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My friends and I are planning our first backpacking trip and the date is less than a month away. We just have a couple of loose ends to finish up on.

We were wondering what the best method to tie your food into a tree is. I would imagine 20ft above the ground would be plenty - but then again I don't know.

Parks Canada website suggests a minimum of 100 meters between yourself and your hung food/cooking fire/cooking clothes, but the image they show with an example of hung bags seems pretty complex (see picture below). Would we really have to have someone climb all the way to the top of a tree to hang our bags effectively? Not that this would be an issue, but I feel like that is a lot more work than necessary.

Backcountry campground set-up

Is the method shown in the picture the best/safest?

  • Note: The website indicates 100m in the image but states a minimum of 50m in the accompanying text. – ppl Jul 19 '15 at 14:44
  • @ppl That's good to note. I would rater be safe than sorry, but I'm sure that 50m is plenty distance. – Ryan Welsh Jul 19 '15 at 14:57
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    Using a bearcan on the ground – Eric Jul 19 '15 at 15:10
  • @radpin Seeing as this is our first backpacking trip, the budget was used up rather quickly on necessities. As nice as it would be to have a bearcan (which I do plan on investing in for my next trip), it was not possible for this trip. – Ryan Welsh Jul 19 '15 at 16:05
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    Bear canisters are usually more trouble than they're worth except for where they're actually required and the bears are habituated to the point that bear bags are ineffective. – Jonathan Patt Jul 20 '15 at 2:45
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In most places without extremely human habituated bears, a simple hang with the line tossed over a sturdy, isolated branch and tied off to an adjacent tree trunk is suitable. The bag should end up being roughly 12 feet above the ground, 5 feet away from the trunk and 5 feet below the branch.

The PCT hang is a clever variation of this which eliminates the possibility of a bear swiping the line with its claws where it's tied off to the trunk. You begin the same way, but ensure you have a carabiner at the end of the line, then clip the line back through it again before pulling it up as high as you can go. You then take a sturdy several inch long stick, put a clove hitch into the line as high as you can reach, and slide that stick into the clove hitch before gently lowering the line back down. The stick will bump into the carabiner, preventing the bag from lowering any further and preventing any cutting of the line below from releasing the food bag. To get your food back down, pull down on the line until the stick comes back into reach, remove it from the clove hitch, and then lower as normal.

  • Very good information, exactly what I was looking for. Thanks! – Ryan Welsh Jul 19 '15 at 14:58
  • For the stick I prefer a small frail stick that you can easily snap into two pieces in the morning. If you are two, placing the stick too high may make it impossible for the other person to unload the bear bag if the stick is out of reach for the shorter person. – ppl Jul 19 '15 at 16:10
  • Just as long as it's not so frail that it can break from wind or a bear messing with the line! While a bear can't grab onto the dangling line with its paws, if it extends all the way to the ground, it's not impossible that one could step on the line and push its body into the line now under tension, then release to drop the bag/carabiner back onto the stick and try to break it. Bears are impressively smart when it comes to getting food. – Jonathan Patt Jul 21 '15 at 2:59
  • Is there a reference to the tie that you can give me? After some recent thought, I've been having trouble picturing how the stick comes into play. – Ryan Welsh Jul 27 '15 at 17:22
  • @RyanWelsh Refer to animatedknots.com/clove for tying a clove hitch. The purpose of such a hitch is to secure the stick at a certain point in the rope without slipping up or down, while remaining easy to remove later. The purpose of the stick is to run into the carabiner and prevent the descent of the food bag past a certain point. – Jonathan Patt Aug 17 '15 at 3:18

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