Important! Storing Food & Smellables

Bear box at our Tuolumne Meadows campsite 2013

Bear box at our Tuolumne Meadows campsite 2013

Storing your food and smellables properly is on my shortlist (along with staying hydrated, water safety, and knowing your limits) of most important things to remember during your visit to Yosemite National Park.

Why should you care about storing food and smellables?

  • You are required by Federal Law to properly store food at all times.
  • You can be fined up to $5,000 if you don’t.
  • Your vehicle can be towed.
  • Your food can be taken away.
  • You can be kicked out of the park.
  • You could be the cause of a bear having to be killed because it has become too used to humans and has become dangerous.
Our Curry Village Tent Cabin 2013

Our Curry Village Tent Cabin 2013

ANYTHING that has any hint of a scent– INCLUDING unscented personal care items— must be stored, if not being immediately used, in bear-proof boxes.  These boxes and lockers are permanent fixtures at every cabin and tent site and must be latched tight at all times, even if you are in or around your campsite or cabin.

Every Park Ranger will tell you– view your bear box, locker, or canister (if you are backpacking) like your refrigerator.  So, keep it closed properly unless you are getting something out or putting something away.  You wouldn’t leave your fridge wide open while you are cooking dinner would you? 

What is considered food or a smellable?

  • Food and drinks of any kind, included canned and bottled
  • Personal care items, toiletries, and cosmetics– including “unscented”
  • First aid kits and supplies
  • Ice chests and coolers, even if they are empty
  • Trash
  • Plates, bowls, pots, pans, utensils– anything that food is made in or eaten on
  • Cleaning supplies
  • Child car seats (the crumbs!)

Here are some additional things to remember about storing food and smellables:

  • Never leave food & smellables more than an arm’s length away from you.
  • Never turn your back on your food & smellables, never leave food & smellable unattended.
  • Keep your day pack with you at all times– keep it closed, within arm’s length, and don’t turn your back on it.  Animals will investigate you pack even if you are sitting right beside it!
  • ALWAYS check your pockets for food wrappers, lib balm, snacks, handwipes, etc. before you go to sleep.  If you find something, go put in in the box!
  • Never leave anything smellable in your tent or cabin.
  • If you are backpacking, it is REQUIRED that you use a bear canister for storing food and smellables.  Bear boxes are located in Little Yosemite Valley and at the High Sierra Camps backpackers campgrounds.
NPSphotobyTammyEvansBear exiting a car.

NPSphotobyTammyEvansBear exiting a car.

You might be thinking that all of this is too hard to remember so you’ll just leave all that stuff in your car… …Did you know that bears damage over 100 cars every year?  Bears recognize ice chests and grocery bags as food sources, AND they have an excellent sense of smell.  One could look in your vehicle, or smell something you left in your vehicle, and just open up your door like a sardine tin! 

Here are the guidelines for vehicles:

  • Clean out your car!
  • NEVER leave crumbs, food wrappers, hand wipes, baby wipes, food, grocery bags, ice chests (even emply), carseats (crumb collectors), trash– or anything else that could be considered a food or smellable– in your car or trunk.
  • NEVER leave food or smellables in the bed of a pickup truck or strapped to your vehicle, like on a luggage rack.

Just remember… When in doubt, put it in the box!

Originally posted on January 18, 2014 by Ginger.

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