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Backpacking Gear for Beginners: Bear Safety

This post is part of the Backpacking Gear for Beginners course.

Why do you need bear safety gear? 

There are a couple items related to bears that you should be aware of. 

Bear deterrents are bear bangers or sprays meant to scare the bears off. Bear bangers are small explosives that shoot up in the sky letting off a loud bang. They can be used from a distance. Sprays only work close up and are a last resort when a bear gets too close. 

Bear canisters, bags and stashes are to protect your food and scented items while you’re sleeping. Bears are attracted to your camp by the food smells and if there is food in your tent, they will try to get it. 

Bear canisters and Ursack bags are bear-proof containers meant to be stored away from camp. If the bears do find the bags they will try to get in, fail and leave. Some parks and hiking areas require you to use a bear canister.

A final option if the area doesn’t require a canister is to hang your food. This requires rope (50 ft is usually good) and a bag you can hang all your food in. Even better if the bag is odor proof like an OPSak.

Research the area

Some areas require bear canisters. Research what you’ll need ahead of time. They’re a lot less common in Canada than in the US. 

Practice with bear bangers

If you are carrying bear bangers, try to shoot one off in a safe area away from people. You don’t want to be fiddling with it for the first time when a bear is near.

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