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best bear bagging system for a group

12:11 p.m. on February 16, 2012 (EST)
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I was surprised not to find too many articles on bear bagging methods on this forum.  It could be to the fact I am not using the correct wording in my search.  So I'll take the opportunity to ask...

In the past our group of about 6-8 people head out to the BWCA on our annual canoeing/hiking/fishing adventure.  To do this we went through a outfitter who supplied all of our needs.   After doing this for a few times we figured out that we could supply our own equipment (except the canoes) for a much cheaper price.  Therefore, everyone is responsible for various items that we will need.  One of those items I am responsible for is the bear bag.  

In the past we used the old counterbalance method using heavy ropes and pullies.  This required several of us to get our mess bags (Duluth Packs or Dry Packs) up in the air and usually took several "trial and errors" to get them up to a reasonable height from black bears and rodents...

Since I am now responsible I have just learned that there are other methods!  Some seem much easier and lighter.  One would be the PCT Method  (I do own several biners and Spectra 725 line) and another version is called the Marrison Haul System (looks like paracord would be the solution for that one).  I am not sure if any of these methods would meet our needs or if I should just go back to the counterbalance method.

I also understand that most would just recommend going with a Bear canister and not worry about hanging, but with such a large group I was worried about weight and lugging the canister(s) over several portages. 

So I ask for advise from the experts...what would you do?  

10:40 a.m. on February 17, 2012 (EST)
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Hey Edwinholt,

Hanging your food can work well in areas that do not require canisters and where the bears are not overly habituated to people, and thus adept at hang removal. 

For a couple people, just about any hanging method that you prefer will work fine. For a multi-day group trip, however, I would recommend the Marrison method, as it alloys you to more easily lift a heavy load. The carabiner fulcrum point subjects the cord to far less friction than a tree limb, and the also multiplies your pulling power by acting as a pulley. A small cord carrying a heavy weight will bite or saw dawn into a tree limb, making it difficult or even impossible to accomplish. There is also a conservation consideration, ideal trees near campsites will often be used by lots of people, which repeatedly cuts into the limbs, eventually killing the limbs and even the whole tree. 

To effectively use the system though, I would recommend carrying 100ft of cord for each hang. Since you can't always find a strong enough limb at an ideal 15ft off the ground, you may have to use one that it higher. However high the branch is, you'll need 4 times that length; for a limb 25ft up you'll need 100ft.   

11:15 a.m. on February 17, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks much for your advice.  I'll look into purchasing more paracord.  I think I only have 50 feet handy.  I'll get that trucker's knot down before I leave. :-) 

Do you think two Nite Ize S-Biner #3 with a 25lbs limit work for the biners?

1:29 p.m. on February 17, 2012 (EST)
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Hmm, it might, but those have a really narrow loading edge that might bind or even cut the cord if you are putting a pretty heavy load on them. Depending on the size of your group and the length of your trip, you might be hauling quite a few pounds. It might be necessary to set two hangs just to get it all up. I would personally use a light-weight but full sized wire gate biner, which offers a wider loading edge and no concerns about strength. 

I think it will be important to get a really clear idea of the volume and weight of the food for the whole trip well before hand. That way you can insure you have enough hang bags, and also make a few practice hangs before hand with that amount of weight to see if one setup will do, or if you need two. 

4:41 p.m. on February 17, 2012 (EST)
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Sounds great.  I'll do that.  If I need a change it would be easier with a Scheels in my backyard than trying to find a solution in the backcountry.  Thanks for your help.  I appreciate it...

6:09 p.m. on February 17, 2012 (EST)
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I have found this method of hanging food is the most adaptable to terrain,  causes the least damage to trees, and can loft the heaviest loads.  But its best attribute is it permits suspending the hang bag far from limbs and other points the critters may use to gain access to your food hang.

Ed

11:18 p.m. on February 18, 2012 (EST)
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On last summer's BWCAW trip I gave up trying to hang food.  This year's REI dividend is going to a set of bear canisters.  Finding the right tree branches and then actually getting the rope thrown over the brand is just not worth the effort.  I've found it rare to be able to get a heavy food bag well enough protected so a bear is unable to reach it.  My new method is bear canisters and leave them well away from camp.

By the way, I find paracord has too much stretch for really heavy food bags.  Actual nylon braided rope works much better.

4:50 p.m. on February 19, 2012 (EST)
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Using a biner instead of just throwing a line over a branch allows more weight to be hoisted. I carry a climbing grade locking steel biner with me and just tie the line to the biner to throw it over a branch. The biner is heavy enough to pull the line over the branch and if you have to you can shake the line to get it to feed down to the point where you can reach it.

Also the biner may come in handy for other purposes such as using several lines together to repel.

5:43 a.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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alan said:

...By the way, I find paracord has too much stretch for really heavy food bags.  Actual nylon braided rope works much better.

If you use the para chord as the main haul line, it definitely is insufficient, especially if lifting a big load.  I have used this system for over forty years and never had any of the problems you lament. when para chord is used as part of a system utilizing two lines, as described in my previous post, there is no problem with excessive stretching or weight capacity.  I have used that system to loft close to 100 pounds of food with no issues.

CVampingwithcharlie said:

..I carry a climbing grade locking steel biner with me and just tie the line to the biner to throw it over a branch. The biner is heavy enough to pull the line over the branch and if you have to you can shake the line to get it to feed down to the point where you can reach it...

The reason I suggest using a rock instead of the carabineer to loft the line over the tree limb is the carabineer can get fouled in the tangle of small branches and twigs, and be very difficult to retrieve.  Rocks are much heavier and significantly reduce the prospect of getting snagged.

Ed 

9:18 a.m. on February 20, 2012 (EST)
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I used to rely on just the weight of a climbing biner as well, but have since found that a small stuff sack works much better. It is also much lighter in the pack, as I can carry a small biner, or at least a light wire-gate one. 

I have hoisted as much as 30-40 lbs with para cord without too much difficulty, but for 50+, I would get 5mm static cordage from a climbing outfitter. If you want to source cordage online, I would get it from http://www.onrope1.com/

7:45 a.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks everyone.  I went ahead and took several suggestions and went to the local sporting goods store and picked up to regular size biners and 100 feet of regular 1/4 polypropylene rope.  I gave it a try over an oak tree limb in the front year with a bag full of dumbbell weights (about 45 lbs).  I tried several methods.   Although the PCT method worked the bag was too heavy to keep suspended while I tied the clove hitch. The Marrison worked well, but the smaller biners I purchaed earlier didn't work.  Acting like a pully I bent the #3.  I am glad to find that out at home and not in the back country.

I even tried whomeworry 's version. I actually like that version the best. For the BWCA I think I'll try it.  It requires two ropes...which after several trips to the sporting store and the local hardware store I have plenty of.

Maybe in the future I'll break down and purchase a bear canister, but for the cost I think I have a solution for this year's trip.

3:39 p.m. on February 21, 2012 (EST)
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I think I have a method of hanging a heavy load with the advantages of the Marrison Haul System and the PCT Method.

Assuming a 15' high branch you will need ~75' of rope, 1 30' piece and 1 45' piece. The 30' piece should not need to be as strong as the 45' piece as it is not the load bearing rope.

Toss the short (blue) rope over your branch.

step-1.png
Tie both ends of the short rope and one end of the long to a biner 

step-2.png
Pull until the long rope goes over and gets back to you. Detach on end of the short rope. Your efforts should now look like this.


step-3.png


Feed the free end of the long rope through a biner attached to your food bag, then though the biner attached to the ropes.

step-4.png

Pull one the free end of the short rope until your lines look like 5.

step-5.png

Now all you have to do is pull on the free end of the long rope to hoist your food. You may have to temporarily tie off the short line while hoisting.

If the bears in your area have not been to the Yosemite School of Food Gathering you can just tie off the long line.  Otherwise use the PCT method of securing it and leave it hanging.

Advantages:

You can hoist more weight.
It doesn't cause much damage to the tree.
If you use the PCT method of securing the line your bag only falls half the distance it would using a single line.

Disadvanges:

You need more line.

Please hold all complements, etc. on my drawing abilities.  Feel free to criticize this method. I have never used this method.  Am planning on getting a bear canister so I don't have to.

I don't have time at the moment but I think I can work out a way to make it work like whomeworry's

1:52 a.m. on February 22, 2012 (EST)
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Just have the least experienced stay up with the food. :D Maybe you could take the person snipe hunting later in the trip...

9:35 a.m. on February 22, 2012 (EST)
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LOL!  second gear ...   The bear proof containers (which will be hereafter referred to as 'The bear provocation devices') have a second sinister purpose. They also slow down a hiker by having to carry their extra weight. No sense in making the bear work too hard getting his much needed calories for the winter. Just give the hiker a little extra weight to bog them down enough for the bear to catch up with them easily. That puts the food chain back in the proper order.

Once acquired, bear provocation containers provide great entertainment for the bear. The first fun part is catching the hiker with one. Then comes the joy of ripping open the backpack it is in, much like the happiness of kids opening Christmas presents. Then they can play soccer with the canister until it breaks open and they can go after it like kids breaking a pinata. For desert, there is always the hiker himself. Who says you can't have your cake and eat it too?  ;-)


9:42 a.m. on February 22, 2012 (EST)
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Thanks ocalacomputerguy.  I'll take a look at it and see if it helps.  Although, whomeworry's solution is very easy to use.  It pulled up the bag with 45 lbs of weights with ease using the proper biners and rope combo. 


I'll give it a try this weekend and let you know how it works...  I think I'll use the 1/4 polypropylene rope for the larger rope and the paracord as the smaller...

Thanks again everyone.  Although, my neighbors are starting to think I am either going crazy or 2012 is actually the year of the end and I am stocking supplies in the trees!


10:32 a.m. on February 22, 2012 (EST)
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edwinholt said:

 Although, my neighbors are starting to think I am either going crazy or 2012 is actually the year of the end and I am stocking supplies in the trees!

Hahaha! That's great :)

1:24 p.m. on February 22, 2012 (EST)
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Saw this video on you tube. The guy gives a good example of how to hang using the PCT method and an "alternative" if you don't have the perfect branch. Good clear and concise.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qgBLDMuPuvE

Ran across this video advertising a knot-less version of the PCT.  The link will take you to the point in the video where he show the "trick" up close.  The guy is a bit tedious.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=hpR_LEoD5PU#t=303s

After the first example does anybody get the idea that the "knot-less" version is more complicated and possibly harder to do?

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