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Bear Bagging Throw Rope - Custom Bag for Amsteel Rope
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David LaRue
(Phaedrus) - F

Locale: Chicagoland
Bear Bagging Throw Rope - Custom Bag for Amsteel Rope on 05/17/2014 09:11:19 MDT Print View

I created a throw bag for the Amsteel Rope for Philmont.

150' 1/8" (yes larger than most use, but does not tangle as easily and is easier to handle for scouts) 2500 lbs break strength
1 Small .88 oz Metolius Carabiner Strength: 22 kN (4950 lbf)
3 mini - carabiners (two inside the bag, and 1 outside to hook to tree so scouts don't loose it)
1 custom throw bag from Simply Light - My design

Total weight 13.5 oz
I bought Blue and a Yellow rope. One for the Main Bear Line, the other for the oops line. I suspect the ranger will only allow the oops line.

Image Inside

Throw bag - inside with two 2 carabiners

Image outside

Outside with carabiner to hook to treeReady to go

Edited by Phaedrus on 05/17/2014 09:33:13 MDT.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Bear Bagging Throw Rope - Custom Bag for Amsteel Rope on 05/17/2014 09:40:51 MDT Print View

What, exactly, are you going to throw?

The bag weighted with rocks, with rope coiled on the ground?

Or the bag with the line inside, expecting the rope to "pay out" as the bag rises?

If the former, you may need a stout bag, or the rocks tend to shred them, especially landing on rock.

If the latter, I'd give it a good test to see if it is heavy enough to loft 20' through the air.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Bear Bagging Throw Rope - Custom Bag for Amsteel Rope on 05/17/2014 09:54:51 MDT Print View

Amsteel is strong but it will snag badly as a bear rope. Consider using arborist's throwing line like Zing It.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Bear Bagging Throw Rope - Custom Bag for Amsteel Rope on 05/17/2014 10:05:34 MDT Print View

I have the same puzzlement as Greg.

Why would you want to have a bright orange bag for this?

Is this only a rope bag, or is it the food hang bag?

If the rope has a 2500 pound strength, then that implies that it is the food hang bag. Geez, that is a lot of food.

Why would anybody need 150 feet of rope? That implies that the tree limb is almost 75 feet high, and you can't throw anything like rope that high. I always found the perfect length to be 50 to 75 feet.


David LaRue
(Phaedrus) - F

Locale: Chicagoland
How to throw the line: on 05/17/2014 10:06:57 MDT Print View

Here is how the bag is used:

Note Philmont Scout Ranch does not allow you to throw bags weighted with rocks etc. for safety reasons. The typical way to throw the rope is as follows:

Here are the approximate process steps for this bag:

Open the draw string on the bag
Clip the larger carabiner on your belt loop
Pay out about 10 feet of line
Kind of make a softball size ball out the bag & rope combo
With a large arm movement throw the bag over the steel bear line (appox 20' high)

David LaRue
(Phaedrus) - F

Locale: Chicagoland
Rope Length & Strength & Weight on 05/17/2014 10:17:20 MDT Print View

Since this is only for Philmont, and Philmont typically supplies two ropes. One for the main bear bag & the other for the "oops" bag.

There is bunch of Philmont specific stuff we have to adhere to.. ;-)

The rope is 150' the same length that Philmont supplies. You tie off to two trees, rather than one at Philmont. The rope Philmont supplies is thick 2 1/2 pounds of rope for each line. We are providing or crew with an alternative rope and method while following the spirit of the "Philmont Way"

Yes the food and smellables weigh a lot! And the food takes up a lot of room.

See this video for example:

Hope this answers some of the questions!

Edited by Phaedrus on 05/17/2014 10:21:27 MDT.

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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: How to throw the line: on 05/17/2014 10:18:15 MDT Print View

I saw the first video clip. I think you missed the tree branch.

I'm still wondering about the 150 feet.


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

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Rope Length & Strength 7 Weight on 05/17/2014 10:22:34 MDT Print View

"The rope is 150' the same length that Philmont supplies. You tie off to two trees, rather than one at Philmont."

I guess the answers are: I don't know.

Why tie the rope off to any trees? That just gives bears some place obvious to attack.


David LaRue
(Phaedrus) - F

Locale: Chicagoland
Line Verses Tree on 05/17/2014 10:24:02 MDT Print View


LOL. Actually except for side hikes,and the for north country at Philmont they have Steel Cable Bear lines about 20' up in strung between two trees. If that was me throwing the bag I would not have missed. Besides I'm a right hander. ;-)


Edited by Phaedrus on 05/17/2014 10:24:38 MDT.

rope on 05/18/2014 13:33:32 MDT Print View

Well, they wont let you use Amstell for the main bear rope. The Amsteel is too hard to grip, requires wrapping it around sticks. It could slide thru someones hands and cut them badly under tension.

They might let you use it for oops, but probably not if they know about it. The oops rope is also supposed to be a spare in case your main one gets hung up. You will see this frequently on the cables.

The ranger will teach you how to do it thier way, and it works. Wrap the rope ends into a ball, and throw over the cable. Simple. There is two tie-offs with the rope center hung over the cable, so that if a bear chews thru one of them, the food doesnt drop, the other rope is still holding it.

Now, IMO, the oops rope is not needed unless you get your main rope hung up badly. We didnt take it, and didnt tell the ranger. He was a bit pissed when he found out we didnt have it, we pretended it was accidentally left in the vehicle with other things we didnt bring like 8qt pots. We did bring amsteel for a backup if we hung up the main line though, never used it.

For a crew of 9, with 4 days food, the correct number of people to handle the bear bags is exactly 2 larger scouts. Two persons can raise and lower the bags in a minute. More people just get in the way. For this size crew, oops rope is an unneeded complication. A larger crew, would be more difficult to handle the bags and the oops rope might be more important. A smaller crew, forget it, oops rope would just be unnecessary weight.

Edited by livingontheroad on 05/18/2014 13:37:52 MDT.

Tony Ronco
(tr-browsing) - MLife
A not so quick 2 cents ... on 05/18/2014 15:24:00 MDT Print View

RE: "The Amsteel is too hard to grip, requires wrapping it around sticks. It could slide thru someones hands and cut them badly under tension."

Simple Solution: Clove hitch the stick handle to the rope. This is good practice regardless of kind of rope utilized (because rope burns are a bummer regardless). The handle must be placed far enough out on the line to permit several wraps around the "tie-off" tree. The handle does not need to be removed ... it can be kept on the rope for the unwrapping process ... the handle will look like it is a part of the stand off sticks (note for clarity: the handle is is not, nor does it function as a stand off stick)

RE:"correct number of people to handle the bear bags is exactly 2 larger scouts".

Comment: Since Philmont mandates the double haul system. It is logistically easier if there are two scouts for each line of that double haul system (so a total of 4).

Per each line in the double haul system: One or both scouts (depending on their weight) pull up the bags (not with their arms, but by simply holding on the handle & using their bodies & legs to walk out away from the overhead steel cable ... because of the double haul system that will mean that there are 2 to 4 scouts hauling up the bags - have them physically stay close together until the proper height of the bags is reached). Then they can split apart to get to their their designated tree/pole to become ready to start wrapping the rope around their designated tree. From that position, one scout from each line's bear bag partners will then feed longer stand-off sticks under the rope to protect the tree from rope wrap as his partner (the other scout still on the line) walks their portion of the line around the tree. After a half of a wrap, the force needed to keep the bags up will be greatly reduced and the wrapping job becomes much easier. After multiple wraps around the tree, the job is finished. Excess line can be coiled or wrapped around the handle.
We did this process for a crew of 12 last summer (and we also did it in 2011 when stand off sticks weren't an official part of Philmont's approach)

RE: "IMO, the oops rope is not needed "

Just another opinion: We used the oops bag (and the double haul system for it) for that day's food (and the follow morning's breakfast) and all toiletries (and related smellables) that would be needed quick & easy access to. This also helped spread out the weight over two systems.

RE: Color coding the line to quickly see the difference between the main lines and the oops lines

As a color coding alternative to having the entire line a bright color, we used colored vinyl tape to mark the difference: at the ends of the line, and at the middle knot, and on the carabiner.

RE: Amsteel not permitted by the Ranger.
Yup, this is DEFINITELY a YMMV item.
We have been very fortunate both last summer and in 2011 in utilizing Amsteel line.
Our approach tries reframing the mindset of the situation by working with our Ranger (not debating them) ... think in terms of a partnership. See EDIT #2 for more info.

EDIT: More unsolicited advice: Enjoy the process.
I hope you & the lads in your crew have a great trek this summer.

EDIT #2: (This might be better as a new post on this thread ... but here it is)
A.) Based on our observations and measurements. This line dries much faster and will save 27.8 oz per 150' rope. Depending on the physical size and athleticism of the youth involved (meaning if they are small, don't weight much, and are not in the high school athlete clique), then that weight savings (and bulk savings) will be more important in spreading out the crew gear.

B.) It should be noted that one of the guided Discussion Scenarios in the Wilderness Guia's booklet for Plan Ahead and Prepare, is on "skinnier ropes". The guided conclusion in the booklet (starting at the bottom of page 3) is this:

"A thinner rope cuts into the bark of trees more, due to less surface area, causing more damage to the tree. A thinner rope has a higher chance of fraying and tearing. A thinner rope also has a chance of stretching which would lower the bear bags.".

So, the concerns are: 1.) LNT impact 2.) Durability 3.) Strength

Of course the LNT stand off sticks address the first concern. For full Dyneema lines like Amsteel Blue the second concern of poor durability (fraying & tearing)just doesn't fit, for example our line is originally from 2011 and shows minimum to no wear. (One must remember, Amsteel is a full strength Dyneema rope ... which in large diameters, is sold as use for winch rope), Even at a small 7/16" diameter it is still incredibly strong with an average strength of 1600 lbs! (Which by the way addresses the third & last concern of poor strength)

To be fair about this Discussion Scenario, there have been cases that crews have brought paracord substitute or a cheap home depot line (according to our ranger) that has had ALL of the problems listed in the Scenario (=Increased LNT Impact; Poor Durability, & Poor Strength ... well, minus the increased LNT Impact now,because as of 2013 stand off sticks address that concern ... the Scenario obviously was written before Philmont finally adopted that practice).

C.) Partnership: You need to understand where your Ranger is coming from. Understand that your Ranger wants & deserves to be respected and treated as such. Never undercut his or her authority (subtly or overtly) especially in front of any of the crew. Also understand that Philmont ranger training doesn't include being able to tell the different line types (nor should it really - hence the Ranger's reliance on Philmont issued gear) ... their first priority is to make sure that a crew can trek safely themselves, and successfully complete their Philmont adventure. (Which of course, is a common goal you have as well ... you'll need to establish creditability along those lines) These are important considerations that must be taken into account before attempting to frame your interactions with your Ranger as a partnership ... if you do take them into consideration, you'll have a much better chance of mutual success.

Edited by tr-browsing on 11/27/2014 10:17:30 MST.

David Olsen
( - M

Locale: Channeled Scablands
Re: Re: Bear Bagging Throw Rope - Custom Bag for Amsteel Rope on 05/18/2014 19:44:16 MDT Print View

"I have the same puzzlement as Greg.

Why would you want to have a bright orange bag for this?"

Bob, haven't you worked with groups of kids? Between wind, snow and general scatter-mindedness at the newness of it all, stuffsacks disappear often on trips. Bright orange helps everyone keep track of them.

Dan Lee
(scoutbuff) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
AMSTEEL ROPES... on 05/21/2014 12:00:06 MDT Print View

Interesting discussion... We bought two 150' Amsteel ropes for our trek in 2012 and planned to use a similar weighting method. Unfortunately, we could not forge a "partnership" with our ranger on the issue and took the issued ropes/bags. They had used the lighter weight system during our practice trips and learned the Philmont way of bear bagging. In hindsight, the issued bags and rope added some weight/volume over the Amsteel but the crew never complained.

IMHO to any future crews, save the $$, carry the issued ropes and have a great time. It won't be an issue with the boys unless the leaders make it one.

Edited by scoutbuff on 05/21/2014 12:01:39 MDT.