Camping & Survival

Quick Camping Tip: How to Critter Proof Your Campsite

Picture shows a raccoon.

I hate to admit this, but on a recent camping trip, I had removed the hanging trash bag and replaced it with a lantern, as we needed the light to play cards. I know better, but clearly, I wasn’t thinking and placed the garbage bag on the ground next to me. It didn’t take but 20 minutes for us to receive a “visitor.” I heard rustling next to my feet and looked down to find a very large, very ballsy raccoon. I was startled, which startled the rest of my camping party. I haven’t seen grown men jump onto a picnic table so fast in my life! Fortunately for us, we also startled the raccoon before it could get the trash bag open, so we did not have a horrible mess on our hands, but we could have. Lesson learned. Keep your trash inaccessible!

Picture shows a raccoon.
Keep your campsite clean to avoid any close encounters.

Food attracts raccoons, bears, skunks, ants and bugs. Keep your campsite clean to avoid any close encounters.

  • Take cleansing wipes with you. Wipe down the table and your camp stove after every meal.
  • Pick up and throw away crumbs or other fallen or dropped food.
  • Do not dump grease, fruit pits or bones on the ground. Either throw them away in a trash bag or burn them in the campfire.
  • Wash your dishes and camp stove immediately after every meal. Store them in plastic totes with secure lids. If you are at a drive-up campsite, store the totes in your car, especially overnight or when leaving the campsite.
  • Never leave food in your tent.
  • Throw your trash out every night before bed in the proper trash receptacles.

Have you had any encounters with critters while camping? How do you prevent unwelcomed guests? Share your tips with others in the comment section. 


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Comments (30)

  1. I had much the same experience as you once while hunting whie tail deer in the Chricahuss in southern Arizona. One evening in camp, sitting in camp chair, around the campfire with a libation in hand shortly after my hunting companions had retire to the tent, something occasioned me to glance down at my feet. There, on two haunches, square between my splayed legs , a bushy whirte and black creature with two coal black eyes, tested the air wih it’s nose, looking for all the world likej it was contemplating a jump in my lap!
    I don’t remember what I yelled but i do know that was probably the fastest transmogrification of a sitting human to an airborne human on record Upon landing, I pulled out my 1911 sidearm and shouting “Damned skunk!” endeavored to put holes in the offending critter’s hide as it scampered to and fro across the camp site on the other side of the fire pit, much to the displeasure of my companions, of course.
    Having chased the critter off, I resumed my position (with replenished libation) in between the fire and the tent, only to have the entire scenario repeat itself a few minutes later.
    This time i heeded the advice of my tent mates and proceeded to my sleeping bag, after a short conversation in which I used the phrase, “It was either a very friendly skunk or a most rabid one!”
    Minutes later the relentless rustlings of a critter all along the periphery of the tent again roused my companions! With a wee bit of satisfaction I just responded, “Don’t worry, it’s just a rabid skunk! Go to sleep!” . .

    1. Good old fashioned story telling. Just wonderfully enjoyable and still leaps and bounds more entertaining than anything a modern multimedia video clip could have to offer.

      I could picture myself around a campfire as you tell this story. The art of story telling alive and well – just Awesome!

  2. As kids in the desert we would catch scorpions and tarantulas .Then put them in a bucket to fight. The scorpion won.

    1. @ OLD&GRUMPY.

      I don’t know. But, you must have had a interesting childhood. But, then again, my childhood wasn’t all that boring either!

    2. Secundius–I was a kid before the” nanny state”. Before the “mommy” movement screwed every thing up. Boys were boys and raised by Men!

  3. @ Sevundius as well as al others: I suggest you take a look at S.Carolinas as one example of mosquito borne diseases and its numbers growin Nile virus and now ee have the vast numbers og immigrants that carry othrr disres plus the body lice that carries the diseases.
    THE SCARIEST IS Plague and flesh eating disease.
    They are still trying to undrrstand the newest dtrain of mersa that they now believe may of gone airborne and insects may act as carriers.
    Not talking third world, well maybe today I am, as in US.
    There havebbeen ovrr 20 lakes in as many states thst are nowboff limits due to norovirus(THEY THINK) but do not know yet true causes of numerous ill proples.

  4. The most danderous critters in the bush today are fleas, ticks, chiggers, and flies,
    Insect bites now carry some of earths most deadly toxins and the numbers of fatalities of the past are now being upped by even more imported dangers.
    In the bushes are swarms of insects including ants , hornets. Stink bugs and bees
    ONE of the best preventatives to poisons and viral dangers carried by bugs is to buy a full Hazmat suit,; while somewhat bulky you can usually carry on normal camping exercizes.
    The choice of campsites is important so look for areas of lowest infestations of bugs such as at a nice lodge or Hotel , and always remember to don your haz mat suit when outside.
    A wonderfull afternoon along the Alkan when I pulled into a turnout beside a nicely running stream to take an evening meal and to set night camp.
    Watching the stream from inside of truck we could see some trout grabbing flies and I told wife and kids to get things ready and I would catch our dinner.
    The edges of creek was waist high grases and bushes that at slightest brushing swarms of mosquitos the size of dragon flies aroze.
    To add to them were untold numbers of horse flies that hurt when bit and drew blood.
    Dressed in shorts and old strap tee I fought a couple nice trout and upon unhooking one I noticed the blood streak on arms and then felt face full of
    bumpsbest fishing ever but no way fun.
    I ran back to truc k and as I was climbing bank and too this day remember seeing Wife and kids peering out closed windows of truck..
    They never said a word as I climbed in and drove away.
    A mile or later I stopped and looking at family and then myself , what a mess.
    They were not bad as wife hustled them back in right after I left but the
    horseflys and skeeters bloodied me.
    I tried to make light and got family laughing but that ended when wife said coffee pot coolers and lantern plus campstove were back there and the tailgate was down.
    Looking back I could see in road was a couple sleeping bags. And kids fishing gear and way back the red and white cooler.
    I was in Good shape but let me tell you I ran a mile in jeans, high socks, a bloody tee and longsleved sweatshirt with old gloves from tool box and with driving Kids laughing and me running along road picking up gear,
    while being attacked by winged creatures was almost too much, and was beginning to flashback to Nam.
    YET Then we came to a milepost with store, campsites and no bugs, showers , restaurant meals and good Canadian, no americans thank god, Company.
    It was one of our most memorable camping trips.
    Our next trip I had cans of bug killers thin mosquito netting and even mittens.
    Always wondered about if somehow a guy could sneak or maybe walk in creek so as not to disturb the bugs and if anyone else tried to fish
    I guess I could go buy a HazMat suit.

    1. @ Hide Behind.

      I agree and disagree. Yes I find Insects and other woodland creatures can be a threat. I found out the hard way, that the 2-legged creatures in pants, living and/or lurking about in the National, State and even Local County Wildlife Parks, even a greater threat, While the first, can be a nuisance and a health threat. The second can actually be a DEATH THREATENING. I don’t blame the Ranger’s of Park, because they have enough on their plates too worry about. But, when you have SURVIVALIST’S staking out their corner of the woods, MOONSHINER’S and other NUT’S living in the woods. It’s only a matter of time, before you run into one of them.

  5. Years ago I met a park ranger who foot patrolled a back packing area in the California Sierras with her dog. She had bells attached to the animal like you used to see on the inside of business doors that would announce the presence of a customer to the proprietor. I was always concerned about bears. She claimed the bells on her dog gave the bears plenty of warning and she never saw them.

    Has anyone ever used an air horn? Bears don’t like loud unfamiliar noises and I have one in my boat along with the other required safety gear. I’ve frequently toyed with the idea of taking it along when we venture into bear country. What do you think?

    Moles? Thank God we don’t have them here where I live in southern California, but we do have gophers. When I lived in an area with good soil they were a menace and I tried using the usual things: poison and traps. I even tried flooding their tunnels with water. I guess I must have looked pretty stupid standing there with a shovel waiting for them to come up for air so I could kill them but they never did.

    I finally had a stroke of genius. I started up my old ’48 GMC pick up and attached my Shop Vac hose and my wife’s vacuum cleaner hose to the tail pipe with the help of duct tape. I ran the truck for about an hour and it must have killed them all because they never came out and when I closed the holes and replanted grass that was it.

    Where I live now the soil is mostly clay and it’s as hard as concrete so gophers are not a problem. A friend of mine lives about thirty miles away and he had a gopher problem in his front yard. I told him about my experience and he plumbed his gas powered lawnmower exhaust into the gopher hole and he ran it through a tank of gas. He no longer has a gopher problem. Carbon monoxide will kill just about any air breathing animal. Has anyone ever tried it moles?

    1. Saw this on TV. Propane and oxygen tank with a probe and a spark igniter on the end. Used it on gophers .Blows out the entire tunnel system.Looked like carpet bombing as each tunnel blew .

    2. OMG! I think you have hit on the perfect situation to eliminate the pack rat problem I have here in Arizona! They invade and destroy a vehicles engine compartment, chew the rubber seals on the bottoms of garage doors to get in your house, I have even had one take up residence in the clothes dryer (I swear he unscrewed the wire mesh on the external vent himself!), what fun once they get inside your house!! Tried everything, live traps (sometimes work but have also seen a pack rat more than once do the gang rush on the spring door and get out as I approached the traps!), glue traps (worthless), poisons (you DON’T want a dead rat anywhere you can smell it!), flooding (merely an inconvenience to these animals with thre multi-chambered dens) , .

  6. Lets combine three blogs. Critters– batteries– and the ones where we were talking about our fathers and all the junk in the garage and the stuff they could do. My dad had problems with moles in his garden. From the junk box he took a battery a door bell and a mercury switch and some old wire.He would press down the top of the mole tunnel and place the mercury switch on it.When the mole would fix his tunnel the door bell would ring!Dad would then dig like a crazy man and pop it out of the ground.He got quite a few.—Some time I will tell you how to use a neon transformer to keep cats off your pigeon coupe! (cats wouldn’t even walk through our yard)

  7. Had a black bear doing squat jumps on my cooler in Big Meadows Campground Shenandoah Nat. Park. My fault. Left it out of the car. Can of marbles is very good against small pests. Carried a slingshot for years when hiking until a ranger told me the are considered a weapon. He let me off without a ticket. I now rinse all cans and place them on the table in within reach of the tent door. First a shake and then a heave. Once had a Momma Skunk and her kits search my tent for absolutely no reason… no food or chance of food smell… just curious. I saw them first and let them explore. The left without a problem. The can with rocks works well and using the can as a weapon or the bigger rocks as a weapon during a close encounter with larger game is legal in the parks I’ve camped in. Best defense is avoidance and a clean camp.

  8. In a public camp ground you can’t fire a gun. But if you really camp,off the public grid, then you have options to use on larger critters that can bite.If you don’t want to kill the pest CTD sells a 12ga round by Seller & Bellot out of the Czech Republic. Rubber buck shot. 15 #1 buck pellets moving 1476 fps. I got a box From CTD to play with for home defense. Bad idea. NOT GOOD FOR HOME D! It is made for animal control. Law Enforcement uses it on animals (two legs) also.This is the sting ball round. It has NO recoil . At short range it is a swarm of bees . On You Tube one idiot let his “friend” pop him with one. No holes but It didn’t go well. It was fun to shoot at the range.Low noise no kick. Will not cycle a semi auto.In a pump the 3rd round should be a slug in case you just piss off the “Grizz”. Lightfield makes other rubber ball and slug loads.

  9. Keeping a clean camp site is certainly #1 but keeping food in an ice chest locked securely in your vehicle is a close second. In the absence of that hang it high in a tree is what’s always helped us backpacking.

    1. @ Hank Alvarez., Subject : Grizzly Bear Physics 101.1

      Let’s see, Locked Ice Chest full of Food, Sitting in a Locked Car in Parking Lot.

      1. BEAR, never studies the Laws of Physics,
      2. EYE CANDY, Locked Ice Cooler Full of Food.
      3. LOCK CAR, a “Wet Paper Bag”, A Sitting Duck: Can’t move and can’t defend itself.. Liking it to a Professional Car Thiel, opened in 60-second or less. Usually MUCH Less. No OBSTACLE AT ALL. (Bear Play), Human equivalent CHILD’S PLAY.
      4. CAR ALARM, to bear: I’ve heard this song before, and will someone please change the channel.

      After Action Park Ranger Report:
      1. Car, LOOSER
      2. Locked Cooler, LOOSER
      3 Car Alarm, LOOSER
      4. Owner of Vehicle, LOOSER
      5. Insurance Company, LOOSER in the Short Term, WINNER in the Long Term.
      6. Bear, WINNER and Undefeated Champion of the Park.

  10. I like wildlife, all of it, for the experience of it, and even to these old and somewhat jaded eyes , the wondrment of it all.
    My 2nd choice of a tool to keep small to dog sized wild beaties away is a Dissuder, an inexpensive spring or air BB Pistol,
    FOR $35 -$40 including ammo enough to learn to use, you get something that stings without killing from chipmunks to some dogs
    . And during the down time of hot afternoon fun shooter that plinks on tin
    cans and falls at their base.
    IT best the best varmit Dissuader and a fun project especially for kids and old men remembering being a kid.
    Each member over 5 years can make once you get to a campground , and
    it will be theirs.
    Good time to give a worthy young one. First knife, or to use DAD’S.easy project and confidence builder.
    You can buy one up to power of man killer if you want, just as you can buy a canned vacation, but camping, to my way of reconig, is living in harmony with my surroundings.
    Small plastic surgical tubing that they sell in fishing stores for use on sinkers.
    Small diameter cotton twine, or my favorite, leather shoe strings
    A youths first pocket knife or getting to use DAd’s.
    A Hunt in the brush for the perfect forked stick with a long handhold,.
    you can pre hunt a bunch and let others carve and scrape the bark off S Small 11/2 — 21/2″ square leather pat ches for the pockets, No authentic slinshot has vinyl pockets .
    Ammo , just use imagination or buy marbles at goodwill and yard sales.
    RATTLE PAINT CAN Marbles split shot , ball bearings, rocks old sheetrock or tile.
    I do not recommend use on anything larger than a beaver or one of those bushy taild black and white polecats.
    A good slingshot can kill rabbit, large birds and but you can choose large ammo to just bump a pesky raccoon, Beaver or p ossom.
    Family heritage is slingshots made by t
    my wife and her Dads old matriarch and says far more about them than their guns ever did.
    A child of the wilds in ages past always knew how to make his own sling shot and if need be pop off a few just right stones to if not hit scare the hell out of pesky varmits.

  11. Some critters aren’t the 4 legged type. Once I sat down at the camp table with the family waiting for my wife to serve some quick sandwiches just before our hike. I took a big swig of my canned root beer and immediately felt a high resonance buzz in my mouth.

    All natural reflex took over and I projectile spewed a mouth full of soda across the picnic table. This drew my entire family’s attention to the center of the table where a bee seemed to brush itself off, flip me the finger, and fly away.

    It was somewhat hard to register the hysterical laughter that ensued by my family while still processing the realization that I just had had a bee in my mouth.

    1. I had a similar non 4-legged type too, but mine was of the 2-legged type usually associated with the outside habitations of local 7-11 convenience stores.

  12. I think a common misconception is take wildlife stays with wildlife, I think the closer a wildlife area is to a human populated area, and outward threat is made towards that wildlife. They don’t see humans as a potential threat too their existence. Case point, just go to any big metropolitan city, and the wildlife will show absolutely no fear of you. And are actually brazen and resolute about approaching humans, too stealing an/or sharing their lunches. The same hold true about Picnic Tables in a Wildlife Park, Tents in the Rest Area and Cars, Trucks, Campers and RV’s in the Parking Lot.

    1. Had a big coyote cross my yard. I yelled at him out the window.He looked at me,squatted ,dropped a deuce ,looked at me again and walked off. One point for the coyote. The ag department guy who shoots them in the city with a silenced ruger mini 14 says to always chuck rocks at them to keep them afraid. This is the breakdown. Animal control and Fish and Game-friend of the coyote. Ag department-friend of the farmer! Over the next few weeks 10 points for the Ag department!

  13. An old man named Hyder and his hound named Rip jump an old swamplands He-coon after dark, and both lose to the coon, “Twilight Zones movie “The Hunt”.
    Soak wood chips ,sawdust, pellets for woodstoves or charcoal ( non easy light) in citronella oil and pack them in tight baggies; throw a handfull on fire now and then to keep bugs away.
    Be there things that live ,
    Just beyond the corner
    of either one. Or both eyes?
    things you glimpse as a ficker,
    Hairs on back of neck,
    draw your balls up tight,
    There be no need of fright
    You turn fast as to catch
    But never do
    It is only a Hide Behind,
    playing peek a boo.
    On a cold moonlit night drinking coffee and putting numbers in our Chit books this fella Paul Bunyon told me that storey.
    Now I know the story was true because Babe verified it as being true blue.

  14. Camped on the beach we kept getting visited by the racoons overnight. Each morning we would see they had been around but did no harm to the campsite. One night I was almost asleep when I heard something scurrying around in the top of a palm tree. Walking out with my light, shining it up into the tree, I see a raccoon. Then I shine it around into other trees and every one harbored racoons! The next morning when we got up we saw each of the palm tree tops serving as beds for a half dozen raccoons. They were all sleeping. So how simple was it for them just to wake up when we went to sleep and scrounge around the campsite and then go back up and sleep the day away!!

  15. Raccoons !!! They are highly intelligent and can use their front paws to open coolers and open the latches on storage boxes. I learned this the hard way when camping on Lake Waco. The Coleman Cooler was opened and the cheese and steaks were removed. You need duct tape with bungy cords to keep them out.

    1. In SoCal the bandits will rip the shingles off the house to nest in the attic. They woke me up. Not crazy enough to play Tunnel Rat with rocky in the dark! A big raccoon will beat a German Shepard in a fair fight.NEVER corner one.

  16. Don’t think high altitude will keep snakes away. I saw the back half of a timber rattler slither past my feet at almost 8000 feet! We had to deal with badgers above timber line. Polaroid sun glasses made a side winder invisible on the desert floor.They even out the glare so there is no contrast between snake and sand.I got lucky he “split the wickets”!!! In the 70s i lived way off the trail a lot in NoCal and Oregon. Never saw IT but there is stuff in those woods! Might be nuts but –Big foot???? Or it could have been the smoke (camp fire).

  17. Chipmunks !!! Cute and not the “grizz” but a high altitude pest.One made a nest IN the air filter of the truck. He said it was warm.(yes I talk to the critters). One found the cinnamon roles in the tent. He rolled out the door very slow. Nothing more fun than 5 kids screaming at 3AM as they play Wack-A-MOLE in the tent. Just a bump running under the floor. Yes in scouts we put the tent OVER the chipmunk burrow several times. A warm camp fire has brought out more than one sidewinder or diamond back in the desert. This is why you keep your boots on even in camp.Creepy crawlers that sting and bite ! Lots of fun!

  18. @ Ant Defense.

    1-part Peppermint Extract and 4-parts Water, makes a great barrier defense against Ants.

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