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How to Hang a Bear Bag

I had to laugh when I watched this video about hanging a bear bag and all of the things that can go wrong in the process. If you’ve tried this yourself, you’ll know exactly what I mean. How many times have you tried to hang a bear bag, with darkness approaching, and had it taken over 45 minutes to get your food up a tree? It can be comedic sometimes.

There are a couple of bag hanging refinements that I’ve developed over the years to make this process easier. First, I bring along a small mesh sack for holding “the rock”, instead of trying to tie cord to it. Mesh sacks are more rugged for this than silnylon ones which tear very easily.

The only issue with using a rock bag is that it can snag on a tree if you make a bad throw and need to pull it back down. Brute force may be required to retrieve it, but care must be taken to avoid self-inflicted damage. Just last year, I had a bag and rock come flying back at me and hit me in the face – so now I stand behind a tree to guard my face and body.

Then there’s the issue of the knotted rope ball. Regardless of what you do, your bear bag rope always gets knotted up. It’s terribly hard to untangle if you use small diameter string or spectra cord, so I use Kelty Triptease guyline instead. It is thick enough that it doesn’t cut tree bark and it’s easy to untie, even when it’s wet. The reflective elements of the guyline also pick up your headlamp light if you need to put a forgotten item into your bag after dark and can’t find the bear bag line. Very handy.

Finally, I use a less advanced hanging method than the two-tree method shown in this video. I usually just hang my bear bag over a single branch that’s 15 feet off the ground and won’t support the weight of a bear. Even then, you’d be surprised how hard it is to find a tree like this in the forest with darkness approaching. I’ve never had a problem with this hanging method and it’s a lot easier to orchestrate than getting two trees to cooperate.

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7 comments

  1. That video was very entertaining. Love how they got everything up without attaching the bear bag.

  2. I read your posting on the bear bag system you use a while back and liked your ideas. I put together a similar kit and found it to work very well. Previously, I just used a stuff sack and 3mm cord for the job. I really like the idea of a specific kit. I added a 5 inch section of chopstick and employ it with the small carabiner to secure the bag without having to tie it to a tree(PCT method). Thanks for your tips. Keep them coming.

  3. Ah, the infamous bear bag… It usually goes well, but that one time in a dozen can bring me closer to totally losing it in the backcountry than anything else.

    Regarding the knotted ball in your pack, I store my cord in a small butterfly coil, like climbers store their climbing rope, then folded in half and bound with a hair elastic. No more tangles!

  4. The video didn't mention that savvy bears will chew through the rope where it's tied to the trees!

    Personally, I am a horrible thrower (couldn't hit the side of a barn when inside it) and have some shoulder arthritis. So no bear bagging for me! If the laws require it, I use a bear canister; if they don't, I use an Ursack.

  5. I use a garlic bag!

  6. I have run into many of the same issues and have since switched to the PCT method as well.

  7. Just a couple of things I’ve found that made my life easier.
    1. Use a butterfly knot instead of a loop in your main rope. This is much easier to untie.
    2. Attach your carabiner to the loop and then thread a secondary rope through the carabiner. Pull the primary rope tight and secure it to the tree with 3 wraps. Use the secondary rope to raise and lower the cache. You then don’t have to fight the friction on the tree limb each time you wish to get at your cache.

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