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Bearanoia vs. scented products

Post date: 2021-07-23 13:03:00
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My partner and I are experienced but not expert backpackers, and we both verge towards the OCD side of things, and have questions about Bears and scented products.

Background: We have backpacked in places with no (or very minimal) rules where food is stored in a "critter hang" (a nylon sack a few feet off the ground so squirrels can't get it) and we've backpacked places where bear cannisters are required. In these places (such as Yosemite) there is often very explicit instructions that anything with a scent must be in the bear can. Makes sense, except then my partner and I start obsessing over "how much scent is a scent"? On the one hand, we both agree that bananna-chicken-butter flavored sunscreen should probably be in the bear can. But what about unscented lotion? Chlorox disinfecting wipes? Isopropyl alcohol? Mint flavored toothpaste? CampSuds?

We also know (from reading blogs!) that plenty of PCT thru-hikers don't use bear cans and sleep with food in their tent.

My feeling is that (A) Bears have great olfactory abilities and can probably smell "human" from 1000 yards, and (B) Bears are not stupid, and will not try to eat mint toothpaste or picaridin or bleach or other chemcials, and therefore (C) some of this is (well intentioned) fear mongering to keep yahoos from bringing Burger King in the tent.

The question: are there any actual, verified, documented cases where some non-food scented item (toothpaste, sunblock, butt-wipes, etc.) lead to a bear attack or harm (either to the human or the bear).

We do want to protect the bears, but given our level of OCD on this topic, losing sleep over lack of "perfect" camp preparation is a non-trivial risk to our human safety as backpackers. If in our sleep-deprived state, we stumble off a cliff and die, presumably our sunblock, picaridin, and butter-turkey-CBD-oil-covered bodies would be even more attractive to a bear, and more harm would result than had we just relaxed and not worried so much.
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