After many backcountry trips in which I used 2 ropes, pulleys, carabiners, various knots and loops and way too much time finding the “perfect” tree (in the dark, in the rain, in the bugs), I discovered the “Reg technique” to hang a bear bag and will never go back! This method uses 1 rope, 1 bear bag, and 2 trees (tree #1 needs a horizontal branch, and tree #2 just needs to be big enough not to snap).
I camp in Ontario, Canada, where black bears roam the woods and other critters like racoons and mice would also be more than happy to sample my food!
The Reg technique is named after a Scout leader at 3rd Waterdown Scouts. He taught my backcountry camping friend Cheryl his method, and we named it after him.
Below the picture (I’m not an artist!) you will find step by step instructions for how to easily hang a bear bag! From start to finish we can put this up in less than 10 minutes (depending on my aim!).
- one dry bag as our bear bag, with a bear bell on it so if something investigates our food in the middle of the night while we’re in the tent, we can scare ourselves silly (I’m not getting out of the tent!);
- 85 feet of rope (mine is 6 mm Mammut nylon static cord from MEC, but my friend’s is thinner and works great too – it also weighs less); and
- two trees.
STEP #1 (see 1 on diagram above): Rock over tree branch
- Find a suitable tree that is away from your tent. Look for one that has a horizontal branch high enough that you’ll be able to get your bag out of the reach of bears, but low enough that you’ll be able to throw a rock over it! The best trees don’t have other branches near your preferred horizontal branch. Look for a tree that has open space between it and another tree at least 14 feet away. The second tree is simply an anchor point – you don’t need to use any branches, but they could come in handy (keep reading).
- Tie one end of your rope to a small rock, light enough that you’re able to throw it, but heavy enough that it can actually make it over a branch with your rope attached! A rock with notches on it is helpful to hold the rope in place. Sometimes the rock is thrown right out of the rope! This really sucks when you’ve lost a perfect rock and there aren’t many other rocks around. I have resorted to taking rocks out of the fire pit and then returning them.
- Make sure your rope isn’t tangled in bushes or under your feet when you go to throw it (speaking from experience!), and have your camping buddies clear out of the way so no one gets a rock in the head!
- And finally, wind up and throw that rock over the tree branch, using an underhand motion!
- Once your rock is over the branch, you can untie the rope.
STEP #2 (see 2 on diagram above – though this step is done on the ground, not in the air!): Tie rope to bear bag
- Tie one end of the rope to one end of the bag, and the other end of the rope to the other end of the bag. For a heavy load, or to lessen the stress on a strap, you can also use any loops along the side of your bag. We use bowline knots for this step.
STEP #3 (see 3 on diagram above): Figure out height of bag and tie off
- With the rope that is hanging over the tree branch on the opposite side as the bag, pull on the rope to raise the bag to the appropriate height. You want your bag to be around 7 feet away from the base of the tree, if possible. So, let your bag hang about 7 feet down.
- Now you need to use the rope you’re holding in your hands to keep the bag up there to tie the bag off. Use whatever knots you want, but you’ll need to grab a bit more of the rope (i.e. the rope that’s hanging to the ground) and loop it all the way around the tree (one or more times). Then tie it off. No fancy knots needed! If there are little branches or little bits of branches sticking out of the tree, they may help in tying it off. Bark can also be helpful, but try not to damage the tree.
- You’ve got the bag hanging tight now – next you need to pull it away from the tree trunk.
STEP #4 (see 4 on the diagram above): Add a loop to pull load higher (OPTIONAL STEP – can skip to STEP #5)
- If your bag is heavy and you’d like an easy way to pull it up even higher, tie a loop in the middle of your rope 4 or 5 feet away from the second tree. You’ll have to experiment to find the right distance, but the rope you want to use is the one that is tied to the bottom of the bear bag now hanging in the tree. You can use one of many different knots to add a loop to the middle of a rope.
STEP #5 (see 5 on the diagram above): Tie off to second tree
- For this last step, you need to grab the rope that is hanging from the bottom of the bear bag, and pull it tight to your second tree. Pull the rope all the way around the tree, as high up as you can manage. If you did STEP #4, thread your rope through the loop and pull the rope back towards the second tree to get the rope as tight as possible and the bag way up out of reach of any hungry black bears. Use any knot you want to tie the rope to the second tree.
In summary: find a couple of trees, throw a rock over a branch, tie the rope to your bag, adjust the vertical height of the bag to get proper space between trees, tie it off, pull the bag away from the base of the first tree, and tie off to the second tree. Tada! Food is safe.
On my most recent backcountry trip, an 8 day, 90k hike along the entire length of the La Cloche Silhouette Trail at Killarney Provincial Park, we used 1 dry bag for our 24 pounds of food. We noticed after a few days that there was a small tear in one of the seams of the straps, so next time, I would use 2 dry bags to split the load.
In practice, we don’t always find 2 trees that allow us to hang our bag 13 feet from the ground and 7 feet from the base of any tree, but we do our best! And while we bring 85 feet of rope, we’ve never needed quite this much.
This technique is fast, easy, and hasn’t failed us yet!
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