Bear country & leaving the campsite

Discussion in 'Camping Around Wildlife' started by jamielynn, Jun 18, 2017.

  1. jamielynn

    jamielynn New Member

    Jun 18, 2017
    Anthem, AZ
    Hey guys -

    We are new to popups, but have had travel trailers previously. We always stored food inside, cooked inside often, & never really though much about it. We have camped in Yellowstone, through UT, NM, San Diego, SW TX, SW CO, and camp regularly in Sedona, Flagstaff, AZ White Mountains at least 5-10 times/year, where there are black bears. But we've never actually seen/heard one anywhere (save for driving around Yellowstone, where we actually did see a grizzly.)

    So, now with a pop up, I have been trying to nail down exactly what we need to be doing with our food! Especially in SW CO & northern AZ, where we usually camp... there are definitely black bears but it doesn't seem to be a huge problem (like maybe Yosemite or more northern regions where there are more of them, they are larger etc.) and there are never bear boxes where we have stayed. In fact, in AZ there are usually tons of tent/pop up campers around that leave everything out, all the time on tables... especially at the group sites. So i'm not totally how sure how worried I need to be.

    I see that most people say to store all food, toiletries, & coolers in vehicles, along with dirty clothes. Just a couple questions (sorry if they are dumb/previously answered... I've done a lot of reading but just feel like I still have a few gaps... I am a planner & like to have things figured out before we go!):
    • Do you find that your food goes bad quickly being locked up in a car? We are vegan & eat mostly perishables, fruits, veggies, nuts. (Yes, we are weird health nuts, don't judge lol!) and mostly camp in AZ, UT & CO where it can be hot in the day; hotter in the car.
    • Would it be completely crazy to leave bananas & apples in the pop up when we leave for the day? Do bears eat bananas? Whenever I leave bananas in the car for a while they get black so fast (we eat A LOT of bananas!) What about raw veggies in the camper fridge? We like to do long day hikes most days, and use our campsite as a base. Driving around all our food all the time to different trailheads or for other day trips is a little unappealing and again I wonder about things going bad in a hot car (I am from Phoenix, so my mind might exaggerate that since my Pilot gets to like 170 degrees in the sun - I don't ever leave anything in my car!)
    • Dirty clothes... there is literally no chance I am keeping my husband's dirty clothes in the car, ever. ;) He is an ultramarathoner & runs at least 10-20 miles most days when we are on vacation, and his clothes and shoes stink & are completely soaked! That smell would make most of our sightseeing day trips pretty unbearable... my 14 year old's soccer gear is bad enough when he forgets it in the Pilot overnight. ;) Is that actually going to be a big problem to have dirty clothes outside the camper?
    Again, just trying to get a feel for what I need to worry about with bears/pop ups, mostly specific to SW CO & N AZ. If I was headed to Yellowstone/Yosemite/Glacier I wouldn't be trying to bend any rules. ;)

    Thanks so much for any feedback!
  2. theseus

    theseus Centerville, OH

    Feb 6, 2007
    Centerville, OH
    I've camped in many bear areas with my popup. Keep all food (fruits included) in your tow vehicle. I wouldn't keep any food in your camper at all if you're in a bear active area, even in the fridge. The tenting will not be much of a deterrent to any bear.

    I wouldn't worry too much about the clothing, bears are opportunists. Clothing doesn't offer much. I know that in some areas others have kept clothing in a roof box on the top of the car.

    Worse comes to worse, leave a open loaf of bread out on a neighbor's campsite:wink:
  3. f5moab

    f5moab Retired from the Federal Government

    May 7, 2013
    Somewhere in Idaho
    I camp in Shoshone and Custer NF, the two largest areas in the lower 48 for grizzlies many times throughout the year and in other sites that generally have just black bears, and I leave food in the fridge and have never had a problem. But I do not grill when camping, prefer to take it easy and just eat sandwiches so the only thing in the fridge will be the sliced meat and possibly cheese. All other food items, such as bread, chips, etc. go into the PU when I'm not there and at night. And if you have dogs, don't forget dog food; especially if it is salmon smelling.

    If the site does have a bear box I will use it for the items normally going into the PU and most campsites in the areas I camp do, but not the dispersed areas.

    I have had a few bears stop by at night and wonder through the campground, but bears generally don't like dogs so they will usually just leave, and sometimes they will drop off a nice present for me to possibly step in the next morning. So if you do any late night runs to the vault toilet or into the bushes, look around before leaping from the trailer.

    As for clothes; I leave dirty clothes in my duffel inside the trailer and never had a problem.

    Be honest, I'm more worried about coming up on a bear when hiking than in the campground or dispersed area. For that reason, when hiking, I carry a large can of bear spray plus another item not to be mentioned here.
    jumpoff likes this.
  4. NMroamer

    NMroamer Active Member

    Apr 21, 2016
    Albuquerque NM
    What now we cannot tell people we carry guns?
    RVAcampcouple and Bowman3d like this.
  5. tombiasi

    tombiasi Well-Known Member

    Sep 1, 2012
    Northwestern New Jersey
    If you even say the word the whole thread could disappear.
  6. NMroamer

    NMroamer Active Member

    Apr 21, 2016
    Albuquerque NM
    If that is the case maybe I should move on.
    I am to old for politically correct crap.
    jnc likes this.
  7. jmkay1

    jmkay1 2004 Fleetwood/Coleman Utah

    Oct 10, 2013
    Northern Virginia
    I keep mostly everything in the cooler in the car. Yes the heat in the car makes fruit to go bad fast so I keep it in the cooler in the car. I put a reflective cover over it to help keep the sun off it and to hopefully keep the ice longer. I keep the frozen goods down in/near the ice and use a piece of reflectix on top of that and then the refrigerator stuff of fruit and veggies. Now bananas can't help you there as I haven't been successful yet in keeping them fresh. They don't like the cooler much, but better than a 100+ car. I don't leave food sitting in the popup if I'm not going to be there watching it in any bear active areas.
  8. f5moab

    f5moab Retired from the Federal Government

    May 7, 2013
    Somewhere in Idaho
    Believe me, I am NOT politically correct and too old to become such.
    However, didn't need to actually say the word for people to realize what I was implying.[​IMG]

    And don't believe saying the word would have resulted in the thread being closed, it would have been the posts that followed afterward from both sides of the debate.

    Maybe by not saying the word it is causing more discussion????[​IMG]
  9. Mausinn

    Mausinn Member

    Jun 1, 2017
    If you don't want to keep the items in the vehicle you can always hang them in a bear bag. That way they aren't effected by the built-up heat in the vehicle.
  10. silvermickey2002

    silvermickey2002 Morris County, NJ

    Sep 11, 2008
    Morris County, NJ
    When we camp in bear country we do not leave any food in the pup. We keep a cooler in the TV and the dry stuff in a bag in the TV. We also never cook in the pup! We do not want any smells getting into any of the fabric. When cooking we put our Coleman stove on the picnic table. This way it's far enough from the pup. Also be aware not to keep smellables in the pup at night. Smellables are deodorant, toothpaste, etc. We all have our own toiletry bags and they get put in the TV at night and if we are not at the campsite during the day we put them in the TV as well
    Mausinn likes this.
  11. ChasingDreamsPhotog

    ChasingDreamsPhotog New Member

    Sep 11, 2017
    I'm all for not putting food in the camper but....what is the point of the fridge then?
  12. xxxapache

    xxxapache Well-Known Member

    Jul 30, 2008
    I camp in black bear country. In my PUP, I kept the fridge loaded. I also rolled the dice and kept two Coleman Powerchills running outside the door. I never had a bear issue.

  13. 1380ken

    1380ken Well-Known Member

    Nov 7, 2013
    Where we camp we see black bears in the camp ground almost every trip. Have seen them during the day and at night. We keep food in the fridge and also in the camper( cookies and chips and stuff). They are looking for easy scores like coolers and food left outside. I have never heard of a black bear going into a pop up or any type of RV.
  14. sleach

    sleach A short run will get you within walking distance.

    May 17, 2014
    As for what bears will eat, it is almost anything that has calories. Anything that smells good to you will be a bear treat, plus they'll eat a lot of things that will make a human gag. As curious, intelligent creatures they will investigate odors new to them. Bears lives center around building up enough body fat to get through hibernation.

    Living on the Colorado Front Range and frequently heading out westerly, we try not to make it easy for bears, 'coons, skunks and the like to get into our stuff. Foods not in the reefer go in a cooler in the rear seat of the truck; if weather is warm an old quilt is wrapped around the cooler for extra insulation. Learned- through observation, not personal experience- that a soft toneau cover will not deter a bear.
  15. penny

    penny Active Member

    Nov 9, 2017
    probably the one reason we got away from pop ups, was bears. our son and his wife were camping in their first camper, a pop up, when a bear started going for the ice chest they had put under their pop up bunk outside. His movement bumped the bed around and my dil didn't like it at all! now they and their 2 kids camp in a big TT.
    Now we have a pop up again, and I have to admit, I'm nervous about bears, but probably not nervous enough to plan on being as cautious as I should. Usually I leave the grill outside, and it's never even been bothered by any animals.
    all our recent trips to forests have been in our RV, and I realize hard walls with windows and doors are no obstacle to a determined, big bear. I do cook in the camper, but most meats are grilled outside. Inside, coffee, canned soups, eggs and yes, bacon. Now we have the pop up, may have to change our camping habits.
    I know the possibility of bears is real in almost all campgrounds, but we just have not had the experience. we used to have two big dogs we camped with, and I didn't worry about bears. now we have 2 standard dachshunds, who bark at the least sound. their barks sound bigger than they are, but I wonder if bears would find them a threat or a treat? If we were going camping in locations with very high bear activity, or grizzly areas, I would take the precautions advised, but I really like cooking in my camper.....
  16. SteveP

    SteveP Active Member

    May 21, 2015
    Be cleaner than your neighbors and you won't have to worry.

    Never camped in grizzly areas so I can't comment on that, and we do use bear boxes when they are available. But since we were tent campers and continuing to now we always just leave the coolers in the vehicle. No sense lugging them around anyway. We would open the vehicle when we're in camp to keep the heat build up down and close it up at dusk.

    We do keep some items in the pup fridge, H&H for Debi's coffee, condiments, cheese, lunch meat and fresh veggies. Probably the worst thing we keep in the pup is the coffee.

    With the Silvy and Backflip tonneau everything else now stays in the truck bed. The Backflip is a foam/aluminum sandwich, just like a pup roof and it provides some pretty good insulation. It's not going to stop a determined bear but I'd rather have it smashed than the pup.
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2017
    Adam H likes this.
  17. Byrd_Huntr

    Byrd_Huntr Well-Known Member

    Jan 27, 2013
    We camp in black bear country almost exclusively. What I have personally seen is bears attracted to dog food left in bowls outside, trash cans, coolers, partly burnt food scraps in the fire ring, and 'chunky' dish water tossed in the weeds. These things attract skunks, mice, and coons too. We keep our food in the truck at night or when we are away from the campsite, and cook and wash dishes at the picnic table. Trash goes into the dumpster before we turn in each night. We only bring bananas during cooler weather, substituting oranges and apples in the cooler in summer. We use the refrigerator mostly for cans or other sealed items.
  18. penny

    penny Active Member

    Nov 9, 2017
    Reading the many threads on this forum about bears, following links and learning more about bears, a question comes to mind. Since we very seldom camp in developed campsites, could it be that's why we haven't experienced but one bear sighting in 40 odd years? And it ran away as we returned to camp. Maybe bears in the vicinity of popular and well used campgrounds are the ones that have lost their fear of humans and see their presence as an opportunity for food. Out in the more wilderness type area, we are still to be avoided?
  19. tombiasi

    tombiasi Well-Known Member

    Sep 1, 2012
    Northwestern New Jersey
    Your thoughts are valid but it may not be so much that the bears have lost their fear of humans but the fact that they realize a campground is very often a source of food.
    As for not seeing them where you camp is a testament to your food handling practice. Good job.
    Cheesehead RV likes this.

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