How to Hang Food in the Backcountry

If you are going to spend a night in the backcountry, you need to know how to store your food correctly. Improperly stored food often results in bears becoming accustomed to humans... and often ending up being shot. Keeping food, and odoriferous objects (like toothpaste or deodorant) in your tent can land you with nighttime visitors, big and small. Even in areas where there are no bears, you can end up going hungry thanks to opportunist raccoons, mice and other hungry critters.

Aside from parks that require bear canisters, or areas where there are no trees, your best (and safest bet) is to hang your food (and all smellies, including empty food packaging). There are many ways to do it, but here's an easy way how to hang food in the backcountry.

how to hang food in the backcountry

What you'll need:

  • 40+ feet of rope / cordage

  • A trekking pole or long stick

  • Two storage bags (preferably waterproof)

  • A tree branch at least 20 feet tall and 4 feet long (some suggest hanging food 10 feet from the trunk of the tree)

  • A stick for throwing

How to Hang Your Food

This method is based on the idea of a counter balance. Take a look at the following steps and the accompanying video.

Oh, one more note: Make sure your food hanging tree is at least 200 feet from your campsite.

  1. Attach a stick to one end of your rope (end A for reference) and toss it over the tree branch (at least 4 feet from the tree trunk) while holding the other end of the rope. (be careful not to get hit by the falling stick)
  2. Lower end A of the rope and attach one bag of food to it.
  3. Raise the food bag all the way to the branch by pulling on end B of the rope.
  4. Reaching up as high as you can, tie a loop onto end B of the rope, and fasten your second storage bag (full of more food, or an equal weight of rocks) to it.
  5. Coil up extra rope so that it doesn't hang down.
  6. Take your trekking pole and raise end B of the rope by pushing up on the second storage bag. Keep lifting until both bags are the same height (or at least 10 feet off the ground).

And that's it! To get it down, use your trekking pole or stick to hook onto your food bag and pull it down.

It may take some practice, but it's much better than the risk of nighttime visitors of the Ursidae variety. If you're not sure you have the bear-hanging dexterity, consider the slightly heavier, but safe alternative of carrying a bear-proof canister like those carried by the Sierra Trading Post.

Do you hang your food? Have you or friends had any sobering encounters with hungry wildlife? Let us know in the comments!


Editor's note: Paul is a regular contributor to the Sierra Social Hub as part of #TeamSierra. Learn more about the outdoors from Paul on his blog: The Outdoor Adventure.
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Paul Osborn
Paul Osborn is an avid outdoor adventurer and frequently tweets about his trips. He's loved being outdoors since he was a kid and is always game to try something new. Currently, he's trying to instill a love for everything wild in his own kids. Paul's website, The Outdoor Adventure, encourages others to open their doors and get outside by giving them the tools and confidence necessary to do so. He did just that on the John Muir Trail in June 2013 with a group that included members of Sierra Trading Post's own social media team. Team Sierra bloggers receive promotional consideration from Sierra Trading Post.
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