Admission: Yes, I sleep with my food

In a post yesterday I shared my recommended food storage techniques. Some readers responded skeptically to my fifth method — sleeping with it — so I thought I’d discuss it more fully. I’m intentional about when and where I’ll do it, and I don’t have a death wish.

First, a disclaimer

Sleeping with your food seems riskier than storing it further away from camp. There’s little (or no?) data to support that assumption, but it seems intuitive. If you decide to sleep with your food, it’s on you.

In this post I’ll explain my approach, but I’m not recommending that you do the same, nor can I guarantee that you’ll have the same results.

Sunset in the Yukon Arctic. My food was stored in the clear OPSAK at the front of the shelter.

Defining “sleeping with food”

If I’m sleeping in an enclosed shelter, I’ll keep my food inside it. If I’m cowboy camping, I’ll sleep on it or immediately next to it. Often I use my food bag as a knee rest, to relieve pressure on my back; it can make a decent pillow, too.

The food cannot be left on the ground “nearby.” From the perspective of an opportunistic food thief, unattended food is open for the taking. Wildlife look for easy calories, and only the most brazen and desperate bears and mini-bears would try to take food that’s obviously in my possession.

Cowboy camp on slickrock in Escalante-Grand Staircase. My food bag is the clear bag on the far side of my sleeping bag and bivy.

Why do I sleep on my food?

When the conditions are right, I always sleep on my food. It’s the lightest, least time-consuming, least fussy, and least expensive storage method. In other words, it’s the most convenient.

When & where will I sleep on my food?

If I decide to sleep on my food, three conditions must be met:

  1. The land agency must not require a specific storage method;
  2. The risk of a bear entering my camp is acceptably low, and ideally zero; and,
  3. The risk of rodents in camp is also low, and ideally zero.

If the land agency requires a specific method, then I’ll adhere to the regulation.

If I’m not comfortable with the bear risk, I’ll use permanent infrastructure, a hard-sided canister like the BV500, or a soft-sided bear-resistant sack like the Ursack Major.

If I think that rodents may occupy my camps, I’ll plan to: hang my food out of their reach (a.k.a. “rodent hang,” which will not be out of reach for a bear, because the food will be only a few feet off the ground); or to use a soft-sided rodent-resistant sack like the Ursack Minor.

In areas where canisters are not required and where I’m not concerned about bears or mini-bears, I will sleep on or next to my food. This Wind River Range campsite was several miles off-trail, at treeline, and showed no signs of previous use.

Assessing risk

How do I determine the risk of bears or rodents? I rely on personal experience and research. What have I observed before, and what am I being told by area guidebooks, online forums, trip reports, rangers, and the local news?

I would consider an area to have low bear risk if:

  • Few or no bears live in the area,
  • Little or no bear sign has been seen (e.g. prints, scat, root digging),
  • I’m camping far from seasonal food sources (e.g. berry patches), and/or
  • There are no recent reports (and, ideally, no reports at all) of bears stealing food from backpackers or campers.

Assessing the risk of rodents is more straightforward, and also less consequential:

  • At high-use and moderate-use campsites, I expect mini-bear problems.
  • At low-use campsites, it’s rare but possible.
  • At virgin campsites, I don’t recall ever having a rodent issue.
The softest bed of moss on which I’ve ever slept, along Alaska’s Lost Coast.

Personal results

I haven’t kept count, but I’ve probably slept with my food for more nights than all other overnight storage methods combined. This includes many thru- and section-hikes of long-distance trails (e.g. AT, CT, IAT, NCT, PNT, PCT, CDT), a little loop around Alaska and the Yukon, and weeks on the Wind River High Route and Pfiffner Traverse.

I’ve had a few bears enter my camp, each time in Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park (where hard-sided bear canisters are generally required, and always required for commercial groups). I’ve had far more problems with mini-bears, especially at high-use campsites in popular areas like the AT and in National Parks.

If I repeated these trips, I’d do things differently in some cases. In the past fifteen years, the risks, regulations, available methods, and my thinking have changed or evolved, and will continue to do so in the future.

Have a question, opinion, or experience with sleeping with your food? Leave a comment?

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Posted in on December 21, 2018


  1. Bart on December 21, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    As I said in the previous post, there seems to be no alternative for thru hikes.

    No one’s willing to carry a canister, as they’re too heavy/bulky/painful. Even then there’s usually not enough room to store a weeks’ food (AND personal hygiene items too). So you just end up with excess food outside the can and no where to put it.

    On the PCT, hanging food seems like a joke. As I’m walking I’ll frequently look around and think, “Where would I hang a bear bag here?” The answer is, “No where, because all the limbs are like 2 inches thick.”

    Even the Ursack adds a 1/2 pound to your backpack (in a world where people cut the labels off their clothes to save weight).

    So it seems your only choice is to practice bear avoidance and sleep with your food.
    Everybody can stop to cook dinner an hour before the place where they intend to camp. That’s just a no brainer.

    Presently I put ALL food and personal hygiene items into a clean, fairly new OP sack.
    Then I put the OP sack inside a trash compactor bag and twist that shut.
    Then I put the trash compactor bag inside my backpack, and close the backpack up.
    Then I put that right next to me in my Duplex tent. I fold the empty belt pockets under the pack (pockets which held snacks during the day and probably still have that smell) .
    So far, no problems.

    Thanks Andrew for being honest!

    • Andrew Skurka on December 21, 2018 at 3:10 pm

      I think the bear risk is unacceptably high along only a few stretches on popular long-distance trails. For example: the High Sierra and Desolation Wilderness along the PCT; and Yellowstone, The Bob, and Glacier along the CDT.

      Temporary use of a canister or Ursack is probably smart here.

      Mini-bears will be a much more common problem for thru-hikers. On the AT, for example, it’s really hard for ground sleepers to get away from high-use campsites. At 5 oz, I think an Ursack Minor could be really useful for the non-bear sections.

    • Marcus on August 29, 2020 at 6:04 pm

      Good on you Andy, but I’m not sleeping with bear bait. Sorry, it’s just not an option. The food will be away from me in a tree, bear locker, or bear canister/sack). Periodt. There’s no reasonable explanation for keeping it on your person.

      • An Angry and Concerned Human With His Brain Intact on August 9, 2021 at 3:19 pm


        I’m sorry to burst the stupid bubble this folks have going on, but if you’re risk tolerance includes the words “only really desperate bears would be a problem”, you need to stop giving people advice and completely rethink your strategy. The whole idea is to prevent, to the greatest degree of plausibility, your food being the thing that baits a “really desperate bear” towards you or your campsite.

        This is some of the dumbest shit I’ve ever seen in my life. It’s crazy to me that someone so experienced would advocate for such risk-taking not just to those willing to listen to him in person, but to do so on a blog on the internet.

        “There’s little (or no?) data to support that assumption, but it seems intuitive.”

        Are you serious right? You literally pulled this out of your ass dude.

        “Depending on the local risks and your risk tolerance, you may also consider sleeping with your food. This is widely practiced, but few are willing to talk about it.”

        Cigarettes are widely-practiced, but that doesn’t make them a good idea for your health.

        “In this post I’ll explain my approach, but I’m not recommending that you do the same, nor can I guarantee that you’ll have the same results.”

        This is nonesense dude. You absolutely are recommending this to people. That’s the whole point of the original post, as well as this follow-up post doubling-down on the idea and detailing it further. YOU ARE RECOMMENDING IT, regardless of your assertion otherwise.

        You should take down this page, and for your own sake, you should stop making this unnecessarily risky decisions when there are much safer preventative measures.

        This is extremely frustrating material to read. I came here expecting to be educated by someone with great experience. Instead I got a hard-headed cook who’s wantonly taken the initiative to put others in danger by propagating his none-sense risk-forward mentality to other people.

        • Robert Mosurinjohn on January 14, 2022 at 11:28 am

          Agreed totally.

        • PBS on June 11, 2022 at 9:11 am

          In 20+ years and over 10,000 miles of overnighy hiking and camping along the west coast I have practiced this style of food security and it has worked great for me.

          Pause for a moment and think – why is my sleeping body an unattractive target? Why don’t bears just skip the hanging bag and munch on the easy to reach sleeping humam?

          If you follow proper stealth camping practices – not cooking where you sleep, camping offtrail in non-established campsites, and utilizing odor proof storage, there is basically no problem in sleeping with your food. The only times I have had bears enter my camp is when using established campsites, because they know there is easier food there.

          My experience, and Andrews, and that of many other hikers I know who practice this with a clean track record of safety disagrees with your unfounded histrionics.

          • Robert Mosurinjohn on April 28, 2023 at 7:37 am

            Where do you camp and hike, Central Park New York?

        • Anonymous Big Brain on April 27, 2023 at 8:06 pm

          Your comment was completely full of anecdote, opinion and zero facts, yet you’re acting as the arbiter of truth on a subject that has zero conclusive evidence either way. How do you not realize that you’re full of shit?

          Debunking your doodoo logic:

          It IS true that only desperate bears would be a problem.

          Quoting you here: ““There’s little (or no?) data to support that assumption, but it seems intuitive.” (Quoted Andrew)

          (You RE: above) Are you serious right? You literally pulled this out of your ass dude.””

          So, uh, no he didn’t pull this out of his ass. He is stating his opinion and the single fact he listed was that the data is inconclusive. He never once said anything objective about it or pretended his way is better, etc.

          The people that say that this IS the way and pretend there is all of this data behind their argument are the ONLY people pulling it out of their ass. They’re intuiting what seems obvious, which is EXACTLY what Andrew said. What do you disagree with here?

          Those who voice their opinion, make clear it’s an opinion and then clearly don’t recommend others to do it are by definition NOT pulling shit out of their ass. He said nothing untrue and EVERYONE spouting the B.S. that it’s safer any other way have ZERO conclusive data to back them up, which makes what they’re saying FALSE and based off of ASSumptions (like you said, you’re pulling this out of your ass). Go ahead, go find me multiple bear encounter studies with a large enough sample size and definitive results… OH, you can’t? That’s almost impossible to do? Wow! How sad. Looks like you should stop pretending to know something that is not even remotely easily knowable/provable and then attempt to RAM your flawed intuition of what you BELIEVE is safer down other people’s throats.

          Andrew simply talking about it in a blog and telling others what he does and why he does it is NOT a recommendation for others to blindly follow, in fact, he explicitly says not to. If someone reads this and does it, then blames any negative outcome on anyone but themselves, they’re quite literally retarded or illiterate and deserve whatever happens to them. If you can’t intake information then make your own damn decisions on it, that’s your own problem.

          The problem is NOT with Andrew sharing how he likes to do something along with his logic and opinions on why, it’s with the potential person following advice blindly on the internet. Why do they take zero personal responsibility for bad decision making in your eyes, even if informed via the internet?

          “Cigarettes are widely-practiced, but that doesn’t make them a good idea for your health.”

          Congrats? Nobody is arguing that sleeping with your food is a good idea for your health, or that cigarettes are good… in fact, Andrew didn’t even say it was a good idea… His entire point is that people do it, even if they don’t talk about it. What about that do you disagree with? Your cigarette analogy makes literally zero sense. The second half of your sentence is supposed to disprove what Skurka said but it wasn’t even related, like at all…

          You take issue with Andrew taking ‘unnecessary’ risks when you can’t even calculate the comparative risk of sleeping with your food vs not… HOW DO YOU KNOW ITS UNNECESSARY? Oh, you don’t KNOW? Hmmmm. Weird. Where do you draw the line? Oh yeah, that’s a SUBJECTIVE choice. Risk is not something you can evaluate with the word ‘unnecessary’. Unnecessary means literally nothing to anyone other than you. To those who wish to meaningfully compare two things, you don’t use subjective vocabulary. You use data and OBJECTIVE words. You don’t add your own opinion into it.

          The bottom line is this: There is NOT conclusive evidence on whether or not bear hangs are legitimately and measurably safer than sleeping with your food and ANYONE (YOU) pretending otherwise is full of absolute dogshit.

          I’ve come across MANY, MANY more people sleeping with their food on the Big 3 than any other food storage method. If it were as big of a deal as you’re leading people to believe, we’d have much more meaningful encounter statistics to back up your hypothesis, yet you don’t.

          So basically, if you wanna be a poose, that’s fine. Freaking out on the internet and pretending that Andrew is spreading misinformation when he’s objectively said literally NOTHING false, just shared his experience, thoughts and observations from others is quite disgusting. You should learn the difference between subjective and objective language, take a actuarial course and go meditate because you’re about 10x too confident in your shitty intuition (pretending things are fact that aren’t, then taking others CLEAR opinions and twisting them as fact AND pretending something is a recommendation by simply uttering the words “sleep with food” on the internet). You’re scared of life and overstrung.

          Maybe nature isn’t for you. Or the internet, too risky.

      • JR on October 23, 2022 at 3:47 pm

        The reasonable explanation is that the risk is vanishingly small, and trying not to sleep with ranges from inconvenient to implausible in many areas.

        If you’ve ever looked at your cell phone while driving, you’ve done something far more dangerous.

  2. bart.taylor3 on December 21, 2018 at 4:42 pm

    Totally agree on Yellowstone, The Bob and Glacier
    I hadn’t heard that Desolation was that active, but when you Google Maps Desolation it says, “Unspoiled lake & peak area & BLACK BEARS”! LOL! I’ve never seen Google give me a heads-up. That’s one of the sections I’m doing this summer (solo), Echo to Sierra City.
    Thanks for the help,

    • Andrew Skurka on December 21, 2018 at 6:20 pm

      I don’t think Desolation is as bad as the High Sierra, but I think it’s an area to be cautious: it’s good bear habitat, gets a lot of use, AND canisters are not required, so I’m certain that terrible bear-hangs abound and that bears get food whatever night they want it.

      Those types of bears make me nervous — the kind that have been “trained” to walk into camps and check out the offerings because frequently they get a “reward.” Ironically, the bears in really wild places like Alaska scare me much less: when a grizzly walks into a camp in Alaska, it probably will get shot.

      • bart.taylor3 on December 21, 2018 at 7:11 pm

        Any time a bear walks into camp…I think, “He probably has a DAILY routine of walking into that camp on his way to get a drink in the stream. Every night it’s a new bunch of hikers. Hikers yell and scream. Sometimes he gets food, sometimes he doesn’t. BUT…a new bunch of hikers will be here tomorrow night! Sweet!

    • Nick on December 21, 2018 at 9:40 pm

      My wife and I didn’t see a bear on our entire NB PCT thru-hike until Desolation. I witnessed it sniffing around another hiker’s tent. Ironically, this was the first night in weeks where we didn’t have bear canisters. We mailed them home in South Lake Tahoe as we’re just out of the required area necessitating one.

  3. bart.taylor3 on December 21, 2018 at 4:52 pm

    I was listening to Bart Smith being interviewed yesterday. He said the only time he’s had a bear encounter (in 35,000 miles of hiking) was when he was eating his wife’s home made chili in camp.
    He was cowboy camping, and said that night a bear bite him through his sleeping bag and into his butt cheek. He jumped up and screamed. The bear ran off. He said the chili was giving him terrible farts.

    So, that’s one to add to the list!
    1) Don’t bring food that has a lot of smell (chili).
    2) And don’t bring food that give you lots of GAS!

    I’ve never thought about it, but I would imagine bears would interpret gas as a huge food smell and is probably something they could smell from a long way off.

  4. Ted on December 21, 2018 at 6:19 pm

    You’ve got me re-thinking my long-ingrained habit of hanging bear bags. I’ve definitely had sites where an appropriately sized and located branch was hard to find.

    That said, I’m not sure about the recommendation of keeping your food closeby, regardless of the method. It seems like the recommendations are to store food away from camps to keep bears from associating people with food and food smells, and the reason for that is just as much (or more) about the safety of the bears rather than people or their Snickers bars.

    Even in the absence of data, the logic seems sound, and I’d be inclined to go with that for the sake of the bears over a questionably marginal improvement in the safety of my food due to having it close by. I’ve had a gear stolen and chewed for salt by “mini-bears” while I slept blissfully unaware nearby.

    • Andrew Skurka on December 21, 2018 at 6:27 pm

      I don’t recommend hangs, ever. They’re fussy and often impractical (due to tree availability, as you stated). Better alternatives — that is, safer, faster, more effective, and more reliable — would be a hard-sided canister or a bear-resistant sack. You don’t need to keep either one near you, although I like to so that I could run off anything that starts messing with it.

      An Ursack Major weighs only 8 oz, and it easily pays for itself in the 30-minute time savings each night versus hanging your food. And it will be more effective when that determined bear comes into camp.

      • David Bélanger on March 9, 2021 at 12:57 pm

        I had chipmunks eat through my Ursack Major (tied 3 feet off the ground). It might resist bears, but it sure did not resist mini-bears! I was left with a 3 inch puncture and spoiled food. How do you manage to avoid the risk of mini-bears when using your Ursack Major?

  5. Will on December 21, 2018 at 6:51 pm

    Thanks for this post, it seems to be somewhat verboten to actually write out loud on the internet but it seems that most serious backpackers often sleep with their food.

    For me a big part of the calculation is also the behavioral adaptions of bears in a given area. For instance, I’m pretty happy to sleep with my food in the Bob since bears are hunted there and many have experiences getting buckshot from a guiding outfitter if they come into camp looking for food. In dispersed campsites in Glacier on the other hand I’ll usually use an Ursack, since the different management regime produces a different set of behavioral adaptions in the population.

    • Andrew Skurka on December 21, 2018 at 6:59 pm

      Very good point re behavioral adaptations.

  6. Tac on December 21, 2018 at 8:37 pm

    The logic behind sleeping with food is that bears (talking about black bears here) are afraid of you and will not risk a human encounter to get food. You NEVER hear of a bear going after a pack of food while a hiker is wearing the pack. Nearly all stories of problem bears involved bears going after unattended food. Those who say you are irresponsible for sleeping with food will cite rare cases of bears going for food in tents with people. However you rarely hear the whole story. It is just as likely that bears have learned that tents are,a good place to find unattended food. Part of the strategy is to minimize food odors (I use odor barrier bags) AND maximize human odor by not using scented toiletries. Smelling bad (ie like a human) is part of good food management. The other key thing is to keep your food with you 60/60/24/7 (every second of every minute of every hour of every day). Bear biologists have told me this is all scientifically sound based on what we know, but the only way it can ever be tested is for a management area to require this in an area to see if indeed bears do not learn to be a nuisance as they do in areas that require traditional storage methods. Unfortunately, there is no wildlife management agency bold enough to do this experiment.

    • Kat Taylor on August 22, 2021 at 7:58 pm

      There are, unfortunately, reports of grizzly bears going after hikers with backpacks – Denali NP, despite requiring extraordinarily thorough precautions while camping, had a grizzly bear that realized it could scare hikers into running and dropping their backpacks, then open up the backpacks for food.

    • Robert Mosurinjohn on January 14, 2022 at 11:32 am

      Black bears are only afraid of you if they see you as a risk. I do NOT believe a bear biologist would EVER tell you to sleep with your food.

    • Bob Mercury on May 10, 2022 at 8:22 pm

      Blanket statements are almost never true, such as “bears (talking about black bears here) are afraid of you…”

      I had an experience of startling a black bear who sprinted away but came back at 100′ and stood up and looked at me in a fairly prolonged manner. He then came bounding straight at me and stopped 50′ away and again stood up and stared at me in an intensely curious manner.

      He reluctantly ambled off after I made a ruckus and started throwing large objects in his direction.

      He didn’t seem very afraid of me at all.

  7. bart.taylor3 on December 21, 2018 at 10:02 pm

    I was thinking about what Native Americans did right and wrong (in our modern opinion).
    –Think about it. They were probably always cooking food and smoking meat and fish right in their campground. I think I could smell smoked salmon a half mile away, much less what bears could smell.
    –They always slept near to water sources, to feed the ponies.
    –They slept with their food. Probably lots of smells of buffalo meat was also there.

    Things we would think was right:
    –They were probably always in groups of 4-6 men.
    –Their ponies would go ape if a bear or mountain lion walked into their camp after dark.
    –They were always well armed with rifles, hunting Bows, tomahawks, hunting knives

    If a bear was STUPID enough to walk into a say, a Cheyanne or Sioux hunting party campground…then the next day they were smoking fish and…bear meat…and happy to not have to go hunt it down. That’s just called Darwin.

    Times have changed.

    • bart.taylor3 on December 22, 2018 at 10:01 am

      But then…they probably wouldn’t understand why any person would:
      walk off into the wilderness alone
      covering 20 miles a day
      without any weapons
      without a horse
      carrying everything on their back
      for the “fun” of it…

    • TimH on April 21, 2019 at 6:54 pm

      Keep in mind that native Americans didn’t have ponies or rifles for 10,000 years until the white man came. Times have indeed changed.


  8. Sam Cooper on December 22, 2018 at 9:58 pm

    Thanks for this nice write-up! I have a question regarding the PCT. I am scheduled for a 2019 NOBO, and I have yet to decide what food storage system I will use. Obviously, I will use a bear can (BV500) when required, but what about the other times? I was thinking about buying the hanging kit from ZPacks, but I’m not sure about the usage of it (especially in the desert). Maybe just a large OPSack and sleep with it? Thank you!

  9. Ioanna on December 23, 2018 at 1:42 am

    I hike in Europe, mostly countries like Norway, Iceland, the UK or Spain, Poland, Greece. There are no bears in those areas and the only animals I could worry about would be rodents or wild boars.
    I always sleep with my food in my tent. I don’t even care all that much about careful packaging. I just stuff it all into dry sacks. I even eat in my tent sometimes (oh, no, the horror!) and never had any issues.

    I typically wild camp and sometimes use established campsites. Even there I didn’t encounter any rodents.

    If I were to wild camp in the Balkans or Romania I would be more careful as there are bears there… but as I’m a lazy hiker, I prefer to go safe lands – they are plenty of stunning trails in Europe where I don’t have to worry about bear safety!

    • Dano on February 18, 2019 at 8:44 am

      Would love to hear strategies on dealing with bears in Romania and in Scandinavia. Not sure how aggressive these bears are and how used to people food they are.

      • Geert van Mourik on February 18, 2019 at 8:54 am

        I have done a lot of hiking in Sweden and always sleep with my food. The Swedish ‘outdoor-authorities’ (STF) advise this as well. Bears have, if I recall well, killed 12 people in Sweden since people invented fire (so to speak) most of whom were hunters and the others people with dogs.

        Cute story a friend of mine told me: the bus he was in when travelling from Kiruna to Lulea, was flagged down by an ecstatic elderly Swede who just hád to tell someone he saw his first bear! Had been living there his entire life.

  10. Erin McKittrick on December 23, 2018 at 9:21 pm

    One method not mentioned is a portable electric fence. We sleep with our food a lot, but when I’m worried about bears, or leaving a camp full of food unattended for awhile (group camp for trail work, base camp with kids), I set up one of those. They run on AAs, and pack smaller than a bear canister, and can surround your whole rent if you want to sleep with food worry free. Also, I think conditioning bears that tents hurt is probably a good thing for them and other hikers.

  11. Bart on December 24, 2018 at 7:25 pm

    Andrew, check out this video. What would you say he did wrong? (other than letting the bear eat his tent)

    This is a great series of a wildlife manager in Mammoth Lakes. He’s probably THE most knowledgable person I’ve seen on black bears. (But I don’t think he hikes).

    • David J on July 30, 2021 at 12:13 am

      Omg. What did he do right? Nothing.

      He made no noise or attempt to scare away the bear. He’s the problem, people letting bears get comfortable near humans.

      He seems content to film and let the bear feel safe near him, when he should be yelling, and banging, and throwing rocks and sand, and using bear spray if he had it.

      We see black bears in the Tahoe Sierra constantly. In our yards, campsites, even malls..near our dogs, kids, etc. The way you show you care about bears is to scare them away aggressively, so they don’t get so confortable around people they need to be relocated or Euthenized.

  12. Joe on January 4, 2019 at 1:58 pm

    Huh. First, I’m old. 66.
    I’ve had lots of trouble with what y’all call mini-bears, more and more with passing time, and have sadly abandoned some previously treasured places for that reason.

    Mice running across my face in the night has a significantly negative effect on my wilderness experience.

    Regarding REAL bears, I carry a powerful handgun, without regard for laws that govern that practice.

    I’m skilled in its use. I don’t carry it openly, but it is quick to hand.

    Humans are inherently defenseless against large predators, but there have been ways to address that deficiency for a few thousand years, and I choose to employ them.

    And yes, I will risk my life to save yours.

    Bear and lion problems in the west have increased as it has become less acceptable to kill renegade predators.

    Predators are smart, and they are teachable. Sometimes mama has to die to teach Junior to leave humans alone.

    • Chris on April 12, 2019 at 2:07 am

      To be honest I am more concerned about people who carry guns during a leisure activity, use overly macho language and are quite open about their lack or respect for the law, than I am about bears.

    • Daniel on August 3, 2020 at 1:55 pm

      You sound like a Nervous Nelly. I do a lot of back country trips and there is no need ever for a gun. Your silly statements about you breaking the law, fearing predators, risking your life strangers, mama dying to teach junior a lesson are all asinine and would be laughable outside the fact that you are dangerous to yourself and others.

  13. Geert van Mourik on January 14, 2019 at 6:59 am


    I just read the new IGBC list of approved containers.I see that the Ursack is approved, does that mean that for example Gates of the Arctic now allows Ursacks?

    And I take it you would have brung a sack rather than a hardsided container to the Brooks range?


  14. Bart on February 3, 2019 at 10:38 am

    Interesting, in case people haven’t read this from “Yogi’s PCT Handbook”:

    Yogi: “I put my food bag into my pack with all my other gear. Then I put my pack under my feet as I sleep.”
    Anish: “Bear canister in the Sierra, otherwise it’s in an OPSAK under my feet.”
    Bink: “Outside of bear canister required areas, I sleep with it next to me.”
    Hiker Box Special: “Bear can in the Sierra. Slept with it everywhere else, no ploblemo.”
    Scrub: “At night my food always went in an Ursack Minor…I put the bag right next to me (when cowboy camping) or right outside my tent door (when tenting). If I had hung my food in a tree or stashed it far from me every night, I would have had problems all the time.”

  15. Chris on April 12, 2019 at 2:03 am

    So I think this advice seems logical and is clearly based on years of experience. but one thing occurs to me. Saying you would take different sort of bags and containers depending on where you were and what the local bear/rodent conditions are is fine for shorter trips, but for a thru-hike you would need to have one solution that will do for the whole hike.

    Assuming I was to decide I am comfortable in principle with the idea of sleeping with my food in my tent, would you use the Opsak alone for a thru-hike of the AT? (Not planning to camp in that short section where canisters are compulsory, and will be avoiding shelters except where necessary – will be camping in an enclosed tent)

    • Andrew Skurka on April 12, 2019 at 10:44 am

      During a thru-hike there are opportunities to adjust your system, though I see your point — at a minimum, you’ll likely be crossing jurisdictions with different regulations before you have an easy opportunity to swap.

      Mini-bears are the most consistent thread on the AT. This is especially the case if you are ground sleeping, because nearly every single potential ground campsite has been made into one. As a side note, I would strongly recommend that you consider a hammock, rather than a ground shelter. A hammock has many advantages, one being the ease of staying away from impacted sites.

      But let’s assume that you stay with a ground shelter. If you bring your food into your shelter, you run the risk of animals chewing through your shelter to get at it. I don’t know how often this happens on the AT — maybe someone can chime in. I certainly would expect this behavior if you were, say, camping at Trail Lake below Mt Whitney. So I’m thinking that the combination of an Ursack Minor and LOKSAK would be a good plan. It’d reduce your food odors, and it’d give you the option of rodent-hanging your food outside your shelter.

      If you are ground sleeping, I would also suggest you be more open to staying in shelters, especially on really wet nights. Unless you bring a large tarp in addition to your shelter, a tent gets pretty cramped and wet if it’s raining hard.

      • David J on July 30, 2021 at 12:28 am

        How is a tree hammock going to make things better?

        That bear who can climb a tree at 10mph and figure out how to knock a bearsack free is now going to be knocking you free.

        The best strategy for black bears is aggressive and immediate territory control with noise, thrown debris, and bear spray.

        However, if one has to camp in California bear country, regularly trafficed by amateur tourists and bad bear trainers, where one usually cant start any fire… be part of the solution not the problem.. bring an air horn and bear spray and use them both at the *first* contact with the bear, not only after he is digging through stuff.

  16. Steve Flinn on March 28, 2020 at 11:34 pm

    I have a lot of experience. And I sleep with a silny foodbag.

    It can make a nice pillow or windbreak. I can rest a leg or prop up a book on it. If there’s a slope it keeps things from rolling away. If I’m in a hammock it is suspended, right over me.

    I have tried all the food carrying + security systems. None of them is worth the weight or the effort.

    Over time I learned that picking a good site to stop at is the most important thing about camping.

    I sleep far away from where animals expect humans. And I don’t bed down where anyone else might poop or eat or bed down. There’s a ton of factors wrt to siting your camp.

    If I cook at all then I eat, move on, and bed down elsewhere.

    In the morning I eat, do hygeine things, bury my garbage and poop, and then move on.

    In the past I have carried a cherry bomb and mini-Bic. Used them half a dozen times, worked great.

    Though, breaking a stick might have worked just as well. That has also worked for me in the past.

    Taking a gun’s not needed for foodsec and it doesn’t even solve the feelings of inadequacy that makes ya want to bring a gun. (don’t think you have feelings like that? well, welcome to humanity school, jimmy!)

    I always draw a fence for my camp with pee, which might be helpful. Can’t know for sure, right? But I do it. I gotta pee and I gotta scout my sleep territory closely, anyway, so…

    Pro Tip: While I draw the fence I pre-dig a couple of holes for poop and any garbage. That helps if there’s a sudden urge in the night. When you’re out there, peanut butter and bacteria and viruses can have unexpected consequences.

    I also know people who carry a small sage smudge. They all seem enthused with themselves over it. Supposedly, sage wards off almost every animal and won’t upset other people.

    I do know for a fact that any kind of pungent smoke will chase aggressive bees back to the hive. And that a cherry bomb can cause them to swarm.

    BTW, a tobacco or mj cigarette will ward off some critters but not all. Clove cigs may be another story, I dunno.

    Sorry if this is a bad influence on idiots but it’s my truth.

    Please don’t use fire if you don’t have a cool head filled with good sense.

    • Davis on May 25, 2021 at 8:38 am

      Dude, stop burying your garbage and pack it out.

  17. Mike G. on April 3, 2020 at 7:02 am

    Hey Andrew,

    Good article. What would your plan be in an area that does have a black bear population where hunting is popular? Most of the bears in the area are timid of humans due to hunting, but they are there. They are seen infrequently, but signs of them are fairly prevalent. All camping is dispersed in the area and it’s fairly easy to find unused or lightly used sites.

    In a situation like that, would you take some sort of bear protection (canister or Ursack) or would you sleep with your food in a shelter?

    • Andrew Skurka on April 3, 2020 at 9:35 am

      Are there human/bear conflicts related to food? For example, are they coming into camps or getting into residential trash?

      If not, I’d consider that to be a low-risk area. The best precaution would be an Ursack. I don’t think I’ll publicly recommend sleeping with your food in this area, given that their known to be around.

      • Mike G. on April 3, 2020 at 10:57 am

        Scouted local trip reports and news and no word on any issues that can easily be found. I would think bear encounters at hunting cabins could happen, but just may not be reported.

        I was leaning towards a BV450 as that’s what I own. Probably will invest in an Ursack in the future for trips like this.

        Thanks for the advice!

  18. Lydia on July 6, 2020 at 6:51 pm

    I’ve had bears in my camp twice. Once in Glacier likely due to the neighboring campsite not hanging their food properly and per the rules. I was woken in the middle of the night by it snorting and it left a nice present for us as evidence in the morning. The neighbors didn’t stick around long enough to ask what their experience was. The other time was large black bears in the N Cascades because the established campsite was on the edge of a large berry patch. Both times no one was attacked and no food taken to my knowledge. But, having them so close was enough to never want them sniffing me or my tent for food. I don’t hang a bear bag anywhere, but I always store my food away while in bear country and always adhere to the regulations.
    I will also add as an AT volunteer maintainer in VA that every year shelters and some section of the trail has to be closed to overnight use due to bears frequenting the area after people inappropriately store or dispose of food. I understand the likelihood of bears or rodents coming after it while it on your person is low, but I see far more folks taking food storage too lightly and it resulting in unwanted human-bear interactions.

  19. Daniel on August 3, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    Rodents are almost always a bigger problem than bears. Anywhere.

  20. Tom Wolfe on September 10, 2020 at 8:47 pm

    I’ve often slept with my food.

  21. Arlen on July 25, 2021 at 11:38 am

    In the advice I have read they all say to cook out side away from your tent. I disagree because if a bear shows up you are in grave danger. You will surrender your food and maybe survive. It is very dangerous to get close enough to give him a good dose of spray.
    It is much safer to have your food in your tent. Your shelter should have peek vents on every side. No floor attached so a hand and spray can be thrust outside on all sides. There is a good chance of being close enough to get an accurate shot in the bears face. If he gets it he will be fixed for life trying to steal campers food.
    Google chimpac

  22. Andrew on July 26, 2021 at 10:15 am

    The one time I slept with food in my tent, a mouse ate a hole in my tent and contaminated my food.

  23. Nathan Lake on November 15, 2021 at 2:07 pm

    The only place in the world where you will find “risk of rodents in camp is also low, and ideally zero” is above 20,000′ or in Antarctica.

  24. Ellie on December 18, 2021 at 7:03 am

    Good Article Andrew

    You are right, most long-distance hikers don’t really want to talk about sleeping with their food. I’ve slept with mine for tens of thousands of miles unless regulations require otherwise. So far, no issues…

  25. Gary on December 28, 2021 at 4:19 am

    Using the same logic:

    Don’t wear a seatbelt when driving.

    I’ve been driving for years without wearing a seatbelt and nothing bad has happened to me.

    Therefore, you shouldn’t wear a seatbelt, either.

  26. Christine Benton on December 28, 2021 at 9:07 am

    I learned my lesson in the Smokies by doing everything “the right way.” I left my tent to hang up my food and everything else with a scent at the provided cables. While I was away a bear came and destroyed my tent and everything in it – sleeping bag, pad, clothes (absolutely no food or anything odoriferous in the tent). Also ran off with one of my boots that I had left outside the tent.

    Now, I double odor proof (two different odor proof bags) my food and anything with a scent and keep it in my tent.

  27. Robert Mosurinjohn on January 14, 2022 at 11:38 am

    Odour proof your food in a CLEAN hard case put it in a heavy duty CLEAN black plastic bag put that bag in an odour resistant rip resistant CLEAN black bag and stuff that package into a bush away from your tent. Or, get an airtight hard case wannigan and keep it scent free and out of sight.

  28. Robert Mosurinjohn on January 14, 2022 at 11:42 am

    The harsh reality of dirty campers and hikers. The U.S. Centre for Disease Control found that over 90% of intestinal disease caught while backcountry hiking/camping came from ingesting fecal contamination from the hiker/campers OWN butt. Wipe your butt, wipe your hands on leaves, shake trail mix into your fingers, eat. IDEAL way to eat your own feces .. and a SICK person is a much better target for a wild animal attack than a strong, healthy one.

  29. Jason on February 14, 2022 at 6:52 am

    A professional should not be giving out this sort of advice. Beginners and amateurs and pompous idiots will read it and take it as sound advice because he is “an experienced professional”. Well, I too am an experienced outdoor professional, book author and seasoned outdoorsman, even applied for a job position working for Andrew and this advice is ludicrous! Andrew and any experienced hiker that think like him are playing Russian roulette and they are handing the weapon to novices after adding more rounds. I have had 3 bear encounters, 2 yote encounters, countless rodent encounters and a couple monkey encounters related to food. Fortunately the only ones that got away with food were the monkeys. This advice is foolish and borderline criminal. Andrew, you should be ashamed of yourself for publishing this information to the masses, honesty or not. You should be stripped of all merit and anybody that sponsors you should seriously consider removing their brand from your name before bear attacks are linked to your horrible advice. You would be wise to take these articles down.
    I will even link to who I am because I am that confident in how bad this advice is. I don’t care how lucky you have been thus far, its only a matter of time before someone dies because of this article. So very disappointed in this “professional”

    Oh and….no financial affiliations …… I receive a small commission from select vendors. You do realize these two statements contradict themselves in their entirety… right?

    • Jason on February 14, 2022 at 6:59 am

      Typo on the link on my name… fixed here.

    • Ryan Day Thompson on July 9, 2022 at 9:53 am

      really dodged a bullet not hiring this one, Andrew ????????

    • JR on October 23, 2022 at 3:40 pm

      “Only a matter of time until someone dies because of this article.”

      The odds of that happening are effectively zero. Black bears kill about 1-2 people per year. Yet one of those is going to be because someone read this article?

      • Robert Mosurinjohn on January 30, 2023 at 9:06 am

        Yes. Sleeping with food in a tent in bear country is truly a murderous promotion .. sadistic .. psychotic .. murder.

  30. Buck Nelson on January 29, 2023 at 1:16 pm

    Pragmatic and sensible, as usual Andrew. This is nearly exactly my practice and attitude in all respects. One difference is that I have, on occasion, had rodent problems at virgin campsites. I learned to avoid camping near packrat nests in the desert, or if I do, to have every loose item inside a zipped-up shelter. They love to drag away anything they can, including socks and trekking poles.

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