I hike solo in bear country. Will using bear bells keep me safer than clapping, singing, and talking loudly?
Submitted by – J.D., Alexandria, LA
Ah, the old bear bell question. The theory of bear bells is a sound one (so to speak). The bells make a metallic sound that does not occur in the natural world. The theory goes that this unnatural sound should encourage a wary bear to move away. In real life, however, this is what usually happens: Bears that have learned to associate the sound of bells with humans will most likely avoid you, but bears that have never heard the sound will most likely ignore it. Plus, if there are other sounds like rushing water and high winds, the bears may not even hear the bells. I don’t think it hurts to wear bear bells. It might help. I would definitely still clap, sing and/or talk loudly in heavy brush or other areas where you could suddenly find yourself facing a bear.