A hiker (New to Backpacking) I met on the trail a few weeks ago asked me what my biggest fear/worry was while backpacking. I think that I surprised her when I said Mice are my biggest fear. Sure there are bears and creepy crawlies out there to consider, but I find mice are my biggest concern. They want your food and can spread disease! I’ll tackle disease in another post.
Your chances of an encounter with mean and nasty critters are very slim while staying in a shelter on the trail. Your chances of having an memorable encounter with a mouse in a shelter: 100%.
Mice living in shelters are making their living off of the food and trash that hikers leave around. Yes, trash is food for mice. Once a mouse becomes accustomed to the tasty morsels left by hiker they will seek out the holy grail of food: Your Food Bag!
Consider that these industrious little shits want your food and will do what they can to get it.
I’ve slept in a lot of shelters and mice are always present! Running over your sleeping bag, your face, making noise all night and trying to get your most valuable asset: Food.
My loathing of these beasts started just outside of Franklin, NC in 1998. Early in my AT hike I found myself needing more calories per-day than I had originally planned. I was down to one pop-tart and planning a long day into Rainbow Springs Campground for a resupply. I arose early and was eager to eat my last pop-tart only to discover that the little stinkers had managed to get into my food bag while I slept. Boy was I pissed! I mean really Pissed!!! I can only envision them settling into an evening at the buffet based on the amount of the pop-tart that was missing in the morning. No mouse was going to keep me from a meal, so in true hiker trash fashion, I finished what they had not.
So how can you protect your food and gear?
- Start by not leaving any food behind. Mice have a keen sense of smell and will find every morsel that is left behind. By not leaving food and removing your trash you can help lessen the problem for future hikers.
- If you spill your food clean it up.
- Don’t leave your food unattended for a long period of time while having lunch at a shelter.
- Take all food, trash and personal items like toothpaste out of your pack every evening. Consider taking the TP out as well.
- Open up all the zippers on your pack. If you have left something tasty in your pack, having thezippers open will keep mice from chewing through the fabric to get a treat.
- Store food items in zip-lock bags to decrease the likelihood that a mouse will smell your gorp. Consider storing your food inside of a stuff sack that is waterproof.
- Hang your food from a Mouse Proof System. Although this is great method most of the time, mice are acrobatic and persistent creatures that can find a way into that food bag.
There seems to be now way to avoid a mouse encounter while staying in shelters and this holds true for nearly every trail out there. Take simple logical precautions and you can lessen the chances of losing a meal to a big eyed furry rodent.