Black bears

For an upcoming trip in black bear country I’m considering leaving half of my food (cans only??) in my car and going back to replenish supplies in the middle of the trip. That would just be easier logistically.

I know bears are supposed to be able to smell canned foods and break into cars. On the other hand, while car camping I’ve been leaving all kinds of food in a cooler in my car at night for decades and have never had a problem.

How risky is this plan?

It would be sort of tedious to have 5 days of food in camp and be hanging and rehanging it constantly, as I’ll be away from base camp during the day. Seems like the food might actually be safer in my car than in camp when I’m gone.

Probably OK
Unless you’re someplace where bears have been very habituated to busting into cars, you can safely leave food (canned and otherwise) locked in your car. Maybe double-bag the food in black trash bags and keep it out of sight.

In places like Yellowstone and some other national parks frequented by careless campers and streetwise bruins, they will indeed peek into your locked car. They know a sack of CheezPuffs when they see one, and will pop a window to get it; needless to say, your food is not safe in your car there, even if disguised.

Good luck!


Ursus Americanus
known to tear into coolers, kayaks (Queen Charlottes), tents etc for food. Use a bear canister or hand it well out of reach. Not that hard to do.

You don’t say where you are from, but
if you are from this neck of the woods, I have two Garcia bear barrels that I would gladly lend you.


jack L

not always
Canned food is probably OK but in some areas that are still wilderness food caching in the car is a no no. The idea is that human scent and cars and food not be offered as a learning experience for bears.

Northern Ontario is a prime example. Woodland Caribou PP rangers caution against leaving food in cars. There are maybe 2000 people who use this park each year. The park is the size of Yellowstone.

The usual route that overnight paddlers take re food is dehydrated. Some areas ban any use of cans.

I don’t know where you are going and the canned approach may work well for you, so I offer this as advice to others.

I too have a bear vault. Its required in some places (Adirondacks, Glacier Bay National Park ). In any case do not leave food in the kayak. Non habituated bears are very curious and anything that attracts them to your boat can be a danger…they will swat your boat around like a kids ball. Cans emptied of food remain odoriferous.

I’d be more worried about meth addicts
breaking into your car and eating all of your food

Tweakers eat?


– Last Updated: Sep-07-11 12:43 PM EST –

Skip to the 3:20 mark to see the bear break into the car. The rest of it is just morons getting too close to the bear.

Sad thing is that the bear is tagged. It's been trapped and relocated before. This behavior is a death sentence.

The crowd of morons, "somebody honk their horn!", is why I'd like a gate at the bottom of Mt. Mitchell, Clingmans, etc... and you don't get up there unless you walk or ride a bike. The idiot mechanized tourists should just stay at the mall.

They eat what gummers can eat
Nothing that requires having intact teeth!

Too bad they (tweakers) don’t all starve to death, fast.

How long would you live it in the car?
Maybe it’d be left alone for 1 or 2 nights, but I wouldn’t push it past that even where bears are not habituated to humans.

I once parked my truck at a campsite and did not drive it for ONE day. The day I pulled in, I had gotten soaked while hiking and I had turned on the heat and fan full blast. Unfortunately, when I got to camp I neglected to push the lever to CLOSED (RECIRC) . In that ONE layover day, during which I was camping in the truck bed and puttering around camp, a ground squirrel built a big nest in the HVAC ducts. The following day when I drove for home, as soon as I turned on the fan, bits of cigarette butts, trash, leaves, and who knows what all came blasting out at me.

After paying the dealership $250 to clean it out–and they said it was impossible to remove all of the debris, just most of it–much tinier bits of debris and odor continued to blow out of the vents for the next two years.

All that because the ground squirrel had enough time to gather and build the nest during my one layover day.

Imagine what a bear could do when it realizes you are not around after a day or two. It’s just not worth broken windows and bashed sheet metal to save yourself the effort of carrying all the food.

Bear canister
+ careful packing - most (if not all) cans = no worries.

at this time of the year rodents
storing nuts is a bigger problem than bears if you are going where bears are hunted.

That is unless you camp next to bear bait. And you really cant miss that smell. Its mostly old Dunkin Donuts or sugary pastry ilk with greasy rotten meat.

Its fairly common for rodents to move in to engines on cold nights…warm engine…mmm… More than once we have found the car won’t run all of a sudden and the air cleaner and intake hose stuffed with acorns.

They have reopened the trails and the
camp ground on Mt Mitchell, but now everyone using them has to take a mini class from the rangers.

On riding up Mt Mitchell. I did the “Assult” and the Bridge to Bridge up Grandfather 17 times in my younger foolish days.

Jack L

Hope they don’t die inside
When we went to Lake Powell in 2004, my husband’s commuter car was outside during our absence.

Some critter moved into it and died there. We never found the body, but the stench just would not go away. Bad enough an odor that he had to get rid of the car (donated it to an org who used it for parts).

If I’m leaving my truck unattended outside, I always put the HVAC on Recirc. I just hope that’s good enough to block entry from outside (it would’ve been on my old truck with manual controls).