Over the next ten years of guiding, I also became good at keeping all kinds of other animals away from our precious food—a benefit for clients as well the animals, since you don’t want them getting accustomed to human grub. To help you keep your food safe during this year’s camping season, here are some strategies I relied on, plus tips from other outdoor educators who’ve mastered the art of deterrence.
Know Which Animals You’ll Encounter and Plan Accordingly
It’s unlikely you’ll run into bears or marmots while camping in the Mojave, but you might have to deal with mice. To find out which animals live in the environment where you’ll be camping, call the local Forest Service or BLM station and ask. Sure, you could jump on the internet and do some research (and a quick Google search usually brings up lots of useful tips), but nothing can replace good local knowledge from the people who constantly deal with these critters.
Tie Up Your Food
This is the easiest way to keep most large predators out of your food. You’ll need a parachute cord (I buy 50 feet or so from the local army surplus store) and a bag to hold your food. I like this Sea to Summit dry bag because it’s just big enough and will keep my food dry if it rains. When selecting my tree, I look for one with a sturdy branch about 20 feet high (more on that number below). I then fill the bag will all my food and toiletries (which also attract animals), and attach the P-cord to the top. Next, I tie a rock or stick to the other end of the cord and chuck it over the branch. I hoist the bag so it’s about 15 feet in the air, and then tie the loose end to the trunk. At 15 feet, the bag is too high for a bear but not sitting right on the branch, which would give squirrels easy access.
Buy a Bear-Proof Cooler for Car Camping
If you’re car camping or rafting in bear country, bring a bear-proof cooler like the Yeti Tundra 45 or the GiNT ROTO2000.
Tip: bears are smart enough to recognize coolers on sight, so hide yours under a tarp if possible. A buddy of mine had his car broken into twice in Yosemite because bears thought his bins full of climbing gear were bins full of food. The problem went away once the bins were covered.