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I am on a long trek in the Balkans and am sometimes camping when there is no cheap accommodation available. I am not yet very experienced in camping, and at this stage I am normally camping near residential areas for increased convenience (I am typically less than 2km the nearest residential area at any given point on my route) and safety (vs brown bears for example; the small country I am in experienced approximately 10 brown bear attacks between 2000 and 2015).

This time I happen to be on a hillside 30m from the nearest path (which is not heavily used from what I can tell), 60m from the nearest houses, and 250m downhill from a university observatory (accessible via a private road which doesn't come closer to me than about 250m). I have tried to remove the few things I have which could have a smell interesting to a brown bear to a bag hanging from a tree, away from the sleeping area. (Except items containing lithium batteries, which apparently have a smell, because these are valuable items and I expect the bag itself will probably be stolen at some point on my trek or else removed on the grounds of being perceived as an eyesore and not belonging there. I am in a country where wild camping is technically prohibited but generally tolerated as long as it is low-key and not making a nuisance to public order, and there is zero familiarity with or acceptance of the concept of hanging bags in trees to keep them from brown bears from what I can tell; it would just be treated as littering. There is no food in the bag, only things like insect spray.)

At 1am I was woken by the sound of walking and cracking branches around 30m away, quite possibly in the woods and not on the path. I cleared my throat loudly to announce my presence in case it were a bear. I felt like playing a podcast or the radio at moderate volume to further announce my presence and calm my nerves a bit.

Would playing the radio or a podcast (is a person talking) at moderate volume help to discourage a brown bear from walking any closer to my tent, or would it be counterproductive and provoke the brown bear's curiosity?

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In an ideal case - yes. Provided that as you said, you stick to protocol about storing food items and anything that has a strong smell away from the camping place. Its just that it should not be perceived as a solution because, there are elements that can nullify what you are trying to achieve by using podcasts as a simulated human communication, for example -- a water stream nearby, an uneven contour, etc. So, in a nutshell, it doesn't guarantee that it provides the kind of security you are hoping for.
There are noise-making commercial products available, I perceive them as the means to make a bear go away if it shows up nearby tent. I usually prefer relying on periodic whistles during the trek specially at dusk and down.
People also tend to think about preemptive spraying of bear repellant sprays, which is useless. It could rather attract bears just because of their curiosity.

You should/can rely on other preventive measures while camping in a bear territory, it is widely discussed and a very-well proven practice. I don't want to include it all in here as this is very specific and neatly asked question.

As a sidenote on flipside of it - whether loud or not, playing any sort of music or artificial/electronic noise (podcasts fit the criteria) in wilderness or at campsite is mostly/largely frowned upon.

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  • Here's an interesting list which I found looking for "ultrasonic bear repellent". Agree, the prophylactic bear spray idea is... not great: I once mistakenly sprayed my leg, just a bit, cycling when I saw a bear and it quickly raised big red welts that took a few hours to come down, despite washing it down in a stream later. That stuff is nasty, keep it in the can. Jun 1, 2023 at 7:28
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Several unrelated comments:

In Bulgaria most wilderness has tents banned while sleeping bag with bivy sack is fine. No one checks but you might insist on obeying the law.

The one time I met a bear(brown at this!) it was more scared of me than I managed to be. Announcing presence is definitely wise.

What I have experienced more often is boars in the woods around my sleeping bag. My go-to solution is to reach for a rock and throw it against a nearby three in the direction of the sound. And then go back to sleep.

Of course shouting also works. Try this: go to a place You would not disturb other people. Shout. For one second. The loudest possible. The sound should be explosive - maximum volume from the start. Works against dogs like a charm!

Against a dozen wild dog or wolves(not sure) shining a LED into their eyes worked well to make them loose interest in us.

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Get ear plugs and sleep. I use ear plugs, because I don't want to bother every time some animal moves around my tent.

Human noise is one of the best deterrents. I have enough experiences and that works the best. The important thing is not to be too loud(yell) to scare the animal, so it would feel threatened. Just normal calm human voice works great.

When there is darkness, after sunset I use my voice a few times before I go to sleep, that works great. Some animals don't know there is human inside the tent and when they hear human voice they go away.

Otherwise put food inside bag enough away, at lower elevation than tent, hang it from a tree.

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