When I was getting ready for my solo trip to Dolly Sods, the only thing I was actually concerned about was the wildlife. Dolly has quite a few bears, and the frequency of them in camps has been exacerbated in recent months with the influx of folks (new AND old to the trail) not practicing proper food and scent storage. I spent a lot of time reading about black bears while I was getting ready - I kept having this reoccurring nightmare of walking up to a bear's face two inches from mine. While not realistic, it WAS motivating.
As I was doing my research, I was surprised by what you're actually supposed to bag and how far away you're supposed to bag it. Most places say 300 yards! Though, truthfully, I think I ended up about 100 yards away, as I didn't want to be wandering around unfamiliar woods at night with black bears and human shit (that's a story for another time).
So what are you supposed to put in your bear bag?
- The obvious - any food and any empty food wrappers.
- But also anything scented - bug spray, chap stick, gum, sunscreen, etc.
If you're alone, it's even more important to make sure everything is hung correctly (we'll discuss why another time). So what about the lesser known stuff you should hand?
Here's some of the lesser-known items and factors to consider:
- Fuel - Did you know that bears can pick up a scent up to TWENTY MILES AWAY? Yikers. So in my reading I found they'll also check out fuel. So bag that, too, baby!
- Cooking Paraphernalia - Anything you cooked in or ate with, even if washed (which should be down stream and remnants not dumped anywhere near camp).
- YOU - No, you can't fit yourself in a bear bag, but if you can avoid it, don't wear anything scented in to the back country. A lot of folks say to avoid deodorant, washing your hair the day of your trip, and no scented body lotion.
Black bears are curious, peaceful creatures that will rarely become aggressive unless you startle them or come between a mother and her cub. So far, no people have been killed by black bears in West Virginia, which is where I was. However, if a black bear attacks a person, they're automatically hunted down and killed. Even if it was due to the person's own actions - such as improperly stored food, etc.
So please, do your part to keep yourself - and the bears out there - safe.
Anything additional that you store? Any tips for bear bag hanging? Comment below!