Tom Severin from Badlands Offroad Adventures gives us some valuable “safeguarding” tips when Jeeping, camping or overlanding.
We had just returned from a day of 4-wheeling. Our base campsite in the Mojave Desert was a beautiful patch of lush desert with cholla, creosote bushes, Joshua trees, and Mojave Yucca. Each of us headed for our tents. At one point I heard one camper yell out, “What the …?!”. He was standing at one corner of his tent, then quickly bolted for the entrance. Seconds later he comes out holding a bag of candy. Or what was left of it. “Can you believe this?” he screamed.
The bag was peppered with peck holes. It had been ravaged by ravens from the outside of the tent. Somehow they could tell there was candy in that part of the tent. And they weren’t going to let a thin layer of nylon get in the way of a tasty meal.
Campers and others who enjoy the outdoors understand the need to store food well. All sorts of critters have a hankering for human food. We’ll review methods you can take to minimize loss. Incidentally, I won’t discuss bears here. Seek out other resources if you’ll be traveling to bear country.
The camper in the above incident assumed his candy was safe. After all, it was in a bag and inside the tent. As he learned, ravens have a keen sense of smell. That’s true with most animals. But there’s more to the problem.
Development near natural areas combined with a surge in outdoors activity are changing the feeding habits of wild animals. They become acclimated to the trash containers, food scraps, and handouts from well-meaning (but misguided) visitors. The animals lose their natural fear of humans and start hanging around campsites and vehicles.
The predator-prey dynamic that previously kept the animal world in a natural balance is out of whack. Raven populations, for example, have increased as much as 700% in the Mojave Desert in the past 25 years, according to the Bureau of Land Management.
Store food securely at night and while away
What can you do? Quite simply, store your food items securely. It starts with an acknowledgement of the problem. Just as you put a lot of thought into packing your vehicle, you also need to consider how to secure your food. And not just your edibles, either. Garbage must be dealt with if there is no covered receptacle nearby.
A vehicle is a sturdy storage facility. So too are ZARES containers and Pelican boxes. Both are designed to be rugged and durable. A cardboard box is not. Burros love cardboard. A cooler, especially the steel kind, is great. Secure with a tension strap for added peace or mind.
Don’t feed the animals!
Don’t want wild animals around your campsite? Then, don’t feed them. While you can’t do anything about other campers, you can control your behavior. Wild animals are supposed to act wild; that is, wary of humans and preferring to stay away. Increasingly today, those animals are interacting with humans. That’s not a good thing.
One night while enjoying the campfire with some buddies in Death Valley, we spotted a coyote nearby. Before anyone could react, the coyote leapt up on the picnic table and grabbed our bag of garbage. He passed right by us – perhaps five feet away from the closest person. He had not a fear in the world.
The coyote dragged the garbage bag to a nearby hill and tore into it. You can imagine the mess we had to clean up the next morning.
Protect your gear from the weather, too
Sounds simple enough. You’re done with a project or turning in for the night. Put your tools away, right? Most people do. But some forget, or just casually toss the tools aside. If you’re camping in the winter or heavy weather, that equipment could get buried in snow or soaked.
Always take a moment to store your tools and gear – shovels, axes, hammers – in a vehicle or tent. If you must store them outside, select a container that will be seen easily. ZARGES containers and Pelican boxes are just as useful for gear as for food.
Wind can be a factor, too. I’ve seen folding chairs go flying when a gust of wind blows through. The weather can be very unpredictable. Store anything that could take flight in the right conditions.
Get in the habit of always storing your food and gear securely while away and at night. Use a sturdy container or stash the goods in your vehicle. Don’t give coyotes, ravens, burros, vagrants or weather a chance to ruin your outdoor adventure.