Bear bags make a world of sense, and not just as a foil to hungry bruins. There’s a slew of furred and feathered animals who’d like nothing better than to separate you from your precious eats. Just ask the famished Boy
Scouts who lost their plump sack of snacks midway through a 10-day outing in New York’s Adirondacks. Or the weekend warrior whose tropical trail mix disappeared from beneath his pillow during a midnight raid by two brazen chipmunks. Or any park ranger who deals with problem bears.
Many of us simply toss our food into a plastic grocery bag or backpack, neither of which is a match for kleptomaniacal critters or bad weather. There’s a better way, though. With a spare stuff sack, some scraps from your gear closet, and a needle and thread, you can fashion a light, reliable, fully waterproof bear bag.
The beauty in this basic design is the handles, which help you comfortably tote your supplies to a distant tree, and then simplify the matter of pulling the load skyward. A finishing flourish of waterproofing treatment staves off soggy food syndrome.
Here’s how the finished product works: Loop your rope over a suitable limb, clip a carabiner to the rope and the bag’s handles, and yank. The bag will hang upside down, which keeps rainwater from dribbling through the mouth of the stuff sack.
1. Cut four 2-by-3-inch pieces of ripstop nylon. Fold each piece into a 2-by-1-inch strip by bringing the shorter, outside edges inward as if you were folding a letter. These strips will provide facing to anchor the handles.
2. Turn your stuff sack inside out. Align the end of the first reinforcement strip with the bottom seam of the stuff sack and pin it in place. Pin the second strip to the same seam about 6 inches away. Flip the stuff sack over and repeat this procedure with the second pair of reinforcement strips.
3. Turn your stuff sack right side out. Cut the webbing in half, creating two 2-foot pieces. Fold under and pin 2 inches of webbing at the bottom and top of each section. With the cut ends facing the stuff sack, pin the folded portions of each handle to the sack opposite a corresponding pair of reinforcement strips. Make certain that the outlines of the folded portions match those of the reinforcement strips underneath.
Double-stitch the handles to the stuff sack, anchoring them to the reinforcement strips inside by sewing two rows of stitching around the edges of each folded rectangle. Sew an “X” in the center of the rectangles to strengthen the bear bag handles.
4. Some stuff sacks come with a DWR finish (usually on the inside surface) that will appear glossy and cause water to bead, but these coatings tend to peel, blister, and otherwise delaminate after years of abuse. If your stuff sack lacks a DWR finish or shows significant wear, apply a polyurethane treatment like Aquaseal’s Poly Coat or Recoat from Kenyon, paying special attention to the seams and high abrasion areas, such as the bottom and around the draw cord. Because an original finish will repel these treatments, be sure to spread the gunk across the side opposite the original coating.
If your stuff sack shows good beading action, skip the goo and grab a seam sealant like Kenyon’s Seam Sealer, Aquaseal’s Seam Seal, or McNett Outdoor’s Seam Grip. These polyurethane glues will effectively plug all the needle holes you’ve just inflicted.