I've noticed what I think might be an interesting, if not alarming, trend the past few months. It appears some people are deciding to forego the hanging of food bags. Instead opting to keep everything in their tent.
Just after an AT section hike in Georgia with a college buddy of mine, back in September, I was reading a feed on a FB group (Appalachian Trail Section Hikers). It was in response to the proper hanging of bear bags, I think. This person stated something to the tune of; "black bears are afraid of us. I keep everything in my tent and they don't bother me."
I discounted his comment, and noticed that no one responded. Then, later in September a person came to my coffee shop. He was fresh off a through hike, finishing in Maine on 21 September. We talked backpacking for about an hour. In that discussion he said he did the same thing! He camped away from the popular areas, and kept his food bag inside his tent for the entire 6 month trip!
I am NOT planning to try this. That's not the point of this post (I'd be sleeping with one eye open). I'm just curious if anyone else has heard of this. Perhaps these two people are isolated in their opinion? Though I find if two people are willing to share this publicly they are quite possibly not alone.
Loc: Portland, OR
I've heard of this practice before. I would hesitate to call it a trend, so much as a byproduct of human nature that cannot be eradicated because it will spontaneously reappear. Humans harvest whatever bits of information they can find, including anecdotes and misinformation, and use them to jump to hasty conclusions. They dislike work and embrace bad theories that confirm their bias toward doing less work. They usually stop thinking much too soon to see where they are going wrong.
(he) kept his food bag inside his tent for the entire 6 month trip!
This kind of 'thinking' is what drives gamblers to believe in their own systems for beating the house.
I don’t hike in bear country, and I still think food in a tent is a bad idea. In Ohio and Indiana, where I mostly hike, we have “mini-bears” in the form of Fox, raccoon, skunks, mice, and squirrels. No, they won’t maul you (but they can bite, and can carry rabies); they can chew through tents and packs to get at food, though, so my friends and I always hang our food. It doesn’t need to strictly conform to PCT guidance, but it still needs to be hung, in my opinion.
On a trip in mid-October I noticed a group of 3, camped next to us, who had all of their food in a cloth grocery bag. It was apparent they had no plan to hang that bag. They weren't going to bring it in their tent. I think they were going to leave it leaning against a tree. They were camped about 40 feet away from us. I formulated a strategy to address this.
I approached them and asked a question. "Hey, I plan to hang our bear bags just over there, about 100 feet across the trail. Do you think that's a good idea?"
I received a "deer in the headlights" look.
After some gentle education they agreed to allow me to hang their bags with us, while I taught them the PCT method.
I averted a potential issue, and hopefully educated some new backcountry hikers in the process.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Mice and other rodents will gnaw holes in your tent to get to food inside. Or your pack. Skunks will come in after your food, too. I don't want even to think about the consequences! Vinegar (by the gallon) works (have used it on dog), but who wants to carry several gallons of the stuff when backpacking? Bears, of course, can do a number on your tent, and you, as well as your food.
Where legal, I have used an Ursack tied to a tree trunk. I can't throw worth two cents (can't hit the side of a barn if I'm inside it), so hanging is out of the question. I do have a Bearikade for places that don't allow Ursacks. Unfortunately I bought it before I found out that the Bearikade is not allowed by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (it didn't pass the grizz test). More recently, the IGBC has approve dthe Ursack, but the Pacific Coast states insists on a hard-sided container. It's a good idea to research food storage rules for the exact location to which you're going, because they can differ widely, depending on the whims of land managers and the intelligence of the local bears.
There is no such thing as a bear-proof container. Some containers are more bear-resistant than others. And some bears are smarter than your average bear!
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
If you don’t mind sharing, how has the arthritis affected your ability to carry a pack? Does it limit the weight you can carry? How long you can carry it per day? Both? How have you compensated for it?
As far as throwing, I’ve never seen anyone who’s really good at tossing a bear line - and, when you do manage to start a good throw, you are inevitably standing on the cord. Watching people hanging food is almost as entertaining as watching them pitch tarps single-handed.
I used to be great at throwing a bear bag line. My trick was that instead of throwing the rock sack like a ball, I threw it like a grenade. Worked fabulously nearly every time.
But then, for reasons that remain unclear to me, I lost my 'touch'. I was on a trip with a number of friends in the Trinity Alps, and went to hang my bag. After numerous, and I mean numerous, attempts at getting the rock sack over my designated branch, and much loud profanity, and, of course, much smirking and laughter among my hiking mates, I finally got a decent hang. Then I laughed heartily at myself.
I tend to use a strategy based on where I am at. I use a Bear Vault when required. I hang my sack in areas where I know there is bear activity and I keep food in my tent but only if it is sealed well. When I am with my dog I tend to keep food in my tent because if there is going to be a bear incident I want my dog with me. I don't want her making a decision about whether to engage a bear who might be sniffing for my hung bear bag.
Since bear cans are required in a lot of areas I backpack I have become used to it, and now I use it most of the time. I do have a Ursack that I will sometimes use.
My kids bought me a Bearikade Weekender for Christmas more than 10 years ago and I just love it! It is ridiculously expensive but worth it and lasts forever. They come in a variety of sizes. But the old saying about closets applies to bear cans--no matter how big you feel obligated to fill it. The Weekender keeps me very disciplined about the food I take on a 10-day trip.
The worst thing for me (being old and forgetful) with hanging food, is that I always get the thing hung, with much effort, only to discover I forgot to put in an essential item. A bear can is just more convenient.