bear bags or food bags

7:12 a.m. on November 27, 2019 (EST)
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I've noticed what I think might be an interesting, if not alarming, trend the past few months. It appears some people are deciding to forego the hanging of food bags. Instead opting to keep everything in their tent.

Just after an AT section hike in Georgia with a college buddy of mine, back in September, I was reading a feed on a FB group (Appalachian Trail Section Hikers). It was in response to the proper hanging of bear bags, I think. This person stated something to the tune of; "black bears are afraid of us. I keep everything in my tent and they don't bother me."

I discounted his comment, and noticed that no one responded. Then, later in September a person came to my coffee shop. He was fresh off a through hike, finishing in Maine on 21 September. We talked backpacking for about an hour. In that discussion, he said he did the same thing! He camped away from the popular areas, and kept his food bag inside his tent for the entire 6 month trip!

I am NOT planning to try this. That's not the point of this post (I'd be sleeping with one eye open). I'm just curious if anyone else has heard of this. Perhaps these two people are isolated in their opinion? Though I find if two people are willing to share this publicly they are quite possibly not alone.

8:45 a.m. on November 27, 2019 (EST)
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They will eventually meet a bear that will change their minds.

In plenty of places 'Bear Canisters' and nothing else are law.

10:01 a.m. on November 27, 2019 (EST)
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If you are camping in true wilderness black bears won't try to take your food because they respect possession :) If you are camping in a place where they have strung up cables or lugged in steel boxes, they have bears that have been broken by humans. Not using the provided options, hanging a bag or using a canister in such a spot is asking to be disrespected.

OG is correct about canisters being the future. GMC is moving in that direction for the LT even as they put out more and more boxes.

10:09 a.m. on November 27, 2019 (EST)
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Stop this fad in its tracks. 

Respect black bears or pay the price. 

10:11 a.m. on November 27, 2019 (EST)
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I think there are plenty enough bear stories here on TS that might help convince.

Here's one. Scroll down to Patman's post.


And another.

And this.


All found while searching Patman's posts for his story of having his pack taken and shredded. Never did find that one.

2:45 p.m. on November 27, 2019 (EST)
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Q: Do you know what they call people who think they don't need to use birth control? 

A: Parents...

Q: Do you know what they call people who sleep with food in their tent in bear country? 

A: Hungry, new tent customers.

Explain to anyone sleeping with their food in bear country, it is a game of odds - which eventually has the bear losing his life in the long run, and the camper risking a mauling.  Hunger and habituation will overcome any fear a bear may have of humans.  Once a bear equates humans and tents with food, dangerous encounters are sure to occur, if not mitigated (that's code for the bear is killed before someone gets hurt).

I camp in the Sierra.  I estimate my camp gets a bear visit once for every two or three days spent out there.  Their stealth is the reason more bear experiences are not shared.  Most bears at best are wary of humans, a disposition hunger can overpower.


7:42 p.m. on November 27, 2019 (EST)
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Forget being hungry and losing a tent.  People like this ultimately cause bears to be destroyed.  Unforgiveable. 

8:12 p.m. on November 27, 2019 (EST)
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I don't have personal experience witnessing anyone taking food bags into their tents. I would consider moving my tent. I'm also aware I chose a topic which would garner universal agreement in a backpacking forum. This was a non-issue for me when I read the FB post. Then an AT thru-hiker informed me how he kept his food bags in this tent. It intrigued me.

On a trip in mid-October I noticed a group of 3, camped next to us, who had all of their food in a cloth grocery bag. It was apparent they had no plan to hang that bag. They weren't going to bring it in their tent. I think they were going to leave it leaning against a tree. They were camped about 40 feet away from us. I formulated a strategy to address this.

I approached them and asked a question. "Hey, I plan to hang our bear bags just over there, about 100 feet across the trail. Do you think that's a good idea?"

I received a "deer in the headlights" look.

After some gentle education they agreed to allow me to hang their bags with us, while I taught them the PCT method.

I averted a potential issue, and hopefully educated some new backcountry hikers in the process.

12:39 a.m. on November 28, 2019 (EST)
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@jerry: yeah, this has been a thing for a few years now. If I'm forced to generalize, the trend is due to a number of popular thru-hikers stating that such techniques have been successful for them. 

I must admit that it is a nuanced concept. I have, indeed, slept with my food in black bear country in areas where black bears are not too habituated. This was at backcountry sites far away from populated campsites with my food inside an odor-proof Lok-Sak, after having practiced good camp hygiene, cooking/cleaning things a good distance from my camp, and washing my hands.

The notion is exactly as has been alluded: that in areas populated by unhabituated black bears, outside of the lean season, such bears will not mess with you apart from the usual "what the hell is going on here" sniff. 

I have heard such sniffs from my tent. I have in every case been able to go back to sleep. 

It is like LNT. There are hard rules, and then there are degrees of application. I would never recommend anyone follow suit. Anyone looking to posts on the internet for advice on such matters do not likely meet the requirements to heed such advice.

Perhaps I am playing russian roulette. It's just that I've successfully operated for many years making sure that I'm the stinkest thing in my tent. In fact, I make sure to cut out deodorant a few days before my trips, and always use unscented soaps and detergents. My musk is apparently a good filter.

6:48 a.m. on November 28, 2019 (EST)
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I think it is highly situational pillowthread. Following the same basic plan as you I have had no problems with wilderness bears. Smelling like a human is enough to overcome whatever food smells you put out to them. I too avoid perfumes and camping with hyperphagic bears :)

Unfortunately, a conditioned bear who smells humans will have the opposite reaction. They are drawn in because they smell people and know people have food. They also are not afraid which really changes the relationship dynamics heh.

When I'm camped at a shelter on the AT or other frequently traveled trail I'm a lot more nervous than when I'm camping alone somewhere folks don't go.

10:10 a.m. on November 28, 2019 (EST)
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A fed bear, is a dead many national parks point out, yes they will be shot once adapted to human food!

10:13 a.m. on November 28, 2019 (EST)
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In the backcountry I never camp near anyone.  I don't trust them. 

4:17 p.m. on November 28, 2019 (EST)
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I had a black  bear come into a 'REMOTE' lean-to with me so please don't tell me they are afraid of human scent.

Bears are the alpha animal in the woods. They make the decisions. You live with the decision and react.

12:19 p.m. on November 29, 2019 (EST)
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I have been sniffed by bears several times.  They are curious of human scent.  Don't give them a reason to come in without knocking. 

5:16 p.m. on December 1, 2019 (EST)
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It is not practical to attempt to "scent-proof" your food, so bears can't smell it.  Nor is it possible to mask food scent with other smells.  Drug smugglers would be using such technology against DEA K-9s if it existed.  You can get away with it, perhaps for years, but like unprotected sex, the odds will catch up with your and the consequences are grim for both bear and camper.

And don't be mislead into thinking camping off the beaten track will place you among more cautious, timid bears.  A bear's territory is expansive, and they own it.  They consider everything in their domain as fair game.  I've camped miles from other humans, yet still got visited.  It is no big deal for them to travel miles on a daily basis.  There are few, if any, places in the lower 48, with beard that have never crossed paths with humans.


10:44 p.m. on December 1, 2019 (EST)
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Jerry its quit common on the AT.Youd be surprised...Does it sound smart then nope..Hang your food...

12:58 p.m. on December 4, 2019 (EST)
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There are lots of places in the Lower 48 where bears are still wild.  

3:32 p.m. on December 4, 2019 (EST)
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Forget about bears.  What about raccoons, skunks and squirrels?  They will definitely tear through a tent or pack to get at food.   

4:57 p.m. on December 4, 2019 (EST)
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DrPhun said:

Forget about bears.  What about raccoons, skunks and squirrels?  They will definitely tear through a tent or pack to get at food.   

 So true...

Keeping food in your tent is inviting trouble, like leaving your keys in you car in a parking lot or big city st.

March 31, 2020
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