Mice are Monsters: How to protect your food from varmints in the backcountry

When many of us think about food storage in the outdoors, our minds often go straight to bears. Because, well, nobody wants a bear around camp. And Yogi Bear taught us that bears really love to steal picnic baskets. But the animal-related food storage issues that we are all more likely to have (if we haven’t already encountered them) involve birds and little varmints.

Ever have an adorable little mouse gnaw through your backpack to get to a snack bar? Or have a bird swoop in and steal half your sandwich off the picnic table when you got up to grab your water bottle? Yep, you have. It’s ok to admit it. They're so sneaky!

Here’s the thing: not only do these low-level animal burglaries leave you a bit hungrier, but they can also affect the animals' foraging instinct and turn them into pests for humans. That usually doesn’t turn out well for animals. So what can we do to protect our food supply outdoors while also protecting the little critters (no, not bears) from getting their paws or teeth or beaks on it?

I’ll say it again, this information is not about protecting food from bears!



  • Contain smells: It’s always good practice to control food odors (and odors from bug spray or toothpaste) by placing food first in low odor plastic bags or a dry bag, which can also aid in protection from insects and the elements. We’re big fans of the reusable, odor-proof LokSak bags for lightweight food storage.


  • Keep critters out: The lightweight, weatherproof, stainless steel mesh Ratsack from Armored Outdoor Gear is a game-changer. Put your food and small essentials inside and it will be protected from the teeth, beaks, and claws of little critters and birds.


  • Pro tip: The Ratsack is also perfect for storing and carrying out trash. OR fill it with your canned beverage of choice and use it as a drag bag in the nearest cold body of water to keep your drinks chilled!




  • Bring food with you: If you’re backpacking or have a small basecamp set up, but are planning to head out on a day hike, your best bet is to just take your food with you. Yes, it means carrying a little extra weight, but it keeps those active little critters from chewing through your pack or shelter while you’re out playing.


  • Hang your food: Once your food is safely tucked away in a container, it’s ideal to hang it safely away from your campsite well out of reach from the ground, tree trunks and large limbs. Be sure there is enough space surrounding the bag so that it can rotate and swing freely.


  • It goes without saying, don’t purposely feed animals at camp. A little chipmunk is truly adorable, but it’s not a domesticated pet and it’s not meant to be.

That’s it. It really doesn’t take much effort to your outdoor experience to protect your food from critters and protect critters from your food.

What have critters snagged from you at camp? Discovered any handy tricks to keep your food safe? Tell us in the comments below.