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Quick food hanging question.
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Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Quick food hanging question. on 04/15/2013 20:05:54 MDT Print View

I have been trying to learn food hanging methods lately and I have a question. Is it safe to anchor your line to a tree, rock, log, ect.? Is a bear smart enough to chew through your line?

I am asking this because if you anchor your line down, you can use a much lower branch because the bag will sit near the same height as the branch. With the pct or counter balance method, the bag ends up sitting further down from the branch. I could see this being an issue if I am almost above the trees and dealing with limited trees and branches.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Quick food hanging question. on 04/15/2013 20:21:15 MDT Print View

Justin, in my opinion, a black bear is smart enough to test anything that looks like a rope. The bear might chew it or claw it. That's why I posted the two-rope instruction yesterday.

Yes, it can be quite a challenge to locate your camp within a short distance to the correct tree with the correct branch. If the branch is too strong, the bear cub can walk out on it, chew the cord, and down comes the food bag for mama bear. If the branch is way too weak, an adolescent bear can break it off. If the branch is strong enough at the trunk yet tapers out, and then if you get the food bag line over it just right, the food weight is supported, yet it is too small for the bear cub to walk out far enough.

In one respect you want to camp pretty close to the bear hang so that you can supervise it. You would like to storm the bears before they get too close to the goods. I used to sleep right at the base of the tree so that the damned bears would have to walk over me to get to the tree trunk. If all else fails, a black bear will respond nicely to some golfball-size rocks thrown at them.

That is also why we used to put up decoys.


Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Quick food hanging question. on 04/15/2013 20:28:49 MDT Print View


The basic theory is that you tie the rope hanging the food as far as possible from the bag itself (hence the 50 ft of rope) so the association is very weak. It will help if the branch is too small for bear cubs. The bag is suppose to be BOTH 10 feet off the ground and 10 feet below the branch. Tying it right next to the branch is next to useless. The method does not work because bears can't climb - they CAN. Also the line is supposed to traverse a LOt of empty space. So (1) bag far from ground, (2) bag far from any limb or trunk of tree, (3) support line tied off FAR from the tree and running though a lot of empty space high off the ground and away from other tree and branches. Obviously you have to be able to untie it, so technically a bear could reach the rope as well. The hope is that the bear will just not make the association. Once the bear "messes" with your rope the jig is basically up. If a bear decides it wants to snap the rope it can do so with almost no effort.

The general idea is that bears will not be able to easily get to the bag, but also, if the bag is hanging next to the branch then the association between the rope and the bag is also pretty strong. There are some Yosemite bears that have learned the association and know to bite the rope off first, then run off with the bag, so don;t be too surprised. If you learn to do the hang in the the best way, as described above, then you should minimize the risk, but it is illegal (for good reason) to hang food in Yosemite and other places where the bears have learned to get around it.

Edited by millonas on 04/15/2013 20:56:56 MDT.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Quick food hanging question. on 04/15/2013 20:29:46 MDT Print View

Here's my take:

With the PCT method, if a bear does happen to get the bright idea to gnaw, pull, or somehow mess with your rope, it can only pull your bag higher into the tree or gnaw off a slack piece of cord not essential to the hang.

If you anchor one end to a log, tree trunk, etc., then IF a bear finds that end and messes with it, you're more likely to lose your food. What's the potential? Who knows. But if it did happen, you'd likely lose your food.

But I doubt a bear is going for your rope first. Most importantly, get your bag high off the ground, FAR from the trunk of the tree, and away from any other trees or branches or anything that a bear could climb. From what I understand, most hangs are not defeated by bears manipulating ropes, but by people underestimating what they can climb and what insane lengths they'll go to to snag a bag.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Quick food hanging question. on 04/15/2013 20:45:00 MDT Print View

I know this is old hat to most on here, but it does bear (pun not intended) repeating, especially to potential noobs: remember, hanging the food is not about protecting your food, it is about to protecting the BEAR! If you don't understand this you can google it or see one of the (many) posts here on BPL.

While the loss of your food is probably an acceptable risk to YOU, especially if you are only a few day from a trailhead, it it NOT acceptable for the bears! If you loose your food please don't assume this is just your problem. Loss of you food bag to a bear is basically an epic (possibly fatal) long-term fail for the bear in question. So you should not take it lightly.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Quick food hanging question. on 04/15/2013 20:47:49 MDT Print View

"But I doubt a bear is going for your rope first."

Traditionally, beginner backpackers are using a bright white rope or parachute cord that they just bought. Bears don't always understand why, but they learned that backpackers often hide their food up in a tree using bright white rope. So, the mama bear taught the cubs to chew or claw at every bright white rope that they could find.

We made that more difficult by using black or dark-colored ropes for our hang. Then we made that more difficult yet by using the bright white rope for the decoys.

Yosemite black bears became so predictable that you could set your watch by them, almost. At Young Lakes, in the distance we could hear the bears attack the lowest lake first, where the beginners would camp, and that would be around 9 p.m. It would normally take the bears an hour to finish up their work at the lowest lake and then work their way up to the middle lake where we were. It was always so magical how quietly they walked. We would be standing there in the dark in the middle of our camp of eight people, perhaps wondering when the bear was going to hit. Then we would look around and find said animal already sniffing around somebody's empty backpack.


Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Re: Quick food hanging question. on 04/15/2013 21:01:50 MDT Print View

I like the idea of a black rope. I have used a dark green one in the past, but I think black would be optimal.

Probably more important might be to wash your hands before hanging - if the bear smells food ON the rope then fagettboutit! Bears sense of smell is up to an order of magnitude more sensitive than a dog's - pretty amazing actually. Guess they are the sharks of the mountains.

Edited by millonas on 04/15/2013 21:05:00 MDT.

Jeremy and Angela
(requiem) - F

Locale: Northern California
Re: Re: Quick food hanging question. on 04/15/2013 21:06:41 MDT Print View

Some bear photos for your amusement:

(Sorry, I couldn't find any of a bear dive-bombing a bag.)

Willie Evenstop
(redmonk) - F

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Quick food hanging question. on 04/15/2013 21:12:59 MDT Print View

PCT method removes the need to hide the rope visually or by scent. Easy.

Marko Botsaris
(millonas) - F - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA
Re: Re: Re: Quick food hanging question. on 04/15/2013 21:58:20 MDT Print View

"Some bear photos for your amusement:"

tee hee, cue James Bond soundtrack.

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
PCT Method - Stick Length on 04/16/2013 06:50:54 MDT Print View

The guys I was hiking with this past weekend never saw this, but I had an issue getting my bear bag down...

I use the PCT Method and I was just being lazy when I hung my food bag and grabbed a stick that was about 10" long to use as my "stopper". I tied my normal half-hitch knot and lowered the bag until it met the stick - about 12' off the ground. Everything was good until I tried to get it back down...

When I pulled on the rope to bring the stick back down to me my long stick got hung up on my food bag and wouldn't budge! After a couple of minutes pulling the rope and getting the bag swinging I finally grabbed my trekking pole and (using the handle)pushed the bag up enough that the stick cleared it when I pulled the rope and I was able to pull the stick down and untie it.

Lesson learned: The stick you use needs to be only as big as necessary to stop when it hits your carabiner!

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: PCT Method - Knot-less on 04/16/2013 08:06:49 MDT Print View

i think you can use a thinner tube than he has for lighter weight

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Best UL rope for bear bag? on 04/16/2013 08:57:16 MDT Print View

Good morning all!

Bob, other than a darker color, which cord do you recommend for a bear bag? I've learned since joining this forum that my technique needs refinement. Until about six months ago, I was unaware of the PCT technique. I've traditionally used parachute cord and a silnylon bag but I'm trying to lighten it up. I've considered anything and everything from the varmint resistant bags mentioned in another thread to the Zpacks food bags.

I've read a few threads about the properties of some of the guy line cords and have noticed that some of them are not a slippy as others and presumably will be more difficult to throw over a branch.

Thanks in advance.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Best UL rope for bear bag? on 04/16/2013 14:39:02 MDT Print View

In the old days (pre bear canister) we used black or dark green parachute cord. However, it depends a lot on how much food weight you are hoisting up in the two bags. For group trips, we would often have 25 pounds or more of food.

The A cord is the dark one, and the B cord can be any color or white.

There are some very fine spectra cords. However, they are very strong and very small in diameter, and if you run one back and forth over a tree limb much, it tears up the bark and gets the cord stuck in the bark. This is not good.

On the other extreme, parachute cords are not as tough, but they are easier for an animal to chew.

In today's market, there are some cords with a spectra core, but with a softer braid over the outside. Some of these are pretty slippery, and that can be good or it can be bad.

Sometimes a tough cord gets used as a stream-crossing rope, so it is not stupid to have one strong enough to support one or two bodies. I like to use a cord with a 300-pound test strength.

Since I now use a bear canister, I don't need a rope for a bear hang, so I need only a stream-crossing rope (100 feet of orange dyneema).


just Justin Whitson
Re: Re: Best UL rope for bear bag? on 04/16/2013 15:34:26 MDT Print View

Just adding on for Ian, that Spectra and Dyneema cord is very, very similar. Often the price is very similar too.

Re: bear canisters, i don't know anything about them. Do people tie them to a tree so the bear doesn't play soccer with it or something? Or do the bears generally just try to gnaw on it for a bit, then more or less leave it in the same spot?

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Re: Re: Best UL rope for bear bag? on 04/16/2013 15:39:32 MDT Print View

No, they leave them out in the open in a place where a bear won't kick it off a cliff.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Quick food hanging question on 04/16/2013 17:05:21 MDT Print View

@ Justin, I use the PCT method for all of my trips in Los Padres. Like others have said, it's important to not only ensure adequate distance between the ground and your food bag (at least 12') but also between the overhead limb and your food bag and the trunk of the the tree and your food bag. I try to pick thinner limbs that won't break easily but that have some give while pulling the bag up into the tree and position the bag out toward the end of the limb. The PCT method is quick, easy and so far, has proven successful for me. The tail end of the cord just sits there hanging out of the tree, no need to tie it off or secure it.

@ Ian, I like a slick dyneema cord like the H-line cord from or the ironwire sold by Lawson Equipment. Both have breaking strengths of over 1,000 lbs and weight about 2 oz for 50'. The slick coating helps them to avoid tangling and slide over branches more easily. I use a small stuff sack filled with rocks to throw my line over the selected branch. A bandanna filled with rocks and tied off to make a pouch works great too as a throwing bag.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Re: Re: Best UL rope for bear bag? on 04/16/2013 17:29:27 MDT Print View

"No, they leave them out in the open in a place where a bear won't kick it off a cliff."

That is important. Also, sometimes we wedge the bear canister between some logs or something so that it can't roll around at all. Bears are not good at lifting a canister up out of a hole. Typically they just bat at it a few times, maybe try to chew it, maybe jump on it, and then give up.