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Bear Bag ropes/systems for Philmont summer 2012...
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Cliff Ward
(clifforddward) - F
Bear Bag ropes/systems for Philmont summer 2012... on 04/07/2012 09:00:49 MDT Print View

Does anybody have a perspective on the Bear Bag rope situation at Philmont for summer 2012?....will smaller diameter Amsteel rope be allowed? What about Al Geist's bear bag system, can we make one and use it this summer? I see conflicting comments from Philmont trekkers in prior years, would like to know this summer's situation.

bear bags on 04/07/2012 10:55:33 MDT Print View

I dont know that anyone can tell you the future...hopefully someone with inside track will know something though.

A lot seems to be up to your individual ranger, newbies tend to go by the book.

The consensus I garned here from the past is :
1) take their bags , they arent that bad
2) do it their way
3) attempt to sub lighter and stronger blue amsteel rope, bring the specs with you just in case. Respectfully argue the point, and give evidence others have used them

Just like in the business world, I suggest you pick your battles, no one wants to win every one, or lose every one, its a human thing. Compromise is often needed just to keep everyone happy.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Bear Bag Ropes / Systems on 04/07/2012 18:03:09 MDT Print View

Here is the thread on ropes / systems:

Here is the thread on bear bagging:


Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Bear Bag ropes/systems for Philmont summer 2012... on 04/07/2012 18:27:54 MDT Print View

Bear Bagging is the one thing they are quite inflexible about.

Some folks have reported being allowed to use 7/64" amsteel blue. Some report that it was a nogo. One thing for sure, hoisting a crew's full load of PhilFood pulling on 1/8" rope will not be fun. Wrapping it around a stick helps but is dicey if you need to move the stick or add in a second one to get the load to the top.

Al Geist told me that his crew was not allowed to use his system ... he left it with the camp to try out. Don't know if he heard back on that.

If you are going "off the reservation" (Valle Vidal) be sure to bring a LOT of rope. No bear cables up there and it can be a LONG distance between trees. They'll probably want you to have two 150ft lengths for that.

I concur with the other opinion that their bags are not really all that heavy, especially viewed as a percentage of the food weight. Their rope, on the other hand .....

3/4 inch Mule Tape works well, is plenty tough (1/2" not so tough), is lighter and more compact than philmont ropes and works well. Plenty of sellers on ebay if you can talk them into cutting 150 ft lengths for you (you'll likely get grief about knots if you tie pieces together).

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Bear Bag ropes/systems for Philmont summer 2012 on 04/09/2012 22:51:46 MDT Print View

RE: "Wrapping it around a stick helps but is dicey if you need to move the stick or add in a second one to get the load to the top."

- Actually there shouldn't be a real need to adjust stick handle in rope - simply walk out further away from the bear cable, to get the load to the top ... If for some reason you feel a need to adjust the original stick handle, put a second handle in the SLACK side and move (rotate) the original handle up or down the rope (it is relatively easy to do this with some practice).

- Multiple Scouts hauling up the load - first remember there will be a least two boys hauling up the load as Philmont promotes a double line system.
Two options for more than two Scouts hauling up the load - 1.) two boys can work off the same stick handle on one of the lines (if the stick is big enough / stout enough ) and/or place more stick handles in the SLACK side to accommodate the number of extra lads hauling it up.

A little bit of practice using this system, will allow for a more accurate assessment for its suitability for your crew.

Edited by tr-browsing on 04/09/2012 23:04:20 MDT.

Tom Wiygul
(msdog) - F
2011 Experience with Amsteel Blue on 04/17/2012 09:27:51 MDT Print View

Our crew used Amsteel Blue just for our oops bag rope in 2011. If I had it to do over again, I would use Philmont's rope. The Amsteel Blue is plenty strong but for the boys it is a pain literally and figuratively to hang a bear bag with it. It is painful to hoist due to its small diameter and at times you are lifting significant weight with it. Using a stick sounds great but it doesn't work very well. The Amsteel Blue also tangles much more easily than the Philmont ropes because of its small diameter and something about its texture and it is difficult to untangle especially in the dark. The factor that we didn't consider when we chose the Amsteel Blue was that it is significantly more difficult to hang a bear bag with Amsteel than with the Philmont ropes. At the end of the day (often after dark)the boys are all tired and just want to eat and go to bed but they have to expend more energy messing with tangled ropes that are difficult to deal with. and with ropes that hurt their hands. This may result in bear bags not hung properly. In some camps the staff will come around at night and make sure the bear bags are hung properly, if not, they will drag the crew out to re-hang. Using lightweight ropes is like using an ultra-light backpack. Ultra-light backpacks require more energy because the suspension does not distribute and support the load as well. Lightweight ropes take much more effort to hang than the Philmont issued ropes. Our crew (all 15 year olds - some in great shape some not) found that weight wasn't a huge issue. After a couple of days on the trail, we never thought much about weight. Thats not to say that you shouldn't try to decrease weight, but crew gear is not the best place to focus your weight reducing effort.

Regarding Rangers allowing use of Amsteel, ours allowed it for the oops bag but probably would not have gone along with using it for our main rope. Our ranger discouraged us from using the Amsteel but let us make the decision. Ultimately we found our ranger was correct.

Glenn Smith

Locale: Southern Arizona
Re: 2011 Experience with Amsteel Blue on 04/17/2012 09:52:50 MDT Print View

Our crews used the Amsteel successfully in 2010 but since the rope was new it created a lot of tangling problems. Last year our crews used it again but our Ranger forced us to take one of the Philmont ropes for our main bear bagging rope but permitted us to use the Amsteel rope for the Oops bag rope. We use throw bags for the Amsteel bear bagging rope which makes it extremely easy but keep in mind the rope was "broken in" from the prior year (I would be happy to post photos of our throw bags plus we made some YouTube videos as well). I believe our other crew had the same experience even though their Ranger was more experienced as well as a lightweight hiker. Our crew convinced our Ranger that they could successfully use the Amsteel rope for the main bear bagging rope during Ranger training on the trail but unfortunately we were stuck with the Philmont rope which went along for the remainder of the trek.

In speaking with one of the Ranger trainers after our trek (this guy was our Ranger in 2010), he told me that Philmont did not want the lighter rope used for the main bear bagging rope; basically their standard operating procedure ~ period! I would assume that we will face the same issue this year. It will really depend on the experience of your Ranger. If your Ranger is new, then plan on carrying at least one of Philmont's ropes as well as the sump frisbee and scraper. If your Ranger is more experienced then you may have some luck in convincing him or her of your system.

The sump strainer always faces the same set of protocols. There is limited room for negotiation but again it hinges on your Ranger. The most important thing is that regardless of what you decide to use for any of your Crew gear, the Crew has got to know how to use it prior to arriving at Philmont.

Donald Howard
(DonH) - F
Bear Bagging Rope on 04/17/2012 11:09:20 MDT Print View

What is the specifications for Philmont Bear Bagging rope per crew (diameter, weight capacity, type, length, number of ropes, etc.?).
I'd rather bring our own rope as long as we can actually use it.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
Amsteel Blue rope tangling on 04/17/2012 11:53:14 MDT Print View

As with any system you and the boys use in the back country, it is advisable (IMHO) to become proficient with it ahead of time (to save time, effort and frustration).

A little bit of practice using this rope system, will allow for a more accurate assessment for its suitability for your crew.

(And of course, as Glenn states, there is that "luck of of the draw" factor for your ranger ... but the techniques learned using this system easily transfers to Philmont issued ropes)

To minimize/eliminate rope twist and consequently those rope tangles, the rope needs to be stored by knitting / daisy chaining the rope (instead of coiling it).
The knitting / daisy-chaining will avoid the twisting the rope and the resulting tangles.

Of course, it is possible to coil line without twisting it, but for our crews not all the lads could consistently perform the technique to do that ... but they ALL could consistently and reliably knit/daisy-chain. An example of a discovery made from trying out the system before hand.

Best of the trail to you!

Edited by tr-browsing on 04/17/2012 11:57:57 MDT.