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#93212 - 03/26/08 08:37 AM cord for bear bagging
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Time for confessions here. I haven't done any bear-bagging since I was a kid (and then it was my scoutmaster who did it). In my own defense I'll say that here in eastern Missouri we aren't exactly overrun with bears. But now I've heard of sightings of black bears nearby so I'm thinking I'd better get with the program and hang my food.

My question is: what kind of cord should I use? There have been some recent discussions about cord in general (braided spectra vs kelty triptease, etc) but I'm only wondering about bear bagging (I use the orange stuff from Gossamer Gear for my guy lines, essentially the same stuff as kelty triptease).

Here's why I'm confused. I'm hearing two different thing about what NOT to use. On the one hand I hear not to use stuff with the braided nylon coating (like triptease) because it acts like a saw on tree branches. This would argue for something like a braided spectra or strong fishing line. But on the other hand I hear that thin diameter is what you want to avoid because the small diameter stuff cuts the bark and (even worse) can get itself stuck in the groove that it creates leaving your foodbag as an eternal tree ornament.

I've tried this really inexpensive stuff they have at REI

http://www.rei.com/product/610903

for guy lines and given up on it for that purpose (absorbs water like crazy and gets deformed once it dries) but maybe it's the right kind of thing to use for bear bagging because of the large diameter?

So you experienced bear baggers out there, what do you recommend?

Heber

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#93213 - 03/26/08 09:01 AM Re: cord for bear bagging [Re: Heber]
Paddy_Crow Offline
member

Registered: 11/08/04
Posts: 2285
Loc: Michigan
I use BPL's UrsaLite system. You can buy their cord separately, it's 2.2mm with 650# breaking strength. It's a little tough on bare hands if you've got much weight to pull over a limb, but I just wear gloves and I'm fine.


BPL Food Bag Supplies

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#93214 - 03/26/08 10:18 AM Re: cord for bear bagging [Re: Paddy_Crow]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Interesting. I found the explanation on that page ("Appropriateness for Bear Bagging") particularly enlightening. Apparently the issue is a combination of cord diameter, bag weight (obviously), type of tree (hardwood or softwood), and whether or not the tree is wet. In Missouri we mostly have hardwood trees (there are no evergreens that are native to Missouri, pine or otherwise) so I guess it's less of a concern for me than for hikers from the west.

That's a pretty high price for just bear bagging. Then again it seems unlikely that a person would ever break this cord or wear it out so it's likely I wouldn't have to buy more than once. But the price makes me wonder whether I couldn't do just as well with a braided spectra fishing line (which is much cheaper). Perhaps the proprietary urethane coating they brag about makes a lot of difference.

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#93215 - 03/26/08 04:12 PM Re: cord for bear bagging [Re: Heber]
Fiddleback Offline
member

Registered: 06/22/04
Posts: 478
Loc: Northern Rockies
I like the stuff normally referred to as 'parachute cord.' It's not the lightest or the strongest but usually is rated for a few hundred pounds which will pull up my trail snacks. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

While damaging a tree trunk or limb could be a concern most trees in my area aren't at risk (Ponderosa pine). But the smoothness of the parachute cord makes bagging easier than some other choices...the cord doesn't get 'stuck' on the limbs...

FB
_________________________
"...inalienable rights...include the right to a clean and healthful environment..." Montana Constitution

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#93216 - 03/26/08 05:25 PM Re: cord for bear bagging [Re: Heber]
DownsD Offline


Registered: 02/20/03
Posts: 701
Loc: Fountain Valley, CA, USA
I use braided poly rope, 1/4" or 3/8", usually in bright yellow. It's inexpensive, readily avaliable, doesn't cut trees or your hands, floats, very visible, reasonably light, very durable and has many other uses.

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#93217 - 03/26/08 09:19 PM Re: cord for bear bagging [Re: Heber]
BobEFord Offline
member

Registered: 01/28/08
Posts: 72
Loc: SE AZ
Heber,

If you can find it in your area in shorter lengths, heavy test monofilament (fishing line) is good because critters can't climb up or down it like cord.

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#93218 - 03/26/08 10:26 PM Re: cord for bear bagging [Re: Heber]
GreenandTan Offline
member

Registered: 04/25/05
Posts: 56
I, like Fiddleback, use parachute cord. It is also known as 550 cord, I think because it can withstand 550 lbs of weight. Go figure. It is available in 100' packages from outdoor/surplus stores. 1000' spools go on ebay for about $30-$40. It comes in many different colors from the standard military OD green, coyote brown to blue and purple if that is what you are after. I have found it to have endless uses such as pack repairs, guy lines, bear bag hanging cord, arts and crafts projects. It makes great shoe laces. It has nylon type filaments encased by a woven tube of nylon making for a smooth cord. The ends fuse nicely with a flame.

By the way I do not sell 550 cord. Just a satisfied consumer. Here is a picture that illustrates what it looks like.
http://i6.ebayimg.com/05/i/000/b5/ba/dae0_1.JPG

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#93219 - 03/27/08 09:32 AM Re: cord for bear bagging [Re: Heber]
Berserker Offline
member

Registered: 05/10/04
Posts: 493
Loc: Lynchburg, VA
I use the exact cord you linked too (just in a different color), and have had no issues with it. That coupled with one of the lightweight OR dry bags (Hydroseal) makes a pretty nice (though not ultralight) bear bag setup.

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#93220 - 03/27/08 09:41 AM Re: cord for bear bagging [Re: GreenandTan]
finallyME Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/07
Posts: 2710
Loc: Utah
Yep, parachute cord is called 550 cord because it has a 550lb test. I use it for a lot of stuff, but haven't tried it with a bear bag yet. Remember to get the real stuff, not the many cheap knock-offs. Look for 7 nylon strands in the middle. You can find it at MANY if not all Army surplus stores. I looked for a long time to find a certain color (Foliage Green) and found some online. Then I went to a CAL ranch store and found the exact color there. Go figure. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
I've taken a vow of poverty. To annoy me, send money.

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#93221 - 03/27/08 12:23 PM Re: cord for bear bagging [Re: Heber]
Jimshaw Offline
member

Registered: 10/22/03
Posts: 3938
Loc: Bend, Oregon
DO NOT USE AVOLANCHE CORD. It sticks to trees <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/frown.gif" alt="" />
Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
_________________________
These are my own opinions based on wisdom earned through many wrong decisions. Your mileage may vary.

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#93222 - 03/27/08 12:40 PM Re: cord for bear bagging [Re: Heber]
hootyhoo Offline
member

Registered: 12/14/06
Posts: 686
Loc: Cyberspace
I hang it year round. I have been doing it so long that I cant sleep if I don't do it. I even carry my cord with me to national parks that have cable hanging systems at the backcountry sites. Does that sound crazy? Well its not. I got to a site in the Smokies some years back and the cables were broken. but I could still hang my food and sleep. Also, if its a really crowded site and everyone has their stuff on the cables and the cables feel like they weigh a ton - I just sneek off from the crowd and hang my food. And if fgor some reason I have to an emergency stealth camp, not a planned stealth camp, I will at least have the means to hang my food.
I bag in the winter because we have mild winters and its not just bears that look for food. And I had a friend that was accosted by a bear mid winter and he hangs his food now also.
I have been using masons twine for many, many years. It is light, strong, cheap, disposable and comes in yellow, pink, and white. Available at home depot. The braided does not last as long.

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#93223 - 03/27/08 12:57 PM Re: cord for bear bagging [Re: hootyhoo]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Well that is certainly the lowest cost solution. Perhaps I'll try the mason's twine and if it turns out that I need more strength then I'll shell out for the expensive stuff.

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#93224 - 03/29/08 11:34 AM Re: cord for bear bagging [Re: Heber]
ajherman Offline
member

Registered: 05/02/06
Posts: 208
Loc: Rock Springs, WY
i also use 550 cord for lots of different things. you can even take out one of the core filaments and use it as thread in a pinch. the stuff is very useful in the back country.
_________________________
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www.hikeforacause.wordpress.com

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#93225 - 03/29/08 12:36 PM Re: cord for bear bagging [Re: ajherman]
tchiker Offline
member

Registered: 08/28/06
Posts: 162
Loc: Atlanta, GA, USA
I use that inexpensive REI rope and it seems to work fine. I don't backpack that often though so can speak of it's long-term durability.

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#93226 - 03/29/08 03:57 PM Re: cord for bear bagging [Re: Heber]
Hector Offline
member

Registered: 12/20/04
Posts: 325
Loc: LA/ARK/TX corner
I've been using this stuff the last couple of times. Doesn't tangle too bad, seems easy on the trees, is light, seems strong.

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#93227 - 03/29/08 07:42 PM Re: cord for bear bagging [Re: Heber]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada

Paracord is needlessly strong and heavy for a bear bag.

For an ultralight rig that's inexpensive go to a tackle shop and get them to spool you off a bit of bulk heavyweight dacron fishline - this is braided stuff, like rope, not monofilament - it's used for flyline backing and stuff. 80 lb or 130 lb test weight is fine. In the lengths
required for a pct style bear bag hang (like, oh, 50 feet or so) , it's almost free <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />

My bear bag rig is set up for pct style hanging with a little micro carabiner, mesh rock bag and 130 lb dacron line.

It's also great as tarp tieouts etc. you're just not as cool as all the cool kids who use spectra..
_________________________
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Winter list.
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#93228 - 04/06/08 08:06 PM Re: cord for bear bagging [Re: phat]
Spock Offline
member

Registered: 01/10/06
Posts: 679
Loc: Central Texas
Here's an odd idea that I've had good luck with: MuleTape, flat braided Kevlar or polyester. It doesn't cut into limbs or snag and it is unbelievably strong. It is used to pull cable, phone lines and so on. 1/4" is best, although 3/5" is easier to find. Talk some off a cable crew.

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#93229 - 04/07/08 05:21 PM Re: cord for bear bagging [Re: hootyhoo]
hootyhoo Offline
member

Registered: 12/14/06
Posts: 686
Loc: Cyberspace
Just to add to my post - Last weekend I really put the line to the test. I hauled my food, stove, and cookwear along with the dogs chuckwagon and his food. Don't ask why- it a long story. It was seriously heavy. I tossed it over a large dead limb so as not to saw a knotch in a live one or damage the bark. I was waiting for it snap and send my supplies to the ground, but it held strong. The line was old and had some stiff areas where it had melted in the past. It is 60 feet long , which is good length FOR ME. When I replace it it will cost me 85 cents. I am not sure how old it is, but I normally have to replace the string every 30 nights out.

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#93230 - 04/08/08 08:32 AM Re: cord for bear bagging -- Follow up [Re: Heber]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Okay, I've now had some nights under my belt where I've done some bear bagging. I'm no expert or anything but I wanted to report on what I found.

I tried the mason line. It certainly is strong enough for the task. For kicks I hauled my entire pack up a tree and it held fine. The weight did cause some wear on the line because of the friction against the bark but not as much as you would think. I think there is a coated mason line that might even do better at this. Mine was uncoated. Of course pulling up a heavier weight like that hurts your hands since the cord is kind of small. But for a smaller food bag it should be fine. Anyway the price was right.

I also tried the REI cord (I mentioned last time that I don't like this cord for guy lines but I thought I'd try it for bear bagging). This cord has a smooth, woven nylon, exterior. It glided very easily over the branch, easier than mason line. It's also pretty easy on the hands. However it was still a little worse for wear after just one use. The nylon exterior got a small rip in it and the white stuff inside began to come out.

I found some 550 paracord at the local surplus store. I haven't used it yet but the exterior feels similar to the REI cord so I imagine it will have no problem gliding over a branch.

Now the interesting thing comes in the technique. I tried the PCT technique and found I didn't like it.

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/bear_bag_hanging_technique.html

It's a very clever idea mind you. The problem is that both the "up side" and "down side" of the cord have to go through the same binner and so need to be close to eachother. But during the night the food bag may spin and the cord winds up. With a thick cord like the 550 or the REI cord this may not be a problem. But the mason line can really get twisted up and then you can't get your food down easily. You pull the hanging line to get the stick out and it doesn't want to come. And since you can't see the line up there well enough you can't figure out which way to spin it to get it unwound.

The thing I tried that I liked better was to pull the food bag up and then tie the cord to a different tree. That way there is no possibility of lines getting twisted. I have heard that the bears on the PCT are too smart for this. They follow the line with their eyes, figure out where it is tied to, and chew through it to get the food. I'm hoping that our local bears (if there are any) aren't that smart. I'm quite sure the raccoons and squirrels aren't that smart either so that is what I'll probably do unless I go to the Sierra's,

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#93231 - 04/08/08 09:27 AM Re: cord for bear bagging -- Follow up [Re: Heber]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Quote:

It's a very clever idea mind you. The problem is that both the "up side" and "down side" of the cord have to go through the same binner and so need to be close to eachother. But during the night the food bag may spin and the cord winds up. With a thick cord like the 550 or the REI cord this may not be a problem. But the mason line can really get twisted up and then you can't get your food down easily. You pull the hanging line to get the stick out and it doesn't want to come. And since you can't see the line up there well enough you can't figure out which way to spin it to get it unwound.


Not sure what you mean by tieing to a tree, but Rather than tie to a tree to support the bag, just use the pct method and tie the lines slightly off to the side either to a ree/bush or use a stake in the ground. to put a little sideways pressure on the line so it is at an angle. the bag isn't supported by this pressure (if something chews through it it doesn't come down) but the little bit of "angle" on the line
means that as the bag blows in the wind it returns back to "normal" and your line doesn't twist up on itself.
_________________________
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#93232 - 04/08/08 09:54 AM Re: cord for bear bagging -- Follow up [Re: Heber]
Berserker Offline
member

Registered: 05/10/04
Posts: 493
Loc: Lynchburg, VA
Yeah, the close proximity of the 2 lines in the PCT method is its main weakness for the reasons you discussed. The lines will really get twisted if you get a good breeze. As previously mentioned, I use the REI cord and have not had an issue with this. If using thinner cord I could see this being a problem though.

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#93233 - 04/08/08 10:28 AM Re: cord for bear bagging -- Follow up [Re: phat]
Heber Offline
member

Registered: 12/31/07
Posts: 245
Loc: St. Louis, Missouri
Quote:
Quote:

It's a very clever idea mind you. The problem is that both the "up side" and "down side" of the cord have to go through the same binner and so need to be close to eachother. But during the night the food bag may spin and the cord winds up. With a thick cord like the 550 or the REI cord this may not be a problem. But the mason line can really get twisted up and then you can't get your food down easily. You pull the hanging line to get the stick out and it doesn't want to come. And since you can't see the line up there well enough you can't figure out which way to spin it to get it unwound.


Not sure what you mean by tieing to a tree, but Rather than tie to a tree to support the bag, just use the pct method and tie the lines slightly off to the side either to a ree/bush or use a stake in the ground. to put a little sideways pressure on the line so it is at an angle. the bag isn't supported by this pressure (if something chews through it it doesn't come down) but the little bit of "angle" on the line
means that as the bag blows in the wind it returns back to "normal" and your line doesn't twist up on itself.


Oh that's a clever idea. That might work. The way the PCT method is usually described it sounds like you leave the cord dangling in space so that's what I did. I like your method better. I'll give it a try next time.

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#93234 - 04/08/08 01:16 PM Re: cord for bear bagging -- Follow up [Re: Heber]
hootyhoo Offline
member

Registered: 12/14/06
Posts: 686
Loc: Cyberspace
Nice follow up on the lines. I tried the PCT for a while, but it was not for me. When I am up before sunrise I want an easy trip to get the food. I wrap my line around a close by tree about two or three times so that the knot I tie will not tighten. That way it is easy to get down. For some reason the PCT was just too involved -bags, rock hunting, biners, trying to remember how to do it, trying to get the darn thing back down, ect... I just tie a stick to the masons twine and sling it over a limb- never fails. I have to be ready to pull the line so that the swinging stick never gets within 8 feet of the ground or else my dog grabs it and we have a ferocious tug war battle before I can get it back. I usally try to get the line ready while he is off snooping around, but as soon as he sees me with the line in hand he comes over to get in on the action.
The main advancement I have ever made to the line is to butterfly it on my hand- when it is butterflied there is never any tangling. Not sure where I picked the trick up, but it sure does save a massive amount of frustration.

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