Camping in Bear Country with Kids

Updated on May 31, 2016

This top-notch camp site comes with a view and plenty of wildlife.

Taylor Fork camp site,  Montana
Taylor Fork camp site, Montana | Source

The Wonderful World of Camping

My kids love to camp! My husband and I do too, for that matter. Finally, a chance to spend time together, unwind, and unplug from the TV, video games and even mobile phones. Camping is great for the whole family. We get to reconnect with one another; you know, have actual conversations that don't involve who is driving whom where and when. Dad gets to show off his amazing fire-making skills honed from years of boy scouting (or so he says.) Mother gets a break from the kitchen (OK, I'm stereotyping here but most of the time it IS still Mom who does the cooking.)

Activities such as fishing, hiking, and trail biking keep things exciting. Then there is time spent exploring and just observing nature around us. We always bring books to help us identify various species of birds, insects and plants. I love to watch the natural wonder and curiosity of the children as they "discover" a new bug or other critter. Sometimes we drag out the paper and pencils and draw or sketch what we see.

Also, there are the great camping traditions like making s'mores and telling stories (not too scary) around the campfire. All-in-all, camping is the stuff of great memories, and ultimately, isn't that what it's really all about?

Camping in Bear Country

Take Precautions when Camping in Bear Country
Take Precautions when Camping in Bear Country

Is it Safe to Camp in Bear Country?

Some of the most beautiful, scenic and natural sites to camp are also full of wildlife. This is a positive feature of any camping destination. What could be better than catching a glimpse of an eagle, moose, elk, wolf or even bear? "Yeah great," you say, "but is it safe to sleep amongst these wild things?"

According to West Yellowstone's Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, the chance of being hurt by a bear is less than that of being struck by lightning. Last summer, Yellowstone National Park's more than 2000 campsites were full every night for the entire season. Yellowstone is, of course, home to both black and grizzly bears.

Yes, people camp in bear country frequently and without indecent. Most bears are afraid of humans and want nothing to do with them. However, the risk of a negative bear encounter does exist. Most incidents of aggressive bear behavior are caused by carelessness on the part of us humans and can be avoided by taking certain precautions.

Most incidents of aggressive bear behavior are caused by carelessness on the part of humans and can be avoided by taking certain precautions.

Keep it clean or you might endanger yourself and others.
Keep it clean or you might endanger yourself and others.

Hard-sided camper: safer than a tent.

RV Camping
RV Camping

My personal, number-one, recommendation to families (especially those with small children) planning to camp near bears is to skip the tent camping entirely, and choose a hard-sided rv or camper . You can rent them for reasonable rates from many companies nationwide. Here are a few companies I know of:

"Oh, but that's not real camping," I can just hear you object.

Please, take it from me, not only will your precious little ones be safe and sound while they sleep, you too will be able to close your eyes at night. The peace of mind alone is worth it. You will still need to take some basic precautions but in general your family will be much better off then those poor chumps over there in the flimsy canvas "candy wrapper."

"But I like those candy wrappers," you say. "And, furthermore, I camp where no vehicle can go!" Oh, all right. It certainly can be done. People with young children tent camp in bear country all the time, without any problems. I simply can not in good conscience recommend it, because I wouldn't do it with my kids.

Either way, here are some important precautions that must be taken when camping around bears.

Bear Proof Containers Tested Locally (click to enlarge)

Grizzly Wolf and Discovery center located in West Yellowstone tests "bear-proof" containers.
Grizzly Wolf and Discovery center located in West Yellowstone tests "bear-proof" containers.

10 Tips for Camping in Bear Country

1.) Check the campsite for evidence of recent bear activity such as: tracks, claw marks, logs that are pulled apart or scat. These signs likely mean that a bear is visiting this site frequently because it has found food at some point. Choose another site.

2.) Choose an open campsite away from dense trees or vegetation.

3.) Store food and other attractants properly. There are 3 recommended ways to store food and other attractants.

  • In a bear-proof storage container. These are sometimes provided at campgrounds, otherwise they can be purchased at sporting-good or other camping gear stores. Coolers are NOT bear proof.
  • In a hard sided vehicle.
  • Suspended at least 15 feet off the ground AND 4 feet out from the vertical support. (See diagram below.)

...suspended at least 15 feet off the ground AND 4 feet out from the vertical support
...suspended at least 15 feet off the ground AND 4 feet out from the vertical support

Bear Attractants

  • Any food
  • trash
  • used cooking equipment and utensils
  • cooking grease or drippings
  • dirty dishwater
  • toothpaste
  • dog food
  • birdseed
  • stove/ lantern fuel
  • canned drinks (even unopened)
  • cosmetics
  • insect repellents
  • lotions

4.) Store and cook food at least 100 feet away from your tent.

5.) Keep your campsite free of garbage, food residue or used cooking dishes and utensils. Garbage should be stored like food. Never bury your trash, bears will find it.

6.) Do not sleep in clothing you cooked in. Never, ever bring food or other attractants into your tent.

7.) Never feed wild animals, especially bears.

8.) Never approach wild animals; this includes cute cuddly looking bears as well as harmless looking moose.

9.) Don't let small children stray or run ahead. Stay together.

10.) Keep a flashlight and bear spray in the tent while you sleep. Use extra caution at night. No night hikes!

If you play it safe, there is absolutely no reason not to camp in bear country. Humans and bears can and do coexist safely all the time. Camping anywhere is fun, relaxing and healthful. So get out there and have some fun!


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    • profile image

      strukelt 5 years ago

      Hello writer! I have to agree with you when you say that camping is great for the whole family. Camping outdoors helps build bonds in families. Being in the outdoors and sitting around a fire, or just lounging outside in chairs and talking to the people closest to you can be very entertaining. I cannot say that I have ever camped with bears, luckily! But hey, if you ever need some replacement rv parts, or just some rv accessories or an rv awning, check out!

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo

      Well hello SE,

      Great to hear from you again!!!!

    • profile image

      shrewd eye 5 years ago

      OK just double checking to make sure that last blog on hair wasn't a fluke. It's not. You lost me in paragraph one and your stray punctuation marks are horrible. MECHANICS darling. Just sayin'.

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 5 years ago from The Zoo

      Thank you Rob and Dan,

      And well is a privilege.

    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 5 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Great useful information about camping in bear country. I camp quite a bit in bear country (in a tent or under a tarp)and have never had a problem because I follow many of the safety rules which you list here. I consider myself a visitor in the bear's territory and always consider myself privileged to be out there.

    • Rob Jundt profile image

      Rob Jundt 6 years ago from Midwest USA

      Great informational hub full of practical ideas. Voted up and useful.

    • profile image

      Amelia 6 years ago

      I love camping! Especially with folding camp chairs around a fire. Love those! I used to go to Bear County as a kid and I think that place holds my best memories. Oh by the way, here's an awesome site to get those chairs I was talking about:

    • Natalie Dalton profile image

      Natalie Dalton 6 years ago

      Great tips on camping in bear territory. My family and I love to camp as well. I was curious if it was safe to camp in bear country and if so what precautions need to be taken. I now feel armed with knowledge. Thanks! We are packing up our tents and camping lanterns ( as we speak and are heading out for our next adventure!

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

      Thank you to all the wonderful readers that have "stopped by" to read this hub! I hope you all get to camp at least once this summer!

    • hazelbrown profile image

      hazelbrown 6 years ago from Central PA

      Hmmm.... I MIGHT be able to get behind camping in a camper!!

    • profile image

      daneastside 6 years ago

      holy crap, good to know. i am on it, thsnk you.

    • Jodyofthemoon profile image

      Jodyofthemoon 6 years ago

      Great article. I found some more camping with bear safety tips over here:

    • ajaodegaard profile image

      ajaodegaard 6 years ago

      Bear Country is a great place to visit! When I was younger I used to be so scared of bears, which I still am but now I know better precautions to take.

    • Pam Pounds profile image

      Pam Pounds 6 years ago from So Cal Girl in the Midwest!

      Really enjoyed your hub. When my kids were little, we would take them camping up in the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California. One year we tented it at Lake Mary and heard a bear rummaging through the campsite! We kept all the food in the car, but forgot a can of coffee on the picnic table. Needless to say, we found it empty and full of teeth marks!

    • QuestionMarks profile image

      QuestionMarks 6 years ago

      wow Hmm I wonder!

    • profile image

      inviteswording 6 years ago

      woo nice hub!!

    • Brent Stone profile image

      Brent Stone 6 years ago

      Dont Bears eat people. A thin piece of canvas is the only thing stop you getting attacked by razor blades with fur. Not for me.

    • ournote2self profile image

      ournote2self 6 years ago

      Yikes! I love camping but I think I'd avoid camping with least on purpose. ;)

    • Carolyn Moe profile image

      Carolyn Moe 6 years ago

      what an interesting life you lead... thanks for following.

    • Peter Allison profile image

      Peter Allison 6 years ago from Alameda, CA

      Great Hub! Though I'm still reading... But the first bit of advice about camping in a 'hard shelled' device has this city boy hooked. Anything to make camping more comfortable the better!

    • profile image

      DoItForHer 6 years ago

      atomicpaulsen, I've seen this behavior many times. Many people from the city have an unnatural fear of any wild animal and let that fear rule their decisions. Objectivity gets thrown out the window. There is only the smallest danger of having conflict with a wild animal. We take greater risks in other areas of our life and don't think twice about it. Driving is far more hazardous, but it is a rare person who won't go near a vehicle for fear of a dangerous encounter.

      It's more about perception than what happens in real life. I can say what will happen in real life and prove it a thousand times, but that seldom has little influence over another's perception.

    • Carolyn Moe profile image

      Carolyn Moe 6 years ago

      good advise...

    • clintonb profile image

      clintonb 6 years ago from Adelaide, Australia

      Wow great Idea. Place which has to be visited once. I love playing bear cubs. Thanks for the great suggestions.

    • Jennie Demario profile image

      Venture Boyz 6 years ago from Floating in the clouds

      Bears are cute but scary. I am afraid of anything that I can not reason with lol.

    • Pintoman profile image

      Pintoman 6 years ago

      To atomicpaulsen, tell her what I tell my kids; all bears run from me. This is actually a fact so they laugh and feel better. I've lived in the mountains all my life, bears are like any other critter, they are more afraid of us.

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

      Hi htodd and thank you!

    • htodd profile image

      htodd 6 years ago from United States

      Bears can be dangerous sometimes..Thanks for the great post

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

      Automicpaulsen, tell your girlfriend that you have rented, purchased or borrowed a camper or RV and that she can stay as close to it as she feels comfortable. Once you are out there and you can see around for miles,(because you have chosen a nice open camping spot) she will no doubt feel much better about the whole experience.

    • carolp profile image

      Carolina 6 years ago from Switzerland

      Thanks for the tip. My family and i love to stay in Campinggrounds. We were once in Cape Breton during our Camper Tour in Canada and came across a baby bear on our way in the street. She was so cute...she immediately hide herself at the back of a tree, looking and observing us as we observed her was funny...a hide and seek. Hope to be back in Canada or somewhere else with a Camper.

    • Camping with Kids profile image

      GA Andereson (Gus) 6 years ago from Maryland, USA

      Great "bear-camping" tips! I used to go on week-long bear hunting camping trips - so obviously we were in bear country, and we used most of the sdame suggestions you made.


    • atomicpaulsen profile image

      atomicpaulsen 6 years ago from Orem, UT

      my girlfriend will absolutely not go camping in any mountainous region with me because of fear of bears. what do you think i should tell her to give her courage?

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

      Philpott--I am very sorry to say that the incident mentioned by your friend's friend is true. It happened on father's day several years back. I was profoundly traumatized by this horrific event and had it in the back of my mind when I wrote the sentence: "People with young children tent camp in bear country without incident all the time. ( I simply can not in good conscience recommend it.)" And I still don't recommend it...the tent that is.

      Keep in mind that this was a one-in-a-million occurrence but when it comes to my kids, even that is too risky.

      I did not and still don't want to scare people off. The benefits to camping with your family far outweigh the risk, especially if you take precautions. Welcome to Montana, by-the-way, and please don't let anything keep you from enjoying what our great state has to offer, almost all of which is outdoors!

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

      Thank you so much for your votes and comments Magkouin!

      Hi Manthy, enjoy the tent experience! I did used to love it!

      Thank you for reading and commenting Rhoda!

      Wesman...silly, silly boy. heehee It is amazing that we survive being young, isn't it?

      Freecampingaussie...what do you do when you encounter a crocodile...besides steer clear?

      Biblicaliving--heehee, read my joke on my "hiking in bear country" hub, I think you'll appreciate it.

    • parrster profile image

      Richard Parr 6 years ago from Oz

      Love camping too and get to go several times a year. Of course Australia lacks the bears and wolves, but makes up for it with other wildlife. Great read, thanks.

    • Jaspals profile image

      Jaspal Singh 6 years ago from India / Australia

      Wonderful tips. I love camping but always with safety. I wish some days camping in bear area. I will follow your tips.

    • daviddwarren22 profile image

      daviddwarren22 6 years ago

      Nice article. It's informative I guess I can have a vacation on a bear country soon.

    • Brigitte Thompson profile image

      Brigitte Thompson 6 years ago from Austin, TX

      Great Hub.. Very informative. I am glad I live in Texas and all we have to worry about is walking up on a snake hiding in the firewood.

    • Open Thoughts profile image

      Open Thoughts 6 years ago from Idaho

      I grew up in Montana so naturally I have camped anywhere from the Great divide to the Bob Marshal. Thanks for bringing me home!

      Nice Work.

    • wheelinallover profile image

      Dennis Thorgesen 6 years ago from Central United States

      I understand now a few things I didn't as a child. I was actually bathed and given clean clothes every night when I was living in the wild. It became a routine I followed every time I was in the wild. It was in an area where they say there are no bears. We did stay in the area where we cooked which I guess is something I don't understand with your information.

      I was taught from a very young age to pay attention to my surroundings and it wasn't until years later when there was no need to fear that I ever saw bear signs.

      Philpott having lost a son, I can't even imagine the pain a person would feel to see their child mauled and maybe eaten in front of them. My son died on an airplane thousands of miles from where I was and that was hard enough.

    • Philpott Online profile image

      Philpott Online 6 years ago

      We just moved to Montanta and my husband want to going camping but all we have is a tent. With three small children it makes me nervous. A couple years ago a friend of mine told me about her friend who was camping in Utah with her small children and a bear came and pull her small boy out of the tent and killed him. It was horrible. I can't imagine having my child pulled away from me and watching them eaten. It's just not worth it. I know the chances are slim to none but just knowing it is out there makes it hard for me to enjoy the experience so why go. Maybe using a hard shell camper as you suggested would help ease my fears. Thanks for all the tips.

    • biblicaliving profile image

      biblicaliving 6 years ago from U.S.A.

      Great Hub, very well done, good sound advice. Unfortunately, you forgot tip #11... You don't have to be faster then the Bear, only faster then who ever your with! Sorry, I know it's awful, but it had to be done! Thank you for the good Hub!

    • freecampingaussie profile image

      freecampingaussie 6 years ago from Southern Spain

      love your hub ! We have a crocodile near us at the moment!!! We are in our caravan by a lake .would love to see a bear tho !

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      Oh I'll forgive you - it's not your fault (or a bears) that young and drunken WTS foolishly stuck one of his hands in a bear cage. Oh, I've still got both hands and all appendages, but . . .those things can move SO much faster than people think that they can!


    • Rhoda Talisaysay profile image

      Rhoda Talisaysay 6 years ago from Philippines

      Wonderful hub though we don't have bears in my country. I love camping very much but never got the chance to explore much. I am happy for your family.

    • manthy profile image

      Mark 6 years ago from Alabama,USA

      Very cool hub - after reading it I am proud to be from Alabama where you can camp in a tent and not have to worry about them bears.

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

      melbel...I dislike mosquitoes very much, blaaaa. Fortunately it does not usually get too hot for long pants and sleeves around here.

      Thelma...get going!:)

      CMHypno--you are the second person to mention the lack of wildlife in the UK (the other was on a hub about wolves.) It makes me sad that we have not learned from history as we are systematically ridding ourselves of wildlife here as well.

      RTalloni--great to hear from you again and thanks for the vote.

      Thank you Summersurf!

      Your welcome and thank you Jeannie!

      marellen...glad you were safe. It is exciting to see bears when you are not in danger.

      Thanks, this is an honor! I hope I didn't scare you more with this hub. It was not my intention to frighten people away! We do it almost every weekend in the summer and love every minute of it!

      Peter, checked out your hub...awesome!

    • magkouin profile image

      magkouin 6 years ago

      awesome article! very informative, and useful, especially for the summer..

    • PETER LUMETTA profile image

      PETER LUMETTA 6 years ago from KENAI, ALAKSA

      Good advice! I lived with the bears in Alaska for years and followed pretty much the same line you take. I wrote a Hub on the Bears of Alaska that you might like. Enjoyed your Hub. Thanks Peter

    • Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

      Wesman Todd Shaw 6 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

      First of all, CONGRATULATIONS on having what I believe is the first "Hub Of The Day!!!!!!!!"

      I intend to write about bears some myself, but from more of a storytelling and biological perspective - because I'm TERRIFIED of bears.

      I love camping - but golly jee whilikers, camping in bear country - scary!

      Very nice advice. Despite my fear of bears - I'd still like to see one from a very safe distance and in the wild someday.:-D

    • profile image

      marellen 6 years ago

      Wonderful and useful tips. I would take the kids camping all the time and only had one incident with a black bear....looking for food. Luckily, we had it in a safe place. Great hub and voted up....

    • Jeannieinabottle profile image

      Jeannie InABottle 6 years ago from Baltimore, MD

      What a great hub! I really enjoyed reading this and the advice is very helpful. I have to agree with you - it is safer in a camper or a cabin than a tent. Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

    • SummerSurf profile image

      SummerSurf 6 years ago

      Great hub...very informative and plenty of detail.

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 6 years ago from the short journey

      Good stuff. Well-balanced info, much needed warnings. So glad you posted this. Voted up and useful.

    • CMHypno profile image

      CMHypno 6 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

      Thanks for the interesting info on camping in bear country. We don't have any large predators left in the UK (fox is about as big as it gets), so the only camping hazard is the typical British weather!

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 6 years ago from Germany

      Great Hub! I love to go camping but have not done it yet. Thanks for sharing this useful tips.

    • melbel profile image

      Melanie Shebel 6 years ago from New Buffalo, Michigan

      Wow! That would seriously freak me out! I am definitely a city girl, but would love to go camping. I just worry about things like wild animals and mosquitos and ugh other types of bugs.

      I would definitely sleep in a camper because of the bear thing. I bet you get to see a lot of beautiful places when camping. Looking forward to planning a camping trip with a camper or haha, an RV. :)

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

      Melbel...yes, we have seen black and grizzly bears while camping many times. Just another reason why the camper gives me some piece of mind!

      Thanks for reading and commenting, I appreciate it!

      Fotographer--your welcome and thank you!

    • Fotographer profile image

      Fotographer 6 years ago

      Thanks for the useful tips.

    • melbel profile image

      Melanie Shebel 6 years ago from New Buffalo, Michigan

      I am definitely afraid of bears and other large, scary wild animals. We live in the woods (where there are cougars) and I'll be honest, I never go for a hike! Have you ever seen a bear while camping?

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

      I agree completely cardelean!

      Thanks, DoItForHer!

    • profile image

      DoItForHer 6 years ago

      Mrs. Menagerie, looks good. Can't think of much to add. For people who haven't been out in the woods, it can be a scary place, but with education and experience, camping becomes ethereal and cathartic. I can't fully put it into words.

      Going into Yellowstone slathered in sunscreen after roasting hot dogs for the last hour is inviting disaster. Attractants are both food and non-food products.

    • cardelean profile image

      cardelean 6 years ago from Michigan

      Great tips for bear country camping. I love camping with my kids. It really gives children a chance to get to know life beyond the tv or computer!!

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

      Hi DoItForHer,

      I'm sorry you've missed out on the experience of camping with your daughter as it is such a bonding experience for distractions, you know? Isn't she around 16? She would love to spend time with her Dad, I'm sure. Maybe someday.

      I agree that most the time it is the people who create the problems and not the bears. But how would anyone know? Perhaps this info will reach a few people who wouldn't otherwise have been thinking about the precautions necessary around bears.

      BTW, did I leave anything out? :)

    • profile image

      DoItForHer 6 years ago

      I would take my daughter camping in bear country, but her mom would never let me. As you know, I grew up in bear country and have no qualms being around the critters.

      If you are going to do it, you have to be smart about it. The number of people who tell me they are scared of bears, mountain lions, etc. amaze me, but those same people go into the woods with all sorts of attractants inviting a dangerous encounter. They also go boating without life vests, but carry a firearm on their person to protect themselves from bears. Is the real danger Grizzlies or drowning? Hmmmm.

      It looks like the biggest danger is ignorance, not the inherent danger of a large predator.

    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 6 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      Awesome. Thanks for the information.

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

      vwriter--Thanks! If you come back to this area, may I recommend camping in Taylor Fork. It is just north of Yellowstone, is in State Forest and is never crowded. It's also free. So beautiful!!!!

      Hi Simone! I used to be brave like you but then I had kids...heehee. Thanks for reading my hub!

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

      Paul, it looks like $100/night is about average for a mid to large camper. Cruise America is what we use, 800 671-8042.

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 6 years ago from San Francisco

      Some of my greatest memories as a kid are of camping. I've only ever camped in bear country in tents or out in the open, but that hard-sided camper looks like fun!

    • vwriter profile image

      vwriter 6 years ago from US

      Great Article. I had the opportunity to spend time in Yellowstone. Just loved it. I never realized you could rent a camper? I want to go back to Yellowstone again, but my husband and I are not much interested in using a tent the next time around. Vote Thumbs up.

    • Mrs. Menagerie profile image

      Mrs. Menagerie 6 years ago from The Zoo

      Well thank you very much Denise, camping rocks!

      Hi Paul and thank you for reading my hub! I think the rates can vary a lot from one company to the next as well as from one region to the next. Also, the longer you rent it for, the better the cost per day. Great question, I will do a little research here.

    • Paul Edmondson profile image

      Paul Edmondson 6 years ago from Burlingame, CA

      Awesome tips. We love to camp. I really like the suggestion of renting a camper. How much does it cost approximately to rent one that sleeps two adults and three small children per night.

    • Denise Handlon profile image

      Denise Handlon 6 years ago from North Carolina

      Wow! Fantastic. You hit the nail on the head with this idea. Great idea and not yet covered. Great camping advice covered. :)