How do you manage food storage to avoid attracting animals at UK campsites?

Camping offers a chance to connect with nature and enjoy some tranquil time away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. However, it also presents challenges, and a major one is managing food storage to avoid attracting animals. While camping in the UK, it might not be the lions, tigers, or elephants you need to worry about, but smaller critters and - more notably - bears. Yes, you heard it right! In the UK, bears, particularly the European brown bear, have been reintroduced in some parts of the country, making the issue of food storage all the more significant.

This article discusses various strategies you can adopt to ensure that your food doesn’t attract unwanted visitors to your campsite. Whether it’s about the correct way of packing food, the right place to store it, or the proper way to dispose of leftovers, you will find tips and tricks here that will ensure a safe camping experience.

Maintain Cleanliness at the Campsite

Keeping your campsite clean is the first step towards avoiding any unwanted encounters with wildlife. Animals, especially bears, have an incredible sense of smell and can detect food from miles away. Your task is to make sure that your campsite doesn't give off these odours.

Before you even start to unpack your gear, choose a campsite that looks clean, free from any food leftovers from previous campers. Once you've set up your camp, make sure it stays that way. Dispose of any food scraps and trash properly. Never leave any food items, not even snacks, out in the open. Always pack them away after you're done eating.

Cleanliness isn't just about food. It also extends to the equipment you use for cooking. Scrub the pots and pans immediately after using them. Wipe down the picnic table and the area around your cooking place. Even a small splash of grease can attract animals.

Food Storage and Packaging

How you store and package your food can significantly impact the chances of attracting animals to your campsite. Try to bring foods that are sealed in airtight containers or packaging. These can include canned goods or vacuum-sealed packs, which not only keep the food fresh but also contain the smell.

Remember, the key to safe food storage while camping is to hang your food. Place all your food items, including those you might not consider food, like toothpaste or soap, in a bag, and hang it from a tree. The bag should be at least 10 to 15 feet above the ground and at least 4 feet away from the trunk of the tree. Bears are excellent climbers and can reach food hung carelessly.

Cook Smart and Eat Well Away from Your Tent

The smell of food cooking can travel long distances and attract wildlife. If you can, try to cook at least 100 yards away from your sleeping tent. It's not always possible, but even a small distance can help.

Avoid cooking strong-smelling food. Fish, for example, can have a potent aroma that can attract bears. Opt for foods with milder scents. Moreover, never store food in the tent you're sleeping in. This is a sure-fire way to attract animals.

Dispose of Leftovers and Waste Properly

The way you dispose of your waste can also affect whether animals will be attracted to your campsite. Always pack out all your trash. Leaving it behind might seem like the easier option, but it's not the smarter one.

When it comes to food waste, don't bury it. Animals can easily dig it up. The best way to dispose of food waste is to carry it with you until you find a proper disposal facility.

Keep a Safe Water Source

While food is a major attractant for animals, so is water. Always set up your camp at least 200 feet away from any water source. Not only does this help preserve the natural habitat, but it also keeps you safe as animals often frequent water sources.

Ensure that you keep your water source clean. Don't wash dishes or dispose of any waste near it. Carry enough water for your needs, or if you need to refill, make sure you're careful not to contaminate the source.

Camping is an adventure, an escape, a way to connect with nature. But it's essential to remember that we are guests in the natural world and we must respect our hosts. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your camping trip is memorable for all the right reasons, and not because a bear decided to join you for dinner.

Using Bear-Resistant Containers and Carrying a Bear Spray

Once you've done everything possible to ensure you don't attract animals to your campsite, there's one more thing you can do to make your camping experience even safer. If you're camping in bear country, consider investing in bear-resistant containers for your food storage. These containers are specially designed to be hard to open by animals but accessible for humans. They are lightweight, portable, and come in various sizes, making them an ideal solution for food storage during UK camping trips.

Use bear-resistant containers to store food, toiletries, and other items that might attract animals. These containers are not only effective against bears but also against other wildlife like squirrels, raccoons, and birds. The use of bear-resistant containers is often recommended, or even required, in areas where bears are common.

In addition to using bear-resistant containers, carrying a bear spray is another recommended precautionary measure, particularly if you are camping in areas known to be frequented by bears. Bear spray is a specific type of pepper spray that is an effective deterrent against aggressive or charging bears. It's easy to use; just aim for the bear's face if it gets too close. This will help keep both you and the bear safe in case of an encounter.

Adhering to the Leave No Trace Principles

The "Leave No Trace" principles are a set of guidelines designed to promote conservation in the outdoors. They are an important part of ensuring that our camping activities do not harm the environment or wildlife. Following these principles will also help to prevent attracting bears to your campsite.

The principles are simple and easy to follow. They include planning and preparing for your trip, travelling and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly, leaving what you find, minimising campfire impact, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors.

In the context of managing food storage to avoid attracting animals, adhering to the "Leave No Trace" principles means ensuring that you properly store food, pack out all your trash and leftover food, and make sure not to leave anything behind that might attract wildlife. This includes not only food but also items like toothpaste, soap, and other toiletries.


In conclusion, managing food storage to avoid attracting animals during a camping trip is an important part of ensuring a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience. Whether you are camping in the heart of bear country or a place with smaller critters, the rules remain the same. Keep food and toiletries secured, maintain cleanliness, cook smart, dispose of waste properly, and respect the wildlife.

Remember that the goal is not just to prevent a potential encounter with animals but also to preserve the natural habitat for those animals. By following the guidelines discussed in this article, your camping experience can be both enjoyable and respectful to the wildlife that makes the outdoors such a special place to visit. Happy camping!