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69RoadRunner

Hanging Bear Bags is Often a Bad Idea

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While at Northern Tier, most of our campsites did not have any tree that allowed for a proper bear bag hang. At our 1 trip to Philmont, since we weren't in Valle Vidal, they of course have cables set up so you can do it right.

Quite often, either the right tree doesn't exist or people do it wrong. Luck prevents a bear from getting an easy meal, but could lead to the bear having to be killed.

Here's a good article by a backpacking expert on the subject. We probably should reconsider hanging bear bags unless we're certain there is a proper bear bag hanging tree available.

One of the biggest hurdles is scouters tend to be the people most resistant to change that I encounter. 

https://andrewskurka.com/argument-against-hanging-bear-bag/

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In the Quetico (Canadian side of BWCA) a good single tree is also hard to come by. We use a 2-tree method which does not require that "one perfect branch". Using two trees allows one to attach a 'biner to the center of a rope between the two trees, then hoist to that center well away from branches, trunks etc...

Like all outdoors skills, one needs to know how to deal with changing conditions. What works in one area might not work in another.

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13 minutes ago, DuctTape said:

In the Quetico (Canadian side of BWCA) a good single tree is also hard to come by. We use a 2-tree method which does not require that "one perfect branch". Using two trees allows one to attach a 'biner to the center of a rope between the two trees, then hoist to that center well away from branches, trunks etc...

Like all outdoors skills, one needs to know how to deal with changing conditions. What works in one area might not work in another.

In the article, Skurka does a good job explaining different techniques for different circumstances.

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21 minutes ago, DuctTape said:

In the Quetico (Canadian side of BWCA) a good single tree is also hard to come by. We use a 2-tree method which does not require that "one perfect branch". Using two trees allows one to attach a 'biner to the center of a rope between the two trees, then hoist to that center well away from branches, trunks etc...

Like all outdoors skills, one needs to know how to deal with changing conditions. What works in one area might not work in another.

We did the same thing on our several trips in Quetico. When we couldn't put the bag in the tree, the local outfitter taught us how to set up camp so that the tents were safe. There were other techniques as well I don't remember. The local's are glad to demonstrate before you leave. But, their first technique is hanging the bags.

Canoe treks have the advantage of carrying bear boxes as part of the equipment list (which we never took). Backpacking is where good techniques are important. A good tree is usually a reliable source because there isn't typically limits like rivers or lakes in finding one. .

Personally, I believe the best technique for repelling bears are scouts. They can't do anything quietly. They even believe tents are sound proof.:blink:

Barry

 

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This isn't directed at Eagledad or DuctTape, but just a general comment. As Skurka points out, just because your bear bags were safe in the morning does not mean your hang was a good one.  Unless a bear actually attempts to get the bags, you don't know.

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1 hour ago, 69RoadRunner said:

This isn't directed at Eagledad or DuctTape, but just a general comment. As Skurka points out, just because your bear bags were safe in the morning does not mean your hang was a good one.  Unless a bear actually attempts to get the bags, you don't know.

Yes, but when in Rome.....

Barry

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4 hours ago, 69RoadRunner said:

This isn't directed at Eagledad or DuctTape, but just a general comment. As Skurka points out, just because your bear bags were safe in the morning does not mean your hang was a good one.  Unless a bear actually attempts to get the bags, you don't know.

True. I have seen some terrible hangs.

My ursack has been attacked, still has the teeth marks. 

When hanging with our 2-tree method, we are significantly higher and farther than the recommended.

Skurka when sleeping with his food also hasn't had that method tested by his own metric.

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Also worth considering is that black bear populations have increased dramatically over the past couple decades especially in the east so what has worked in the past may not continue to work as bears get more habituated to humans and smarter about accessing food. We live in bear territory and supposedly bear proof measures for trash or livestock often don't work. Bears are one of the reasons why I would like to see some of the emphasis on cooking and food lessen in the program for both cubs and scouts. The less you pack the less they can smell. 

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20 minutes ago, yknot said:

Also worth considering is that black bear populations have increased dramatically over the past couple decades especially in the east

BBLM.  Black Bear Lives Matter.

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I've almost broken down and started just using a bear canister on every trip. I hate the weight and bulk, but the more I've backpacked, the more I hate hanging bear bags. That seems to be the conclusion Skurka has already come to. 

Edited by Sentinel947
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17 hours ago, Sentinel947 said:

I've almost broken down and started just using a bear canister on every trip. I hate the weight and bulk, but the more I've backpacked, the more I hate hanging bear bags. That seems to be the conclusion Skurka has already come to. 

I came to this conclusion a long time ago. Pine trees make lousy bear bag trees and that's what I hike near. One problem with canisters is they don't work well with packs unless the pack is huge. 

I'm not sure how accurate this is, but the only times I've had bears in my camp is when I camp in well established sites. Bears make rounds. So I try to stay out of their rotation.

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14 minutes ago, MattR said:

I came to this conclusion a long time ago. Pine trees make lousy bear bag trees and that's what I hike near. One problem with canisters is they don't work well with packs unless the pack is huge. 

I'm not sure how accurate this is, but the only times I've had bears in my camp is when I camp in well established sites. Bears make rounds. So I try to stay out of their rotation.

I could see youth packs having issues fitting bear canisters, but I have a 55 liter adult pack (Osprey Exos) and I can fit a bear canister inside of it with 4-5 days of food and gear. I've gone pretty far down the ultralight, minimalist rabbit hole, so that may not be everybody's experience. I included a picture from my 2019 Lost Creek Wilderness Trip. I'm the one with the black and green pack.

Certainly in late spring, summer, and early fall when extra clothing needs are limited, fitting a bear canister in a pack has a higher chance of success. I'm not an expert on bears, but in late fall, winter, early spring, depending on local bear hibernation patterns, going back to a sub optimal food hang is probably just fine. 

Another option for the canister is that while hiking it can be emptied out and lashed to the outside of the pack, and the food can be carried in stuff sacks inside the pack. That helps work around the dead zones inside the pack that the inflexible canister creates. 

20190715_135508.jpg

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I spent four hours once helping a Crew find their bear canister down in the gulch several hundreds from their site - still closed but considerably scratched up.  We had used a "balance bag" setup over the provided bear cable.  We saw sign but never a bear as such.

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