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Outdoor Cooking Safety Tips



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Cooking in the wilderness can be risky due to the possible predators that may be in the area. Most predators have an intense sense of smell and the thought of preparing and cooking a meal in the wilderness can be nerve-racking — but, you HAVE to eat. So, what can you do to keep yourself as safe as possible?

In my research to bring to you the best possible safety tips, I noticed a very common question: “How can one cook without attracting or alluring wild animals?”

Is it possible to avoid these predators completely? My answer: Using extreme caution — it’s a great possibility.

But, first, let’s take a look at the top 3 predators that are of great concern to most survivalists.

Bears have the best sense of smell of all terrestrial mammals. Their smell is so acute they can detect an animal carcass 20 miles away. So, naturally, to most (if not all) survivalists, this predator would be the greatest concern.

Wolves have a sense of smell up to 100,000 times greater than humans and they can smell food over a mile away. Wolves, most of the time, will keep their distance from humans which is why wolf sightings are so rare. A hungry wolf or wolf pack, however, is a different story. Another predator of great concern!

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Cougars tend to lack in the sense of smell department compared to bears and wolves. They make up for this, however, due to having excellent sight and extremely sensitive hearing. They are nocturnal hunters and are extremely stealthy — meaning they can creep up on you in a flash. Is it important to note that they attack their prey from behind. You may be wondering why I bring up this predator if its sense of smell isn’t as strong as its fellow predators, bears and wolves. I will explain later on.

At this point, you may be thinking “Ummm… no thank you! Sounds too risky!” It doesn’t have to be. The safety tips that I have put together can help keep you safe.

The safety tips we’ll cover in this article are:

  • Make a separate camp for all your cooking — a “cooking camp”
  • How to properly store your food
  • Dispose of all your food scraps
  • Have a set of clothes just for cooking
  • Avoid (if possible) cooking foods with strong odors
  • Avoid cooking after dark
  • Always assume that predators are close by

Let’s get started!

Make a Separate Camp For All Your Cooking – A “Cooking Camp”

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It is impossible to cook without some kind of odor. For this reason, I suggest having 2 camps. Camp #1 will be your base camp which will include your shelter and a fire to keep you warm. This fire will also ward off predators and biting insects at night.

Camp #2 will be your cooking camp. A good rule of thumb for distance is make sure it’s a solid 10-15  minute walk away from your base camp. Your cooking camp will be where you prepare, cook, and eat all of your meals.

By having two camps you greatly reduce the risk of any unwanted predators at Camp #1.  

How to Properly Store Your Food

Never store your food at Camp #1. There are couple of ways to store your food at Camp #2.

A Bear Hang: Place your food in a container and hang it from a branch high off the ground to store your food. I suggest to pick the highest branch that can be within reasonable reach when it is time to cook your next meal.

Bear resistant food containers have been a great success! You can purchase one of these containers here on Amazon.

Dispose of All Your Food Scraps

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Always dispose of all food scraps far away from your camp — I would recommend a 5-10 minute walk away (but not in the direction of Camp #1). Also, remember to wash all cookware and utensils.

Note: Even if the cookware and utensils may appear or smell clean, never take them back to Camp #1 because they may have a leftover food odor that we may not smell but a predator such as a bear can.

Have a Set of Clothes Just For Cooking

Something to consider as you are packing for a trip into the wilderness: pack an extra set of clothes to wear ONLY when you cook.

Wearing clothes that are covered in the scent of food (fish for example) is not a good idea as you head back to Camp #1. Change back into your regular clothes right after the dinner cleanup. Your “cooking clothes” can be stored in a bear resistant food container as well.

Avoid (If Possible) Cooking Foods With Strong Odors

Meals that consist of fish or bacon are known to attract bears. As far as the protein portion of your meal… if it were me, I would pre-pack beef jerky, mixed nuts, and/or smoked fish. They can be prepared at home and each can be vacuum sealed – which will block out any food odor. Also, they do not require refrigeration of any kind.

Avoid Cooking After Dark

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Cougars! Their sense of smell isn’t as strong as a bear or a wolf BUT they are still attracted by the scent of food. After all, they are a predator – a nocturnal predator! They have excellent sight and hearing so if you are cooking after dark, just realize that they are on the prowl for their next meal as you are enjoying your late dinner. It isn’t worth the risk! So, if at all possible be back at Camp #1 before dark.

Always Assume That Predators Are Close By

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To me, this is just common sense for anyone taking a trip into the wilderness. Whether you are there just for the day or just for a weekend, day or night, always assume there are predators close by. Remember, you are in THEIR territory. That doesn’t mean to walk on eggshells (even though that’s not the worst idea). This final safety tip just means to be aware of your surroundings and the dangers that “can” present themselves.

As always, have fun – but, always be prepared!

Stay safe, fellow survivalists!

Do you have any outdoor cooking tips of your own? Share them with us in the comments section below!

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