2 Effective Ways to Hang a Bear Bag

To reduce the likelihood of bear-human interactions, it's important to secure camping items that might attract unwanted visitors. One effective way to accomplish this is by hanging a bear bag, which keeps food, trash and scented toiletries, such as sunblock, toothpaste and hand sanitizer out of reach. Here are the best ways to get your fragrant essentials off the ground.

Two Popular Options

There are a variety of ways to hang a bear bag. Two of the more effective methods include:

The Marrison Haul System

Things you will need:

  • Two carabiners
  • One or two waterproof bags
  • A slippery nylon or silnylon rope that will glide easily over a branch.

Particularly useful for heavy food loads, this simple but effective technique includes the following steps:

  1. Locate a tree with a living branch that is at least 15 feet from the ground with nothing below the branch that might be able to support a bear's weight. The branch will also need to be at least four inches in diameter where it meets the tree and at least one inch in diameter at the rope point.
  2. Toss the rope over the branch and pull down to ensure that it will be strong enough to support the weight of your bag. Make sure you aren't standing directly beneath the branch or you could suffer an injury if the branch breaks.
  3. Tie a trucker’s hitch approximately six feet from the ground and attach a carabiner into the bight.
  4. Feed your rope (end A) through a second carabiner and then run it through the first carabiner.
  5. Pull the other end of your rope (end B) to move the first carabiner close to the tree branch.
  6. Tie off the rope (end B) to the trunk of the tree.
  7. Affix your food bag to the second carabiner and pull it up as high as you can.
  8. Tie off the rope (end A) to the trunk of the tree.
  9. To retrieve your bag, untie the rope (end A) and lower the bag to the ground.

While generally effective, The Morrison Haul System isn't perfect. Since they are extremely intelligent, bears are sometimes able to deduce that they can access a food bag by cutting one of the diagonal ropes from the trunk of the tree. You can guard against this unlikely event by using the following counterbalance technique instead:

  1. Locate a tree with a living branch that is at least 15 feet from the ground with nothing below the branch that might be able to support the bear's weight. The branch will also need to be at least four inches in diameter where it meets the tree and at least one inch in diameter at the rope point.
  2. Split your food items into two bags of similar weight.
  3. Toss your rope over the branch and attach one end of the rope (end A) to one of the bags.
  4. Pull the other end of the rope (end B) to elevate the bag as high as possible.
  5. Affix the other bag as high on the rope (end B) as you can, leaving a loop of rope near the bag so you can retrieve it.
  6. Use a long stick to force the second bag up so it aligns with the first bag.
  7. To retrieve your bags, use a stick to hook the loop of rope and pull it down.
  8. Remove the bag and then lower the second bag.

Things to Consider

When hanging your bear bag, be sure to include any items that smell, including garbage, hygiene items, food and bloody or food-soiled clothing. You should also hang your bag at least 200 feet downwind from your camping spot. If you are camping in a place with short or no trees, consider investing in a bear-proof plastic container and leave it on the ground at least 200 feet away from your campsite.

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