Yellowstone National Park Camping, Safety & Packing Tips
In light of a recent unfortunate event at Yellowstone National Park where a man was killed by a Grizzly bear, and since we just returned from a stay in this park, we feel a post about how to stay safe in Yellowstone would come in handy for many travelers who are planning a trip to Yellowstone National Park.
Bear Safety in Yellowstone National Park
We visited Yellowstone in the springtime, when bear cubs are abundant, so we were advised to only hike in groups of three or more, carry bear spray, carry bells and make lots of noise in order to keep from surprising any bears.
Although bear attacks are extremely rare in Yellowstone National Park, it’s a good idea to keep these things in mind before hiking or camping in the area. Up until this year, there had not been any bear-caused human deaths in Yellowstone since 1986. In the recent attack, park rangers have stated this mother bear behaved normally and was merely defending her cubs from a perceived threat and this is why it is wise to make noise in order to prevent bear encounters.
When camping in Yellowstone National Park, don’t leave any food, crumbs, eating utensils, pots, pans, cosmetics or lotion in your tent or at your campsite.
Basically anything with a scent is advised to be locked up when you are away from your site. I was surprised to learn that Yellowstone park rangers advise people to lock these items in their car. I know some places say everything has to go in the designated bear boxes, but we left our stuff in the car and it was fine.
We were told the bears generally don’t come into the campgrounds and if they do, they shoot them with rubber bullets. I guess they have trained them well.
Now, if you are backcountry camping that is a different story. I would say just starve yourself and don’t bring any food at all to be safe, but I guess that advice isn’t very helpful.
Tips for Backcountry Camping
1. Check with the ranger station before heading into the wilderness and make sure you are following all of the rules for that particular area.
2. Sleep at least 100 yards from where you cook and store your food. Don’t sleep in the same clothes you wore while cooking food and keep your sleeping gear odor free.
3. Hang your food bags, clothes you wore while cooking and eating and any garbage at least 10 feet off the ground and 4 feet away from any tree trunk.
4. Upon arrival of a new campsite, check it over carefully to make sure no garbage or food was left behind by previous campers. If you find anything left behind, it is wise to sleep at least 200 yards away from the cooking area.
5. Human waste and water waste should be disposed of properly.
Preparing for a Camping Trip to Yellowstone
If you are flying to Yellowstone and bringing camping gear with you, remember to leave the propane and butane tanks for your grills at home. You will have to purchase these on your way to the park since they will not allow them in carry on or checked bags.
Nights can get cold in Yellowstone, even in the summer. We were certainly not prepared since we had to take a flight and didn’t want to pay to check more than two bags. If I did it over again, I would have paid $23 more each way for one more checked bag so that we could bring our sleeping mats and maybe even another warm blanket. We ended up spending more than that buying a sleeping pad that we ended up having to just throw away before we hopped on our flight home.
If you do forget mats to sleep on, you can take Scott’s dirtbag advice and raid the cardboard recycling bin. By the third night we were so freezing and in need of cushion that we used flattened cardboard under our tent. It actually works pretty well.
Another option is to purchase really good backpacking gear, which is a good investment if you do a lot of backpacking or camping where you need to fly to your destination. We have been on dozens of camping and backpacking trips since our trip to Yellowstone, so we have finally come up with the perfect backpacking and camping packing list.
Yellowstone National Park Packing Tips
First Aid Kit: J&J sells an inexpensive mini first aid kit.
Mosquito Repellent: The mosquitoes can get pretty thick in the spring and summer. You will want a good insect repellent. We brought this one because it was small enough to add to our pack.
Camping Stove: We have done extensive research on the best and lightest backpacking gear for these types of trips. This backpacking stove is tiny, weighs next to nothing and it heats stuff up fast.
Cookware: We just bought this tiny cookware set for backpacking trips and it’s extremely compact.
Sleeping Bags: This sleeping bag is great for backpacking and it gets excellent reviews.
Tent: We love this lightweight Marmot 2-person tent.
Sleeping Pads: These ones are amazing!
Backpacks: If you are looking for a durable, light, and inexpensive backpack, we recommend the Teton Scout.
Solar Charger: We carry this solar charger to charge our phones and camera batteries.
Dress in Layers: The weather can be fickle year-round. During the summer, night temperatures in Yellowstone average 30 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit and during winter the temperature reaches negative numbers.
For more tips on planning a visit to Yellowstone, see the National Park Service’s website.
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What are your tips for camping and hiking in Yellowstone?
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