2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

How to Keep Bears Away

Learn your black bears from your brown bears then figure out how to keep them away from your camp.

by: The Backpacker Editors

Tell black from brown: A black bear has a light-colored muzzle, and is generally smaller and lacks the muscular shoulder hump and dish-shaped face of a brown bear (grizzly). Browns can be found only in remote areas of Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, and western Canada.

Cook wisely: A bear's sense of smell is 7 times greater than a bloodhound's. Prepare meals at least 100 yards from camp. After your meal, change clothes and secure food in a bear bag or a hard-shell canister.

Discharge pepper spray: Aim for the bear's eyes and face, and pull the trigger when a charging bear is within 40 feet. Most canisters create a visible 30-foot cone of spray. Once the bear is disoriented, leave the scene as quickly as possible and report the incident to local authorities.

Return to the Backpacking 101 home page.

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Address 1:
Address 2:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -


Star Star Star Star Star
Jul 11, 2014

I carry a .45 daily, in town or on drives. Don't plan to change that in the backcountry. When did we move from firearms to bear spray, and why?

Doc Savage, Outpost Outfitters
Sep 18, 2010

If you have already thwarted a bear attack with pepper spray, chances are you won't feel very comfortable sleeping in the same spot anyway. Bears are a very curious species but chances are good that a generous snout full of pepper spray should detour any further curiosity and the same bear should normally not give you anymore trouble, but I always says to err on the side of safety. Best to go ahead and find a new camp site if it is convenient considering location, time of day, weather, safety and other factors.
Be safe and have fun.

Ila Vaquez
Jun 15, 2010

What if the bear is in the vicinity of your campsite & you need to discharge the pepper spray? Still leave, or report the incident & stay there?

Ila Vazquez
Jun 15, 2010



Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Rocky Mountains
Trip report and thanks!
Posted On: Aug 27, 2014
Submitted By: grizzled
Health and Fitness
Back Pain
Posted On: Aug 27, 2014
Submitted By: ol-zeke

View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions