By Michael Lanza

On our first night in the backcountry of Yosemite National Park on one of my earliest backpacking trips, two friends and I—all complete novices—hung our food from a tree branch near our camp. Unfortunately, the conifer trees around us all had short branches: Our food stuff sacks hung close to the trunk.

During the night, the predictable happened: We awoke to the sound of a bear clawing up the tree after our food.

Despite our nervousness and incompetence, we somehow managed to shoo that black bear off, though not before he (or she) departed with a respectable haul from our food supply. But by virtue of having started out with way more food than we needed—another rookie mistake that, ironically, compensated for this more-serious rookie mistake (read my tips on not overpacking)—we made it through that hike without going hungry and ultimately had a wonderful adventure.

And we went home with a valuable lesson learned.


Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, creator of The Big Outside. Click here to sign up for my FREE email newsletter. Join The Big Outside to get full access to all of my blog’s stories. Click here for my e-guides to classic backpacking trips. Click here to learn how I can help you plan your next trip.

A black bear along the Sol Duc River Trail in Olympic National Park.
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I’ve learned much more about storing food properly in the backcountry over the more than three decades since that early trip, including 10 years as the Northwest Editor of Backpacker magazine and even longer running this blog. This article shares what I’ve learned about protecting food from critters like bears and, more commonly, mice and other small animals and birds like ravens.

Follow the tips below and you’ll not only save yourself and your party or family from going hungry, you might save a bear from being developing a habit of seeing humans as sources of food, which too often leads to a bad outcome for that animal.

If you have any questions or tips of your own to

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