Skills & Techniques

Bears Complain: PCT Bear Hang is Unbearable!

Guest - March 18, 2017

Update: Since this article was written in 2017, it is important to note that Leave No Trace guidance and recommendations on food storage in Bear Country have changed. We now recommend using hard-sided storage containers (a bear canister, storage locker, or vehicle when permitted) as the first option for protecting your food and smellables. Where bear hangs are permitted, we recommend them as a secondary option.

While attacks are rare, bears becoming conditioned to our food is an all too frequent occurrence.  They get into improperly stored food or our trash, and then begin associating us a source of food.  This leads to cars being broken into, close encounters in the backcountry, or a full on attack in the worst of cases.  When this happens, land managers are forced to euthanize these wonderful symbols of wilderness.

It’s on us as outdoor recreationists to respect wildlife by properly storing our food, trash, and other “smellables.”   This keeps both us and the bears safe.  One super slick method is the PCT Bear Hang.  It’s a light weight method of storing our smellables in the backcountry.

Bears are smart critters.  In some parks they have figured out that if they sever the retrieval line, they will earn a “food reward.”  The PCT hang negates this issue with some crafty rope work.

Here’s what you are going to need:

* A sturdy sack for your stuff (a durable waterproof one will help)

* Carabiner

* 50 feet of cord (reflective cord will help you find it in the dark)

* A stick

* Knowing how to tie a clove hitch


Here are some extra tips for success:

1. Don’t wait for it to get dark.  Start looking for proper placement spots while looking for camp.  It will make your job easier.

2. Bring a buddy.  A helping hand will make this task a little easier.  Especially if you have several peoples’ smellables, it’s nice to have some help hoisting.

3. If you really want to avoid attracting bears, ditch the deodorant and other aromatic foods.  In grizzly country, we opt for sandwich dinners sometimes.

4.  Store your food downwind of your campsite and kitchen area

5.  Remember where the heck you stored your food.  It’s easy to get disoriented while wandering through the woods.  Reflective cord will help you find it in the dark too.

6. Practice packing at home.  It’s a real bummer if your stuff doesn’t fit inside the bear bag.


We love our bears!  Thanks for helping to protect them.


Have Fun.  Be Safe.  Leave No Trace.

Leave No Trace’s Alex Roberts and Emy Gelb are part of the 2017 Subaru/Leave No Trace Traveling Trainer Program that provides free, mobile education to communities across the country. Proud partners of this program include Subaru of America, REI, Fjallraven, ENO, Deuter, Thule, Taxa Outdoors and SmartWool.

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