The first thing you should do when you arrive at your camping area is secure your food, garbage, and any other scented items. This includes canned food and dehydrated food.
Bear canisters are required for some areas and are recommended for all hikes. Hanging food with rope is not a guaranteed method of securing food. Bears can break your rope or break the branch your rope is over, no matter how you hang it.
Never store food in your tent or backpack! Tents, backpacks and other gear have been destroyed by bears because food has been stored in them. Avoid cooking or eating in tents. Do not leave food, garbage, or any scented items unattended for any amount of time unless they are secure in a bear canister or on a bear wire.
If a bear comes into your camp do not give up your food. Bang pots and pans and make noise to discourage further exploration.
Wash dirty dishes immediately. Strain food particles and dispose of waste water at least 200 feet from a campsite or water source to prevent attracting wildlife.
Do not dispose of food waste in the wilderness. Pack out all uneaten food and food particles. Treat food wrappers and other garbage the same as food. Keep a clean camp.
Avoid odor-tainting your backpack. Carry food and garbage in plastic bags. Avoid cooking greasy or odorous foods.
If your food is not properly stored, it may be confiscated and a $50 fine may be issued to protect visitors, property, and bears.
Bear canisters are required in the following areas of the park:
Sol Duc River/High Divide/7 Lakes Basin Loop including all camps adjacent to and enclosed by the Deer Lake Trail, High Divide Trail, and Sol Duc River Trail (High Divide Loop), and adjacent camps along the Mink Lake Trail, East High Divide Trail, and Cat Basin area.
Royal Basin area - including Royal Lake and Upper Royal Basin
All other areas where food cannot be hung at least 12 feet high and 10 feet out from the nearest tree trunk, including the Bailey Range and other high elevation areas where trees are not suitable for hanging food.
Bear canisters are typically available for loan from the Port Angeles and Quinault WIC, but we do not guarantee the availability of bear canisters and occasionally run out over busy weekends. We do not reserve canisters in advance even for parties with backpacking reservations. Consider renting or purchasing your own bear canisters to ensure that you have them when needed.
Park bear canisters are available for loan with a purchase of a wilderness permit, which is $8 per night per person 16 years of age and older. We may run out on busy days.
With a little planning, it is amazing how much food you can fit into a bear can. If you choose the right foods and repackage them, you can maximize space. It takes a little effort and time but the results are rewarding.
Remember, all food, garbage, and scented items must be stored in your bear cans including canned food, dehydrated food, toothpaste, sunscreen, wrappers, etc.
Choose the right foods
Choose foods that are compact, compressible and high in calories such as rice, tortillas, jerky, pasta, nuts, dried fruits, peanut butter, nutritional bars.
Repackage your food
Take food out of its original package so that you may fit more food in your canisters and reduce garbage. Use resealable bags instead of bottles, jars, and cans. Force air out of bags or packages. Cut out or save cooking instructions from boxes.
Plan your menu
Carefully count every meal that you will be eating. By doing this, you will save weight and space. At home, lay all food out on a table and plan each meal, snack, and drink. Don't forget condiments! Pre-measure and pre-mix food when possible.
More time at camp relaxing instead of trying to find just the right trees to hang properly
Guaranteed food supply if bears or other animals visit your camp
No aborted trips because bears ate your food
More freedom to camp in areas away from bear wires
They make a nice stool to sit on
Keeps delicate foods from getting squished in your pack
Are you tired of spending hours hanging your food or walking to and from bear wires? Try a bear canister! These containers are lightweight, cylindrical canisters specifically designed to be animal proof.
Bear canisters are the best method for securing food, garbage, and other scented items from bears and other wildlife. They are user-friendly, fit in most backpacks, and help keep fragile foods like crackers and bread from getting squished or broken.
Always carry a bear resistant food container when camping in the subalpine zone above 4,500 feet in elevation or in other areas where trees are not large enough to hang your food.
In some areas, “bear wires” have been installed for hanging food between trees. These wires are usually located in centralized areas for several sites to share. Most wires are equipped with one or more cables for attaching and raising food bags off the ground, but in some cases an additional rope is needed.
Instructions for use of Bear Wire system: Secure food in a bag with a looped handle. Unfasten lower clip at base of tree. Lower the wire (like a flagpole) until upper clip is within clipping distance of food bag. Fasten clip onto food bag handle. Raise food bag by pulling wire. Refasten lower clip to ring attached at base of tree.
Multiple bags can be placed on each clip. If bear wires are not available, food should be stored in a bear resistant food container.
Tie one end of your rope to the base of the first tree and throw your rope over a branch about 15 to 20 feet off the ground.
Throw the other end of the rope over a branch (15 feet to 20 feet high) on another tree that is at least 20 feet away.
After attaching your food bag to the rope and securing one end to the tree, pull the line taut.
Secure the other end of the rope to the base of the tree.
Carry at least 75 to 100 feet of rope for "bear hangs".
Stock users should be prepared to secure their own as well as any stock feed from bears and other wildlife. All food, garbage, and any other scented items such as toothpaste, deodorant, sunscreen, etc. should be stored in bear proof containers or panniers. Animal feed must also be secured from wildlife.
If your food is not being stored in bear resistant panniers, it must be hung from park bear wires or hung at least 12 feet high and 10 feet out from the nearest tree trunk.
The Wilderness Information Center (WIC) in Port Angeles now has 2 bear resistant panniers available for loan.
Wilderness and Bears
Black bears live throughout Olympic National Park from the coast to the mountains. Many visitors to wilderness areas or national parks love to see bears. They are fascinating and amazing creatures that we do not fully understand. In most cases, bears fear people as much or more than we might fear them.
How do you feel about bears? Many people fear bears and other wildlife because they may know very little about the animal. Learn more about bears and maybe you will learn to appreciate their wildness and their needs.
Their acute sense of smell can lead bears to unclean camps. If bears become accustomed to human food, they may become dangerous and aggressive. To protect visitors and property, park management may close an area to visitors or a park biologist may have to destroy an aggressive or dangerous bear. Two park black bears have died due to poor food storage by visitors.
Black bears and other wildlife have lived in Olympic's wilderness for thousands of years and are an essential part of the wilderness community. Many times we are intruding on their territory or feeding areas and should be sensitive to their need for wild, undisturbed space. Human visitors should Leave No Trace and should not impact or harm wildlife during their visit to the wilderness community.
The survival of bears may be put in jeopardy if humans are disturbing or occupying feeding areas during critical feeding times. Try to avoid lowland grassy areas during the spring and early summer. These areas often provide the first good food source for bears when they wake from hibernation.
Bears, raccoons, and other wildlife may become a nuisance by stealing food, damaging equipment, or acting aggressively if food is not stored properly.
Nearly 40,000 people backpack in Olympic National Park every year. It only takes one careless camper to damage a small part of the wilderness community.
YOU are responsible for the protection of the Olympic wilderness and its community.