Hanging Your Food in the Backcountry

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Featured Photo: Grizzly Bear (photo by Gregory Smith)

Hanging your food in the backcountry is important for a lot of reasons. First, it will keep foraging animals from getting to your food and altering their habits. Second, it will keep you safe from larger animals like bears, moose, or mountain lions.

Keep in mind, that this includes non-food items that have strong smells like toothpaste, bug spray or sunscreen.

Some campgrounds provide metal food containers (ie. bear boxes) to keep your food safe. You could also bring a bear canister, which works great but is cumbersome to pack and add some weight to your backpack. As a result, hanging your food will often be your best option.

The following is our recommended method to hang your food, often called the PCT method.

What You Will Need

  • Food bag: preferably a waterproof bag which could also make it smell proof
  • Lightweight carabiner
  • At least 50 feet of rope: Dyneema® cord is good because it is strong and lightweight
  • Some rocks to serve as weight in throwing the rope over the branch
  • A small bag: this will be used to hold the weight in throwing the rope (you could use a stuff sack from your sleeping bag or quilt for this purpose)
  • A stick: one that is 7 to 10 inches would be good

You need to find a tree at least a hundred feet away from your camp/tent, with an out-growing branch that is strong enough to carry the weight of the food bag. The branch should be around 25 feet off the ground and longer than 4 feet.

The Steps

1. Make a bowline knot on one end of the rope.
2. Place some rocks in the bag to add weight and secure it with the rope using a larks head knot.

Hanging Your Food in the Backcountry

3. While loosely holding the rope in one hand, throw the rope over the intended branch / tree limb using your other hand. An underhand throw may work best. Make sure to have the rope hanging at least 4 feet away from the main tree trunk so that animals could not climb up the tree and still reach it.

Hanging Your Food in the Backcountry

4. Remove the bag with the rocks and tie the end of the rope to the carabiner with a lark’s head knot. Then attach the carabiner to your sealed food bag.

5. Clip the other end of the rope through the carabiner and pull the food bag up to the tree limb.

Hanging Your Food in the Backcountry

6. Tie a stick to the rope about eye level from the ground using a lark’s head knot. Then slowly let the bag down. The stick will prevent the bag from going any further than halfway down the rope.

7. Tie the loose end of the rope to the trunk of the tree to keep it out of the way.

Hanging Your Food in the Backcountry

8. To get your food down, just pull on the rope until you reach the stick and then take it out. Then gently let the bag slide down to you.

We hope you find this method useful on your next backcountry trip. If you prefer a different way to hang your food, please let us know in the comments. For more useful backpacking tips, check out the rest of our blog.


    Backpacking Tips: Hanging A Food Bag PCT Style
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    Bear Hanging Food Safety Tips and Resources

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