Motorcycle Camping in Bear Country: Bear Safety Best Practices for Motorcyclists, is a Riders Blog series of articles adapted (with permission) from the author’s Horizons Unlimited Travelers Meeting presentation given in Yosemite CA. We hope you find the information helpful. Ride safe. Have fun. (And don't feed the bears.)
Motorcycle Camping in Bear Country: Bear Safety Best Practices for Motorcyclists, is a Riders Blog series of articles adapted (with permission) from the author’s Horizons Unlimited Travelers Meeting presentation given in Yosemite CA.
We hope you find the information helpful.
Ride safe. Have fun. (And don't feed the bears.)
Motorcycle camping is one of the great pleasures of riding on two wheels. It can be simple as a weekend getaway, or adventurous as years spent circumnavigating the globe.
Wherever your motorcycle camping trips take you, safety is always priority #1. And in North America (plus Russia and the few remaining places in Europe), when it comes to feeling the need for safety, nothing makes one’s heart race and eyes widen quite like the thought of encountering a bear in the wild.
Contrary to all the fears just thinking of a bear encounter can stir up, in reality bears are not innately dangerous or spoiling for a fight. Quite the opposite in fact. Bears are shy. And assuming you don’t smell like something good to eat and you don’t get between a mother and her cubs, if a bear hears you or sees you first more than likely you will never see the bear.
To experienced campers — through-hikers, backpackers, or moto-campers — who are educated with a good understanding of bear behavior and have appropriately prepared for their trip to bear country, sighting a bear in the wild is a rare and wonderful experience, not something to be feared.
I know what you’re thinking… rare and wonderful my ass! Someone’s gonna get eaten!
Not so. The truth is human beings are 150 times more likely to be killed by a tornado and 374 times more likely to die from a lightning strike than to be killed by a black bear. So the odds of it happening when compared to riding a motorcycle must be astronomical.
As reassuring as these odds may sound, do not for one second think bears are not dangerous. They are. And there is an absolutely real possibility of finding danger-a-plenty if you do the wrong things.
So what are the wrong things to do? And what are the right things?
That’s what this article is all about.
About the author
For the record, I am not Grizzly Adams on a motorcycle. I have not spent years in the wild living and foraging for grubs with bears, and I do not have a college degree in wilderness badassery. I’m just a nature-loving moto-camper who’s a total nerd when it comes to learning about things that interest me… especially when those things might save my life.
That said, all the suggestions and best practice advice presented in this series of articles comes directly from actual bear experts — bear behavioral experts, outdoor experts, wilderness experts — people whose job it is to help keep human beings and bears safe in bear country. Without question these are people you should listen to.
Bear safety research meets motorcycles
This article summarizes my research in to bear safety and applies the cumulative best practice recommendations of bear experts to the unique circumstances of traveling by motorcycle and motorcycle camping in bear country.
TLDR; I really don’t want to be attacked by a bear while I’m motorcycle camping so here’s what I learned from the experts about how best to avoid it.
The ride that convinced me to learn all this bear safety stuff
Motivation to learn all I could about bear safety best practices came while riding my motorcycle from Los Angeles to the Horizons Unlimited Travelers Meeting near Yosemite National Park.
I had planned a nice four day solo ride to the event — camping each night, scenic backroads the entire way, through Sequoia National Park, Kings Canyon National Park, up the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway into the John Muir Wilderness, then back down to civilization via fire roads before riding on to Yosemite and the Horizons Unlimited Travelers Meeting.
It was an ambitious plan for me as even though I had been riding for years I was still fairly new to motorcycle camping (this would be my first solo camping trip) and to off-road riding. But I had been preparing, practicing my off-road technique, and I was excited and ready to roll.
Toward the end of the first day (the first day!!) with shadows growing long, I was riding along Mineral King Road (Worlds Most Dangerous Roads), close to arriving at the Atwell grove of giant sequoias where I planned camp for the night. I was reveling in the unspoiled nature, the endless twists and turns, drinking in the spectacular views, and after a pair of silver foxes scampered across the road just ahead of me, I was having one of one of those “my what a beautiful world we live in” moments. There may even have been a tear in my eye…
Just then I rounded a corner, looked up the road into the tree-lined shadows, and saw a shadow looking back at me.
Not more than 200 yards in front of me, eyes locked and standing big enough to fill the narrow single lane road from edge to edge, stood a full grown adult black bear.
In the blink of an eye I went from having a kumbaya moment to having a stare-down with one of nature’s hungry wonders.
What to do???
I did not know the answer.
You need to know what to do
This series of articles, Best Practices for Motorcycle Camping in Bear Country, is the answer to that “what to do” question. Also, “what not to do”.
The series is organized to take you start to finish through a motorcycle camping trip to bear country — planning, preparation, on the road, campsite setup — and explains all the best practices and other considerations involved along the way. We’ll get to know bears and common bear behavior, how to prepare for your trip to bear country, review the bear safety gear you’ll want for your trip (some of which is required by law), how to pack a motorcycle for travel in bear country (Coming in Part 5), how to set up a bear safe campsite (Coming in Part 6), how to avoid bear encounters (Coming in Part 7), and of course, what to do should you encounter a bear (Coming in Part 8).
I hope the information serves you well and helps get you on your way to becoming one of those bear-educated, bear-prepared campers able to enjoy a bear sighting in the wild… without the need to change underwear.
Ride safe. Have fun.
Next in the Series…
First and foremost, if you’re going to be traveling to bear country you must get to know bears and bear behavior. So let’s get started with that. — Motorcycle Camping In Bear Country, Part 2. Understanding Bears and Bear Behavior
- Understanding Bears And Bear Behavior
- Preparing For A Motorcycle Camping Trip To Bear Country
- Essential Gear for Motorcycle Camping In Bear Country
- How To Pack Your Motorcycle For Camping In Bear Country
- How To Set Up A Bear-Safe Campsite
- Best Practices To Avoid A Bear Encounter
- What To Do In The Event Of A Bear Encounter