Bear Bag Hanging Techniques

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    Scott Peterson


    Locale: Northern California

    I had asked this question after a trip this summer…but thought I might ask again.

    I used a single piece of 50 ft. Aircore rope as the bearbag hanging rope for a six person trip. True to form it performed great…easily handling what I estimated to be 60 pounds of bags at the start of the trip. The only issue, was gripping the rope. We used, very ackwardly, a piece of branch to wrap, pull and re-wrap the wire-like rope to get the bags high into the air…but it took up to three people and was very hard on the hands.

    Would it be better to haul another length of rope and have two sets of bags…or try to find an ultralight ascender climbers use? Seems like if you could find one that is an ounce, it would be the most handy way to ratchet a heavy load up over a branch.

    Thanks for any thoughts.

    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    Hi Scott –

    That’s a lot of weight.

    One thing you could do is a two-rope gig. Throw one rope over the tree. To the end of this rope, thread a small pulley. Thread the other rope through the pulley. Pull the first rope up, so the pulley is at the branch, and tie off the free end. Tie one end of the second rope to the bear bag, then pull on the other end of the second rope to hoist the bag.

    Eric Noble
    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado Rockies

    Scott, I would recommend another length of rope and set of bags. The Aircore is quite thin and under a heavy load will cut into the branch, making it harder to lift the load and damaging the branch. Sometimes it is hard to find a good branch and it is tempting to put too much in one place. On scout outings I may hang my own personal bag. It’s fun to watch scouts hanging a bear bag. The “knots” and technique they use can be… interesting :). It’s fun to see learning by doing, with just a little guidance.

    Scott Peterson


    Locale: Northern California

    That is indeed, a lot of weight! I think some of my buddies have lightened equipment just to add more food…and in some cases cheeses and cured meats are ok to bring, but they do add weight.

    Since I do like the concept of one kit for everyone, and the fact that the rope can tow the load quite easily, I will have to think about this one. I think a pulley would indeed weigh less than an ascender….and I am not sure those would work with that diameter rope.

    And Eric brings a good point…but with few exceptions, I find the “perfect branch”. It is a fun activity for me, and generally there are old growth trees with huge branches anywhere from 20to 40 feet up in the Sierras. The other problem is vertical rock throwing ability on uneven, duff covered ground!

    Robert Ebel


    Locale: Earth Orbit

    It seems like I end up in places where no amount of rope or cord matters because the trees are not tall enough. I use bear bags now and if I feel insecure I double them up and have no problems carrying hard cannisters when required. Hanging is passe isn’t it?

    David Olsen


    Locale: Steptoe Butte

    Having hung hundred of pounds of food at
    a time the Sierra, we used to require the
    students to wear their climbing helmets,
    since self pruning jeffery pines and inexperiance can lead to some stuff coming
    out of the trees, not to mention the
    steel carabiner we used to toss the line
    over will zing directly back at anyone
    tugging hard on the line to get the biner
    back over the branch.

    I would use some wider tape or webbing
    to reduce friction and damage to the tree. We carried 1/2″ truck rope, but
    it was overly bulky and heavy. The aircore would make good retrieval cord

    Terry Boldt


    Take small cord, about 1/2 the diameter of the hanging rope. The aircore guyline cord sold by BPL works great. Cut 2 lengths about 8″ to 12″ long, experiment for what length works for you. Tie the two lengths into 2 loops, maybe using overlaping overhand knots. Using the loops, tie prussik knots on the hanging rope, one just below the other. Get 2 small twigs, say 1/2″ in diameter and a little longer than the width of your hand. Girth hitch the twigs to the prussik loops. Use the twigs as handles to pull the rope – much easier on the hands – spreading the force across the width of the hand. With the 2 prussik loop handles on the rope adjacent to each other, pull down with both prussik loop handles, hold rope in position with the bottom prussik loop handle and slide the top prussik loop handle further up the rope, hold there and then slide the bottom prussik loop handle up just below the top one. Use both prussik loop handles to pull the rope. Repeat. Reverse to lower the rope.

    You can also get by with just one prussik loop handle. Just step on the hanging rope to hold the rope position when you slide the single prussik loop.

    The two small cords for the prussik knots weight almost nothing and can be carried easily with the hanging rope – maybe just leave on the rope so they are always there. Pick the twigs up from the ground where ever you hang the bag.

    Using the single pulley and 2 ropes will eleminate the friction on the top of the tree branch, but will give you no mechanical advantage. You would need two pulleys, use a double sheave and a single sheave to rig a practical pulley system. With those you can easily rig a system to give you a 3:1 mechanical advantage (the 60 lbs reduces to 20 lbs to you), but you will need a hanging rope 4 times the length of the top pulley above ground – in practice the hanging rope would need to be about 4 times the length of the rope holding the top pulley.

    Sam Haraldson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Gallatin Range

    Terry – Albeit more work than I need for my personal journeys I’m going to remember that “prussik handle” technique for some of the four-person canoe trips I go on.

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