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Philmont bearbagging
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Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Philmont bearbagging on 05/30/2009 08:35:37 MDT Print View

I'm forking a new thread off of this one which had wondered thru many topics

I can understand wanting to go lighter than the rope that Philont provides (5/16" nylon, IIRC) and have no quibble with that.

But the bags? ... They provide woven plastic bags with a weave reminiscent of burlap. They'd certainly be heavy by solo UL standards but they are not heavy for group use.

If a crew has addressed the big three items, kitchen items and their personal gear choices they won't be able to notice the difference between Philmont bags and mythical zero gram bear bags in their pack.

Edited by jcolten on 05/30/2009 08:39:38 MDT.

Phil Barton
(flyfast) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma
Re: Philmont bearbagging on 05/30/2009 11:38:05 MDT Print View

Jim, I think you're right. Take care of the big stuff. The Philmont-issued bear bags won't matter for a group. The woven plastic bags aren't heavy. Even carrying two Philmont ropes wasn't a big deal for our crew either.

Mike Barney
(eaglemb) - F

Locale: AZ, the Great Southwest!
Philmont bearbagging on 05/30/2009 12:05:13 MDT Print View

I would submit there is another reason to look at smaller, lightweight bags, something we did last year and will do again this year. The total empty weight of our 9 meal bags, 1 crew gear smellable bag and 6-12 personal bags is probably higher than 3 or 4 of the PhilFeedBags. The difference is we can instantly identify which meal we need, or where someones personal stuff might be. Not a big deal on paper, but when it comes to maximizing your time, being able to find the right meal, or your own smellables is a big time saver. Same for packing up.

There isn't an oops bag anymore, everyone puts their stuff in their own (individually decorated) bags in the evening.


Edited by eaglemb on 05/30/2009 12:14:30 MDT.

paul buzzard
(troop208) - F
bearbags on 06/01/2009 15:12:16 MDT Print View

I would agree on using the phil ones. They get drug thru the dirt, etc, and they are heavy duty, but not real heavy. You can save a lot of personal weight with your crew by making sure they have decent personal packs, bags, sleeping pads, right amount of clothes, etc.

But the organizational point brought up is valid. We made sure to pack the bags by meal type before hanging, and the next breakfast was on top of the breakfast bag. We had full crew of 13, and 4 days food starting out, think we had 7 very full bags plus the oops bag, that was a lot to lift.

Scott Bentz
(scottbentz) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Ropes and Bags on 06/02/2009 08:48:59 MDT Print View

We used Amsteel blue rope. It is a weight savings but tough on the hands at times. We used Philmont issued bags and they were fine.

What we didn't do is organize our bags effectively like some of you have. Basically, we just dumped everything upside down each day to sort things out. In hindsight I wish we had used one of the methods described above.

Philmont bags aren't too heavy. They only Philmont items we took were the bags and sump kit.

Timothy F Mulligan
(tmulligan) - F
Philmont bearbagging on 07/09/2009 11:39:30 MDT Print View

We used the Philmont bear bags. I didn't have my digital scale with me, but they were very light. They definitely are not waterproof, or even water-resistant. We wished in hindsight that we had brought some light-weight sil-nylon dry bags.

We used the 7/64" AmSteel Blue rope. Hard on the hands, until some Scouts found sticks to use to get a grip and pull the rope.

Richard Haertling
(rhaertling) - F

Locale: Southwest
Using Amsteel Blue Rope For Bear Bags on 02/14/2010 14:45:05 MST Print View

We are planning to use the Amsteel rope rope and plan to use Al Geist's tech where the rope is placed in a small stuff sack and tossed over the bear cable. We tried this and had some problem with the rope tangling as it comes out of the stuff sack. Anyone have any suggestions on how to handle/wrap/store this thin rope so as to avoid tangles?

Thanks for the response below Al. We will try just stuffing the rope in the bag.

Edited by rhaertling on 02/14/2010 22:54:10 MST.

George Geist
(geist) - M

Locale: Smoky Mountains
Re: Using Amsteel Blue Rope For Bear Bags on 02/14/2010 20:38:34 MST Print View

> Anyone have any suggestions on how to handle/wrap/store this thin rope so as to avoid tangles?

Hi Richard,

Try just stuffing the rope in the small stuff sack. I found that if the rope was rolled up and put in the sack it had more tendency to tangle for two technical reasons:
1. rolling the rope up puts a twist in the rope that tries to untwist as the rope pulls out of the bag.
2. rolling the rope creates many loops in the bag. When one loop pulls through another, instant knot.

We had much better rope "reel out" from the bag when stuffed

Walter Underwood
(wunder) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Coiling thin rope on 02/17/2010 11:08:08 MST Print View

> Anyone have any suggestions on how to handle/wrap/store this thin rope so as to avoid tangles?

Learn the figure eight coil. That does not put a twist in the rope.

For shorter ropes, learn the "over under coil", which also avoids putting twists in the line. I learned that as either the "RCA coil" or "CBS coil", I forget which.

My backstage teacher was picky about how we coiled the microphone cables.

Water rescue ropes are sometimes stuffed into a bag, so that might work, too.

Edited by wunder on 02/17/2010 11:09:03 MST.

Acronym Esq
( - F

Locale: TX
Re: Coiling thin rope on 02/19/2010 14:03:08 MST Print View

> Anyone have any suggestions on how to handle/wrap/store this thin rope so as to avoid tangles?

Stuffing the rope in a throw bag will work fine for thick braided nylon ropes (like a water rescue throw bag). I can see why you might have had trouble with tangles with thiner lines.

The coil I use for thin stuff is to wrap in a figure 8 pattern around my pinky and thumb. You can see an example at 5:43 of this video. I complete the coil by wrapping tightly around the hank 5-6 times and then tucking the final 6" tail through one of the pinky/thumb holes and then under one of the hank wraps. Pull tight.


acronym 2/19/2010 3:01 PM

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Coiling thin rope on 02/19/2010 14:22:37 MST Print View

+1 Acronym, this work very well- I use it for my bear bag line exclusively.
With a long line, it helps to have a larger spanned hand.

George Geist
(geist) - M

Locale: Smoky Mountains
Re: Using Amsteel Blue Rope For Bear Bags on 02/19/2010 16:05:33 MST Print View

> The coil I use for thin stuff is to wrap in a figure 8 pattern around my pinky and thumb.

This technique is OK for the thin cord shown in the video. It won't work with Amsteel Blue rope because of its larger diameter. Even a giant's hand would be too small.

Just stuffing the rope in the stuff sack is faster and easier for your scouts to do at Philmont.

Tad Englund
(bestbuilder) - F - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Re: Using Amsteel Blue Rope For Bear Bags on 02/19/2010 18:08:34 MST Print View

Al, I can do 50ft of 1/8 one my hand- not as fast as the video but it can be done.
I wouldn't expect the scout to be able to do it.
You cold also daisy chain the rope.

George Geist
(geist) - M

Locale: Smoky Mountains
Re: Using Amsteel Blue Rope For Bear Bags on 02/20/2010 14:02:53 MST Print View

> Al, I can do 50ft of 1/8 one my hand

Hi Tad,

That's pretty good. But Philmont wants you to carry 150ft
bear ropes, which is more than a handful!

Why 150'? The Philmont bear bag method requires doubling the rope and tying to separate trees so the effective length is 75ft.

Acronym Esq
( - F

Locale: TX
Re: Re: Using Amsteel Blue Rope For Bear Bags on 02/22/2010 01:07:01 MST Print View

So I just put the google to work for me to get a better understanding of what we are talking about. I'm amazed. This Amsteel blue stuff is magic light and strong. Do you really need to be able to haul 600 kg up in a tree (~30 full packs...)?

Idunno. Neat stuff tho.

45 m of 2.5 mm rope sounds like it would be tough to deal with. Is it stiff like braided nylon?

It's probably too big to palm hank it. I would try to get Al's method of bag stuffing to work. I suggest stuffing lengths a little shorter than the length of your stuff sack.

Another option would be to treat it like a climbing rope:
- butterfly coil
- flake before use (the guy in the video calls it "stacking").

I'm interested to know what solution you come up with.

acronym 2/22/2010 2:06 AM

Tom Wiygul
(twiygul) - F
Re: Philmont bearbagging on 08/11/2011 13:31:34 MDT Print View

Just recently completed a Philmont trek and used the Amsteel Blue 7/64 inch line for the oops bag. Our crewmembers did not find the Amsteel Blue to be worth the effort. It was hard on the hands, slipped more readily, and tangled easily. Next trek we will definitely stick with the Philmont ropes. The weight savings was not worth the bother of having to untangle ropes in the dark.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Re: Philmont Bear Bagging and Weight Data on 08/19/2011 15:18:34 MDT Print View

Recently got back from a Philmont trek ... here's some data:

Philmont issued bear bags - the weight of ours averaged 4.3 oz EACH (= re-used grain bags ... the average weight is for those that were not cut down because of the edges unraveling).

Everyone in our crew brought their own food storage bag anyway so we used those for overnight storage on the bear-bag hangs and basically skipped using Philmont issued bags because they would have been redundant in terms of both weight & use ... plus, a benefit of this method is that it eliminated the morning "sorting out food" exercise - made for a quicker transition on getting breakfast and breaking camp).
We did use one Philmont issued bag (the only one we brought) for an "Oops" bag to store our lunches, dinners and misc for easy access that day.

Philmont issued bear ropes - the weight of the ones they issued to us averaged 1lb 8 oz EACH (dry).

Amsteel Blue - same length as Philmont ropes - the weight of ours averaged 5 oz EACH (= which is equial significant weight savings from the Philmont issued ropes)

Here is the outline of the techniques to avoid issues with use of this rope:
1.) To pull up loads effectively - these lines needed stick "pull handles". To accomplish this, small sticks needed to be wrapped with the rope. (The sticks are easily found around Philmont's camps)
2.) To avoid tangle issues when storing these ropes, they need to be daisy-chained (knitted) which works well
3.) ... plus, for good LNT practice - use stand-off sticks to protect the tree trunks from the rope wrap)
These techniques are easily done & mastered (with a little practice). The ropes are VERY durable while having the advantages of saving a lot of weight, they don't become water logged from the rain and it will rain and they save a lot space because they store much smaller than the Philmont issued lines.

Edited by tr-browsing on 06/08/2012 08:30:52 MDT.

Ken K
(TheFatBoy) - F

Locale: St. Louis
Re: Re: Philmont bearbagging on 08/28/2011 14:52:27 MDT Print View

Never thought of using stand-off sticks. Something to keep in mind. Thanks!

Karen Lewis
(karenlewis65) - F
Thanks on 09/02/2011 04:08:28 MDT Print View

That’s some good info on Philmont bear bagging. I was wondering about the preparation before going for it. Thanks for sharing info.

Donald Howard
(DonH) - F
UL Dry Bag Size fro Food on 04/12/2012 16:40:59 MDT Print View

I'm thinking each pair of boys will carry their own food in their own food bag.
What size dry bag should each boy to have?

Mark Rash
(markrvp) - M

Locale: North Texas
Food Bag on 04/12/2012 20:31:04 MDT Print View

Our crew is using the Sea-to-Summit Ultra-Sil 20L dry bags for our food/bear bags. This was based on a recommendation by Al Geist in his information about Philmont.

Gordon Forrest
Sea to Summit on 04/13/2012 06:08:39 MDT Print View

Mark, have you found a good source for those 20L bags? has a good price but they don't appear to have enough in stock.

Mark Rash
(markrvp) - M

Locale: North Texas
Re: Sea to Summit on 04/13/2012 23:20:47 MDT Print View

We get them at REI and Backwoods locally in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Donald Howard
(DonH) - F
Bear Bagging Rope on 04/14/2012 16:36:39 MDT Print View

If the Amsteel 7/16" rope is going to be an issue what is the lightest 1/4 rope you can buy?

Walter Underwood
(wunder) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Ultra-sil bags on 04/23/2012 21:33:34 MDT Print View

My son took a 20 liter ultrasil bag on a week-long trip in the Sierras and tore holes in it. Those are great bags, but not really built for hauling big loads of food.

Take the Philmont bags, take the Philmont ropes. They aren't that heavy and they work.

If you have 50 feet of lightweight line, you might use that and a rock bag to get the ropes over the bear bag cables. Some of those suckers are really high.

Each meal is already in a sealed plastic bag. That is protection against casual water exposure. Most of our crew carried a stuff sack as a food bag for ease of organization, but it certainly doesn't need to be a dry sack.

Here are a couple of photos of a four-day load of food for a crew of ten. We'd had lunch, this was bear-bag hanging training with our Ranger before dinner. It is heavy. We have six people pulling on the rope and two people pushing on the bags.

Mimi Hatch
(theturtlebear) - M

Locale: Baltimore
Heads up about bringing your own bear bags on 04/25/2012 09:57:31 MDT Print View

Every year I get input/updates from advisors for the annual revision to The Philmont Advisor's Guide ( Sometimes my reviewers report "policy changes" that I question as just opinions or actions from their specific ranger and not Philmont policy. When that happens, I check with Mark Anderson's office. Last year, one of my reviewers told me that Philmont did not allow people to bring their own food bags, but the crew in point had specifically brought their own stuff sacks and not feed bags. Since my own crews normally bring new feed bags(@ 50 cents each), i.e. same thing that Philmont uses except they aren't worn out or raveling and are more water resistant when new, I was curious to see if this was true. Mark Anderson wrote back to me personally and said he had no problem with crews bringing their own feed bags instead of the Philmont-issued feed bags, but that the Philmont staff "are hesitant with the variety of other bags that some people try to bring" (aka validating that you might find your stuff sacks vetoed by your ranger when you get to Philmont). We too just use the Philmont-issued ropes btw, as I don't see spending money on any rope that is going to be dragged across a metal cable repeatedly, and never useful for any serious rope purpose again.

Donald Howard
(DonH) - F
Bear Bags on 04/27/2012 06:18:29 MDT Print View

Why would the rangers care what type of bear bag a crew uses as long as it can do the job intended? I can see them vetoing a crew using plastic grocery bags but vetoing UL dry bags?

Same with a crew's rope choice. If a crew wants to buy light weight rope as long as it meets a standard, say 1000# tensile strength, than why should that be an issue?

What I'm hearing is that there's different standards depending on what ranger you get. That just adds to confusion and makes planning difficult for crews.

I was talking with someone who went last year and his crew left brand new lightweight gear behind because their ranger insisted on the Philmont way in every respect.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
RE: Heads up about bringing your own bear bags on 06/08/2012 09:00:40 MDT Print View

Individual Bear Bags -

Last summer our troop sent two crews to Philmont ... both crews brought and used their own individual bear bags - it worked well for us (as mentioned in an earlier post).

During that experience and seeing the bear bagging set-ups from other crews around the various camps, I would "guesstimate" about 20% of the crews were using this method during the time and the camps we visited.

So, this is the first time I've heard that there may be a problem with Ranger approval.
Up to this point, I was not aware of it being a problem from our own experiences, from within our council nor I have I read it being a problem from the participants from on-line forums.
Learning some "new" possibilities.

I wonder if this was an unfortunate case of pushing the Ranger's "buttons". They have a job to do and expect to be respected. Diplomacy skills and the Scout Law are important in our actions.

Alternative Amsteel Blue Rope -

On the other hand, as other threads have indicated, this IS a "luck of the draw" in terms of Ranger approval. Although those ropes work great (using the appropriate techniques), and are much lighter and more durable than their Philmont issued counterparts, there is NO guarantee of their acceptance of use.
"Luck of the draw" and diplomacy skills rule here.

Edited by tr-browsing on 06/18/2012 00:30:37 MDT.

Mike bievenour
(mrbieven) - F
process on 06/11/2012 04:45:18 MDT Print View

Can some on explain the philmont way of hanging bags and the oops bag. I would like to give my crew some training before we go.

George Geist
(geist) - M

Locale: Smoky Mountains
Re: Philmont Way of hanging bags on 06/11/2012 22:36:02 MDT Print View

Hi Mike,

You can find a description of the Philmont way of hanging bags at

You can ignore the parts about the lightweight Amsteel rope and
just focus on teaching your boys the hanging method described.


Mimi Hatch
(theturtlebear) - M

Locale: Baltimore
Re: Heads up about bringing your own bear bags on 04/24/2013 13:10:33 MDT Print View

The URL for the Philmont Advisor's Guide has changed. The new web address is: