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How to Store Food Outdoors

Learn how to store food outdoors from Heather Menicucci, author of Let's Get Primitive: The Urban Girl's Guide to Camping, in this Howcast video.


I think the thing that camping novices are most scared of, unless they're from the city, and most of my friends are scared of, crazed psychos that live in the woods. That's completely not true. Most camping novices are scared of bears, and they really think that bears are a big issue when you're camping, and really they're not. Bear attacks are really rare, and bear attacks usually happen when people get too close to bears because they're curious about bears. So if you stay far away from bears, you probably will not have any problems, whatsoever. Especially if you're not in grizzly bear territory. And if you're going to go camping in grizzly bear territory, I think you should be a really experienced camper, and you should really know what you're dealing with.

You should probably hang your food, even if you're not going to be camping where there's bears, because there's raccoons, and there's mice, and there's squirrels, and there's lot of other stuff that wants to get at your food. So there's a couple of things about food storage to be aware of.

First, double bag everything. Bring Ziploc bags, bring garbage bags, and put everything in these sealed up bags, and double bag when you can. I like to bring a whole collection of Ziploc bags, and then a bunch of grocery store bags, and a bunch of garbage bags. They all come in handy. So everything that smells, including toothpaste, should really be bagged up, because that stuff is sweet and it could be tasty to an animal. So everything that's food-related, and everything that smells edible should be bagged up, and your food and your trash should be hung.

So the way to get things hung, it's actually a lot easier than you think. You need to find a tree that's about 100 feet from your tent, and it should have a solid branch, about 15 feet up, and it should be a big enough branch that you can hang the bag 10 feet from the tree itself. And what you can do is, you've got all your food, and all the stuff that smells tasty in this bag. What I've used in the past is just a messenger bag to store bag. It's really sturdy. It's got this great velcro flap, you can put everything in it and it's got the big handle, and that's great for tying a rope to.

So you put all this food in there, tie it up with a rope, then you tie a stick to the end of the rope, and then you throw that stick over the branch. You start walking and you pull the stick, and the bag goes up. So it's really pretty simple.

You just want to make sure that your bag is 15 feet up, and at least 10 feet away from the tree, because animals can climb up the tree, and a bear especially, has a certain reach that it can get at the bag.

That's one of the best ways just to keep your food safe from just about anything. If you're camping somewhere where the threats are more serious, like grizzly bear territory, there's usually other precautions, like these big canisters that are provided by the forest, to put all your food in. But for the average camper going in the forest, this kind of method is going to work great.

It might be tempting to put your food in your tent, to view your tent like a cabin or a house, and that's probably the biggest rule to be aware of with storing your food. You definitely don't want to store your food inside your tent, or your trash, ever. Because if there is anything that wants to get at your food, you definitely don't want it getting inside your tent.

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