When I was a kid, we had one firm camping tradition: The first night, we build a big campfire and have a s’more fest. Why? Because whether we ate them or not, there seemed very little chance that any marshmallows would make it to the second night. Marshmallows, you see, are a raccoon’s favorite food.
S’mores are not good bugout food; because Raccoons. *
Raccoons adore marshmallows. And they are unbelievably persistent and creative about breaking into food storage. Forget anything short of metal keeping them out; and that metal had better have a real lock on it. Mere latch? Kit’s play.
Annoying enough when you’re camping; but if you’re bugging, on the road, and food is hard to come by? Disastrous. Still, it could be worse. It could be bear country… There’s a whole lot of information in PrepperLand about what food to put in your bug-out bag; but have you considered how you’re going to keep it away from the wildlife? Salty and I talk about it in this podcast:
The Threats To Your Food
First, there’s the physical threats: Heat degrades food, so if you’re keeping your bag in your car I hope you’re rotating it every six months or so. Your food choices should all be crush-proof, of course. These problems are pretty easily solved though.
Critters you might not have considered. The most common threats when you’re on the move are the mid-sized mammals: Raccoons first in this region, because they are clever thieves and not very person-shy. Opossums and skunks have been known to break into bags at night as well…and if you argue with a skunk over your bag, you are definitely going to lose one way or another. Coyotes will drag away whole bags that smell tasty; and there are enough ‘city coyotes’ these days that aren’t terribly human-shy.
Less common but more dangerous are bears. I recall reading a (true) story from Yellowstone where a camper was killed in her tent by a bear. She’d safely stashed her bag as she should have, but apparently forgot about the soiled wrapper from a candy bar she’d left in her pocket, which was in the tent with her.
Mice and other rodents sometimes hit bags, too. If it’s just an overnight placement of a bag, your chances are pretty good; most wild rodents won’t be that ambitious about chewing into things that smell like people. Those who camp in often-used campsites on popular trails though often report mice getting into the bags before the lights are even out.
Right now feral dogs aren’t a problem; but if the kibble river quit flowing into the dog bowls, I wouldn’t expect that to last. Even now many rural people have multiple unrestrained dogs. They seldom see walkers in many locations and consider the roads part of their turf. I was bitten by one (not seriously) just last week, walking a rural road. Quit feeding them and it could get ugly. For one thing, they’re not afraid of people.
This dog pack wouldn’t be afraid of humans; and if they weren’t getting fed they might be willing to fight for your food. **
Insects might be a problem, but if you’re sealing up your food well at all, that one’s less likely.
Keep down the food odor
The best step to keeping critters away from your food is not attracting them by its scent. Long-term-packaged survival foods have a leg up in this regard with their air and water-proof packaging. Half-eaten packages introduce a much greater risk. Cleaning game and cooking scraps can also smell pretty delicious; at least to four-leggers.
For longer-term storage especially, this system isn’t completely reliable. We had mice sneak into our house and find the bug-out bag. I wouldn’t have thought they’d chew through MRE envelopes, impervious to scent as those are; but the mice were apparently into speculative chewing. They also enjoyed nesting in the cozy warm clothes I had in the bag. Sigh.
Nearness to humans can be a deterrent, or get you killed
If the poacher is a small mammal, keeping the food inside the tent or beside the bedroll can be a great deterrent. If the poacher is a bear, it can be a great way to invite a bear into your tent. Don’t trust a vehicle to protect you from bears either necessarily. My brother had a bear break out his window and crawl halfway in to tear open his cooler (it might have been Seriously thirsty for a cold one). Happily, my brother and his family weren’t in the vehicle at the time.
Keep the food out of reach
The old bear country trick of tying the food container to a rope, tossing the rope over a tree limb, and using that as a pulley to pull the food out of reach (bears can reach pretty high by the way) works for many critters. Just please do so far enough from the camp — no one wants a frustrated bear underfoot. I’ve heard accounts of mice climbing down the ropes to get into food bags, but rookie mice probably wouldn’t figure that out immediately.
I’ve never had to hang bear bags to protect my food, but this guy has and explains how here (clicky).
The bear will not get to this food.
Don’t bring marshmallows on a bug-out
Because, seriously, raccoons WILL find a way. Troublemakers, every one.
* Thanks for the image, Codeman125 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons
** Thanks for the image, Анатолий Девятов [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons