Skills & Techniques

Respect Wildlife: Food storage and easy steps for hanging a bear bag

Leave No Trace - June 27, 2011

As we are in the midst of camping and hiking season, it’s important to remember how we can minimize our impact on the wildlife that we encounter in the outdoors—particularly in regards to food and trash. At parks and natural areas where there are facilities, it’s as simple as throwing away our trash and taking home what we brought with us.

When camping in more remote areas, we have to use a different set of skills to ensure that our food and trash are stored properly. Human food and trash can cause many problems for wildlife, particularly bears. When wildlife obtains, become accustomed to, and seeks out human foods and trash it can quickly lose its natural instincts, such as foraging or hunting.

Also, you will have a much more enjoyable and safe trip if your food and trash is kept out of reach of animals!

One method for properly storing food, trash and other smelly items is called a bear bag hang. Here are simple steps to successfully completing a single tree hang.

  1. First make sure you have equipment you can use, which includes: durable Bags—nylon stuff sacks work well; 50 ft of rope; carabiners—this will help you clip your bags together and on to the rope.
  2. Gather all of your smellable items to store in the bags. This includes food, trash, dirty dishes and cookware, deodorant, toothpaste and bug repellant.
  3. Choose a tree that is 200+ ft. away from the cooking and sleeping areas of your campsite. Ideally, the cooking, sleeping and bear bag areas will form a triangle with 200ft. along each side (show picture on white board).
  4. Choose a tree with a sturdy branch at least 12 ft. off the ground, and a minimum of 6 ft. from the trunk of the tree or nearest branch.
  5. Attach a rock to one end of the rope and throw over the 12ft. branch, making sure it is 6 ft or more from the trunk. (This may take a few tries. Remember, safety is important, so make sure to clear the area of people when throwing the rock).
  6. A variety of knots can be used at the end of the rope to attach the bag(s). Then clip the bags together and to the knot using your carabineers. Hoist the bags into the air—again, 12 ft. up and 6 ft. out. You may need a friend or two to help with this part.
  7. Tie the free end of the rope to the tree, making sure it is secure and will not become undone overnight.

Remember, this bear bag hang is just one way you can properly store your food, trash and other smelly items during an overnight camping trip in the backcountry. By following these simple steps and using a few materials from your backpack, you can do your part to help Respect Wildlife.

Related Blog Posts

Let’s protect and enjoy our natural world together

Get the latest in Leave No Trace eNews in your inbox so you can stay informed and involved.