If you backpack in bear country, you need to learn how to hang a bear bag (unless a bear canister is required by the local authorities.) No one ever formally taught me how to do it so I developed my own techniques, which I am continuously refining.
But whatever your level of experience, hanging a bear bag can be an exasperating experience on any given night and chew up far more time than expected. To this day, it’s not unusual for me to have problems finding a good tree, for my rope to snag, or for my throwing accuracy to be amazingly pathetic. I’ve even self-inflicted damage to myself during the process. This is surprisingly common.
Bear Bag Hanging can be Dangerous
The PCT Method
One common technique used by many backpackers is called the PCT or Pacific Crest Trail Method. The main benefit of this technique is that your extra rope hangs freely and is not tied to a tree where it’d be vulnerable to a bear
I’ve never used it myself because I find it awkward, and I can never remember how to tie the required clove hitch…on my tiptoes..with my arms above my head. Here’s a good video from TheBackpacker.TV that illustrates the technique and one of it’s variants. It looks a lot easier than it is.
Note, how the demonstrator feeds his down line through the carabiner that is attached to the bear bag – that’s important for understanding how to use the bear bag hanging method in the next video.
A Knot-less Method
This video improves on the classic PCT Method by eliminating the need to use a stick and a clove hitch.
I dub it the PVC Method because it uses a small section of PVC tubing instead of a stick and eliminates the need for any knots. This is perfect for me because I can only ever remember how to tie a bowline.
What’s your secret for hanging a bear bag?
Written June 2010. Revised March 2013.