During a recent backpacking trip, we hung the bear bag and got ready to set in for the night and I realized I wasn't sure what I should do with my backpack. Technically the backpack was carrying the food bag all day, so should it be hung? I should clarify that I am not using a bear canister, so although the food is in sealed bags, it still technically is in contact with the bag

From personal experience, I've always just left it right outside of my tent, but now that I'm acquiring more expensive backpacking gear, I fear that my backpack will be dragged off in the night by a bear or have a hole chewed in it by a rodent. Is there a best practice for this kind of thing? Any suggestions?


6 Answers 6


I almost always sleep with my backpack--in fact, I use it as part of my sleep system as I use a shorter sleeping pad, so the backpack goes under my feet. Keeping the pack in your tent gives maximum protection from the worst backcountry pests--mice and their kin.

In the past I've left my pack outside covered in a large, thick trash bag. I think once I ended up hanging my entire pack (ugh).

  • Using it as part of your sleep system is a good idea! I normally use balled up clothing for the same thing, but I should probably just keep it all in my pack...seems a lot simpler.
    – Blackbear
    Commented Jan 5, 2014 at 19:33
  • 3
    Once, when freezing in my summer sleeping bag under the snow, I followed the advice of someone in this site. I emptied my pack and put my feet inside the backpack, just as one big shoe. Feet are very important to be kept warm.
    – Vorac
    Commented Jan 7, 2014 at 15:33
  • 1
    I also use it as part of my sleep system for warming my feet, but sometimes I put it under my head: this way you can also protect it from theft (although if someone can sneak up to you close enough without waking you up, he can steal the bag and run away fast enough). Other sleep system idea: pack your unused clothes in your sleeping bag's sack and use it as a pillow.
    – Akabelle
    Commented Jul 15, 2015 at 9:26

Unless food or another smelly substance has been spilled on the backpack, and so long as all such temptations have been removed from the pack and placed in the suspended bear bag, it should be safe to keep it on the ground for the night--whether it's propped against a tree, placed in your tent's vestibule or in the tent with you.

Think of it this way: you don't have much of a choice but to expose your tent to rodents or other pests, but it tends to remains safe. It's never a bad idea to check all of your backpack's pockets and openings for animals or bugs in the morning before you reach in or start packing up, but packs typically should not be damaged if left on the ground, so long as proper precautions are taken.


I have always used my backpack as part of my sleep system. All food stuffs are double wrapped,in the center of the pack,then the pack is placed at the head of the sleeping bag,with a fleece placed over it. If you are worried about vermin getting at it,in the past I have been known to cover it with a rain hood and suspend it from a tree,using a rope thrown over a sturdy branch,a vibration-sensing alarm is an optional extra,if you are uber-paranoid !!


I sleep in a hammock under a rainfly when I backpack or car camp. When I'm backpacking, I toss my toothpaste and pre-moistened wipes (anything scented) into my food bag and hang it up several yards from my hammock. Then, when I go to bed, I place my pack under the backs of my knees. It's really comfortable having that support. I hadn't thought I could be more comfortable after my first night in a hammock, but the first time I slept this way I was pleasantly surprised at how good it felt. I bet it would feel good on a pad on the ground, too. Just make absolute sure that there is nothing scented in your pack when you go to bed. That includes clothes that might have gotten spills or crumbs during dinner. Pack safe, breathe deep and have fun.


Put your rain fly on it and hang it works well.

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A rope and pulley will keep bears from getting to it and if it is on the ground then it is a target for critters. And then so are you.

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