When we think about camping in the wild backcountry, one of the concerns that usually comes up is about wild animals. In most parts of the country, worrying about some kind of attack from a wild animal, such as a bear or a cougar, is largely unfounded. We are much more likely to experience a late-night raid by a gang of hungry raccoons, then a large predator. Fortunately, some of the same backcountry precautions that we can take to protect our food from the local raccoon gang will also serve to protect us from an unlikely visit by something more dangerous.
There is a place for everything
Critters actually aren’t interested in us, except for the fact that they’ve learned we bring a lot of yummy treats with us to their home. Which would you prefer, nuts and berries or a bag of marshmallows? Food lockers (lockable metal boxes for storing food) are provided at nearly all campsites in bear country, but are rare in other areas.
We are car campers, so it’s easy for us to secure all of our food inside the car at night, unless we are camping in bear country (bears know all about opening cars), in which case we use the food locker. The food lockers we have experienced in California are large enough for our 52qt. ice chest, but in your area, check with the campground’s managing agency for dimensions. We also make a trip to the garbage cans every evening (which are hopefully not located by our campsite).
If your food is locked-up and secured for the evening, you are well on your way to an easy night’s sleep because, invariably, there will be someone else in the campground who was not so careful and the party will be at their campsite that night, not yours. There is one more hard-fast rule that we follow, though, and that is absolutely, without exception, no eating any kind of food in or around the tent. There is a place for food storage, a place for eating, and a place for sleeping.
Depending on when and where we camp, mosquitoes, gnats, and deer flies are usually bigger pests than animals. Last year, in Eastern Washington, the kids were in-and-out of the tent all day, playing with friends, and left the tent open. That evening we had to fish a big female black widow spider out of the tent, which really doesn’t set the mood for a relaxing night’s sleep. Lesson learned.
Mosquitoes are at their worst in the early morning and evening. We have been using standard, name brand, repellent with good results, but we have to be diligent about reapplying it. We have found that the pump spray containers work best, since they allow the repellent to be sprayed onto clothing. In t-shirt weather, the shoulders and upper back are particularly vulnerable to mosquitoes, because they can bite right through the material, which is touching the skin, in these areas.
What are some of your tips, for dealing with animals and insects?