You’ll hear this a lot, but the best way to keep nuisance animals from eating your supplies (food or otherwise) is to hang your food up a tree. Stuff your food in a pack, grab some rope and pull it up out of reach of those critters who’d love an opportunity at a free meal. Easy right?
Well… if you’ve never done it before, you’ll find some small problems that you may not have thought of until now. Below you’ll find a list of those problems and some quick and easy solutions.
How High is High?
Depending on who you talk to, you should hang your food bag between 9 and 13 feet. Might as well be safe and make it as close to 13 as possible. An easy way to figure out how high that is: double your height and add a couple of feet. (If you’re shorter than 5’10”, maybe add a few more.) Basically, you want to hang the pack high enough that the bear can’t use your pack as a piñata. Make sure you have enough rope packed. It has to make it up a tree and back down.
What Needs Hanging
Basically, anything that gives off a scent should be hung. This includes any food, no matter how it’s sealed – better safe than sorry. This should also include things like soap, deodorant and toothpaste – a surprising favourite of bears. Other things include cooking and fishing gear – both washed of course. Don’t forget the dog food. If you’re like me, you’ve put a dish down for the dog and it’s easy to leave it there as you would at home, and it’s designed to smell good to animals.
The Rope is Too Light to Throw.
Throwing a rope up 13 feet can be comical, and a fun activity to haze the new guy. He’ll keep throwing it with all his might and it won’t go anywhere, most times falling right back on top of him. How long this goes on depends on how charitable the rest of the group is. The solution is to weight the rope by tying something heavy to the throwing end. To avoid further problems, make sure the rope is lax so it doesn’t pull back on you half way over the branch. Also, think about stepping on the the tip (just the tip) of the opposite end of the rope so it doesn’t all go over the branch.
Embarrassing as it may be to admit, the first time I tried to tie my pack up, I threw some rope up a tree, tied the other end to my pack and yanked. I soon discovered how coarse tree bark is when, as I pulled up the pack, I realized how much effort it took to pull it up. My hands burned as the rope resisted and had to deal with blisters the rest of the trip. The next time I tried it, I emptied the pack of anything that didn’t need to be hung. That made it a little easier, but it was still tough enough that the branch frayed the rope until it snapped, sending me flying back on my butt. I spent a few moments licking my wounds (not literally considering where I hurt), and made a mental note to buy thicker rope, and to inspect it regularly before I set off on another trip.
What Pack To Hang
I like to keep all my scented items in separate water resistant stuff sacks. If the whole group does this you can take all the bags and toss them into one pack to hang in a tree. Other more organized groups will have one pack dedicated to food and of course choose to hang this pack. This is the more safe choice, obviously, as there is no chance of the scents can permeate onto other gear. The type of pack is relatively less important. Ideally, you’d want to hang a small critter resistant pack that’s made of durable plastic or rubber that’s a little harder to claw or gnaw through. Unfortunately, there are no completely critter proof packs short of being made of metal, but if the pack is sealable, it’s less likely to give off the scents that attract.
The Easy Way
The best way I’ve found to hang a pack is by using two ropes and a pulley. I bought a small pulley at a hardware store for about $4 that’s just big enough to get my rope into. It’s only 1.6 ounces, and so doesn’t cost much weight, but makes life so much easier. Follow these steps and you’ll never have any problems hanging packs again:
Following these steps you’ll find you don’t have to be a bodybuilder to pull up the pack, with no wear on your rope and you’ll even find it a lot easier to bring it down. So now you don’t have any excuse not to hang your food, which will save yourself from ripped gear and missing food. And as always, remember to never bring anything into your tent that has the potential to attract animals. You don’t want to be the thing ripped or missing either.