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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Ask A Bear: Will My iPod Keep You Away?

Our resident bruin expert answers all your questions in our weekly feature, 'Ask A Bear.'

by: BEAR

Q: My brother and I have had this question for quite a while: Within the last two or three years when backpacking, we have hung an iPod in the tree branches, plugged in the ear phones, and tuned up the volume. At night when it is twenty feet away, humans can't hear it, but we swear that the bears can hear it and stay away, because we have never had a visit from a bear. Are we just lucky or does it work?
Secondly, since we believe it works, we are going to record a series of barking dogs, and hit repeat and play it over and over so the bear can hear it, but us humans can't. Will that work better?? —BoardDog, via email

A: Let me get this straight: You get enough battery life out of your iPod to just turn it on and let it run overnight, night after night? Man, I feel like mauling Steve Jobs.

Well, I don't want to burst your brotherly bubble, but I think you're mostly just lucky. While I can probably hear an iPod from afar, even when humans can't, it's unlikely that it's a significant deterrent. Think about it: Even with the iPod cranked, those tiny earbuds wouldn't overpower the sound of talking, snoring, or even most rustling or movement within the tent.

Plenty of people camp all of their life, follow proper bear procedures, and never have a camp visitation. I'm more willing to bet that you guys keep a clean camp and follow precautions—and that's probably why I haven't paid you a nighttime visit. If you don't, then you should probably start—because you are just lucky.

Either way, if I do come around and find an iPod running all night with exceptional battery life, I might just have to keep it.


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Apr 05, 2012

So? Exactly how old is your iPod ? And where exactly did you say you hung it?

Apr 05, 2012

Hey, Willy Wonka...when a bear comes to visit in the middle of the night I usually scream like a little girl and pee myself. So far, so good...

Apr 05, 2012

It probably keeps elephants away, too. (Very old joke.)

Apr 05, 2012

I bet that sound of that ipod has also kept the elephants away.

Apr 22, 2011

Let me know if the barking dogs attract wolves.

Apr 22, 2011

Really? I'm sure you just gave someone inspiration for a new app.

Ernest Snomin
Mar 25, 2011

If you enjoy listening to your iPod at night and it isn't bothering anyone else (because you keep the volume down so it cannot be heard) then use it. NEVER EVER let anyone tell you how you're supposed to hike, camp, or enjoy yourself. As long as you're not breaking any laws and no one can hear your iPod, then use it however you want. But, if you're using it for protection, I say save yourself the weight.

Mar 14, 2011

James, take your ball, and go home...

Willy Wonka
Mar 11, 2011

I hope its not a stupid question but every article I have read describes how to prevent backcountry encounters with bears by keeping a clean camp or how to handle unexpected daytime trail encounters and SO far so good. One topic that I have never seen covered is what to do if one desides to stop by and say high in the middle of the night. The tent I have only has 1 door; should you exit, shout, try not to mace myself in the darkness, turn your headlamp to flash mode, or what.

Thanks for any advice you may have.

Mar 10, 2011

I still find it astounding that anyone would choose the sounds of electronics to the sounds of nature when they are out in nature. Why bother to go?

Mar 10, 2011

I'm 69 years old. I have been camping and backpacking in the Sierra as long as I can remember and in the Colorado Rockies for the last 12 years. I have never had a bear encounter in my camp. I always cook away from where I sleep (downwind if possible), use a bear box, and hang my food farther away than my kitchen. I never eat in my tent or keep food in the tent. Simple rules!!

Jim Grieser
Mar 10, 2011

Leave your ipod at home and enjoy the outdoors. I've been hiking and packing in bear country for thirty years with no unwanted bear encounters. A clean camp and common sense goes a long way. Then again maybe I'm just lucky.

Mar 10, 2011

I suggest these two test their "hypothesis" the next and put a nice Pastrami sandwich next to the iPod. ;)

Mar 10, 2011

This shows that you've just about beat the bear questions to death. The questions are just getting stupid.


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