When I go backpacking, I usually hang a bear bag, even if I end up spending the night in a maintained trail shelter. Although I’ve had a few bear visitations at night, I’ve never actually seen a bear on a backpacking trip or lost any food that I’ve hung. I attribute this to good bear bag discipline and making sure that I hang all my food at night, including:
- My remaining food
- All of my trash
- Toothpaste and toothbrush
- Cook Pot
This has always been sufficient for me, even when I’ve hiked in areas with very high black bear populations such at the New Jersey Appalachian Trail, where there is a population density of one bear per square mile. I’ve also packed the same stuff when I have to use a bear canister in the High Peaks Region of the Adirondacks, where canisters are required.
However, over the weekend I found out that some people hang even more “smellables” than me in their bear bags, specifically at Philmont High Adventure Scout Camp in New Mexico, where they have a high density of black bears and very strict bear policy to limit human-bear encounters.
In addition to my list above, Philmont backpackers are required to hang the following items, which are also considered “smellables” and have odors that bears might find interesting and want to investigate.
- Duct tape
- Insect repellant
- Medicines, unless required at night
- Any bottle that has EVER had anything in it besides water
- Deodorant, lotions, lip balm, and sunscreem
- Blood (Scout vampires and zombies?)
I don’t hang the majority of these items today and I was surprised to see that some of them like duct tape and batteries were on the list. Out of curiosity, I figured I’d ask what other things people put in their bear bags, bear canisters, or Ursack at night, just to make sure that I wasn’t missing out on other items that might be worth hanging.
What do you hang in your bear bag at night?
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