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How NOT to hang a Bear Bag

Poor Bear bag hanging technique

When I was hiking a section of the AT recently near Crawford Notch in New Hampshire, I came across this bear bag hanging on a tree at the Ethan Pond Shelter. I was stunned when I saw it because it’s one of the worst examples of how to hang a bear bag that I’ve ever seen.

There are several ways to hang a bear bag and I’ll cover those in future posts along with advice about how to assemble the components of an ultralight bear bag system. However, regardless of the hanging technique you decide to use, there is one thing you need to understand about bears.


Bears climb trees all of the time, particularly when their favorite tree nuts are in season, and will go as far as constructing nests in trees to eat them at leisure.

The problem with the bear bag in the photo above, is that any bear could climb up the tree and tear it out of the tree by pulling on it since it is hanging to close to the trunk. Even worse, lower down on this very tree, there is clear evidence of bear claw marks and a sign tacked to it that the tells campers to cook away from the shelter because of recent bear activity.

Bear claw marks on a tree

So lesson one when hanging a bear bag, is that a bear shouldn’t be able to reach it by climbing the trunk or by walking out on a tree limb that it strong enough to support their weight.

Without going into more detail about hanging technique, here is a photo of a bear bag that meets this criteria.

Hanging a Bear Bag - A Good example

This bear bag is hung far enough away from the tree trunk that a bear can’t climb the tree and knock it down. It’s also looped over a branch that is too small to support a bear’s weight, and it’s hung slightly below the branch making it hard for other smaller animals to get to the bag itself. You can’t see it in this photo, but this bear bag is hanging about 15 feet off the ground, and in general, you want to shoot for at a height of at least 10 feet.

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  1. Yep, that's pretty bad, lol. I've seen hikers toss em up onto shelter roofs.


  2. Yeah, that first one is more like how to hang a bag FOR a bear. Come 'n' git it!

  3. Ah, one of those mysterious US techniques that are somewhat irrelevant in the UK. Though some bothy mice can be quite tenacious….

  4. Beavers were reintroduced the UK recently. Maybe bears are next. You need more carnivores.

  5. I saw one hung just like that at Seth Warner shelter my first night on the Long Trail last summer. When I woke the next morning I saw a young black bear having it's breakfast, and a very sad hiker headed for town.

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