How To

How to: Hanging a bear bag

How to: Hanging a bear bag | ActionHub

Photo by Virginia State Parks

Keeping your food safe from bears is a must if you are going to be camping out in bear country. To keep your food and campsite safe, you have two options: a bear canister, where you can store your food, or a bear hang, where you hang your food from a high tree that cannot be reached by bears. Most bear canisters are big and heavy, so if you want to pack light, read on to learn how to hang a bear bag.

Knowing how to hang a bear bag is an important skill to have, as even if you aren’t camping in bear country, there are other wild animals that are attracted by the smell of your food. Hanging a bear bag even if there isn’t a real risk of bears also comes in handy to keep your food away from foxes, rabbits, raccoons, etc.

It’s not that easy to hang a bear bag

If you just look at a diagram of how to hang a bear bag, you might think it looks effortless, but it takes some practice to get it right. Some of the issues you might run into are:

  • You don’t have the best aim and need several tries to get the rope over the tree
  • The weighted rope comes barreling back and hits you on the head
  • Your rope keeps getting tangled in the branches, as the woods are really dense
  • You ran out of daylight, and now you need to hang the bear bag in the dark

To avoid these issues, make sure you practice before heading out to your campsite, and always hang your bear bag as early as possible. Don’t wait until the end of the day, when the impending threat of darkness is looming. As soon as you reach your camp, find a suitable tree and set up the rope.

Watching how to set up a bear bag is easier than reading how to do it, so this great video by the folks at Leave No Trace is super useful as a learning tool:

What to put in your bear bag

Apart from food (and any food containers – even empty ones!), anything that is scented needs to go in your bear bag, including toothpaste, soap, dish soap, etc. Anything that you’ll need at the end of the night, such as toothpaste, can be placed in a smaller bag and attached to the main food bag before you go into your tent.

Types of bags you can use

You’ll need a sturdy bag that can hold all your food, and that can be sealed well enough so that birds and bugs can’t get into your food. We’ve found the best bear bags to be waterproof drawstring bags that have a strap on the bottom, allowing you to hang the bag upside down by the strap. Therefore, if it rains, your food and toiletries will remain somewhat dry.

Where to hang your bear bag

Bears have a great sense of smell and will be able to smell your food in the bear bag. Since bears will be drawn to the smell, you want to make sure your bag is hung far away from the campsite (at least 200 feet) and downwind. This will avoid having bears trampling around your campsite looking for food.

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