Ask A Bear: How Long Do Food Smells Stick To My Tent?

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

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Q: I am well aware that you should always keep a clean camp and cook/eat well away from camp when backpacking in bear country. My question is that I often cook and eat in camp when not in bear country. Do those delicious smells stay with my tent and gear between trips so that you’re still interested? Go Bears!! — Josh Quigley, Chicago, IL

A: Hey Josh—glad to see you’re supporting my favorite NFL team. Of course, if they’d actually drafted me, maybe we would’ve actually beaten the Colts in 06. Grrr.

But on to your question. I applaud you for following proper precautions in bear country—that’s a great habit. But if you slack when I’m not around, it’s possible that scents could impregnate your tent and gear and linger during your next trip to my backyard. This is especially true if you cook smelly foods inside your tent or from underneath the vestibule.

It’s probably a good idea to cook away from camp anyway, since even when you’re not in bear country, other animals might be interested in the food odors you create (and not just squirrels—coyotes are all over the Midwest, and they’re not afraid to get aggressive or raid a tent). 

If you must cook highly odorous foods inside or very near your tent, there’s two easy fixes. You might consider owning two tents—one for bear country and one for non-bear country. If this isn’t an option, you can always wash your tent in between trips. Here’s how.


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