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Gonna Have to Bear Bag

4:23 p.m. on June 4, 2001 (EDT)
(Guest)

Need some tips on the best way to bear bag. I don't really want to purchase one of those expensive cannisters. Any suggestions on this? All I know is that it needs to be a least twenty feet off the ground.

Hikergirl

5:17 p.m. on June 4, 2001 (EDT)
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Hikergirl -

I've forgotten where you will be hiking, but if I recall, it is in the NE. Bears are not quite as educated there as in Yosemite, so bear bagging is pretty simple as long as you have trees available. Get about 50-100 ft of parachute cord (longer is betrer) and a small ditty bag (3 or 4 inch size). You can carry the cord in the bag. Find a tree 100 feet or so from your sleeping area and your cooking area (cooking area should be a hundred feet or so from your sleeping area so the beasties won't be rummaging through your tent with you in it). The tree should have a limb with a fairly clean shot about 20-30 feet up. Since bears can climb (as can other beasties), pick a fairly thin branch (just thick enough to suport your "smellables", which means more than just food - toothpaste, deodorant if any "real" backpacker takes deodorant, snacks, anything that might smell attractive to a beastie). Also, there should be no branches below your chosen one which the bear can walk out on and reach up.


Put a few small rocks in the little bag or fill it with sand and tie it to one end of your 100 foot cord. Uncoil your cord so it will run freely and not go with the bag in a tangled clump. (here's the challenging part) toss the bag (with cord attached) over the branch. If you have enough weight in the bag, it will slide fairly freely to the ground, so make sure you hold onto one end of the cord (otherwise it will just pull right over and you will have to try again). Now, how to toss the bag. I find that an underhanded "sling" is best, but other people use other techniques (like slingshots and fishing line). Anyway, I let out a couple feet of cord and start whirling the bag in a vertical circle, then sling it underhanded upward at a slant toward just above the branch. If the branch is clear, this usually works first shot. If it is a tangle of branches, then it sometimes takes a couple tries.

Now that you have the cord over the branch, you can choose one of two approaches, depending on how educated the local bears are. If they don't know much about humans, then just put your food in a ditty bag lined with a plastic garbage bag (you could use your sleeping bag stuff sack, but it will pick up the food odors and transfer them to your sleeping bag, which might invite unwanted guests to your sleeping quarters). Tie the bag to the end of the cord that had your little ditty bag with the rocks in it, haul it up to perhaps 5 feet below the branch, and tie it off to some convenient spot. The problem with this approach is that a medium smart bear can figure out the connection between the single tie-off and cut the cord (by biting, pulling, clawing, or whatever). A mouse can come down the cord and get into the bag (had this happen, and the mouse left souveniers that I didn't notice when preparing a pre-dawn breakfast, which made me very sick later that day). So you can use a tin can lid that is punched with a hole and put over the cord (like the rat shields used on ship lines).

A variation is to use 2 cords to the food bag and tie each in to a separate tieoff point, separated by some distance. This still seems to work in the southern Rockies. Another variation, especially when there are no clear branches, is to toss the cord through 2 trees and haul the bag up so it is suspended between trees. This requires two tie-offs, and if either one is cut or broken, the food comes within reach of a bear on the ground.

Some areas recommend the counter-balance method. In this case, you divide the food equally between two food bags and tie one to the end of the cord. Haul this bag all the way up to the branch, then tie the second bag on as high as you can reach (a figure-8 or overhand loop in conjunction with a small carabiner makes this easier). Coil the remaining cord and attach it to the food bag so that no beastie can reach it from the ground. Now push the bag up until the two bags are at the same height and counterbalanced. To get the bags down (ah, the magic trick), use the stick or hiking pole you pushed the bag up with (only way to get the bags to even height), to hook one of the bags and pull it down. Say what? Hook? Yes, tie a loop in the cord and leave it dangling slightly so you can hook it with your long stick or hiking pole. With practice, you can learn to loop your cord and leave a little loop that you can catch and pull the cord back down to provide a haul line. The trick of coiling the cord is left as an exercise for the reader (it does appear in several books).

Practice bear bagging BEFORE you leave for the woods. You don't want to be sitting there on the ground, staring up at your perfectly balanced food bags and unable to get them back down.

Check to see if your area has food lockers installed at the designated campsites. Yosemite has some lockers installed in what would otherwise be wilderness campsites. The safest bet is to just bite the bullet and buy or rent the Garcia bear containers. Of the ones on the market, the only ones that have stood up to testing consistently are the Garcias. The Nomex bag lets the bears much the food around, leaving you with broken containers, liquid leaking out, and all your food a real mess. The aluminum cylinders don't seem to hold up in practice. I have broken a Garcia (actually, one of my scouts did, by dropping it of the top of a van onto a concrete parking lot). But Garcia replaced it, no charge. Yeah, it's extra weight, but with the PhD level Yosemite bears, it's the only thing that works consistently. Bears elsewhere may still be trickable with bear bagging in the trees.

8:34 p.m. on June 4, 2001 (EDT)
(Guest)

Ouch!!

When throwing your weighted bag, especially in underhand throws, don't let the rope get caught between your fingers. After years of bear bagging and getting pretty good at it, I did this do-do-act last yr. OUCH! I got a bunch of skin rubbed off between my fingers. This old dog is finally learning a new trick. Also, if your bag is too heavy (relative to the size of the limb/branch) it may damage the bark or even break the limb.

Also see following sites:
rei.com go to "Learn & Share" on the left panel, then "Bear Canister" and scroll to the bottom.
mec.ca go to "Activity" then "Hiking/Camping", then scroll down to "Bear Safety"
You can do a search at www.nps.gov and see what shows.

Enjoy. :=))

9:14 p.m. on June 4, 2001 (EDT)
(Guest)

Quote:

Need some tips on the best way to bear bag. I don't really want to purchase one of those expensive cannisters. Any suggestions on this? All I know is that it needs to be a least twenty feet off the ground.

Hikergirl

I don't like parachute cord because it stretches too much and it tangles too easy - I use light weight climber's utility cord, 5 or 6 mil ($0.04 per foot). Its very stong and its easy to tie and untie knots with. I also bring a couple of carabiners ($5 bucks each). Here's where it pays to know your knots. I tie a figure eight on a bight (climbers knot - easy to tie & untie when you know it; see http://brmrg.med.virginia.edu/knots/fig8loop.html) at one one of the cord and clip a biner thtough the loop and then to the food bag. Then I haul my bag up (usually using Bill S. first technique except in the 'dacks high peak region). With the other end of the cord that get tied off to a tree I use a tensionless knot: wrap the cord around the tree 3 times, then tie a figure 8 on a bight, then clip a biner throught the loop in the knot and then onto the cord that extends up to the bag. The 3 loops around the tree provide enough friction to hold the bag up so the biner will sort of hang loosley (tensionless knot) and do pretty much nothing but make you feel good. Hope that's clear - good lcuk.

11:50 p.m. on June 4, 2001 (EDT)
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408 forum posts
What type of bears??

Quote:

Need some tips on the best way to bear bag. I don't really want to purchase one of those expensive cannisters. Any suggestions on this? All I know is that it needs to be a least twenty feet off the ground.

Moth balls. .44 Mag...uhhh, bely that one...

If yer in black bear country, a frying pan in yer hand and yor non stinky food in the tent?

Pack the stinky stuff in double bags with moth ball on the outside of the inner bag...might work as a deterrant.

Them habituated buggers are smart. If you can hang it, they can get it. Trip wires, flares, artillery...ok, pee around yer camp (mark yer territory), hang the food with bells on so you can hear 'em, pelt 'em with rocks (or...) to scare 'em away...

Or camp in a crowded area, make sure yours is the least dirty smelly camp...

I like wild bears. Dislike the non wild ones...

So...what bear infested part of the country you headin' to?

Brian in SLC
(but originally from bear country in Montany...)

5:23 a.m. on June 5, 2001 (EDT)
(Guest)

Re: Black Bears

Quote:

So...what bear infested part of the country you headin' to?


Black bear country in Ellicott Rock Wilderness where NC, GA and SC meet (Chattooga River Trail).

Just found out this past weekend a bear got someones food and shredded the container to get to it.

Hikergirl

12:36 p.m. on June 5, 2001 (EDT)
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408 forum posts
PVC pipe?

Quote:

Quote:

So...what bear infested part of the country you headin' to?


Black bear country in Ellicott Rock Wilderness where NC, GA and SC meet (Chattooga River Trail).

Just found out this past weekend a bear got someones food and shredded the container to get to it.

Instead of springin' 80 bucks for a bear proof container, I guess I'd take a shot at making one out of 6" (or bigger?) PVC pipe with a glued on end and a threaded on end. These things are pretty bomber (climbers use them as "poop tubes"). Might survive a bear encounter. Amazing what these critters will do to get some tasty treats. Anywhoo, these are pretty cheap to make and a hardware store could help you put one together. Fits nicely in a pack and pretty robust.

I think bear "bags" will only end up with your food being a smashed up soup...so...hard shell or bag hung way high...I suppose...

Brian in SLC

5:08 p.m. on June 5, 2001 (EDT)
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Re: PVC pipe?

Hikergirl -

The Yosemite bear/food storage website is http://www.nps.gov/yose/wilderness/bfoodstorage.htm. Smokies bears aren't quite as advanced as Yosemite bears, but they are getting there.

I will have to check with my Yosemite ranger friends, but I seem to recall that among the many tests was a PVC pipe of the poop tube size. My recollection was that the PVC didn't stand up very well, cracked open when the bears bounced it hard or something like that. The test is to put the container in the enclosures of some black and griz at a zoo not far from Yosemite (Sacra??). The blacks include some PhD grads of the Yosemite system. I don't recall whether the griz were Yellowstone or Glacier deportees. They seem to make short work of most of the candidate bear containers. Can't remember the name of the Kevlar bag that's being sold, but the griz actually tore it open. Best thing, though, was the steel boxes that get bolted to granite slabs or large concrete slabs with rebar - spoils the wilderness aspect, but it keeps the food safe. Doesn't keep the mice out, though.

10:44 a.m. on June 6, 2001 (EDT)
(Guest)

Quote:

Quote:

Hikergirl,

Just keep it locked up in that old pick-up truck.

I have heard the bears in the Carolina region know how
to drive, so LOCK that baby up and stowe the key in the
firepit.

1:16 p.m. on June 6, 2001 (EDT)
(Guest)

Purchase The Canister!

Here's the problem with bear bagging - finding a tree! Unless your camping where the hoards are it's impossible(particularly if your canoeing for a bit and have 60lbs of crap)to find a tree which has a branch suitable for bear bagging - i.e free from any branches beneath it - capable of holding food at least 5 feet from the tree, 5 from the branch, and 10 from the ground. The tightwire suspension (run a line between 2 trees with bag attached) doesn't work (vermin highway) unless you drop the food a good bit below - and then you have to cliimb the trees pretty damn high in order to hang it. Easiest way is just to buck up and buy the dumb canister - will save you time and effort. Put the food in the canister and cover your cook kit with rocks.
-smarter than your average bear

3:56 p.m. on June 7, 2001 (EDT)
(Guest)

Re: Carolina bears

Quote:

I have heard the bears in the Carolina region know how
to drive, so LOCK that baby up and stowe the key in the
firepit.

Carolina bears don't drive, but Carolina Panthers do!:0)

8:53 a.m. on June 8, 2001 (EDT)
(Guest)

My fave.

Hey HG

This is my way. I hope I can make it make sense.

Firstly, I use a clear PVC smallish, mediumish dry bag that you would use for keeping your stuff dry while boating. Since it's waterproof, I am allowing myself to believe that less food odor can escape.

Okay, now for the complicated part-- here goes:

Take your parachute cord-- 100ft. like Bill said. Tie on your weight and sling it over the branch (pick your favorite throwing method). Now, you're standing there with two ends of the cord in your hands, with the middle up in the tree. Tie on the dry bag to one end. Now, go up the cord about 6 feet from the bag, add a loop into the cord (use a double eight), and clip a carabiner through the loop. Next, run the other end of the cord through the 'biner and haul the bag up. When the bag is up in the tree, it will be hanging six feet below the branch-- that's good. Now, tie on some kind of weight (a nice rock is standard) that can accomodate some rolled cord. Once the weight is on, wind the cord around it as high as you can reach and tie it off to the weight (this works great for us six-footers). Stand on something if you can (log that can be moved away when you're done is nice). The bag is up in the tree, the weight is suspended in mid-air. That's it.

I know that it's not for everyone. The part with lifting the rock over your head is the thing that keeps most people from using the method. However, it's always worked really well for me. Even if a bear can reach it a little, it can usually only just touch the bottom of the rock while on it's hinds. This can actually be kind of entertaining to watch as Bruin puzzles over it! Bruin will be able to touch it just enough to get it to swing a little. He'll do this a few times, maybe climb up the tree and try that way, and eventually leave.

A buddy of mine uses another little bag filled with sand or rocks as the counter weight. This way he can coil the cord in his hand and clip it through another 'biner attached to the bag, rather than trying to coil it around and tying it off to the weight.

Hope it helps you.

N'E

11:28 a.m. on June 8, 2001 (EDT)
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1,238 forum posts
Interesting procedure. Question...

After hoisting the food bag up, why not just tie off the end of the rope to another tree instead of hanging a counter weight?

1:36 p.m. on June 8, 2001 (EDT)
(Guest)

Re: Carolina bears

Quote:

Quote:

I have heard the bears in the Carolina region know how
to drive, so LOCK that baby up and stowe the key in the
firepit.

Carolina bears don't drive, but Carolina Panthers do!:0)


Quote:

Quote:

Hikergirl,
You got that right. They drove all over my Giants.
But hey, just get out there and try it. You can learn alot
from personal experience. I know alot of folks on this site
offer good info and advice, but the personal experience is
more rewarding. Be your own woman! You know what they say
about opinions, bla, bla and everybody has one. Live your own life, it's more rewarding.

3:10 p.m. on June 8, 2001 (EDT)
(Guest)

Re: Interesting procedure. Question...

The bears in the Daks know that trick by heart. They don't even bother going for the bag, they just claw at the tie-off rope until everything comes crashing down.

I just divide the food into two bags and don't use a rock. That also means less weight on the branch, which is helpful if the trees are thin.

-dave-

Quote:

After hoisting the food bag up, why not just tie off the end of the rope to another tree instead of hanging a counter weight?

6:12 p.m. on June 8, 2001 (EDT)
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Info to find out

Hikergirl (and others reading this) -

You should talk to the rangers in the area you are going to about the habits and habituation of the local bears. In most areas, counterbalance and sunspension between trees work well. In some areas, a simple haul it up and tie it off works just fine. My recollection (a few years old) is that at Hikergirl's destination, the simple haul-it-up method is adequate (but watch those bears who went off to Yosemite College {8=>D) In some areas, the only thing that works is the portable canisters or installed steel boxes. As I mentioned before, Yosemite, Sequoia/Kings Canyon, Yellowstone, and Glacier bears will find tieoffs, send the cubs to kamikaze dive the counterbalance bags, bounce branches having counterbalance bags until they come off, break off branches, or even chew off branches (my Yosemite ranger friend showed me a photo of an 8-inch diameter branch that had been chewed off). The height of a bag really should be 15 feet or more above the ground, since a full grown black (and yearling griz) can have a reach of 10-12 feet. Habituated bears aren't particularly worried about riding a branch 15 or 20 feet to the ground, since they usually bend way over before they break off and provide a gentle partial lowering (esp. if the bags are more than 5 feet or so from the trunk). Yosemite bears know how to recognize containers that are likely to have food in them - packs, ice chests, food packaging (including beverage cans) - looking through the windows of cars. They can readily open up a car (just grab the doorframe with their claws and pull). Apparently they also associate certain makes and models of vehicle with food and will go after the car, whether an ice chest is visible or not. Yosemite shows a video to park visitors showing bear damage - you may have seen excerpts on Discovery and Learning Channels (maybe PBS also?)

Above timberline and in areas like Denali park, there will be no suitable trees. Even in many other areas, there may be no suitable tree close to your campsite.

And, Nor'Easter, sorry, but bears (and other beasts) have a lot more finely tuned olfactory system than you seem to think. Yes the PVC bag helps. Hut it isn't perfect by a long shot.

Anyway, if you aren't familiar with the area, ask the rangers about the current bear situation. (mice, marmots, and raccoons are another story - you have to guard against them, too)

10:38 p.m. on June 8, 2001 (EDT)
(Guest)

Re: Interesting procedure. Answer...

Quote:

After hoisting the food bag up, why not just tie off the end of the rope to another tree instead of hanging a counter weight?

Hey Ed.

(A) Simply because the bear can get at a rope that is tied off.

With my technique, the weight is hanging about 8 feet up (at least it is when Tall Me ties it). Only the biggest Black bears can reach up that high, and even then they don't have enough contact with the cord to do any damage. The biggest ones I've seen (Northeastern variety) can just about graze the bottom with the very tips of their claws. If you have some moveable object to stand on, it works even better because you can place it well out of reach and then move the object away.

Like it?

N'E

6:24 a.m. on June 9, 2001 (EDT)
30 reviewer rep
1,238 forum posts
Love it! n/m

nm

8:10 p.m. on June 9, 2001 (EDT)
(Guest)

Re: Love it! n/m

Try it! You'll love it even more!

In all my days of camping with Bruin, it's failed only once. That time, a two-year-old thought he could climb out on the branch that I had selected. The whole thing-- bag, rope, food, branch, bear-- crashed down in a big heap. Bruin split. Didn't even get my grub.

N'E

7:02 a.m. on June 11, 2001 (EDT)
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1,238 forum posts
I will definetly keep it in mind....

Next time I am heading back north to PA. Where I now do most of my camping bears aren't an issue.

If alligators learn how to stand up and start swatting at the rope for my food bag - I will most certainly adopt your counter weight design.

I do have to hoist my bag at least 15 feet of the ground, the wild horses can reach pretty far up.

If the bag is not weighted properly, the racoons know how to hoist the bag up INTO the tree.

Every environment certainly has its own little obstacles, eh?

7:29 p.m. on June 13, 2001 (EDT)
(Guest)

Re: Interesting procedure. Question...

Quote:

The bears in the Daks know that trick by heart. They don't even bother going for the bag, they just claw at the tie-off rope until everything comes crashing down.

I just divide the food into two bags and don't use a rock. That also means less weight on the branch, which is helpful if the trees are thin.

-dave-

Even though all kinds of bagging have been figured out by the bears it's still pretty neccesary most of the time, so we reeally need a new way. It looks like Noreaster's way of doing it is new. How many times have you tried this method? Larry.

April 19, 2014
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