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michigan jed2  
02/15/2009 06:31PM
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michigan jed2  
02/15/2009 06:32PM
was wondering what techniques people do with their food at night??
hang food in bags on tree limb, put under canoe with pots and pans scattered over/across canoe?? will be out for a week and want to know best way without buying bear proof bucket.

02/15/2009 06:33PM
hang correctly...but way away from camp, not in the normal tree everyone else uses.
02/15/2009 06:41PM
if your just taking food like Mountain House freeze dried do you have to hang it at night?
02/15/2009 06:49PM

the mice will chew their way into foil packs..i've seen them do it to full sealed MRE's--this entire subject is a can of worms.the park service wants you to hang your food bag as per their instructions.the
"old pros" who write books and such say just to leave it away from camp on the ground..i was out for 10 days with a guy who left his day bag under the tarp at nite only to find he had lots of left over lunch chow in it..nothing ever bothered it..i've never had bear problems but i camp alone,don't cook fish or meat over a fire and move off after one-two nites at most.i try and stay in small seldom used camps on back lakes..if you based camped on a busy lake and had lots of cooking smells around for days you might attract a "camp" can't go wrong hanging a food bag.if nothing else you won't be making a camp that might attract bears the next person will have to deal with..
michigan jed2  
02/15/2009 06:53PM
oh, i shoud say i'm staying at malberg for the week. we will be bringing our own food, NOT MRE's or the like.
michigan jed2  
02/15/2009 06:54PM
staying on Malberg for the week, in mid June?
any experience in that area, those waters??
best way?? 1 bag or 2 food bags?? just in case??
02/15/2009 06:59PM
never been there.
02/15/2009 07:01PM

just as a last word i think the park service over plays the bear issue to be on the safe side..the outfitter i use had a pile of park maps showing bear sighting over the years and the number of red dots that showed bears was down to a hand full a few years ago..old maps were covered,,he said teaching the canoe tripers to hang bags and keep a clean camp was making a big change in bear behavor-
Savage Voyageur  
02/15/2009 07:18PM
Be more afraid of the smaller animals getting into your pack. My brother had his pack on the ground and sealed up a small camp mouse in it. It ate little holes in most of the food and then ate through has pack. Hang your food high and away from the tree trunk.
02/15/2009 07:35PM
There have been reported issues with bears around Poly. Malberg is around Poly. I've camped on Malberg, north of Malberg and on Poly several times each. I've never seen a bear. That said I use BearVaults and stash them out of camp at sundown and when we are away.

If you don't use a bear proof container I'd recommend you follow the Forest Service advice and hang. Just getting the food out of camp prevent it from drawing a bear into your camp, which is part of the reason the FS tells you to hang. Obviously, just stashing it won't protect from bears or rodents if its discovered. Did I mention I have seen rodents?
02/15/2009 07:37PM
Bears are quick to learn (and slow to forget)... if they have success getting food in a particular campsite, they will continue to focus on that campsite even if people are securing their food correctly. With this in mind, everyone should take care in keeping their food hung correctly and inaccessible to critters.
02/15/2009 08:00PM
PS- in my almost 30 years of tripping in the bdub, I have never seen a bear outside of when we have stayed in campgrounds before we have gone in- I slept through a couple going through the garbage cans 15 feet from our tent once in a campground with my wife- much to her dismay...
02/15/2009 08:02PM
Follow the Forest Service recommendations and hang your food pack properly or use Bear proof containers. It the bear eats your stuff, it is not just your problem, it is everyone who camps at that sites problem until the bear is destroyed or dies of old age. Bears will remember where they find food.
michigan jed2  
02/15/2009 08:15PM
was planning on doing bag in tree, like forrest folks say, was just gettn' some insight
02/15/2009 09:21PM

Here's a link with some advice: Advice on Hanging Packs

The only time I had bear issues was real early spring a young bear wanted to join us for supper. Lately I've only had issues keeping mice out of packs. But better safe than sorry. You don't want an incident to ruin your trip.

02/15/2009 09:27PM
i have been into malberg a few times. the last time we ran into a couple coming out after one night because of a bear taking their food bag. i stopped at their camp and didnt feel a bit sorry for them when i seen the foil and wrappers in the fire pit. they didnt hang. next people we seen were rangers who had a bear in their camp and ran it off. the next group was coming off of malberg and showed me their bag and nalgene bottle that was tore up. they were at the southwest corner site. we use a blue barrel and have no problems with rodents and keep a very clean camp. i also hang everything from scented lures to my stove fuel. better to be safe than sorry. if its your one trip up there a year why chance it being ruined by something you could have prevented.
02/16/2009 12:22AM
If you don't want to buy a barrell or hang a pack, Sawtooth Outfitters rents blue barrells. I'm sure that others do as well.
02/16/2009 02:15AM
I never hang my packs, but have had a mouse in a bag of chips chomping away. I also think the Forest Service goes a little overboard in the bear warnings, but doesn't our government always go overboard even if there is a slight chance of something happening? I guess bears can get pretty mean and aggressive once they have tasted human food.
02/16/2009 04:45AM
Jenrobsdad- please start hanging your food! Read all of the previous threads, and even your own! "...I guess bears can get pretty mean and aggressive once they have tasted human food."
02/16/2009 12:17PM
trust me, the forrest service does not go overboard in thier warnings... hang your pack, cause there are bears that know people dont hang food all the time, and they will keep doing so because of lazy people
02/16/2009 01:10PM
I've seen the maps that CCO has that show the decrease in bear incidents over the years because people are getting educated on how to be prepared so that bears don't go for easy pickens at a campsite. All it takes is one incident to have a bear tear apart a food pack to ruin your trip, so keep your site clean and take bear precautions.

02/16/2009 06:29PM
02/16/2009 06:29PM
Jenrobsdad, PLEASE hang your pack out of courtesy for the next camper who probably doesn't care for habituated bears visits.

Common sense, too uncommon.
02/16/2009 08:40PM
Why would anyone not hang or ground or bear vault their food packs? Is there a valid reason or folks just tempting the bears?
02/17/2009 12:54AM
Guess I will have to pack lighter so we can hang the pack
02/17/2009 01:33AM
I guess I'm in the minority here. I don't hang my food pack I hide it in the woods away from camp. My food is in a sealed bag inside a sealed blue barrel. A lot of the sites I have been on don't even have a suitable tree for hanging a food pack from.

There are two trains of thought on this issue the hangers and the hiders. Is hiders even a word? Both sides have their supporters and most are passionate about their system. And declaring one as better than the other is a quick way to get in an argument This has been debated before and I'm sure will be again. There are pluses and minuses to each system. Pick one that works for you.

02/17/2009 01:34AM
I was a little surprised at how adamant people were about hanging the packs. In other discussions we've had, there are plenty of people not hanging because they use bear canisters, blue barrels, and there are very experienced people who advocate just sealing food well and carefully placing the packs outside of camp (e.g. Cliff Jacobsen and a number of outfitters I've talked to say that is what they personally do). I've also seen some horribly hung packs, a bear checking the hanging trees at multiple campsites while we paddled along watching him, and talked to people who lost hung packs (probably because they had done a lousy job).

So, I think the key isn't to tell people they need to hang but that they need to do a good job of whatever it is they choose to do.

Personally, I'm still wondering when the BW bears are going to realize that those ropes hold the key to a good meal. One swipe and its manna from above.
02/17/2009 01:42AM
Read somewhere that Malberg is considered a lake with active bears. Haven't seen one there myself in about 8 nights there, but its rare to actually see one.

I do think that it is a good idea to split up your food so that if a bear does get to some it doesn't get it all. But hopefully if you do a good job, the bear will not get to any of it.
02/17/2009 07:42AM
I’m a blue barrel guy. However, I will hang when I’m bored and looking for something to do.
02/17/2009 08:12AM
Bear-proof barrel or hanging food pack= good
Doing neither= not good.
02/17/2009 10:50AM
Hopefully this will settle the hangers versus hiders issue. Last August, the wife and I did a 9 day loop from Birch (tow off of Moose) through Knife, Kekekabic, Fraser, Thomas and picked up from Ensign. I had read there was bear activity on Kekekabic so I was judicious in picking a camp site. We ended up on the large island in the southern end of the lake because there were several stands of tall trees. I hung my food about 15' up and 10' to 12' from the nearest tree.

At 10:30 that night, as I was getting ready to douse the fire, I saw a light on the water heading towards our camp. It was a YMCA group of 2 twenty-something women and 5 twelve year old girls. They had been chased off the campsite on the point by a bear.

They didn't have any way to secure their food except to hide it. My bear line wouldn't have held but a 1/4 of their food. They had been instructed by the Y to hide the food in the woods. I told them to keep it away from the tents.

The next morning, virtually all of their food was gone. Ours hadn't been molested. While they were deciding what to do, the bear revisited the camp.

I don't know if the bear would have visited our campsite without the YMCA visitors providing a buffet but we were able to continue our trip while they had to cut theirs short.
02/17/2009 11:19AM
I always hung my food pack back before I had a garcia barrel. I still hang any food that might not fit in the barrel at the beginning of the trip or if I have garbage that won't fit in the barrel at night.

The barrel gets hidden in the woods under a downed tree, in a crater under a rock or someplace off the main pathways of a campsite.

20 plus years of BW travel-never had a bear in camp that I am aware of. Part of that is luck, part of that is taking proper precuations.

Itchy Menace  
02/17/2009 09:40PM
I always hang mine, never had a problem. I was reading Cliff Jacobson's Boundary Waters Camping With Style (He's a guru of sorts right?) and was surprised to see he did not endorse food pack hanging. His point was that bears learn where the food is always put i.e. in one or two big trees near the campsite. Instead he seals everything airtight so there are no scents and hides it away from camp on the ground.

My question is if every one does this, at what point do the bears learn all the new hiding spots? It also doesn't address the problem of smaller rodents chewing at packs. I've had this problem before.

02/18/2009 12:45PM
I worked for the forest service for 2 summers as a wilderness ranger and we never hung our packs. We left it right next to the fire grate with our cooking pots on it. Never any problems. No mice either, although we did have a specially designed back that fit two medium size coolers one on top of the other. That way no smells and no mice, plus steaks every night.
moose plums  
02/18/2009 05:37PM
Mr Barley, and I were camped across the bay from a couple city boys from Chicago, a few years back. They kept their food under a lean-to tarp. Not a well thought out plan. One afternoon, while away from camp, Mr. Bear camp in and made a big mess. Hanging, while not 100%, is still the best option.
02/18/2009 06:26PM
Interesting thread. To hang or not to hang.

Very passionate pleas urging one to hang or risk life and limb of others to come behind.

My experience is similar to stickbow21. Have hunted (mostly spring gobbler), hiked, backpacked and camped nearly all my life.

Shenandoah National Park currently has the highest concentration of black bear on the east coast. Yes, greater than the Smokies. 30 years ago, I spent an entire summer just south of SNP hiking a 50 mile stretch of the Appalachian Trail back and forth as a trail patrolman for the US Forest Service. Five days and four nights per week.

I was pretty much alone the second half of the summer and usually had company (other people, not bears) at shelters in the evening the first half.

Didn't hang food except from tuna cans in the shelter to avoid mice, didn't use bear barrels. I have never seen a bear in the woods. Saw one in NC nearly twenty five years ago on a woods road and saw one last fall on a woods road. Both times, I was in a truck. Heard one on the Appalachian Trail 30 years ago and heard a couple last fall in Shenandoah Natl Park. Plenty of sign there, but just don't see them as they run from people.

I guess once a bear takes my food and ruins my trip, I'll start hanging my food pack. I am more concerned about cleaning fish near camp.

Sorry to carry on, but bear just have never been on my radar. Maybe I'm just a freak case (or maybe I'm just a freak and the bears know it).
02/18/2009 08:09PM
The first thing to determine is what kind of bears are in the location you are at, so you know how to respond. With black bears, you should challenge and present as big of a profile as you can to scare them off. With grizzlys, your best defense is to roll up into a ball and play dead. When hiking in grizzly country it is a good idea to use bells, whistles or other noise-making devices to let them know of your presence. It is also a good idea to carry pepper spray. You can tell what kind of bears are present in your location by examining the scat they leave... black bears leave scat piles containing seeds, berries, fur, etc. and are not too big. Grizzlys, on the other hand, leave large piles of scat containing seeds, berries, fur, whistles, bells, and pepper spray...
02/18/2009 08:18PM
umm.....worry about the beginnings and endings of portages too.....not just at camp. packs back from the lakes edge, off the trail. i had never worried about that til september last year. :)
02/18/2009 08:44PM
I don't know where you were in Shenandoah National Park. I lived ten miles away and went hiking there frequently and saw bears all the time.

The most recent "provoked" incident in the Shenandoah National Park happened a few summers ago when some park guests fed marshmallows to a bear through their cabin window, says park spokeswoman Claire Comer.

"When they ran out of marshmallows, the bear tried to get into the cabin," Comer said.

The bear had to be relocated to another part of the forest because "once bears taste human food, they always go back for it."

bears in VA Sometimes people exposed to situations everyday get complacent and don't take precautions. I've never been bitten by a snake, but when hiking down south I always look before I step over a log. Why wear a seatbelt in a car or life jacket in a canoe; I've never needed one. But, I've had two incidents with bears in the BWCA and they were in broad daylight. Once we were cooking dinner and a young bear came in to our camp to check things out. We scared him away and moved our camp. We had a bear want to join us for lunch once, we also scared him away. I take precautions in BWCA since I can be half a week away from a grocery store and I don't like to be hungry for that amount of time. I also don't like to buy new Duluth packs after a bear rips one apart. Normally bears are just after your food. bears I guess you live and learn about bears. Good luck!

02/18/2009 09:05PM
We deer hunt not far off Skyline Drive in the Shenendoah Area.We drive in from Brottos up the Service/Fire roads across Skyline, locking gates behind us,to a practically landlocked private property deer camp. In 4 years I've seen 2 bears while I was walking/stalking. Seen 8-10 while still-hunting for deer. Seen 1 while angling up some native brookies. I personally think they are like Pavlov's Dogs. Like deer feeders,bird feeders,squirrel feeders; If you give them food to be found at the same place in any kind of frequency; they'll be back. Especially if they hit the jackpot. A campsite, if smelly, often enough , could surely become a regular stop for a bear. They can become creatures of habit quickly IMO. We try to keep the odds down. It's an outside chance,but "the life you save may be your own" (or the bear's) ;)
02/19/2009 07:58AM
I don't know if the bear population is higher or lower now then say about 20 yrs. ago, but around 1990 there were quite a few hungry ones in the BW. That summer we had a bear every day and we were on the move every day. You may think that we must keep a dirty camp site, but twice the bears appeared within minutes of our arrival. One nite time bear was actually pulling on the rope holding the hanging food pack. Point is, they can get very smart if they are rewarded for their efforts, and they will stay close to where they had success. Last fall while on the big island on south arm of knife, the neighboring campsite told us they had 6 walleyes stolen by a bear. While my wife was nervous during that nite, I thought about not hanging the food, just to prove my point that the bear would stay close to their site. Decided against that thought, but still did not have any bear problem, while I could hear them banging pans and yelling several times. If you keep a dirty site, it will affect others staying at that site in the future.
02/19/2009 09:20AM
Bears can be very determined once they find some food they're interested in.

Pictures of Furball

02/19/2009 05:10PM
Good pics starwatcher.

I do wear seat belt and I do wear life jacket in cold water and I do keep an eye out for snakes, because I think there is a greater chance of me getting in an accident, or flipping my canoe or stepping on a snake than seeing a bear up close. Also, the consequences of each accident are greater, IMHO, than the chance of an encounter with a bear, or the consequences of such encounter. If only from my limited experiences, and of those I personally know.

The pictures only reinforce my opinion that it is not extremely effective to hang food. If they want it, they are going to get it. Therefore, do not store your food in your canoe. Bad idea.
02/19/2009 05:23PM
Gutmon - I am only talking about black bear. When it comes to grizzlies, it is a whole different ballgame altogether!!!! The rules change entirely.
02/19/2009 06:41PM
Why would you start hanging your food pack "once a bear takes my food and ruins my trip"; if it's not effective? We can see by the statistics that the education program has reduced incidents over the years. To each his own. Good luck rlh!

02/19/2009 06:52PM


I was interested in your comment: "worry about the beginnings and endings of portages too.....not just at camp. packs back from the lakes edge, off the trail. i had never worried about that til september last year. :)"

Can you tell us more about the incident?

02/19/2009 06:54PM
its in a trip report..."bear trip" september, last season. i dropped the main pack at the lakes edge (henson). 15 minutes later (with that canoe and day pack) came back to see mr. bear ripping my pack apart.
02/19/2009 07:10PM
rlhedlund- I was just being a smart-ass, read my whole post again...
02/19/2009 07:25PM
Good observation starwatcher.

What I was meaning to say was that if a bear came into my campsite for my food and scared the living crap out of me, I would start tramping into the woods to hang my food far away from my campsite. I've just never had a bear encounter to concern me yet.

I don't think hanging food keeps bears from getting food. Your pictures show my point.

I think kanoes' experience is similar to my belief in that his pack was attacked at a portage point while he was not around, if I remember. I don't recall reading that he had the bear come for his pack while he was around. My point is that bear, for the large majority, are afraid of people and will avoid encounters for the most part, from my experience.

Don't get me wrong, I do everything I can to keep a clean campsite, and I don't feed wildlife voluntarily. Bear encounters are not good for bear nor people. I'm just not convinced hanging food packs reduce bear encounters. I think the wayward bear encounters are due to other factors beyond the control of responsible outdoorsmen and women.

If I am aware of a rogue bear, I will avoid the area. I'm certainly not out to prove any point.
02/19/2009 09:09PM
I've had two experiences where bears have come into camp when I was around. Here's a link where another camper filmed an incident where a bear came into camp when he was around and he indicated that hanging his pack was the saving procedure.

I don't think we are going to convince you rlh that it's a good idea, but hopefully others can see that taking precautions, like buckling your seatbelt or wearing a life vest is a good thing to do. Hanging packs or other precautions has obviously reduced bear incidents in the canoe country as shown by the evidence.

Bear precautions

02/19/2009 09:42PM
I hate to beat this to death, but when someone is naive and starts to tell others what can or can not happen, it gets me going a little. If bears are hungry and have had success in the past, they do not care if you are around or not. My last post mentioned a bear that took 6 walleyes from a campsite, this was in the daytime with 6 campers watching. A good number of years ago I was on a trip with my two young sons and an uncle. We arrived at the our first nites campsite mid afternoon and the boys wanted to fish right away, so we dropped the packs and I took them out fishing and left the uncle at campsite with orders to watch the cookies. He was reading a short time later and looked up to see a bear with its head in the food pack, 20 feet away. Of course he chased it off, but guess who got the cookies. That summer was a bad berry year, and the bears were hungry and very brave. I am not afraid of bears, but I am afraid of loosing my food to them. Hang it and we all will benefit.
02/19/2009 09:53PM
I was flipping through Dorothy Molter's book and somewhere early in it she mentions a bear going for food at portages. So, it's nothing new but I guess not common enough that it gets discussed much. Score one for single portaging!

BTW, one good thing about our approach with multiple Ursacks (and would work with any multiple containers) is that when we are cooking we don't have them all down at once. So, even if a bear comes into camp while we are cooking it doesn't have access to all of our food at once.
02/20/2009 01:31AM
02/20/2009 04:48AM
That's why you aren't supposed to build benches and tables at BWCA campsites!
02/20/2009 07:19AM
That picture was actually taken in the BWCA deep in the bush. It appears Blackstick has infiltrated the ever elusive Bear Raiders Society at their monthly intel meeting. They get together and share hotspots for human food gathering. Polly, Insula, Basswood Falls were all reported to have been mentioned.
02/20/2009 10:14AM
I don't believe I'll need to take any bear precautions for the early part of my trip off the Gunflint. I am counting on kanoes' early entry into the west/central part of the BW to draw the area bears westward.
I will begin using my bear vaults towards the end of my trip in case of the early return of any Gunflint-area bears. It will be nice, however, to be worry-free for a few days.
02/20/2009 10:43AM
I haven't read all the previous posts, but if you're not going to use a "bear proof bucket", I'd hang my food pack. A determined bear MIGHT be able to get, but bears are not the big concern. It is mice, followed by squirels and chipmunks.

Make sure you hang it properly according to the NFS recommendations.

The picture below was taken at Sawbill Outfitters. They have it right outside their store as an example of how to do it for their outfitting customers.

02/20/2009 11:30AM
I usually hang unless there just isn't a tree suitable anywhere near.

Of course one of the few times i didn't I had a decent size hole shewed through my Bag.

I actually had a decent hole chewed right through a hanging bag as well. Whatever the critter, it went right after the chocolate, and that was all it ate.

I also hung a bag at a spot on Gebe or a lake right near there, and it had a great tree, did the best hanging job of my life, 20 feet up, 10 feet out, etc... Glad i did, as I woke up in the middle of the night to scratching sounds, banged some pots and pans, and sure enough there were fresh claw marks on the tree, but my food was safe.
02/20/2009 12:02PM
OK, I'm gonna hang my food this spring away from camp per USFS instructions. If not for me, for the rest of those on this site that come after me. : )

I remember 30 years ago in Shenandoah Natl Park I hung our food in a tree across a creek and up the hillside. Next morning before daylight, I couldn't find the tree til sunup. That was the last time I hung food in a tree. The Park Service had done a sufficient job of scaring me into hanging food through use of photos of cars ripped open for food inside.
02/20/2009 01:13PM
As usual, a range of opinions. Any reports from the person that was going to anchor their food offshore in a waterproof container last summer? Did it work?
02/20/2009 06:45PM
Thanks rlhedlund; welcome back from the dark side. :)

Now I hope the message is sent to relay back to novices the answer to the original question and to provide guidance on the appropriate procedures to store food at night.


02/20/2009 07:26PM
I hang in between two tree limbs on a rope, and tie the pack so a bear can't just slide it down the rope.
02/21/2009 08:44AM
We hang our food bag between two trees also. Of course when we had our bear encounter it was during lunch when we had our food bag down with us!
02/21/2009 11:20AM
Have enjoyed reading the responses to this thread. We have gone thru a few changes over the years, first, we would store under the canoe for the night (somewhat naive, I readily admit), then, hang food bag over a single branch. Many times this was difficult or the choice of branch created a very risky, less than desirable placement. Now, with instructions from members of this site a few years ago I made a two tree hanging system (already mentioned by others) which has vastly improved the quickness and quality of our food hangs. It clearly is a better choice than the single branch option.
We have had a few sites, for weekend trips where hanging is not a good option and have used a Counter Assault Keg, hidden off the site. So far fine, it is a valid option IMO.
Our only critter issues have come from raccoons, mice, chipmunks and red squirrels (knocking on wood here) with food left during meal prep or taking time with clean up. I hope our luck continues.
The only change for this coming season that I envision has been inspired by kanoes unfortunate encounter. We double portage, and the first trip over will be canoe and food pack. The pack will be put off portage (hidden to the side) some rods before the end, we will take the canoe down to the end. Then return back for the two remaining packs. This suggestion by someone seems easy and prudent as I believe problem bears are made that way due to our habits not being sound. It is easier for us to change and I would hate to cut short a trip to losing my food.
02/26/2009 12:39PM
Another option- If you are staying at a site with a rock cliff near the site you can safely hang your food so it is at least 10-15 feet above the ground at the bottom and at least 10 feet from the top of the cliff. This is probably the safest of any food storage option, as bears cannot climb straight rock cliffs.
03/01/2009 03:52PM
Maybe to help out Michigan Jed from original post: Bears and other critters aren't your only problem with the food pack. Anyone who has laid in their tent at night listening to torrential rain pound the camp always wonders if the food stayed dry. Make sure you have a good inner lining of a tough large plastic bag. For a few years I went to a hard plastic food box that fit inside a #3 pack sold by Stuart Osthoff's Boundary Waters Journal trading post. It had a tight sealing cover and I never worried about rain or crushed food in the pack again. Now I have the big blue barrel and spend the time I used to rig the perfect bear proof hang for fishing. Also no rotator cuff throwing the darn rope high enough.
03/01/2009 06:44PM
I put all of our food in ziplock bags, doesn't matter what happens to them as far as wetness.
03/02/2009 08:11AM
no bears ,YET!
03/02/2009 11:33AM
Is that the mouse they studied for the effects of cigarette smoking and cancer? Once they're addicted it's hard to break the habit. :)

They may have to figure in his dietary habits after eating all that great campers food loaded with fat and sugar. :)

Actually I once had a bear in camp and Yogi had been exploring in my tent, in a pack, and had pried open a Tupperware where I stored my pipe tobacco. He declined to sample it. Learned something about what can attract bears. Luckily the tent flap was open and he didn't rip his way in. :)

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