2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on

Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – May 2007

How to Hang a Bear Bag

Learn the easiest way to hang a bear bag and keep your camping snacks safe from rummaging paws.

by: The Backpacker Editors

Backpacking up the secluded Queets Valley on the sopping-wet west side of Olympic National Park treats you to views of 250-foot-tall Sitka spruce and western hemlocks, minus the legions of hikers in the nearby Hoh and Sol Duc Valleys. But don't let the idyllic solitude fool you; before you enter the rainforest, you need to have your bear-bagging technique down cold–or the park's 500-strong army of black bears will rob you blind. In the past, rangers recommended counterbalancing, but found that most people didn't do it correctly. Here's the easier (yet still effective) method the park now suggests. (Note: In some places, such as Yosemite, the Adirondacks, and the Smokies, black bears have become so crafty that hard-shell food containers are your only option. Call ahead if you're not sure.)


  • Select a pair of branches 20 feet apart and at least 15 feet off the ground.
  • Attach one end of a 100-foot utility cord (3 mm) to a fist-sized rock that's heavy enough to drag the line through dense boughs. Tie the other end to a tree trunk or any nearby sturdy anchor.
  • Throw the rock over both branches in succession.
  • Tie a knotted loop (bight) in the cord midway between the branches. Attach the food bag (the stuff sack for a tent works fine) to the loop using a simple overhand or slip knot, or a carabiner.
  • Pull on the unsecured end of the cord to lift the bag high enough up to be out of a bear's reach from the ground (at least 10 feet) or in either tree (4 feet). Tie off.

Return to the Backpacking 101 home page.

Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Address 1:
Address 2:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -


Old Scouting Bear
May 14, 2012

Your suggestions for a bear bag are good, but are insufficient in certain areas of the country.
Along the Colorado-New Mexico border is a Scout ranch called Philmont. It's located in the High Plains, and extends into the Sangre DeChristo Mountains, and includes the second-highest peak in New Mexico, Mount Baldy [12,441 ft. high.]
The bears are so numerous there, that they count the bears-per-acre, not bears per square miles.
The bears are so smart that they have figured out that they can drop a bear bag by simply slashing the "single" cord with their claws.
When I took a crew out there for a couple of weeks in the mountains, the Camp instructed us in the following:
1. NO SOAP. It attracts the bears.
2. Locate your camp site AWAY from the latrine, the scrap disposal/wash area, and the bear bag. (Our camp sites were centered in a triangle with a moderate distance being maintained from each of the three corners where these sites were placed.
3. The camp had already strung "permanent" cables between TWO trees, and we had to string up the bag(s) over that cable with tie-offs on our lines to two separate trees. (They explained that if the bears cut one of the ropes, they still had not figured out that there was a second one and the bag(s) did not fall.)
4.Lastly, our cooking gear and the clothes we cooked and ate in went up the lines in a second bag so that the scent of our cooking did not draw the bears into camp.

This seemed like a lot of effort, but I can tell you that:
1. While riding our horses along the trails, it seemed that not 50 to 100 ft. went by that we didn't see claw marks on the aspens lining our way, and that the marks were all fresh. (They were all weeping sap.)
2. During the entire time up in the mountains, not one single bear bothered our camp.
3. As to the "no soap" issue, after a couple of days on the trail, we probably stank enough, along with the horse smells, that we just couldn't smell each other anyway. Of course, the ABSOLUTE first thing when we came back down to base camp was to soak in nice hot showers and then hit the laundary. ......

May 07, 2012

...are we really explaining how to hold up a bag with a string? wow, just stay home

Mar 31, 2012

I use a snack-size zipper-top food storage bag (weighs next to nothing) and collect two SMALL rocks at the site. Put one rock on each side of the bag, zip shut, tie the cord around the bag between the rocks, and toss it over the limb.

M Yarman
Dec 20, 2011

I would recommend a tear-drop fishing sinker attached to a neon orange paracord. You can find a thin cord at Gossamer Gear that is ideal for this situation. Attach sinker, select branch and toss over, attach a light-weight dry bag and hoist!~M

Jeremy S
Mar 06, 2009

how to hang a bear bag. Copy and paste link.

Fellow Camper
May 19, 2008

I would use a different sack than your sleeping bag sack. You don't want the bear mistaking your sleeping bag in the tent for your food sack, especially when you might be in it. I use the same exact method you mentioned, but bring a separate stuff sack specifically for this purpose. The extra sack weighs only weights about an ounce or so. Plus, keeping the food (also always in zip-locks) within the extra sack at all times helps organize your pack.

Apr 27, 2008

What I do is, take a small nylon stuff sack (for the rock), 40 feet of dark green parachute cord, and a carabeiner camping with me (I put the rope & carabeiner in the stuff sack), then, when it's time for my food to go up the tree, I use my SLEEPING BAG stuff sack to hold my food!

Apr 20, 2008

I use the small, nylon bag that holds my camp stove. Put a rock in it and attach the line.

Apr 16, 2008

The only problem with the beanbag is you are now carrying a quarter to a half pound extra, depending on the size of the beanbag. It does work well. If you find a fist sized stone that is somewhat oval or rectangular and use a clove hitch it works as well. The other solution is to carry a small mesh bag that attaches to a rope easily that you can fill with a couple smaller stones.

Apr 12, 2008

its really simple you want to hang a bag with your food or food soiled bags/pots pans higher than a bear can reach and far enough away from a tree so that he/she cant use it to climb up and reach the bag. think like a bear.... and if thats to hard for you, you may want to rethink the camping thing

tom k
Apr 06, 2008

if you can, stop into your local outdoor power equipment supply store (not home depot / lowes - they wont have it). what you're looking for is a treeclimbers / linemans beanbag. its a small shot filled beanbag with a d-ring attached to it, and is used by arborists to pass lines around treebranches. simply tie your rope onto the bag, toss is up and over your intended branch, then untie the bag and attach your line to the bear bag, and hoist it up to safety. takes all of the frustration out of the task.

B Raymond
Apr 05, 2008

A video demonstration of this would be awesome! I'm a newbie having a hard time picturing this.


Your rating:
Your Name:


My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Coopers Rock, West Virginia (8/30/2014)
Posted On: Sep 02, 2014
Submitted By: hikingFF77
Trailhead Register
Posted On: Sep 02, 2014
Submitted By: hikingFF77

View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions