One of the best reasons to stay in a tent is to avoid mice, but are tents really mouse proof? Mice chew through backpacks all the time to get food. It seems like it would be simple for them to gnaw through the sides of a tent to get at food and nesting material. Will mice chew through a tent?
Yes, mice will chew through a tent, but there are way to make your tent less appealing. Avoid eating in your tent and make sure the tent has a sturdy floor. Dryer sheets and mothballs scattered around your tent should help keep mice away in the short term, but they may still chew their way inside looking for food.
So, If mice can chew through a tent, how do you keep them out of your camping gear? I’ll go over a few easy ways to protect your gear from hungry rodents.
Can Mice Chew Through A Tent?
Out of all the animals in North America, mice and other rodents are by far the biggest pest to campers. Rodents can do extensive damage to your gear. They chew through tent walls, tear up backpacks, rummage through your food, and shred clothing for bedding material.
There are two times when you’ll have to deal with mice chewing through your tent walls. You have food inside the tent that they want to get at, or the tents in storage and they’re using it as nesting material.
Keeping a tent mouse-free in storage is pretty easy. Just keep all your camping gear inside a big plastic storage container so mice can’t get inside. Plus it will be protected from water damage that will cause mold and mildew. You’ll have to learn how to mouse proof your campsite and remove all your food out in the field.
Mice will quickly chew through tent walls if you’re not careful. There’s no easy solution to keep them out of your tent. Try to keep all your food and scented items outside the tent and in a rodent proof container. I use a 3 step solution to protect my bags from rodents.
- Odor Proof Bag: Store food and other scented items in an odor proof plastic bag. I really like the OPSAK Odorless storage bags. They’re odor proof and water tight so you don’t have to worry about moisture ruining the food.
- Dry Bag: Make sure you use some kind of dry bag to keep everything dry from the rain and morning dew. The OPSAK Bags also work as a dry bag, but you might need a separate bag if you’re using cheaper odor proof bags.
- Steel Mesh Rodent Bag: Go with a rodent-resistant bag (my favorite) made out of a stainless steel knitted mesh material. Rodents can’t chew through wire mesh and it’s flexible so it’s much easier to carry than a traditional bear canister. If you don’t have to worry about carrying in gear you can store all your food in a locking cooler outside the tent. You might run into racoon troubles if the cooler doesn’t lock.
Don’t Leave Scented Items In Your Tent
Never leave food, trash, and other scented products inside your tent. Aggressive squirrels and chipmunks will be your biggest worries during the day. You’ll have to deal with other animals that come foraging at night. So where should I keep my food?
- Daytime: Keep all your food secured in a cooler, car or in some type of rodent proof bag if you’re backpacking. Never leave food unattended inside your tent. It needs to be by your side at all times. Carry it with you on hikes or lock the food in your car if it’s parked nearby.
- Nighttime: Car campers should either store food in a locked bear box or keep it inside a car so animals can’t get at it. Backpackers will need to get either a rodent proof bear canister or hang rodent/odor proof bags. Don’t sleep with the food in your tent. You could end up face to face with a not so friendly animal visitor.
Rodent Proof Bags
Have you ever watched a squirrel try to get into a bird feeder? They’re crafty little critters that can get into just about anything. A traditional odor proof bag in a dry sack isn’t going to cut it when there’s lots of rodents nearby. You need to pick up a rodent proof bag made out of a wire mesh (also works as a hanging bear bag).
I picked up a RATSACK Bear Bag a few years ago and I really like it. It comes in a variety of different sizes and it’s made out of a stainless steel wire mesh to keep out rodents and other small animals. I recommend pairing it with an odor proof bag (my favorite) so you don’t inadvertently draw animals into camp. Rodents might not be able to get your food, but they still carry disease so you don’t want them scurrying around.
Bear Canisters and Coolers Keep Out Mice But They’re Cumbersome
Bear canisters and regular old coolers also keep out mice, but they’re kind of a pain to carry. Bear cans can be strapped to your pack, but coolers are almost impossible to take backpacking. It’s too big and heavy to carry a cooler over any distance.
There’s a time and place for bear canisters. Obviously, a bear canister is a good idea if you’re in a state with lots of bear sightings. Bears are getting smarter and they’ve learned how to get at bear bags. They cut the bags down and carry them off for later. That’s when you need to store all food and smellable products in a bear canister and keep them away from camp.
Mice Come Out At Night
Squirrels may torment you during the day, but mice start to get bad once the sun goes down. I’ve been in old campgrounds where the trees are completely overrun with mice and rats. The branches would actually start to shake as the rodents venture out into the night.
That’s when you have to worry about mice chewing through your tent walls. You can be sleeping right next to them and they’ll be munching through your pack to get at the food. There’s not much you can do besides keeping it outside the tent in rodent/smell proof bags.
Don’t Feed the Animals!
Do not feed the animals! It doesn’t matter if it’s a cute fluffy squirrel or timid deer. Throwing food around your campsite will bring in unwelcome rodents, racoons, and god knows what else.
You’re not helping the animals by feeding them. They start to get reliant on humans for food, putting everybody’s health and safety at risk. Who knows what kind of disease and friendly little squirrel could be carrying (remember the bubonic plague).
Regularly feeding animals in state parks almost always leads to them being destroyed. They get too aggressive and the park rangers need to deal with them.
Don’t Leave Gear Unattended
Don’t even think about leaving your gear unattended in an area with lots of mice, squirrels, and other rodents. They’re fast little buggers! A mouse can chew through the wall of your tent and rummage through your pack in minutes.
Squirrels can be especially aggressive! They have razor sharp teeth and they’re lighting fast. A squirrel can slash through a fabric pack or nylon tent in an instant. I had a squirrel chew through my pack with me tending to the fire right next to it. That’s how sneaky they are!
You won’t think rodents are so cute once they chew through your gear and rummage in food.