. It is also a good idea to set up camp in a clearing because if an animal does wander into your campsite and it feels trapped by the surrounding wildlife it may become scared which in turn could mean more aggressive. If you are in a clearing the animal may be more likely to leave than approach.
Something else to keep in mind is to stay on high ground. This is because the higher you are the less likely you are to be surrounded by water if there is significant rain. With lots of water comes lots of insects.
Keeping Animals Away
Depending on what kind of environment you are in you will have to tweak these methods. Each animal is different but in general there are some general rules for various groups of animals.
Rodents, such as mice, moles, squirrels, chipmunks, and skunks, are deterred by several things. Garlic is a prime example of this. Keep garlic nearby your food or around the site to deter them from coming too close. Natural dog and cat repellent also works on rodents. It can come in various forms so use as directed. Depending on if the rodent is nocturnal or not they might stay away if there is enough light. You may want to keep some lanterns lit and the fire going in order to ward off any nocturnal animals.
Again, natural snake repellent is always a good idea to have handy if you know you will be sleeping or eating someplace where there is an abundance of snakes. Especially if you are sleeping on the ground you may be likely to see a snake or two. You can also use ammonia, which snakes are naturally repelled by. Sulfur is also another scent that snakes do not like and will typically steer clear of. In addition, they are also known to dislike the smell of cinnamon and clove mixed together.
Probably the most commonly feared animal while camping is bears. They are known to come into campsites upon smelling food. To attempt to keep them away from you and your space you can do several things. You can raise your food when it is not in use and definitely before heading to bed. Use a high tree branch to create a pulley system and raise your cooler or bag of food off of the ground. Bears will also usually steer clear of the area if there is a lot of noise or lights. Flashing lights work especially well. Some flashlights and lanterns come with various settings, one of which may be a flashing light/strobe light setting. You could also try leaving a radio on when you go to sleep. Bears are less likely to reproach if there are human voices.
If you’d rather use a scent to keep bears away instead of noise or lights then you can try ammonia. Citrus is also known to work to repel bears as well. This is especially convenient because many candles are not only citrus scented but are also mosquito repellents.
It’s also believed that dryer sheets, scented of course, are disliked by a wide range of animals. Stuff some in your cooler, under your sleeping bags, in your bags etc. The more the better. The scent on a dryer sheet is strong enough to cover the scent of any food that may be attracting an animal.
How you store and prepare your food may be the most important part of keeping animals away from your campsite. There are ways to cook and clean in order to prevent these critters from coming too close.
Before heading out of going to sleep you really need to clean off anything you have used to prepare or eat your meal. Rodents will smell even the tiniest scrap of food left behind and make their way towards it to devour it. Even scraps left on the end of a roasting stick or on a plate need to be cleaned up. While we’re on the topic of cleaning you should also be sure to clean off any items before using them. This is just to be safe. Rodents carry hundreds or germs that can make humans sick and ingesting food off of an item that has had a rodent on it is never a good idea. You never know what might be creeping around your cutlery when you’re not around.
Before heading to bed you should also be sure to pack up everything and anything that has a scent. This includes not only food but any body products or hygiene products. Toothpaste, shampoo, and even your clothing can carry a scent. Animals, especially bears, have a much more acute sense of smell. You’ll want to be sure the major smell is nature, not your minty toothpaste.
You will also need to clean up any garbage you have accumulated. If you have brought your own trash bags you should double bag your garbage. using odor-control bags are a good idea in this situation. Similarly to storing your food before bed you’ll want to raise your trash off the ground. Strive to get your garbage at least 20 feet off of the ground and at least 8 feet from the tree trunk. If this doesn’t seem possible you can tie a rope to two trees that are several feet apart and use that connecting rope to hang anything from. This makes it nearly impossible for animals to jump, swat, or climb, to the scent of food.
Some sources have suggested that you bury your garbage but I would strongly recommend against that. The majority of animals will be able to smell the scent of food through the ground and will be able to dig. In addition, it has been said that you could also burn your trash. Again, I disagree with this method. Depending on what material your trash is made out of it can release toxins into the air through the smoke. It can be dangerous to inhale and may even leave a toxic residue.
If you plan on being at your campsite for several days then you will obviously need to focus on food options. The best idea is to have freeze-dried food. This ensures that there are not as many scents being released. When cooking, the food smells travel pretty far. Animals already have an acute sense of smell so this is just going to make them even more tempted to come your way. Cooking meat can be especially dangerous. If you are going to cook your own meals, or be cooking meat, then you should be mindful of when you are preparing your food. Many animals are more likely to come out at night in the safety of the dark and cooler temperatures. With this being said it might not be the best idea to also be cooking at night as this could attract nearby critters.
Another thing you should be aware of is the location in which you are eating. Be sure to stay in one spot when eating your meals. Wandering around or moving around can spread the scents and you may be dropping pieces of food along the way. Stay in one location so that is less to clean once you are finished. In addition, never eat inside your tent or where you plan to sleep. This could be especially dangerous.
After you are done preparing your meal you will need to meticulously wash your hands. Food smells, especially if you have been handling any meat with your bare hands, will cling to your skin. You will want to be sure you are washing your hands before you go around and touch anything after eating or preparing your meal. Those food smells can be spread to other objects and make it more likely for animals to catch a whiff.
Even if you are taking all of the necessary precautions listed above you will still want to follow these actions as well. In a worst-case scenario you will encounter a wild animal at your campsite despite having cleaned and raised your food off of the ground. There are some other things you can do to protect yourself and your surroundings.
Be sure to check over your tent before heading out on an adventure. Be sure the zippers actually zip and that there are no rips or tears. Tears in the tent can allow for animals or critters to come in.
As previously mentioned you will want to limit the amount of personal and hygienic products you are using. This includes deodorant, shampoos, any fragrances, and toothpaste. This may not seem like something you want to do while camping but it will help protect yourself against animals. Animals may be attracted to these scents since they are not common in nature. In addition to this, you will want to be sure any hygiene actions, such as brushing your tooth or rinsing off/washing, is done far enough away from your campsite. Even spitting your toothpaste out on the ground near your tent can be a detriment because it will attract animals.
You can protect yourself from mosquitoes and other biting bugs by staying cool and dry. The more you sweat the more likely you are to attract these kinds of bugs. Wipe down before bed with a towelette. Be sure to use unscented!
Hide any shiny or reflective objects as these can attract raccoons and other rodents. Things like aluminum foil, car keys, or metal objects may be attractive to various types of animals. Placing them under another item will be good enough to hide the reflective properties.
Before heading out you should do some basic research on animals that may be in your area. Depending on your location you will have various species around you. Have some information on how to properly defend yourself in case you do encounter an animal. For some animals, such as raccoons, shining a bright light can scare them off. Have a flashlight handy near your tent. For some animals, you will want to make loud noises to scare them away. Having some basic information regarding the types of animals in your area and some strategies for protecting yourself will prove important.
Once you have the foundational knowledge of how to keep yourself and your campsite safe from animals you will be better prepared for a camping experience. Encountering animals during your journey can really put a damper on your adventure. Stay safe out there!