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After-dinner hygiene in bear country?
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Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
After-dinner hygiene in bear country? on 09/15/2011 20:17:47 MDT Print View

My bear hanging question along with the bear encounters that had occurred just prior to my arrival got me to thinking of other related issues such as "Is it better for your mouth to smell like your dinner or toothpaste when you go to bed?" and "Should you wash your hands AFTER dinner to remove any food smell before bed?". So what are your thoughts?

USA Duane Hall
(hikerduane) - F

Locale: Extreme northern Sierra Nevada
Same old, same ole on 09/15/2011 21:06:47 MDT Print View

After my required piece of dried papaya, I brush my teeth, spit the appropriate distance from water sources in a shallow hole, dump rinsed out pot or freezer bag water down a animal hole or in some rocks and don't worry about it. Other wise, I have a clean camp. Never had an issue in the Sierra Nevada, Winds or extreme southern Cascades, Alaska's Wrangell-St. Elias NP. In over 35 years of bping! I have not seen a bear since Pooch passed away 8 years ago. Well, there was that one at home that knocked off neighbors garbage cans.


Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
bears are frightened by clean, white teeth on 09/16/2011 16:08:46 MDT Print View

I choose "minty fresh" over "stroganoff", because I need to get my teeth clean in order to keep them in my head. I rinse and spit well, however.

We use a sump hole for dishwater and toothpaste spitting, covering the hole with a layer of soil each time we use it.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: After-dinner hygiene in bear country? on 09/16/2011 16:24:58 MDT Print View

All of my dinners are freeze dried and eaten out of the pouch, so no dirty dishes to worry about. Any garbage is tightly sealed in an OP Sak and hoisted up the tree/food pole.

I do make sure to eat carefully and not drop food on the ground or on my clothes, and I wash my hands after eating.

I then brush my teeth with a tooth powder. While still minty smelling, it is less so than some of the regular sweet smelling toothpastes. I walk far from camp and spit. Toothpaste/brush, as well as ANY smellables, gets put in the OP Sak and up the tree.

The rest is up to the good Lord. And the bears.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
bears and teeth on 09/16/2011 17:08:47 MDT Print View

I think this whole issue is overblown. Don't rub bacon on your face before you go to sleep, nor keep food in your sleeping bag, and you'll be fine.

Matthew Black
(mtblack) - F
Re: bears and teeth on 09/16/2011 17:22:18 MDT Print View

No bacon rub??!!??? There goes that bedtime ritual.

Jesse Glover
(hellbillylarry) - F

Locale: southern appalachians
Re: bears and teeth on 09/16/2011 18:10:19 MDT Print View

Definatley an overblown issue.

The best way to avoid bears is to not cook in camp and try not to camp in established campsites.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: bears and teeth on 09/16/2011 19:46:20 MDT Print View

That's what I needed to know. I'll miss the bacon rub though. Thanks.

advantage on 09/18/2011 19:11:46 MDT Print View

One advantage of eating dinner on the trail , then hiking further along before stopping for night is that you avoid a lot of contamination smells in your camp area, or even close to it. Even better if its at a water source where you can liberally wash up.

A bear might smell your breath or your hands, but if he can he will still smell you too. And he generally wants nothing to do with you.

Edited by livingontheroad on 09/18/2011 19:13:43 MDT.

Tim Haynes

Locale: Mid Atlantic
After-dinner hygiene in bear country on 10/04/2011 10:54:12 MDT Print View

Instead of toothpaste, I just use baking soda most of the time on the trail. A little bit in a tiny plastic jar lasts a long time, and is a multiuse substance. Also, no real odors.

And as someone else mentioned -- eat while on the trail, before you settle in for the night. A hot meal while near a good water source is ideal; it means that you then don't have to worry about water accessibility when you make camp. If you're likely to be hungry right before bed, or you're trying to help keep your body warm, eat something simple like trail mix or a granola bar before brushing your teeth, but do so away from camp.

Paul Wagner
(balzaccom) - F

Locale: Wine Country
toothpaste story on 10/06/2011 20:09:15 MDT Print View

OK--first of all, I agree 100% that this topic is overblown. Keep a clean camp, avoid other campers who don't, and you won't have any problems with bears.

But that said...

Now we are going back in time--when I travelled with my parents and younger sister on an epic road journey through the Canadian Rockies. We camped our way through Banff and Jasper, and then down the Frazier River, all the time reading endless Tolkein books as entertainment.

But I was about thirteen years old, and not about to give up my mountain man image. While the rest of the family slept in a small 15-foot travel trailer, I slept like a real man, nestled in my mummy bag, lying out under the stars.


It was a great feeling, until one night in Jasper National Park, when I awoke to find a bear standing on top of him, sniffing his face. It was apparently attracted to the minty fresh smell of his toothpaste.

You might wonder what I did.

Did I mention that I was in a mummy bag, and the bear was on top of it?

I couldn't move, even if I wanted to. And somehow, in my sleepy mind, I knew that. So I closed my eyes and pretended to sleep. I smelled the bear's breath, which reminded me very strongly of garbage.

(Not surprising, considering what the bear had been eating!)

About twenty seconds later, I judged that the bear was no longer near me. I opened my eyes and looked around, to see the bear rumbling off to another campsite.

I leapt to my feet and carried my bag into the trailer, explaining to my family that there was a bear outside.

Not knowing the full story, they were not excited.

Then I stuck my head out of the trailer to check on the bear. And that's when I saw a small black animal scampering along the campground road, wailing for its mother.

"maaaaa!" said the animal.

I reported to my family that there was also a little black lamb out there.

My family was mightily amused.

But the next day, the story was verified by bear and cub tracks in the dirt.

That evening, I and my sister were BOTH out under the stars, surrounded by folding aluminum chairs and rope--hoping to catch a photo of the bear when it got near.

(This is a true story. really. We were idiots.)

The bear never arrived. Although it did find another campsite further along, where a mother and her daughter had gone to sleep with some food inside the tent. The bear opened up the tent and ate the food, sending both women to the hospital as a result.

FYI--this is a great story to tell young campers who might be tempted to sneak a candy bar into their sleeping bags for a late night treat.

Andrew Badenoch
(77Zero) - F
keep the brush. ditch the paste. on 10/25/2011 14:52:19 MDT Print View

"Role of dentifrice in plaque removal: a clinical trial."

"CONCLUSION: [Toothpaste] use does not enhance plaque removal when used in conjunction with a toothbrush, and instead, may marginally lessen the brushing effect. The role of a toothbrush appears to be more crucial in the maintenance of oral hygiene." -PubMed

Edited by 77Zero on 10/25/2011 14:53:18 MDT.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
bring a gallon of Listerine, then on 10/25/2011 15:52:25 MDT Print View

Ever smell a bear's breath? How about your dog's? They don't use toothpaste, either.

"I am not an animal!"
--Joseph Merrick

Toothpaste for the evening, Bay Rum for the morning, dehydrated free range tequila all day. I'm ready for ya, Yogi!

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: After-dinner hygiene in bear country? on 10/25/2011 16:19:04 MDT Print View

What does a bear smell when wandering around a campsite? Sweat, boots, body and laundry soap, PU pack coatings, transferred food smells, etc. Once they get close to the campsite, we are radiating all kinds of stink-- they know we are there.

You could be nearly surgical in cleaning up any food smells, but you still smell like a big sweaty primate and a bear can probably pick that up for a mile downwind. If he knows that sweaty primates smell means food, he's gonna visit. If he knows that sweaty primates don't have food and are troublesome, he won't bother.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: keep the brush. ditch the paste. on 10/25/2011 16:36:39 MDT Print View

"Toothpaste] use does not enhance plaque removal when used in conjunction with a toothbrush, and instead, may marginally lessen the brushing effect. The role of a toothbrush appears to be more crucial in the maintenance of oral hygiene"

I have never used toothpaste in the backcountry, mainly because of bear concerns, secondarily environmental concerns and thirdly the added weight/volume/messiness of a tube. It's nice to have confirmation that I wasn't endangering my teeth in the process.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Quite true on 10/25/2011 16:41:20 MDT Print View

"CONCLUSION: [Toothpaste] use does not enhance plaque removal when used in conjunction with a toothbrush, and instead, may marginally lessen the brushing effect. The role of a toothbrush appears to be more crucial in the maintenance of oral hygiene." -PubMed

As a dentist, I fully concur with that PubMed quote. Plaque removal is accomplished by the mechanical actions of toothbrush and floss. While there is some benefit to using toothpaste, such as minor topical fluoride application, it's mainly there for the taste. Colgate and Crest have people bamboozled, for the most part.