Loc: Kitsap Peninsula, WA
I got on a kick to see if I could lighten my food hanging cord and I discovered some new information. A number of people in old posts here seem to like mason twine. I will try that in spite of the reported tangles it can get. But I also ran across a prepared kit that contains a rock bag for throwing over the limb of a tree. Has anyone made one of those? It shouldn't be to complicated. I may put a cotton string attachment on mine so if the rock and bag get perminantly, accidentally, wrapped around the tree I can pull real hard and break the cotton link and retreave my line and bag. I also see they supply a "barrier bag" with he kit for oder containment. Do you use such a thing. I never have and have not had a problem camping where there are bears known to be the area.
I ended up being in locations with a bear pole and didn't actually use the string.
In terms of barrier bags there is no definitive answer as far as I know. I think it mostly comes down to the bears you are dealing with. What is clear to me is that barrier bags reduce smell but do not eliminate it. Bears make an assessment of how much food there is before deciding whether to go after it. A barrier bag in that way may discourage many bears even though they can still smell the food. So, IMHO, barrier bags may work well, but can still fail particularly in places where bears have reduced fear people (and are willing to take more risks to get people food).
I use a 50 ft length of parachute cord. It also acts as my spare cord if I need a shoelace or tent cord and I have used it many times to lower or raise my pack on cliffs. Also handy for repairs.
I sewed a small nylon bag (I use old stuff sacks for material). You could also just use a small nylon bag. So many things you buy now come in a bag. I sewed on two loops. The sack is about a 5-inch cube. I put rock or several rocks inside, tie on the cord through both loops, and then hang onto the cord about a foot from the bag. I swing the bag (underhand) and let go. It takes some practice to know when to let go to get it up onto the selected limb. It is actually quite effective! The rock has to be heavy enough so the bag drops down on its own. I then use mini-carabiners to attach food sacks for a counter-balance. I use my trekking pole to get it down.
When I use an Ursack, I sometimes will hang it. For long trips when I use a bear can, I put what does not fit in the bear can in a small bag and hang it until I can fit everything in the bear can. I think the cord and bag weigh 3 oz. You could use thinner line, but since I also use the line to lower my pack, I want it thick enough not to hurt my hands.
All that said, I more often just use my bear can (Bearikade Weekender).
I have used OP (odor proof) sacks but am not sure they really work. They are quite expensive. They do have good seals, so at least you food does not get wet if it rains. Your whole camp area and you smell of food, so the bear already knows there is food around and can see a bag hanging.
Regardless of how I protect food, I make a point to camp away from heavily used areas where bear know they can get food. If I see ANY sign of bear, I will continue at least a mile farther to camp. If you are really concerned, cook dinner on the trail and then continue a mile more to camp.
Loc: Kitsap Peninsula, WA
Thanks all for you replies. I appreciate hanging food well away from camp so the animals don't get in the habit of food being close to, or in, camp. I live in the Pacific Northwest and mostly hike/climb in the Olympic mountains. We see bears now and then, but have only seen three close up in the past couple of years. Two ran away, but stopped less than 100 feet from us. One very slowly walked through camp and seemed to be uninterested in us or the dinner we were cooking.(which doesn't say much about my cooking!) We were very quiet and watched in awe! One of the problems with bears (and avalanches) is, I think, that you get too comfortable over the years when you don't have a problem. But they are somewhat unpredictable, and so you need to take precautions every time and also set an example for those that are with you so they don't get careless.
I do the same thing - 50 feet of nylon cord attached to a small bag some tiny piece of gear came in (pillow, hand towel, collapsible trowel, or some such thing), with a mini-biner for attaching food bags. Bears aren't a problem most places I go, so I don't always need a perfect branch - just something 10 or 15 feet high and strong enough to hold the bag, so I can keep it out of reach of the raccoons and other bandits.
Loc: Nacogdoches, TX, USA
That's pretty much what I do too. I turned a tiny plastic mesh bag into my throwing bag. It had garlic in it originally. I folded over the the top and sewed to make a channel for string, which is leftover cord from a broken vinyl window shade. The throw line I'm using is 50' of Zing It, which was about $11. When it's not being used, it's packed into the throw bag with it's biner and tossed into the smellables bag.
Bears aren't a problem in any of the places I've been either, but I know how ruthless racoon and other small animals can be, so I choose to err on the safe side.
And speaking of hanging food, I've been using the PCT method because it's easy, but I've noticed a lot of folks using the counter-balance method. Is there any compelling reason I should switch?
I make sure my bag hangs far below where a coon or possum can reach. A bear, at a minimum of 100 lbs. is one thing out on a limb, a little critter, another. A bag snugged up close to a limb is fair game to gnaw on. I've heard of bears tugging on a dangling string until the stick broke, but not first hand. They will chew through a tied off line. Where you have habituated bears, canisters probably are the answer.