Help, There’s a Bear Outside My Tent

Millions of Americans camp at least once each year. KOA’s annual report states, “More than 6.4 million households camped for the first time in 2022.” While most of these households are RVing, many campers sleep in tents.

If you’ve ever considered tent camping but decided against it out of fear of potential risks, this article is for you. Are there dangers of tent camping? Absolutely, but there are tips to manage these situations and attempt to avoid them altogether. Let’s dive in!

Is Tent Camping Dangerous?

Like any outdoor activity, tent camping can be dangerous. You could twist your ankle while hiking. You could wreck your bike. You could flip over in your kayak.

Every recreational activity has some associated risks. But as long as you know how to respond when something happens, you can manage the situation.

You might have to deal with extreme temperatures, hazardous weather conditions, or wildlife encounters when tent camping. Today, we’ll discuss what to do if a bear approaches your tent.

What To Do If A Bear Approaches Your Tent

Most bears aren’t looking to attack humans. If a bear approaches your tent, it’s likely searching for food.

They’re also curious creatures and could just be sniffing around.

Bears want to avoid humans, so a dangerous encounter is unlikely.

However, if you hear or see a bear outside your tent, there are three important things to do. Let’s take a look! 


First, listen closely. The bear might walk away on its own. As we just mentioned, bears are curious.

Once it’s done sniffing around, it might head to the next campsite or return to the woods.

Announce Your Presence 

If the bear doesn’t wander off, start talking to it. This may seem strange, but it’s helpful because you’re letting the bear know it’s not alone.

Most folks say, “Hey bear” or “Woah bear.” You can say anything; the point is to let it know you’re there and you’re human. 

Step Out Of the Tent 

Proceed slowly if you need to step out of the tent to get the bear’s attention.

Once outside, stand up tall, shout, and clap your hands.

We suggest not doing this unless you have bear spray. But if you’re tent camping, hopefully, you have bear spray handy and know how to use it.

You can also use a bear horn to make loud noises.

The biggest piece of advice is do NOT run. A bear will chase you. Look around.

Do you have a vehicle or restroom nearby that you can get to?

You can slowly start making your way there if the bear still hasn’t left after making loud noises.

SABRE Frontiersman Bear Horn, Extremely Loud 115dB Sound Heard Up to ½ Mile (805 m) Away, 60 1/4-Second Bursts, Warn Bears & Give Them a Chance to Leave, On/Off Feature, Compact Size for Easy Carry
  • ALERT THE BEAR: Loud horn helps to alert and scare nearby bears away, decreasing the chance of a startling encounter for you and the bear
  • POWERFUL HORN BLASTS: Make your presence known to nearby bears with the 115dB horn that can be heard up to 0.5 miles (805 meters) away
  • PREVENT ACCIDENTAL SOUND: On/Off feature helps to prevent the horn from being accidentally deployed for worry-free carrying in packs with your other gear

Additional Tips To Stay Safe While Tent Camping

Being prepared if a bear approaches your campsite is essential to staying safe while tent camping.

But there are also things you can do to try to reduce the chances of such an encounter.

We want to share a few more tips to help you stay safe from wildlife and other dangers.

1. Choose A Safe Campsite

Always choose a place where you feel safe. If you don’t like staying alone in the woods, find a location where other tent campers are set up.

If you’ve heard about recent bear activity in an area, select a different place for the weekend.

Just like you shouldn’t park your RV in a sketchy place overnight, you don’t want to worry all night about the danger lurking outside your tent.

2. Stay Up-To-Date On the Weather

Just as critical as being prepared for wildlife is staying informed about the weather.

Tent camping isn’t RVing. Heavy winds, thunderstorms, and lightning are much more dangerous when you’re in a tent.

If bad weather is forecasted for the weekend, perhaps stay home.

3. Properly Store Food

Bears have a fantastic sense of smell. If you don’t store your food away, you invite bears to your campsite.

This is why many developed campgrounds provide bear-proof canisters for tent campers.

Some even require their use. Reduce the likelihood of encountering a bear or any other type of wildlife by properly storing your food.

4. Extinguish Campfires Completely

No one wants to be the cause of a wildfire. It’s vital to thoroughly extinguish any campfires before heading to bed or leaving your campsite.

Not only are you protecting the environment, but you’re also protecting your tent and belongings.

Enjoy the fire while you’re roasting smores or cooking dinner. But make sure it’s out before turning in for the night.

5. Don’t Camp Alone

Just like you shouldn’t hike alone, you shouldn’t camp alone. Some people like the solitude of backpacking into the wilderness and connecting with nature.

But this really isn’t safe. If you must camp alone, tell someone where you’re going and how long you’ll be there.

Check in with friends or family members throughout the weekend.

6. Use the Right Camping Gear

If you’re tent camping in the winter, you must invest in special gear like an insulated sleeping pad, a 4-season tent, and a winter sleeping bag.

If you often camp in a rainy location, you’ll want a rain fly and waterproof tent. If you camp often in hot and humid conditions, you’ll need a well-ventilated tent.

To protect yourself from the weather, choose the right camping gear.

7. Research Local Wildlife

Finally, you want to know what kind of wildlife roams the area. Especially if you’re venturing to an unknown location, read up on what types of animals live there.

Scorpions and Gila monsters don’t live in Tennessee, but they do in Arizona.

Grizzly bears don’t inhabit Arkansas, but they do in Montana.

Learn how to reduce the likelihood of encountering dangerous animals by researching local tips and suggestions.

How To Choose the Right Bear Spray

As a tent camper, you should always carry bear spray. But you must also know how to use it.

Rangers often hold demonstrations at state and national parks. You could also ask for a demonstration if you’re unsure how to use bear spray.

The best bear sprays have a large range, distance, and coverage. You want at least 20 feet.

You also want to choose a bear spray that’s easy to use. Pick one with its own holster so you can wear it instead of fumbling around in a backpack.

The Sabre Frontiersman and Mace brand bear sprays are highly-rated options.

SABRE Frontiersman 7.9 oz. Bear Spray, Maximum Strength 2.0% Major Capsaicinoids, Powerful 30 ft. Range Deterrent, Outdoor Camping & Hiking Protection, Quick Draw Holster Multipack Options
  • MAXIMUM STOPPING POWER: Strongest formula allowed by law (EPA Requires range of 1.0-2.0% Major Capsaicinoids), Frontiersman bear spray, made with 2.0% Major Capsaicinoids, is backed by our industry exclusive in-house HPLC lab, guaranteeing maximum strength in each canister
  • SPRAYS UP TO 50% FURTHER: With a 30-foot (9-meter) spray range reaching up to 10-feet further than the competition, Frontiersman Bear Spray gives you more time to react to a bear charging up to 35 mph & provide safer protection with a greater protective barrier per burst (up to 58% more than competitors)
mace Personal Security Products Mace Brand Guard Alaska Maximum Strength Bear Spray – 20’ Powerful Pepper Spray – Mace Spray Self-Defense for Hiking, Camping, and Other Outdoor Activities, Made in USA
  • ACCURATE PROTECTION – Accurate & effective, the Mace Guard Alaska Bear Spray has an advanced delivery system with a powerful formula to protect you from bears and outdoor threats. The power fogger spray pattern provides long-range protection up to 20 ft.
  • EFFECTS – The OC Bear Safe Formula is a natural ingredient derived from hot peppers that is EPA regulated. Upon contact, the bear’s eyes, nose and lungs will engorge resulting in temporary sight loss, restriction of breathing, and burning sensation.

Stay Safe While Tent Camping This Season

Don’t avoid tent camping because of the possible dangers. You’ll never enjoy the outdoors if you don’t assume some risks. But it is important to understand the potential hazards of tent camping, prepare for them, and reduce them as much as possible. Camping is a wonderful way to connect with nature and escape the daily routine.

We hope these tips to stay safe will help you feel confident the next time you plan a camping trip! Go make those memories and enjoy the great outdoors this season!

Have you ever encountered a bear while tent camping?

Last update on 2024-04-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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