It is said you not only need to keep food at least 30-100 meters away from the tent, which is easy do to, but you also can't sleep in the same clothing which was worn while eating, which can be very problematic or impossible to follow if you make a mistake.

I am concerned about European brown bears. See my earlier question.

Let's say hiking in relatively warm weather in only shorts and T-shirt. Cooked in that clothing. Do I have to undress to being naked and put on another T-shirt and shorts to sleep in? What if I only have 2 pairs and mix them up, forget to change in the morning and eat breakfast in the sleeping clothing, and suddenly I am left with no spare clothing which I haven't eaten in, so I must sleep nude or become bears breakfast myself?

What if I have underwear, does that need to be changed too and keep cooking and non-cooking underpants?

It's so easy to mess this separate clothing thing up, I can never tell used clothing from clean, always mix them up and forget to keep clean in the clean bag and dirty in the dirty bag, never can manage to keep them apart. What if during changing the cooking-clothes will touch the non-cooking clothes and suddenly both are contaminated?

Do you use your cooking clothes only for cooking, and hike in the non-cooking clothing? This would require getting naked before and after eating. Not very practical, and not very pleasant especially in colder temperatures.

Even if the clothing is managed perfectly, still my breath can smell like food, so does this clothing changing thing even make sense?

  • I edited your question to specify European brown bear. If this is incorrect, please correct my edit and specify which species of bear you mean.
    – ab2
    Sep 1, 2018 at 22:57
  • This seems like a fixing the dripping faucet in a submarine equipped with screen doors type question. The assumption is that bear encounters are common enough in Europe that they are a significant risk. How many bear encounter incidents are there in Europe? Sep 10, 2018 at 18:58

3 Answers 3


The easiest solution would be to have a designated set of clothes to cook with and then just hang/store them with the food. See this question and answer. Keeping the food off of your clothes and not swiping your dirty hands on your pants helps too.

Beyond that, you can try less smelly food and keeping it off of your clothes and trying to camp where bears are less likely to be.

Precautions also depend on how used to people the bears are and how many of them there are, switching to different clothes is more cautious than a lot of people would do.


I suspect but have not found supporting references yet, that to a bear you smell more like a person then you do the food you are cooking. General cooking smells are not going to make a bear anymore likely to want to get close to you then, any other time.

In some areas where there are high bear populations which have very specific requirements for food storage (See related question) but none that I have found mention anything about changing clothes after cooking.

Changing clothes is not required, different places have different concerns. If there are concerns the local national park will have guidelines for food storage, find those and follow them. If the guidelines do not specifically mention changing clothes, then don't worry about it.


I agree with the answer of @Charlie Brumbaugh about having a dedicated set of clothing to cook with. I also agree with @James Jenkins that you smell more like a person than the food you are cooking. (Evidence: I was sniffed from toe to head by a black bear about an hour after dinner and rejected as inedible.)

Your set of cooking clothes can be marked with an industrial black marker, which is basically a thick black pen, whose marks will fade only very slowly with repeated washing. Google Industrial Black Marker. Marking your cooking clothes should solve the mix-up problem. (I'll give you an url if googling does not work for you.)

Context for the OP's Question and Why his Practice is not Usual:

I give the context for the OP's question, because readers may get the wrong idea about the level of precaution needed in normal situations.

You are not someone heading off for a recreational backpacking trip. You own or manage a commercial camp and have a moral and legal responsibility to keep your customers safe. Your camp is in an area where European brown bears are at least perceived to be a danger to humans, and you need to keep your customers, most of them not at all outdoorsy types, not only safe, but worry-free, or your venture will not attract customers.

Thus you are, from the perspective of most recreational backpackers, going overboard on precautions. I can speak from personal experience only about black bears in the Sierra and the Colorado Rockies; there your precautions would seem -- sorry to be impolite -- weird. I cannot speak with such authority about Canada or Alaska, but I would be very surprised to hear that people routinely change clothes in bear country after cooking. They may put their cooking, eating and food storage area 100 meters away from their tents --- or further -- and never take midnight snacks back to their tents but I can't see them doing more than that. But they do not have your moral and legal exposure.

In answer to your question about food on your breath: relax. Frankly, even with your responsibilities, I think you are overthinking.

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