Q: All joking about “bear piñatas” aside, how safe is it to sleep in a camping hammock in bear country? —Margaret Eastham, via email
A: Let's see—bear piñatas, bear burritos, bear canneloni, bear enchiladas: It's so much more convenient and mess-free when you put yourself in a tube like that.
Relax, relax: I'm only kidding. But some research suggests that sleeping open-air might increase your risk of being bothered by me, especially in grizzly country. I know that's a big bummer, since I enjoy looking at the stars while I fall asleep, too.
Though I can easily paw through any tent, evidence shows that it's enough of a psychological deterrent to keep me at bay a lot of the time. I'm an opportunistic eater, so I'll investigate whatever I can; this doesn't mean I'm going to eat you al fresco—but it might mean a nudge or a probing bite until you wake up, scream, and scare both of us off.
Camping hammocks are better. Most completely cover you and offer that same psychological wall as a tent—the only drawback being that there's no space between the nylon wall and your body to protect you if I decide to get curious.
But if you properly store all your food far away from camp and follow all the necessary precautions, the likelihood that I'll show up at all is severely reduced. As long as you're comfortable with the slightly increased risks, go ahead and camp in a hammock. But I'd appreciate it if you could cover yourself in salsa before you fall asleep. (Kidding! Kidding!)