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Mouse Mobiles

Appalachian Trail Shelter - Mouse Protectors

When I was a kid, my mom got me interested in making mobiles, you know, kinetic hanging art. To this day, that’s what I think about whenever I see mouse hangs, or whatever they’re called, in Appalachian Trail Shelters.

First the basics: It’s spring and the mice are hungry. If you camp in a shelter and leave food on the floor or in your pack, the mice are going to find it and have a dinner party at your expense. Worse still, they may chew holes in your pack or clothes to get at food and destroy your gear in the process. If you step out of the shelter, even for a few minutes, make sure you hang your food first.

Most shelters on the Appalachian Trail and the Long Trail have mouse mobiles in them already. To make one, you punch a hole in the bottom of a can and run a string through it. Tie one end to the shelter ceiling or a supporting beam. Tie a knot below the hole in the can to prevent the can from slipping down the string, and finally, tie a stick to the bottom of the string or create a loop that you can hang your food bag from so it’s a few feet from the floor.

Mice that climb down the string can’t get past the can without falling to the floor: amazing how art can help us in our daily lives.

Mind you, this doesn’t work for bears or possums, if you live down-under, who will climb into a shelter if you step out to go to the privy or a water source for a while and your food is hanging within reach. Stronger measures are required there.


  1. I was backpacking on the AT a while back and there was this kid doing a long section hike, Who ended up carrying a mommy mouse and her new born babies about 60 miles. That and another couple of run ins with our little friends and my buddy won't step foot in a shelter and I need to be exhausted to even think about it.

  2. Heavy rain on the Long Trail last year made me a convert, but I still prefer sleeping in my own shelter without mice running over my face at night.

  3. I shared a shelter with a lady who woke up to find a mouse sitting on her forehead. Needless to day, SHE woke the rest of us up. Another night, which was really hot and humid, I had my leg out of my sleeping bag, with the underside of my foot facing up. As I slowly awakened in the dark, I began to feel something on that foot. Then I realized it was a mousey, which promptly got flicked. Unfortunately, it landed on the face of a shelter-mate. And darn if some of the smart ones don't figure out how to get around those mobiles. (And I mean, some GOOD mobiles too.)

  4. On the topic of mice on the trail, I thought I would share some handy info. Keeping mice out of our food is always a battle. About a year ago I found a backpacking food bag on line that resists mice and chipmunks and other small animals. It's called a Grubpack. It's made of a lightweight, flexible wire mesh. You put your food in it, close the velcro across the top, and the pests can't chew through the mesh to get at your food. Problem solved.

  5. I was also going to mention the Grubpack , but I see Gus has beat me to it. In any case, I met someone at an AT shelter who had one and just swore by it. I ordered one online and have used it for about a year now. The nice thing is that they are really light and you can roll them up as you empty them. It's the best mouse proof food bag to use on the Appalachian Trail. It also has a big grommet for hanging.

  6. Do you and Gus recommend fencing masks for keeping mice off your face?

  7. Check out Ursack minor bags made of Kevlar and stainless threads that are impossible for sharp toothed critters to chew through. I still hang mine but even if they pull off some acrobatics aren’t rewarded with my food!

  8. Fifteen years hiking the AT. This is the first year that mice have foiled the mobile and gotten into my sack. These aren’t your grandfather’s mice. They are all graduates of the most prestigious breaking and entering institutions in the country. I’m buying one of the sacks described above or trying a canister. It’s not enough that they steal your food. The pigs also leave nasty poops in your foot bag. Yuck!

  9. Car at the trailhead for a week+ mice moving in while you are away. Solve. Be sure to show your work.

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