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How to Hang a Bear Bag--PCT Style

This method is popular with ultralight thru-hikers and requires two materials that you don't normally carry (cord and carabiner). Like all bag hangs, it can be foiled by smart, food-conditioned bruins. Check regulations to make sure bag hangs are legal.
Photos by Jennifer Howe / howephoto.us
  • 1) Materials: Weatherproof food bag. Smaller stuff bag to throw over the branch (tent peg sacks work well). A carabiner or mini-biner. A strong, light stick. And 50 to 60 feet of lightweight tent cord or bootlace nylon. NOTE: ROPE IS SHOWN FOR VISIBILITY.
  • 2) Find a tree with a solid branch that protrudes 4 feet or more out from the trunk, and sits 20 to 25 feet high. Choosing the right tree is key to making any bear hang effective.
  • 3) Tie an overhand or figure-8 knot in one end of your 50-foot cord. Clip a weighted sack, appropriate for throwing, onto the knot using a carabiner or mini-biner.
  • 4) Throw the weighted rope end over the branch. With shorter cords, keep the free, unthrown end tied near ground level, so you won't end up with both cord ends out of reach. Be patient and methodical. Repeat tosses are the norm.
  • 5) Once you've thrown the rope over the branch, lower the weighted end until you can remove the small sack. Clip on your food bag.
  • 6) Important: Clip the carabiner that connects knot and food bag around the free end of the rope.
  • 7) Pull the cord's free end, hoisting the bag all the way to branch level.
  • 8) Now, get as high as you can on the free end of the rope.
  • 9) Tie a clove hitch (or multiple half-hitches) around a strong, light stick.
  • 10) Shake the food bag so it lowers again, taking the stick upwards until it jams crosswise against the carabiner.
  • 11) The resulting bear hang needs to be at least 10 to 12 feet off the ground, and 4 feet out from the tree trunk. Regardless, keep a pile of throwing rocks handy; In serious bear country you may have to pelt persistent Yogis to deter stubborn attempts.
  • Bag hangs are lightweight but imperfect. Practiced bears can foil them. In many areas you're required to carry bearproof canisters (right) or bear-resistant Kevlar Ursacks (left, tied with high-strength Kevlar drawstring). Both are more reliable.
1) Materials: Weatherproof food bag. Smaller stuff bag to throw over the branch (tent peg sacks work well). A carabiner or mini-biner. A strong, light stick. And 50 to 60 feet of lightweight tent cord or bootlace nylon. NOTE: ROPE IS SHOWN FOR VISIBILITY.
Image 1 of 12

1) Materials: Weatherproof food bag. Smaller stuff bag to throw over the branch (tent peg sacks work well). A carabiner or mini-biner. A strong, light stick. And 50 to 60 feet of lightweight tent cord or bootlace nylon. NOTE: ROPE IS SHOWN FOR VISIBILITY.

READERS COMMENTS

Page 1 | 2 | 3

The PCT method shown is not the best method, or at least the most convenient PCT. The alternative-PCT allows you to hang a bear bag 15' up and a perfect 4'-5' using ANY branch - even if only a "v" against the trunk. Go to youtube bryan delay pct method and watch the alternative method at the end. In any event, please use bear bags or some sort of food management in the backcountry to keep us all safe even if you are not concerned for your safety.
— midwesterner

This method works well in the west, where you have big conifers, with large branches, well spaced out. In the east, where they are not so well placed, it is a lot more difficult to find a single tree where you can get the bag far enough away from the trunk. In this case, a cord strung between two trees, with an alpine butterfly or figure 8 loop in the middle, works just as well. In that case, the 'biner is hung off the butterfly and the bag ends up between the two trees.

Of course, all of this depends on where you hike or camp In Canada we have a lot of boreal forest, where the trees tend to be black spruce, which are relatively short,thickly branched, and packed closely together. On most of our wilderness (canoe) trips, it is impossible to find hanging trees and so we tend to rely on meticulous cleanliness and caching the food bags well away from the camp as well as any paths or trails.

Of course, with a much smaller population density of campers, our bears are not quite as sophisticated as the US park bears. However ours are catching up and I have seen proof in the provincial parks that the ubiquitous blue barrels that we use for canoe tripping are not bearproof in any way. Park bears do check out campsites on a regular basis.
— Langley

I've been using a variation on this for years. I add a small light pulley (gear pulley for climbing), to avoid damage to the tree limbs from repeatedly pulling ropes over them.
— Doug

Has anyone tried to coat their food bag with hot pepper spray or the like?
— Ray

Whatever method you use, tossing the line over the branch into the right spot is always the toughest part for me. I'm a lousy thrower on a good day.
— Carolyn H

In Imagine 11, what is he going to do with the free end of the rope?
— David

I cant believe a serious magazine like Backpacker would publish somethign as lame as the "PCT hanging method". Big problem: what do you do with the rest of the rope that is dangling? Any self respecting bear would use that to pull the whole mess right out of the tree. Everything has to be up off the ground ... and you have to be able to get it back down in the morning. Fair warning to anyone who wants to go "sans cannister": The method as depicted is very likely to fail. Check the you tube video mentioned by midwesterner, though I havent seen it and wont comment, it cant be any worse.

Some of the easterners make a good point: Yes, this requires the right kind of tree. May not be feasible in a deciduous forest.

I have not seen the youtube video cited
— John

Uh, the method shown in the photos is the same as the 'alternative Bryan Delay PCT' method. You just pull the excess cord out away from the trunk if needed. If you have real food weight in the bag, a sideways pull won't raise the bag up no matter where the cross-stick is placed.

And for most places where you actually need to protect food from bears, bag hangs, of whatever style, are merely a stop gap measure - again as noted. Most food-conditioned black bears are smart enough to chew through cord or snag counter-weighted bags. Canisters and Ursacks(or luck) are the only answer where trees won't cooperate or bears are persistent. Ursacks work great for long trips between resupply, because canisters can only hold about 6-8 man-days of food.

Ray: Pepper spray smells will actually attract bears, especially once it evaporates off a bit. Capsicum is only a deterrent when you hit 'em in the nostrils with fresh spray.
— John

You may want to look at a web site called newmexicooutback.com at there pully system for getting your stuff in to trees.
Tom
— Tom THOMPSON

I never throw anything I care about over a branch. My friend threw his stake bag over a branch once for hanging a bear bag and it got stuck. Goodbye stake bag. Just use a rock for your throwing weight. If it gets stuck, sure you've lost some of your rope, but at least you can cut your losses (pun intended).

I agree with the other people who mention the double bag/double weight method. All you need to get your stuff down is a long stick. Why worry about a biner and little stick when the double bag/weight method works fine.

And finally, what's with the big quarter inch line in the slide show? Waaaay too heavy. I use 50 feet of 300# test shock chord, probably about 1/16" diameter. That's all you need to hang a bear bag.
— Jeff


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