Personal Narrative: Six Years Of Boy Scouts
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She had food in her tent. Stupid idea sleeping with food in a tent.. Hang more than one bag? A bear will be happy with one bag? May 3, A bear walked up the AT snatching food bags. All Peanut had left was a instant coffee packet and her contact lenses. It walked 30 yards farther and got mine. He would have ate all mine too had I not caught it red handed and ran it off. Bears will eat every food bag they can get to. Yeah, sleeping with your food they can smell hundreds of ft away kind of falls in that territory. Keep your food properly hung outside of camp. If you want to use a hung scent proof sack for extra protection, great. I use a dedicated stuff sack I wash when I get home: clip it and run the string through; no caribbeaner nec.
The bear is somehow able to tell that I am not a good target for food, even though I smell like it. If I hang my bag, all is ok, right? Case 2: But if I have a very well sealed, wiped off food bag with me, I will literally smell worse than the food. Someone make this make sense to me. Bears are not psychic. How is the bear going to know that in case 1 I have no food, but in case 2, I do? They know what you smell like. They want your food, not you. If you put your food with you, they will go through you to get to it. Keep your food away from you and you will be fine, even if you have to walk home hungry. Hi Andy- We had a bear get our hang once in the Adirondacks, before canisters were required, and it was totally my fault for hanging it poorly.
I agree with everything you say about how difficult it is to hang stuff properly. Takes forever, or at least it seems that way when you are really tired, probably dark is approaching, etc. I do still hang my food, but you tempt me not to! I agree that rodents are more of a problem than bears in most cases. And the biggest problem of all is to find a tree that will actually work. May I add an additional reason? Highly scented, favorite foods, such as tuna and bacon, are tightly wrapped in a cloth sack and hung using the same height and distances to avoid bears physically reaching the attractant.
The result is extremely effective at alerting and drawing bears across multiple down-wind drainages within hours or less. Next time I go out, I am bringing my leftover turkey bag from Thanksgiving; those bags are cheap and odor proof. Keeping my food inside a this bag inside my nylon bag will not add extra weight either. I have had one incident with an ursack. A little slobbery and small crushing but intact.
My yelling and noise making caused the bear to leave. I think the new push for boxes is probably a good thing on that trail. I can definitely attest to the regular occurrence of some pretty laughable hangs along the AT. Yes, it added weight. It also added convenience. But, on my day excursion I am aware of one hiker who had their tent completely trashed — not from sleeping with food, but apparently from the inadvertent use of sunscreen the bear found compelling. Andrew, I do agree that most people probably suck at it, which is why in high-use areas of the Olympics, bear canisters are required. I have been hanging my food for many years without issue, but use a different hanging system than is commonly used. I use a small diameter throw line Petzl Air Line 1. Though that pulley is strung a second line.
Each end of the throw line is tossed over branches on two separate trees and each end is pulled tight while wrapping around the tree trunk and tied off. My entire system bags, lines, rock sack, small carabiner and pulley weighs 6. Once the system is in place, I can lower and raise my bear bag as often as I want, only having to untie the end of the pulley line. Also, because the throw line is unweighted when pulling it tight and while removing it, I can used a very small diameter without having to worry about it cutting into the tree.
It should never take me more than 10 minutes to get the system in place. I use the same method. We also regularly hang a bear bag between two trees, which gets the bag well away from either. No pulley, just a good knot in the center of the throw rope, to which we attach the bag and pull it up. No lost food. I applaud you going above and beyond the normal setup. But, in fact, their hang was never tested. I fully understand that in the right circumstance, an educated bear will go to great lengths to get to hanging food. I do own a bear canister and use it where required, such as high-use areas of Olympic National Park my backyard. In the first one, about thirty years ago, I was sleeping with my food this was before OpSacks.
I woke up to something pressing against my leg through the tent fabric along with the sound of strong inhalation noises. The second incident, a few years later while camped at an established high country hunting camp, a bear got to a deer quarter that my partner had, in his haste, left hanging too low. It was obviously an educated bear and had probably visited that camp several times, but if we had hung the deer properly in the first place, he may not have been so persistent. Agree with this. Out in the mountains, animals are basically wandering around randomly and people are basically wandering around randomly. The probabilities of the two running into eachother are generally slim.
The randomness argument is mostly true in a wilderness setting, where bears do not associate people with food. I say mostly because wildlife follow the path of least resistance between feeding areas, so the probability of an encounter is affected by whether the humans are following these same travel corridors. I did not camp until I was safely out of this area. In a high-use area, all bets are off. The bears and mini-bears know exactly where people normally camp. Your argument for using the Ursack or sleeping with your food follows this same logic. I could see fresh bear tracks and my breakfast was still there. And there is no scent resistant sack or canister, people.
Brad, I was going to respond to this article, but you said almost everything I was going to say. I DO, however, totally disagree with the suggestion you sleep with your food bag. An excellent way to see wildlife, however. Plus it makes it easy to lower the bag if you want to get something out of it and the raise it back up. Lots of good conversation here. I love a good hang, but you really have to make it a part of your day, iykwim.
Cannisters arent easy to pack in sea kayaks, and those armoured bags are pricey for trips where you might need 2 or 3 per person. So I use two trees for the hang as well. Two 5 mm static lines, joined in middle with a biner. Attach pulleys and lines for food hoists near this midpoint, then hoist the whole thing in the air and tie off to the trunks. We tie off at one end, tighten at the other. Helps to have one person pulling with a prussik while another one ties off.
The Tree. Finding a tree with a branch that is a strong enough and b rigid enough and c free from branches below it and d not too close to other trees and branches and e clear enough to throw over and f a reasonable distance from camp is like looking for a unicorn. I started carrying a hard cannister BV more often because in spite of the added weight, the efficiency and peace of mind is so much better it is usually worth it. They zeroed in on my honey-roasted macadamia nuts and left everything else alone.
Another useful thing about the hard cannister is servers as a chair and a mini-table. I dislike carrying it of course — not only the weight, but I find it extremely difficult to tie securely on the outside of the backpack. Agreed that most people suck at it see: any Canadian paddler trying to hang a whole canoe barrel! I have practiced a lot and to date, my mistakes have only produced one mouse-sized hole in a nylon stuff sack. I think that most people suck due to the weight of their food bag relative to their ability to comfortably pull on the rope and hoist the bag up especially when using anything smaller than paracord.
My solution is to use tie a stick to the rope and hoist the bag by walking away from the bag while holding onto the stick. From there, tie it to a tree. This method is slightly inspired by the PCT method which also involves a stick but is obviously different. Definitely takes time to find the right tree, etc… and doing it in the dark is really frustrating. Back in the late 80s and early 90s, bear activity was significantly higher in the backcountry than today. Over half of our trips would have bear sightings and a monotony of those included encounters.
My father taught me to sleep with rocks next to me, to scare off the bears at night. You describe several faults in typical bear bag scenarios but you never describe what you actually do…. My 2 cents….. Nevertheless if a bear wants your food.. Ursacks are tied to trees …bears will get it. Bear hangs hang…bears will get it. Canisters are our in the open…bears will get it. And if you choose to leave your food or smelly items in your tent or even worse, your sleeping bag well, that all on you. It was pretty determined, but the garcia only got cosmetic damage. Cans work pretty darn well. Yosemite bears are on another level, watch out for them. Some of the bears are completely fearless of humans, like walking into an occupied camp and grabbing a bag of food sitting on a log immediately next to someone.
They also have devised some ways to get into canisters, like by rolling them off cliffs and, yes, beating on them until the lid locks pop open. I can imagine a full Little Yosemite Valley campground, with everyone running around spraying their bear spray, trying to deter one bear. Sounds like nothing but trouble to me. We do have some bear boxes on the AT. Does anyone else have this psychological hurdle? Any tips -or better yet, hard facts- to help me wrap my mind around NOT hanging my food in a tree? Agree with you and have to say like in my comments a bear will get any food it wants and especially in the northeast the black bear just wants s quick easy meal.
We have an ursack which we always hang. On a hike last summer, we hung our bag like we normally do because there was a bear in the area. Unfortunately, this bear had been breaking into trashbags that people were hanging all summer. I just wish they would use one. Finding a suitable tree was not easy, especially if you made camp after dark or in the rain. At Philmont, though, they have wire cables strung from tall poles to get the bags off the ground. Not all campsites at Philmont have the cables. Some of the cables were very low and when we had our entire groups food hung it bent the two trees the wire was on so much that the food dropped even lower and we could jump and reach some of the bags.
They have you use three ropes with a carabiner. They each have a knot with a loop in the middle. The third rope goes through the carabiner. You tie all the bags along the ropes and then get everyone to pull the 4 ends to get it up into the air and tie them off. The third rope is used for all the things people need later in the day and gets put up last. If done correctly it takes upwards to an hour or more. We seen some other crews food and it was laughable at best. Might as well just set it on the ground…. I hang our food in dry bags. Finding the perfect branch is difficult for sure.
Instead of trying to tie up a rock I place some small rocks in my stove bag and attach it to the end of the rope. No problems but I never have bacon etc that create amazing smells for all. I also lower it only to eat and then back up it goes with the bag of garbage included. I do most of my backpacking in the San Gabriels in Southern California. There are plenty of bears there.
Except for some trail camps on the PCT with recently placed bear boxes, you are on your own. And more often than not, they are up during the night scaring marauding bears or picking up the remnants of their food in the morning. And in the trees in camp, there are at least half a dozen failed bear hangs festooning the flora. I always take my bearcan with me! It was a time consuming process that generally took about 15 minutes. I was using the PCT method and a rock bag. Were all my hangs perfect?
But there were so many bad hangs from other hikers that I figured mine was the least attractive. Which brings me to my point. Well, that would be a good way to kill foot traffic on the AT. If it happens, say goodbye to any new thru-hiker vids. He adds he typically puts the box among the rocks somewhere near the shoreline. In addition to putting his food in an unexpected spot, his strategy also seems to depend on the food signature of his food. He advocates freeze-dried meals packaged in mylar, which are low- or no-odor. Paul Kirtley interviews Cliff Jacobson in his latest podcast episode They get into bears and food at 1hr 31m. However, the affiliate links all over the page for the Ursack brand bags makes this reek of an advertisement disguised as an article. In the disclosure I clearly state the use of affiliate links in this post and others.
I have no financial interest in Ursack, but do have a long-term interest in providing thoughtful and trustworthy content. Affiliate marketing is widely used by content-heavy sites like this one, including others that you probably read like Gear Junkie, Outside Online, The Trek, Section Hiker, Clever Hiker, etc. Have to pay the bills and justify the time commitment somehow, or this site would go away or be much less active. One other point on this, the number of companies making such critter-resistant bags is very small, and Ursack is by far the best known. For a site funded by affiliate links, Ursack is the logical ad link for flexible bear-resistant storage.
The snark is misplaced and unnecessary. I have witnessed black bears launching themselves off of a tree, taking the food sack down with them. No bueno. I live in the PNW, so bears and critters are a reality. They not only hold all smellables, but are a seat, cutting board, wash basin, fresh water collector, and just stupid easy to stash in a safe place. I am a nerd when it comes to food and make my own and dehydrate it all, so with that organization I can cram all kinds of things into my BearVault container.
I usually am out solo and everything I need for an extended trip easily fits into my 50L Mountainsmith a tragically underrated company for a week long trip, canister included. I have heard of some kayakers who use moth balls to cover the scent of food as well as giving bears a scent which is unpleasant for them. Has anyone else heard of this technique? I know it has been used for mice. You have really given me something to think about. Hanging has been drilled into my head and on our AT thru I hung one every night except twice. Obviously, I became quite adept, but as you mentioned, there were a few bad hangs due to lack of good trees. While I doubt sleeping with my food will ever be an option, the Ursack and canister may.
I like the hybrid of Ursack and hang. Nor have trees, etc. Certainly some people suck at putting them up, but some people suck at many outdoor skills and should therefore practice — not just give up and purchase something less effective. Just my 2 cents. Live with Adventure! But they are easier and more reliable, and so likely more effective in the grand scheme. Of course, YMMV depending on factors such as practice, environment, etc. Been using URsacks with Opsaks for a few years now. They are my go to because of their ability to be used in a variety of situations. Great article. Many places do have lock boxes but semi-permanent hangs could easily be put up near lean-tos….. Just my 2cts…. Food protection seems to be an afterthought with shelter construction.
Bear cables in the Smokies are great and easy to use. The only place that I can think of them being placed is in a few small areas along the John Muir Trail in the high sierras where you are required to carry bear canisters. In Canada, designated back country sites in often have heavy steel bear boxes. Im speaking of national parks and Ontario, cant speak for other provincial park systems. Very convenient, although it can be a bit tricky getting the bears into them.
I have been a rigger rock and roll and theatre and a climber, so I know my way around ropes pretty well, and I find hanging usually to be a huge time suck and is almost always compromised in some way height, clearance, etc. Ive slept with my own food on the AT and Colorado Trail no issues. I did use and ursack in the Tahoe area but I probably could have slept with it there too. Andrew, Your efforts to make a positive change to a dysfunctional culture are admirable and overdue. I agree, bad bear hangs are the norm. Where is the recommended place to store BV bear canister overnight in black bear country? In an unsuspected location such as Cliff Jacobson writes? I have no idea about grizzly country.
Almost as secure feeling as shoving it in between the perfect boulder cluster. Completely agree with you Andrew. Practically every time I have seen someone hang a bear bag, a bear would have had little trouble getting it if they wanted it. The canister seems like the way to go. Thanks for sharing. My concern, though is that I tend to hike and camp in the southern to central Washington Cascades, often along the PCT, and frequently wind up in established campsites with my kids. As you pointed out, chipmunks may be a more serious threat to my food than a bear, though bears are certainly there. Would the weight and cost of the AllMitey be a necessity?
An AllMitey would probably be the best option. Why not also bring the canister and be done with it? Do you think rodents are enough of a problem in the Cascades to warrant the AllMitey and avoid the Major? Some areas are infested. Other camp sites along the same trail have hang poles or boxes. Cascades and can attest to the mice! Luckily Roland Point has a metal bear box that we keep the food in on our kayak trips. There are plenty of bears around Ross Lake too — had one in camp at Lightening Creek 2 years ago when nearby campers cooked up a fancy dinner. It took a lot of banging and yelling to send it on its way. Either great hangs or canisters make sense at Ross Lake. Same reason when you leave camp to summit, you leave the tent and everything else open.
Best to let the critters run around inside than have them chew their way in. There are only about grizzlies in the lower 48 that do not live in Montana or the Teton-Yellowstone area. In Rocky Mountain National Park there are about 35 black bears in acres. Just do a little homework and plan accordingly. My first intro to the AT … campsite selection was heavily influenced by the correct limb on a living tree. On my last two annual trips to the BWCA my brother and I have used the hard sided container method for food storage.
Using a canister as a chair is a widespread practice. If you own a BearVault or another canister with a screw lid , just be sure that the lid is screwed on fully or really close to it. I asked Mike for the drawing, and told him what the post was about. I saw this and thought of you. A pretty impressive high-wire act. I particularly like the Canadian accents, nice touch. I have a bear canister and use it where required or recommended. I still hang in areas less likely to have bears. Finding the right branch, throwing a dangerous throw, getting the rope caught on branches not intended and having to pull hard to get it down.
For many years, I dreamt a bear was getting my food almost every night in the woods. My first night with a canister and I slept all night with no bear dreams. I have bear scratches in designated poles and hanging spots. Thanks for the article. Great advice! I have an Ursack Major with opsaks inside, but considering getting a canister. I do NOT recommend using your Ursack in a traditional bear bag setup. That undermines its intended purpose. What are your thoughts on the ursack in combination with the hard aluminum insert? Is this, in your opinion, adequate regulations aside- if I am required to use a hard sided canister I will use it for areas with frequent bear interactions?
In this part of my YouTube video you will see what a raccoon did to my cheap dry bag from Walmart. The Zpacks bear bag is marginally more durable than yours, but it will not protect your food against rodents or bears, nor is it designed to do so. Hanging food is extremely effective method at Philmont Scout Ranch. They have had no issues with bears using this method since they started using it and they have more bear per acre than any where else in the lower There are 2 caveats to this success. First the boys are trained in the proper way to hang and second more importantly the boys hang on a fixed cross beam mounted up in the trees. There is one of these set up at each dedicated camp site.
It is also set in a location that makes the bear triangle effective. Congrats on the success rate, but rather misleading for your Scouts. Fixed installations like your cross beams or the anchored bear poles along the Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier, do indeed make easier the process of securing food. Crafting a bear triangle at a seldom-used campsite, using only trees, is more complicated and frustrating. Interestingly enough, one of our site mates on the Wonderland lost food from a stuff sack ON the bear pole.
My guess is that they hung their food before dusk, and were a bit slow waking up next morning; the Canada jays probably saw the hang, and attacked the stuff sacks next morning. The threats are everywhere.. Yes, these systems work, which is why NPS and Philmont installed them. In areas without such infrastructure, I think bag bag hanging is much less reliable. While I normally carry a bear resistant canister, in Yellowstone, backpackers are required to hang their food. To save weight, I left the canisters in the car. When I got to my site, there where fresh grizzly tracks in the snow and there were no bear hanging platforms like they said there would be a downed tree likely took it out.
Late reply, I know, but I just checked the Yellowstone website, and they are FINALLY allowing backpackers to use approved bear canisters as an alternative to hanging food via the supplied poles. It certainly took them long enough to catch up with the rest of the Park Service! Interesting topic. And of course there are those above-treeline trips where hanging is not an option. At least some of the time. Make sure that this guarantee is totally transparent. Each paper is composed from scratch, according to your instructions.
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