Camping is awesome. Having raccoons and other woodland critters scurrying around your campsite at night, however, is not.
Thankfully, if you’ve ever wondered how to keep raccoons away from a campsite, we’re here to help.
In fact, it is possible to deter raccoons from visiting your tent site and nibbling away at your food at night. The key is to know what attracts raccoons to your camping area in the first place and to have a plan for avoiding any unwanted encounters.
To help you out, we’ve put together this list of 8 awesome tips for keeping raccoons away from your camping area. That way, you can spend more time enjoying the great outdoors and less time worrying about wild animals eating your snacks.
8 Ways to Keep Raccoons Away From Campsite
Keeping raccoons away from your tent and kitchen on your next camping trip doesn’t have to be impossible. Here are 8 top tips for avoiding those masked bandits while camping.
1. Store Food In A Secure Location
Raccoons don’t just wander around your campsite for fun—they’re looking for food.
So, storing your food properly and in a place where raccoons can’t get to it is the best way to keep wild animals out of your campsite. Doing so involves using hard-sided food storage containers that raccoons can’t open for stashing all your food and scented items, such as toiletries.
If you’re in a campground, you have a number of different food container options to choose from. Many campgrounds in bear country will have dedicated bear boxes made out of steel that make for the perfect place to stash your food at night.
Alternatively, if these boxes aren’t available, storing food in a locked car might be the best option. However, check local regulations before you store food in your car, as this isn’t allowed in some areas.
If you’re backpacking, on the other hand, using a bear canister, like Backpacker’s Cache is your best option. While a bear hang can work for bears, it’s not ideal for small critters like raccoons that can easily climb up to your food stash. So, a bear canister is the ideal way to keep raccoons away from your food while backpacking.
2. Opt For A Bear-Proof Cooler
Okay, we know what you’re thinking: “A bear-proof cooler? Isn’t that a bit much for a bunch of raccoons?”
A cooler that’s designed to keep bears at bay might seem like overkill for woodland creatures. But, the fact of the matter is that if it can keep a bear out, a raccoon shouldn’t be a problem.
Plus, raccoons have been known to be able to open regular ol’ coolers, so having a bear-resistant model can help ensure that your food stays secure at night.
If you’re shopping for bear-resistant coolers, something like the Yeti Tundra 45 is a great option.
Hard-sided, roto-molded coolers like Yeti’s that are certified as bear-resistant by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) are a sure bet for use around woodland creatures. You’ll need to use a padlock to seal the cooler shut, but doing so will make it virtually impossible for raccoons and most other wild animals to eat your snacks at night.
3. Use Smell-Proof Storage Bag
Raccoons are known for their extraordinary sense of smell, which can help them sniff out food from miles away. As a result, storing your food in smell-proof bags can help reduce the chances that a band of raccoons comes scavenging in your campsite at night.
Odor-proof bags come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, though multi-sealed models, like the Loksak Opsak, are a nice choice. While smell-proof bags don’t eliminate the need to store your food in durable containers, as we’ve discussed, they can help prevent raccoons from being attracted to your campsite in the first place.
Therefore, packing highly pungent foods or any smelly toiletries into smell-proof bags before you stash everything in a raccoon-proof container is a great idea while camping.
4. Throw Out Your Trash Every Night
So far, we’ve mostly talked about what to do with your food while camping. But, raccoons are just as attracted to our trash as they are to our yummy snacks.
As a result, you’ll also want to think about what you want to do with your trash while you camp.
Doing so actually starts before you even leave home. As you pack your food for your trip, try to remove any excess packaging from your rations.
This could involve consolidating some items into one container and unpacking plastic bags from their oversized cardboard boxes. Anything that you can leave at home instead of bringing to your campsite will make things easier for you on your trip.
Then, when you’re outside, be sure to put away your trash each night.
At a campground, you might be able to throw your trash into a bear- and raccoon-proof garbage bin every night.
However, backpackers will need to have a plan in place to manage their trash. For most folks, this involves packing all your trash into one Ziploc baggie and then placing that in your bear canister for protection against the raccoons.
5. Keep Things Clean
It’s a common misconception that going camping means that you’re going to be dirty all the time. While some dirt and mud are certainly to be expected, it’s also more than possible to stay hygienic—and to keep your campsite clean—while enjoying the great outdoors.
In fact, keeping a clean campsite is a great way to help keep raccoons away from your campsite. In addition to throwing out your trash every night, you’ll also want to do a “campsite sweep” to look for food scraps that might’ve fallen on the ground or into the burner of your stove during dinner.
These scraps of food might not seem particularly appetizing to you, but they’re a gourmet meal for raccoons. Therefore, taking a few minutes before bed to look for food scraps around your campsite is important.
You’ll also want to be sure to completely clean and wash all of your dishes and cooking utensils before bedtime. Food that’s dried or caked-onto your camping plates and bowls can also attract animals. So, remember to wash up and do the dishes after each meal to keep the animals at bay.
6. Organize Your Campsite
Building off the idea of keeping a clean campsite, ensuring that your camping area is organized can also help deter raccoons.
That’s because animals are naturally curious. So, they’re often attracted to messy areas with lots of novel human-related objects that they might not come across on a day-to-day basis. Therefore, simply leaving lots of camping gear strewn around your tent site can lead a raccoon or other wild animal to think that there’s something fun to explore.
Additionally, raccoons that live near campgrounds quickly habituate themselves to humans. This means that they tend to learn what human objects are associated with food, like stoves such as wood stoves, coolers, bowls, and plates.
As a result, a messy campsite with lots of objects that raccoons traditionally associate with food can lead these masked bandits to think that they have a good chance of snagging a quick meal. If you keep your campsite clean, however, the raccoons might look elsewhere for their dinner reservations.
Plus, there are worse things in the world than having a neat and orderly campsite. Ensuring that all of your gear is put away each evening will also limit the chances that it blows away or gets damaged in a storm. So, a clean campsite is really a win-win for everyone involved.
7. Avoid Burying or Burning Trash
We’ve already mentioned that raccoons are attracted to trash, which is why it’s important to throw out your trash each night (or place it in a bear-proof container). However, it’s also worth discussing why you shouldn’t bury or burn your trash while you camp.
In fact, buried and partially-burnt trash is particularly attractive to raccoons and other wild animals. That’s because it’s relatively easy to get to, especially when compared to trash that’s well-sealed within a bear-proof garbage bin.
Therefore, while burying or burning your trash might seem like simple solutions for waste management during your adventures, it’s not recommended. You have to consider as well the camping rules the campgrounds have about burning waste. Instead, make it a plan to consolidate your trash each night and either place it in a garbage bin or in a bear-proof container.
8. Consider Natural Raccoon Repellents, But Use Caution in the Process
If you’re camping somewhere with a particularly large population of nuisance raccoons, natural raccoon repellents might be useful.
Since raccoons have such a strong sense of smell, they’re normally deterred by hot pepper spices, like cayenne and chili pepper. Other potent spices, such as black pepper and garlic, have also been known to work.
However, we generally recommend caution when trying to use spices as a wildlife deterrent in public areas. Animals are attracted to more or less anything that smells, so raccoons might get curious and visit your campsite just to check out this odd scent.
Furthermore, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game actually states that bear spray (which is made with hot pepper) can attract bears after it’s been sprayed. We have to assume that if something as pungent as bear spray can actually attract bears over time, then raccoons would likely be attracted, too.
Moral of the story? Having an open bottle of powdered cayenne pepper in your cooler might deter a raccoon should they manage to break into it.
But, we wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you start dumping piles of spices around your campsite. Doing so isn’t exactly Leave No Trace-friendly and it could actually make the situation worse.
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What Do Raccoons Eat?
Like us humans, raccoons are omnivores. That means that they will happily eat pretty much anything, from bird eggs and fish to fruits and nuts.
However, raccoons that live near humans are very likely to get habituated to human food. They are opportunistic feeders, so they’ll eat whatever they can get their hands on—especially if food is left out in the open and is easy to steal.
Does Peeing Around A Campsite Keep Animals Away?
Theoretically, the ammonia in human urine might be able to repel many wild animals. However, these claims have never been proven scientifically, so we can’t say that urine really does keep animals away.
Additionally, animals are usually attracted to anything that smells, which includes urine. Animals have also been known to be attracted to human urine for its salt content. So, we wouldn’t use a “pee perimeter” as your sole means of animal deterrence. Instead, focus on keeping a clean campsite and storing your food properly while outside.
Does Cinnamon Deter Raccoons?
Cinnamon is believed to be a natural raccoon repellent, but there’s no guarantee that it will work. The general consensus in the outdoor community is that hotter spices, like cayenne, are more effective than cinnamon but these claims haven’t been scientifically tested.
Does Fire Keep Animals Away?
Most wild animals are quite cautious around fires, so most will stay far away if they get the chance. However, some animals are attracted to fire rings and grills in campgrounds because they can often find food scraps there long after the fire has been put out.
So, if you’re going to have a fire, be sure to keep your fire ring clean and tidy. Avoid burning garbage, and remember to throw out any food scraps that you find. That way, you can keep animals away from your campsite at night.