Posted by: George | June 24, 2010

Bears and Tents

June 24, 2010

My friend Jim has been doing research for my trip. He showed up at my office yesterday with a stack of printouts on bear attacks, cougar attacks, and mountain lion attacks. All of these kinds of attacks, it seems, end badly. At least, for the hikers and campers. Not so badly for the bears, cougars, and mountain lions.

Jim even went to the trouble circling important passages, such as, “There can be no death any more horrifying than one of a bear attack.” This passage had a few stars beside it. One of the printouts had a list of every person killed by a bear in Alaska. I guess someone thought it would be good to put some names on one of our vague, nagging fears.

Jim is going to research snake bites today. I will be leaving for my trip in a week, and I am afraid that he will run out of topics to research. Of course, he could look into bacteria and viruses. I am sure he plans to Google (using the advanced search option) the terms “mass murderer” and “campsites.”

Preparation is good, and I have to admit that I am more of a “throw some stuff in the car” kind of camper. So I appreciate Jim’s research. The printouts do have a lot of useful information, so I will study them before my trip. I didn’t know, for example, you should fight back when attacked by a Black Bear, because Black Bears are more timid (that is, I should add, on a scale of bears, which doesn’t allow for much timidity). Bears, cougars, mountain lions, snakes, mass murderers—all these are worries at some level. I am, however, more worried about having a dry tent.

My last extended camping trip was four years ago. Jeff, my younger son, and I camped for about a week just outside Rockies National Park, near Estes Park, Colorado. It started to rain about two hours after we set up our tent, and it rained every day with but a few spots of sunshine.

When the rain started on that first day, we climbed in the tent. I looked up at the roof of the tent and noticed a small hole. I said to Jeff, “I wonder if the rain is going to come in through that hole.”

Well, it didn’t. But the rain came in just about everywhere else on that tent. I’ve been in tents where the seams leaked, and I’ve been in tents where water seeped in from the ground runoff. I had never been in a tent that leaked from everywhere (well, except for that small hole).

After a few days of being wet, we drove to a camping store, bought an 8’ by 10’ tarp and threw it over the tent. That kept us relatively dry for the rest of the trip. Of course, we didn’t want to spend the entire trip in the tent, so we were out in the rain a lot. Eventually, every pair of shoes we had was soaked. The last night in camp, a brief interlude with no rain, Jeff and I sat around the campfire, with my one pair of flip-flops between us. When Jeff needed to go to the latrine, he said, “Dad, can I borrow the flip-flops?”

When we broke camp, I threw the tent (poles, pegs, everything) on the hood of my car, drove to the dumpster, and threw it all in (tent, poles, pegs, everything, even the tarp, which was without fault).

On this trip, just to be safe, I am packing two tents, two tarps and four pair of assorted shoes. This will help my comfort level, not my safety. Jim has already told me, “No tent can stop a bear.” Jim, I promise to sleep with my bear spray.



  1. Just be sure one of those four pairs of shoes is flip-flops!


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