How to stay safe around bears is one of the most common questions we get asked in the shop during the summer. Here's a few things to keep in mind.
Be Bear Aware
Bears Are Home Here
Remember that when you are in the mountains, you're the interloper. You get a chance to experience the wilderness in such a way that it is basically untouched. You aren't the top of the food chain out here. Being in the mountains should be a humbling experience.
When hiking in bear country, make some noise! Not obnoxious noise like blaring music or yelling constantly, but just normal day use noise. Talk, sing quietly, add a bear bell to your pack. When you're out with friends, just having a conversation can make a difference.
There's nothing wrong with hiking quietly either, but talking and making some noise can alert bears and other animals to your presence long before they see you. 99.9 times of out 100, bears are much more scared of you than you are of them. They want nothing to do with you!
Travel in Groups of Three or More
In areas with a higher bear concentration such as Yellowstone National Park, it's advised to hike in groups of three people or more. There is more conversation, more noise, and a larger group always matters when you're in bear country. If you did surprise a bear, a larger group makes them think twice.
Be Aware Of Your Surroundings
Situational awareness is key in the mountains. Not only will being more aware allow you to witness things you'd otherwise miss, like animals and incredibly scenery and details, but it can keep you safe. Paying attention to whats around you and what kind of terrain you are hiking through lets you be proactive instead of reactive.
For example, if you're hiking through an area of thick undergrowth with reduced visibility at day break, you might want to be more cautious and start making some louder noises. Or you could be looking around and notice fresh bear scat or tracks in the trail. You don't have to be paranoid by any means, just aware of what's around you.
Carry Bear Spray and Know How To Use It
We saved the most important for last. Always carry bear spray and know how to use it. This simple tip can save your life as well as the bear. Bear spray is a highly concentrated pepper spray that is designed to stop a charging bear in its tracks. Carry it somewhere that you can easily get to it, such as on your belt or a chest harness. Never carry it in your backpack or somewhere you can't immediately grab it.
Remember the spray is only effective fairly close up, and be mindful of the wind if you have to deploy it. This is very, very potent and you don't want it blowing back at you!