Bear Country: Know Before You Go

Bear Country: Know Before You Go

If you’re in the backcountry, you’re likely in bear country. Whether you’re planning a trail hike, a backpacking trip, or camping in the backcountry, it’s important to have a bear safety plan. While bear attacks are rare, they are a real possibility and when they do happen, they can be serious. Bear spray and other deterrents are must-pack survival items for trips into bear country.


Here are a few essential safety facts to know that will help you venture confidently in the great outdoors. Remember - be safe, go wild!


Bears are strong - very strong. In fact, they're up to 5 times stronger than humans with claws growing to 4 inches long. 


Because of that, make sure to keep your distance. Don't feed bears, keep a clean camp and keep campsites free of food and litter. In short: don't smell like food. Do everything you can to avoid inadvertently luring bears to your hike or campsite.


Bear safes, also known as bear canisters, are a smart way to keep hungry bears away. Watertight and scent-proof, these products are easy for humans to open and access their meals and snacks but practically impossible for bears to get into.


Bears can cover over 50 feet in just one second - that's over 70% further than the current long jump world record.


Chances are, a bear would be able to outrun you. But remember, bears usually don't seek humans out. Most bear attacks occur because bears are caught by surprise. 


To avoid surprising bears as you hike, let them know you are coming. Consider attaching bear bells to your pack, clothing or other gear, you can give bears safe notice of your approach. Bear horns provide an even louder announcement of your arrival in the bears’ home turf. Periodic blasts from these very loud air horns as you make your way along a trail or path will let bears know you are in the area.


Bears can run up to 40 miles per hour - more than twice as fast as humans.


Even if you warn bears with sound deterrents and keep a clean campsite, there's a chance you could still encounter a bear in the backcountry. After all, the wild is their home. It's essential to carry a bear spray.


If you’re running or hiking, be prepared to retrieve and use your bear spray. Since a bear can run up to 40 miles per hour, it will run into the cloud of pepper spray and meet the spray 20-30 feet out from you. We should note: make sure you've got your bear spray in a holster (like a chestbelt, or even 3-in-1 holster), so that it's immediately accessible if and when you need it. It won't do you any good at the bottom of your pack. 


From food odor to bear spray to noise-making, learn how to create a strategic plan for reducing your risk of bear conflict (or even encountering one in the first place).