Over the years I’ve done enough camping to learn just how much bears love to steal a little back brunch from unsuspecting campers. And, the more urbanization takes away bear habitat the more they rely on for food, the more they will look at campers and campsites as sources for food.
With that in mind, learning how to hang a bear bag can mean the difference between chowing down on hot dogs and roasting smores or foraging berries.
Hanging a bear bag is a relatively straight forward process, provided you know what you are doing. No matter how you go about it you’ll need at least 50 feet of rope (I recommend nylon rope because it’s light weight, water proof, and very durable), but it is better to bring something closer to 100 feet with you.
When I camp in bear country the first thing I do, when looking for a campsite, is find the right tree to hang my bear bag from. The ideal tree will have a limb that is at least 15-20 feet off the ground and strong enough to support the weight of your food.
Once you’ve found your tree, there are several methods you can use to suspend your food. The simplest is the counter weight method. The real trick is getting the rope over the branch. First, tie a light weight to one end of the rope. This will make it easier to throw accurately. I recommend using a 1 pound barbell or other similar object. The barbell works great because it’s easy to tie a knot around and just as easy to throw. It might take a few tries, but throw the weighted end of the rope over the branch and lower it down so that it will be easy to tie your food bag to.
Next you’ll need to weight the other end of your rope or tie it to something securely. Most campers instinctively use a rock for this purpose, which can be fine, but most rocks aren’t exactly designed to have a rope tied to them. I recommend using a heavy tent stake or tying the rope to a nearby tree. In the absence of a better option, you can even tie it to same tree that you’re using to hang your bear bag from.
The next step is tie your bear bag to the unsecured end of the rope. This is infinitely easier if your bear bag has a handle on it. An army style duffle bag works great, but anything similar will do just fine.
After you tie off your bag adjust the height of the bag by pulling back the slack of the rope until the bag hangs at least 15 feet off the ground. Then secure the rope so that your bag will stay at that height and viola your meals will be safe from any would-be picnic thieves.
Photo: Alan Vernon