Small Critters

Animal-Proofing a Campsite

Little critters like mice and raccoons may not cause hikers the sleepless nights we often have when hiking through bear country. But no one wants to wake up and find a mouse-sized hole in a brand-new backpack, or porcupine tooth-marks in your favorite pair of perfectly broken-in boots. Here's how to protect your stuff.

Camping in a site that isn't often used is the number one preventative. Most animals are afraid of people—until they learn that we carry delicious food and don't fight back. If you camp where the animals haven't learned this yet, they are much less likely to come calling. Note: Minimum impact rules apply: Leave the site as you found it.

If you're staying in a trail shelter, check out the register (a notebook that serves as communal message board). Often it'll contain notes about particular animal problems. Shelters usually have hooks or nails for hanging bags of food and equipment. Use them.

Some campsites have food storage lockers or contraptions for hanging food. That's a dead giveaway that animals are problem visitors at those sites. If you're going to camp there, stow your food out of reach.

It's not what you call food that counts—it's what they call food that counts! That includes cooking utensils, toothpaste, sun cream, and garbage. It can also include T-shirts, boots, and the hip-belt of a pack, all of which can taste delicious, especially to salt-loving porcupines. (Deer also like salt, and will happily chew a smelly T-shirt to pieces.) Natural fabrics are at risk, as well: Mice use them as nesting material.

It's better to hang a pack from a tree branch than to leave it lying on the ground—even if the branch is only a few feet off the ground. Animals will be less likely to stumble upon your pack. Take all the food out, and leave the zippers open. Even if animals do find your pack and decide to explore, they can get in without doing damage.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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