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Bear It? Or Use Sunscreen?

Why is it advised to leave odor free deodorant or antiperspirant behind in the backcountry when sunscreen and bug spray are considered ok? Wouldn't the same premise apply to all?

Question:

Why is it advised to leave odor free deodorant or antiperspirant behind in the backcountry when sunscreen and bug spray are considered ok? Wouldn’t the same premise apply to all?

Submitted by - Dave - Atlanta, GA

Answer:

This is going to involve a little guesswork, so keep that in mind. As far as I know, bears have never been observed showing any interest in deet or picaridin, a deet alternative. They have been observed showing curiosity in citronella-based products, and conceivably might be interested in other herbal-type repellents. Bears have never been observed showing interest in sunscreens either–but they might if it smells unusually tasty.

Bears are naturally curious and almost always hungry, but it is not likely a bear who found insect repellent or sunscreen interesting stuff to sniff would then follow up with an attack on the wearer. So, here’s my main guess: if you follow bear precautions you should not be especially attractive if you’re using sunscreen or chemical bug repellents because they don’t smell like food. But still wash it all off before bed.

And with all that in mind, I know of no reason why a bear would be attracted to odor-free deodorant or antiperspirant.

1 Comment

  1. DMA

    We bring Wet Ones Unscented Towelettes for cleaning the pits & bits, and put the used towelettes in our trash ziploc in the bear can. We started using Secret Clinical Strength Sensitive Skin Antiperspirant during hiking – before you leave, pry the plastic parts of the applicator apart and scoop out what you need with a knife and put it in a little sealed canister; apply with a fingertip. We used to go natural, but this is much more pleasing to us both! We see bears all the time in Yosemite because we are usually off trail in the north country (where they used to ship the problem bears), but just keep a tidy camp, use your bear canister properly, and keep a handful of rocks near your sleeping mat in case you get curious visitors during the night – they can smell you regardless of what you are or are not wearing.

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