Ask A Bear: Camp Cooking in Clothes?

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

Q:I've heard that if I get any food smells on my clothes while camping, I should not sleep in those clothes or even let them get near my tent area. I know you love the smell of my instant chocolate pudding even more than Bill Cosby does, so this makes sense.

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But I am not sure what to do with those clothes if that should happen. Do I need to get another bear canister to put them in, so I don’t wake up to find you trying to squeeze into my fleece windbreaker? Can I just put them in a bag far away from my tent, or will I wake up to find you have shredded my favorite hiking pants in a hissy fit because you just couldn't fit into them after gorging on all those fish last night?

Also, if I eat pretty low-smell foods and don’t spill any on me, can I wear those clothes to sleep in?—Scratch, via email

A: What do you mean I can't "fit into your hiking pants?" Are you calling me fat?!

Truly, if you cook while camping in bear country (which should hundreds of yards away from your tent area), whatever clothes you cook in should be stored with food, toiletries, and any other high-scent items. A difficult-to-get-to canister set far away from camp is your best option, but an Ursack hung like a bear bag could work, too.

If you have no room in any of your food storage, your next-best option is storing the scent-contaminated clothes several hundred yards away from camp. This method leaves much to be desired, though; I can't guarantee I won't shred your precious pants and windbreaker if I find them scented of food, and that initial whiff might encourage me to keep looking and mess with your camp, when normally I wouldn't bother.

If you don't cook, and eat low-smell foods like trail mix, energy bars, or nuts, it's probably OK for you to stay in your clothes as long as you wash up properly. But I have an amazing nose, and it's possible for me to smell very small amounts of food. So if you so much as smear crumbs of a Clif Bar on your pants, it's probably safest for you to change and store your wardrobe.

And for your information, bub, when I throw a hissy fit, people usually wet their precious hiking pants. So there.

—BEAR

Got a question for the bear? Send it to askabear@backpacker.com.