Learning how to make a bear hang doesn’t have to be a skill learned from experience; take it from those who thought that keeping their food safe was for other campers and not themselves. Far too many trippers have awoken on otherwise fine mornings to find a bear has stolen their food pack, peeled open a supposedly bear-proof food barrel like a tuna can or a clawed through an overturned canoe. This can wreck a trip and be fatal to the bear, since once a bear associates humans with food its fate is sealed.
Safeguard your provisions by stowing them out of reach of motivated claws and jaws. Raising the pack at least three meters off the ground is a good start, but too many campers leave their food close to tree trunks, serving up a boreal buffet for acrobatic bears.
The important second step is to pull the pack at least two meters away from the tree trunk. All sorts of pulleys, Z-drags, balancing acts and feats of strength will accomplish this, but the simplest method is to use two ropes, one to hoist the load and the other to pull it away from the tree.
1» Set up your hoist rope as soon as you arrive at camp, not after dark. a perfect tree is at least 200 meters from camp and has a stout branch four to five meters up, with no ladder branches below.
2» Slip a fist-sized rock into a stuff sack and tie the sack to the end of your rope. An underhand lob will send the sack and trailing rope over the branch and back down to the ground.
3» Secure the food pack and a dangling second rope to one end of the hoist rope. Pull on the free end of the hoist rope while a partner helps from below (a paddle helps to get it high). Tie the hoist rope off to a nearby tree.
4» Now use the second rope and a distant tree to pull the load away from the tree trunk—a trucker’s hitch offers some mechanical advantage. Secure this rope, and get back to the campfire!
With practice, and a little tree karma, it should only take a few minutes to keep your food, yourself, other campers and the bears safe.
This article originally appeared in Canoeroots & Family Camping, Fall 2008.