Havasupai Food Storage
When camping in general, wildlife proofing your food is a must to ensure that your trip isn’t ruined before it ever really got started. Normally, animals like raccoons, deer, or even bears are the big bads of food stealing but at the Havasu Falls Campsite, it’s squirrels.
The squirrels at Havasu Falls are renowned for their ability to get into food supply that you worked so hard to carry in from the hilltop.
Knowing this ahead of time, our group prepared to make it all the way through the trip without any stolen food, and for the most part, we did alright.
Even though we had many of the right ideas to hide the food, it was simply execution that leads to the downfall of five pounds of trail mix, beef jerky, stinger bars, Brookside chocolate blueberries (This one still hurts the most), and for whatever reason, half a bottle of sunscreen.
Ratsacks and Wire Mesh Bags
So this is the part that we nailed in trying to animal proof the campsite. Wire mesh bags, or ratsacks, were the first thing we packed because they’re light and small enough to put anywhere in or on the backpack without causing an issue, which is a big plus when carrying everything in.
Now that you have the bag, you need some rope or string to hang it with right? While most people immediately jump some generic Walmart rope or twine, it’s actually best to take high strength fishing line. The difference between the two is that while the food bag may be suspended in the air, the everyday rope is coarse enough to allow the squirrels to climb up and down it whereas the fishing line it usually too slippery or slick for them to get a solid hold on.
Another solution we came up with was to buy two 5 gallon buckets from Home Depot or Lowes and store the food that way (one friend brought an empty cat litter container!). The buckets actually seemed to work the best because the squirrels and other wildlife couldn’t open the lid with their stupid little hands.
The downside to the bucket idea is that you have to have someone who is willing to listen to buckets hit everything as they hike down the canyon. If you find someone that’s willing to do that, I personally had the best luck with the buckets while I was down there.
That and the buckets can act as multipurpose containers if there isn’t food in them just yet.
Coolers with a lock or the ability to be weighted down are also a good solution as they act as a container and a fridge for those hot summer days. With coolers being the brick shape that they are, you usually won’t see many people with them as they are a pain to lug around for 10 miles.
Note: You used to be able to put coolers on the mules if you reserved one but new rules do not allow coolers.
Best Way to Set Up
And this is where it all went down, fast. After we set up camp with all of our ideas and went to bed and woke up to a factory of sadness.
Everywhere you turned, there were wrappers and remnants of happier time. What we forgot to account for when hanging our food bags is the fact that even though squirrels are tiny, they have the ability, to what can only be described as hardcore parkour, to get up the bag and start eating.
Make sure that when you’re hanging your food up, to hang it about four to five feet off the ground. Also while hanging, be sure to clear any rocks or tables near the sack so they can’t jump off of them to shorten the distance.
As far as the bucket or cooler ideas go, simply make sure that the tops are secured and that they’re away from the tent areas. The animals down in the campsite are just squirrels and sometimes birds, like ravens, so you don’t usually have to worry about animals using their weight to pry open things.
When storing your food, try not to store it in the tents. Even though it seems secure in the tent away from animals and other camp goers, the animals will eat through the tent to try and get to your food.
Animal Proofing the Campsite
Even though the ratsacks and buckets work when properly used, here are some other things you can do to help deter animals from your campsite.
Cleaning and picking up your trash is probably one of the single biggest things you can do to deter animals.
When wrappers and trash are left out in the open, the scent of the food is carried for miles because the scent is exposed rather than concealed by a bag or container.
Certain companies make liquid or granular repellents that claim to deter animals from wanting to walk into your site, foraging for food. Most of these are eco-friendly as they are designed for camping, just make sure to check the label before busting them out.
If you don’t want to buy commercial repellents, I’ve seen people recommend or even swear by using laundry dryer sheets. Supposedly, wildlife can’t stand the fragrance coming off from the sheets and will often avoid the area that they are in.
Sticking a couple of these on your trash bag and food bag could help deter animals from coming in. I can’t attest to this personally, but it’s a cheap and readily available solution for those wanting to give it a whirl.