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Ask A Bear: Old Vomit in a Tent?

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

by: BEAR

Q: I work at an outdoor gear retailer. Recently, a customer asked me a puzzling question. She said, "My son vomited in our tent, and we cleaned it up as best as we could, but should I replace the tent before camping in bear county in New Mexico?" I asked several other resident campers at the store, and we all agreed the tent should be replaced. Is this correct? Would you be able to smell the remnants, and would you be attracted to remaining scents of old vomit?—Tava, via email

A: Ouch. Sounds like someone's favorite camp chili didn't sit so well with our young camper here. But that doesn't mean mom and pop have to run out and buy a brand new tent.

While I could indeed be attracted to the remnants of this poor young man's rough night, it's not like he sprayed it with permanent salmon scent (unless he, uh, did). Assuming they put the tent through a proper and thorough cleaning procedure when they got home, it's possible to remove all traces of food odor, however strong. Here's a refresher in tent cleaning basics.

Meanwhile, I hope our young camper gives backpacking in bear country another shot—and maybe this time, he can keep dinner down.


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Star Star Star Star Star
Jun 27, 2013

alyeskaguide and J3OKC ... you guys must both work for tent manufacturers.

You touch food several times a day. It gets on your clothes and the scent is in your hair and everything that you've touched.

To a bear, according to your arguments, you will never get rid of that smell off your own body and clothing either. The old vomit smell is the least of your worries. You can use the old vomit tent, don't toss it.

Apr 29, 2011

A bear will be able to detect any scent that ever touched that tent no matter what you do to it. Their sense of smell is thousands of times greater than ours. If you spilled a dab of toothpaste on your tent and then cleaned it with soap and water and then used bleach or some other deep cleanser, a bear would still be able to locate that spot where the toothpaste was. Those bears know more about us then we do from every scent we carry on our bodies, clothes, tent, backpack.

In the village of Tanana, they have a saying: "A leaf fell in the forest. The eagle saw it. The moose heard it. The bear smelled it."

Apr 28, 2011

Absolutely do not utilize that tent in bear country. Last summer a young man using a similarly "freshened" tent in northeastern New Mexico experienced a bear bite through his tent. Fortunately his injuries were not life threatening.


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