Updated at: 12-07-2022 - By: Lucas

If you’re going camping in the great outdoors, the idea of sleeping on the ground in a tent might not be appealing. It can be much more comfortable to sleep in your car, and you won’t have to struggle to set up a tent. But what if you are camping in a place where bears live?

Cars aren’t made to keep bears out, but there are some easy steps you can take to make it much less likely that a bear will try to get in. This means getting rid of things that make you want to eat, like the sight and smell of food, and locking your doors and windows.

Read on to learn more about how to make your car safe from bears.

Is it Safe to Sleep in a Car in Bear Country?

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Bears are naturally cautious, but they have a great sense of smell that can sometimes lead them to campsites or parked cars in a National Park or other wilderness area.

Even though you can sleep safely in your car when you are in bear country, you should do some research and take some precautions before you hop in the back and go to sleep.

Learn the area. Ask the park rangers what kind of bears live in the area and if any of them are a problem. The most likely bears to try to get into your car would be these ones.

Put it away. Bears in campgrounds do know how to open car doors, so make sure your car doors and SUV hatch are locked. Also, if you can, make sure you close all windows. A small hole can be left for air flow, but it will let smells out of the car.

Don’t touch food. Whenever you can, keep your food away from the car. You can put it in a bear-proof container, a locker at the campground, or hang it from a nearby tree. If a bear does come into the area, the smell of the food will keep him away from your car.

Can Bears Smell Food in a Car?

Bears can smell food in your car for sure. Even if you think it’s locked up tight in a storage bin, a cooler, or the trunk of your car, a bear can probably still smell it. And it doesn’t have to be food that you can eat.

In fact, bears will be interested in the smells of soaps, sunscreen, propane, toothpaste, citronella, and other things.

If you plan to car camp in bear country, it’s usually not a good idea to keep your food in your car. If bears don’t usually come to where you are spending the night, you should be fine keeping food in your car.

But if bears are common and you know that nuisance bears or bears that are used to seeing people are around, keep food away from where you plan to sleep.

How to Bear-Proof Your Car

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Most of the time, you won’t be able to completely bear-proof your car. Instead, your goal is to make a bear not want to get into your car. You don’t want a bear to be nearby, catch a whiff of food on the wind, and run straight to your car, which is full of snacks and treats.

Make sure that your car is locked. Make sure all the doors are locked, whether you’re inside the car or out for the day. Bears can open doors that aren’t locked and will tear your house apart to find food.

Keep food hidden. Studies with bears have shown that they can learn to recognise different kinds of packaging. If a bear sees a box of cookies or granola bars in your car, that might be all it takes for that bear to decide to get in.

Consider Odor-Proof Containers

Some companies make bags and containers out of plastic that can’t hold smells. This means that the plastic is thick enough that smells won’t get out through the seams or tiny cracks around the lid.

This is a great choice for foods with a strong smell, like jerky, salami, potato chips, and dried fruits.

These smaller containers can be put inside coolers to give them more protection. Even smelly foods can be stored easily in a single cooler if they are put in several smaller bags or containers that don’t let smells out.

Consider Using Bear Canisters

When camping in bear country, bear canisters can be a very useful tool. The whole point of these big, strong canisters is to keep bears from getting into your food when they are too curious. The canister can keep people from getting in and keep smells from getting out. You can also hang them from trees or keep them in your car.

Bears that eat human food can quickly become a problem because they will start to think of people as easy snacks and won’t be as afraid of them.

Over time, bears will move into campsites, break into cars, and cause other problems. This makes it more likely that a bear and a person will meet, which could be bad for the person, the bear, or both!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can a bear smell food in a Yeti cooler?

Bears have a great sense of smell and can definitely smell the food you have in your Yeti cooler. But the Forest Services’ Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee has said that Yeti coolers are bear-proof. This means that a bear of any kind won’t be able to get into your Yeti cooler if it has two padlocks on it.

Can bears smell period blood?

Since the 1980s, a number of studies have shown that all bears can smell menstrual blood, but most species don’t pay it any more attention than they do other smells. But a study done in 1983 on a small group of 4 young Polar Bears showed that they were very interested in the smell.

Is a car safe from bears?

Even though a bear can easily get into your car if it wants to, you can easily make it less likely that a bear will want to get in. Keep your doors and windows locked, get rid of any signs or smells of food, and if you must keep food in your car, put it in containers that bears can’t open.