What type of line should I use to hang a bear bag with? I tried paracord, and it worked ok with a very light bag. The problem is, with a heavier load, the line wouldn't slide across the limb hardly at all. I read somewhere that it was a good line to use because its width wouldn't dig in as bad as thinner lines, but with it not sliding well it seems I need to be looking for something else.
I have used paracord in the past, and it worked fine. But I prefer to use a limb that's dead. Seems to be less friction there, and I hate getting pitch on my hands, because it will be there all trip long. But a simply 3/16 inch dacron cord will also work, and will probably be a little slicker than the paracord.
These days I use a bear canister. Some places require them...and now it's habit.
I use an arborist's line, Zing It. It's very light, strong, and doesn't stretch. It also is kinder than other ropes/cords to tree bark. But most often I just take a bear canister where there are actually bears - the line/bag I only ever use on the coast, where the raccoons are the real issue.
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki
I am an inept bear bagger. I have spent a lot of time wandering through the woods searching for acceptable locations. After an acceptable site has been found, the next dilemma is the “toss.” Rocks tied onto lines and thrown into trees sometimes loops around a limb or become hopelessly tangled. Then you have to decide whether to pull hard enough to break the limb or climb the tree to untangle the line. When you finally manage to throw the line over a limb some times it is too close to the trunk, sometimes it is too far from the trunk. Try, try again. Often after a successful toss the line is too high to grab. Try, try again. I have spent many wonderful hours throwing rocks and lines unsuccessfully into trees. There is a reason why I backpack instead of quarterback in the NFL.
The bear bag is the reason that I try to set up camp before dark. I can cook and hang a hammock just fine in the dark. Rigging a bear bag is difficult in with good light, but a real challenge in the dark.
The perfect limb sometimes is just rough enough that there is too much friction to hoist a heavy bag without an assist. Boost the bag with one hand while pulling down on the line with the other hand is standard technique. You just have to hope that the bears in the area are shorter than you.
I have broken camp before sunrise and could not find the food bag in the dark. More time spent wandering through the woods shining my headlamp up into the trees.
After much trial & error I finally have a satisfactory bear bag system. It is not a light solution because the complete kit is 3.7 oz. I use a modified Marrison Haul System from “The Backpacker’s Field Manual” by Rick Curtis
For me that is the smallest diameter that does not get caught and it seems to be fairly easy on the bark. I wrap about 20' of the cord around a rock and it toss over a limb. The cord can be close to the trunk because the B end will be tied to an adjacent tree to pull the food away from the trunk of the main tree. This is one modification from the Marrison Haul System. The other modification is that the UrsaLite cord is joined to a 50' length of Triptease with a slipped sheet bend. One carabineer is put in the loop on the Triptease and the slipped sheet bend is tied behind the carabineer. Place the Triptease line inside the carabineer then the other carabineer is hooked on the Triptease between the sheetbend and the first carabineer.
This may be quite elementary for very experienced people, but even with a pretty well defined system my single most time consuming task in pitching camp continues to be rigging the bear bag
Edited by ringtail (10/03/1104:38 PM)
"In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not." Yogi Berra
Just to be clear, in most areas of the Sierra in California, where a bear canister is not required, they strongly recommend the counterbalance technique.
In this technique, you toss the line over an appropriate limb (and I LOVE the previous poster's notes on how easy that is!) and then tie one food bag to one end of the line. Pull the other end until the food bag is snug up against the limb. Then tie on another, equally weighted food bag.
Now use a long stick to push the second bag up---and keep both bags above the ground far enough that a bear can't reach them. To get the food back down again, you use the stick to push one bag up, which drops the other bag down.
Why do it this way? Because I have seen a bear follow the line from a perfectly hung bag...and effortlessly cut that line with a single blow of its claws. Down came the pack, and the bear had dinner.
I recently hiked the Pacific Crest Trail from Kennedy Meadows to the Kearsarge Pass trail then out over Kearsarge Pass. At almost every campsite I passed before Crabtree Meadows, there was at least one bear bag line stuck in every suitable tree and some others in the damnedest places. A lot of them still had pricey-looking carabiners attached. From this experience, I suspect that the best bear bagging line would be the cheapest because you could easily be leaving a fair amount of it hanging in trees along your way. This, incidentally, sort of offends my sense of LNT. I, too, use a bear canister if bears are likely to be a problem.
Balzaccom, thanks for the line suggestion. I have used the PCT method for hanging so far, which uses a carabiner attached to the bag, and a stick to keep the line from sliding back through the carabiner. It still accomplishes the goal of no line tied off to the tree like the counter balance method.
Lori, I'll look into the zing it. I actually read a bit about that while I was searching for info on this topic before and after posting the question here.
Gershon, those lessons have already been learned the hard way, but thanks for the warning. Hopefully someone else will read this and be spared. I really stress the dont stand on it part. You can usually dodge something coming on a predictable path at a predictable time, its that sudden jerk that will throw your timing off and get you hit :P.
Ringtail, the push up with your hands and hope for the best technique is what I had to resort to this time. I haven't heard of much bear trouble where we were, so I was mainly worried about the smaller animals. I would prefer a system that doesn't leave the end of the line tied off to the tree, because I've heard of animals knowing to cut the line to the tree to drop the bag. I have an idea of incorperating the pulley concept into the pct method, if I get it worked out I'll post a diagram.
Phat showed me a great article (which I've misplaced) from Backpacking Light explaining the PCT method.
While I've found that to be too much to bother with on the EAST coast, the way the article showed to get the line up the tree was priceless.
Rather than tie a rock or a stick to your rope, clip your rope to a stuff sack, put a baseball to softball sized rock in the stuff sack, and hurl the rock over the tree limb in question.
Helps to put a loop in the other end of the rope (that I put around my wrist).
To a proficient PCT hang user: how do you get the bag more than 8 feet up in the air? I got confused by this when I tried to put the article into practice, and it's the big reason I went back to tying my bags off to adjacent trees.