Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Bear Bag Techniques: PCT Method

One of the necessary things to do while backpacking is to store your food in a place that is safe from animals. Most often this done by hanging your food up in a tree by a rope (a bear bag), though you can use special containers as well. If you ever search the internet for bear bag techniques, you'll quickly find that there are a lot of methods to hang a bear bag.

In my search for an easy bear bag technique, I came across a technique that interested me. It's called the PCT Method (Pacific Crest Trail Method). This weekend I got to try it out.

To do this method you will need the following items

1) Rope (I used 50 feet of para-cord)
2) A carabiner
3) A stuff sack
4) A rock
5) A thumb thick stick

First, you tie your rope to the carabiner. I used a double figure 8 not to tie my rope to the carabiner, as seen below.

Then, you take the rock and put it in the stuff sack.

Next, you hook your stuff sack to the carabiner.

By having the rock filled stuff sack tied to the rope, it makes it easier to get your rope over the necessary branch. You need to find a strong branch that is more than 20 feet high. Next, you throw the stuff sack over the branch. Don't be surprised if it takes a few times to get your rope over the branch in the right position. The rope needs to be at least four feet away from the trunk of the tree. (This keeps an animal from climbing the trunk of the tree and being able to reach the bag) Also, make sure to hold to the end of the rope after you throw it to keep it all from flying over the branch.

Once you get the rope over the branch, you lace the rope through the carabiner, as seen below.

You attach your real food bag to the carabiner instead of the rock filled stuff sack. Then you pull the rope and hoist the food bag up into the air, all the way up to the branch. This is where the stick comes into use. As high as you can reach, you tie the stick to the rope with a clove hitch knot, seen below.

With the stick tied in place, you let go of the rope. As the food bag starts to fall, the stick gets pulled into the air. This is why you laced the rope through the carabiner. The stick gets caught in the carabiner and keeps the food bag from lowering all the way down. It's kind of hard to tell by the picture, Sorry :(

For an easier to follow description of the PCT method, you can watch the following video. He does a very good job of explaining the PCT method and how to tie a clove hitch not.

Pros to this method:

1) You only need one tree
2) You don't need to tie off the second end of the rope. (I believe this method was developed because bears along the Pacific Crest Trail were getting smart enough to cut the ropes to drop the food bags)

Cons to this method:

1) Somewhat difficult to tie the clove hitch while keeping a fully loaded food bag in the air. (Though easier with a second person)
2) To keep the bag how enough out of reach for a bear, you need a really high branch. This weekend we couldn't find a high enough branch for this method, so we just ended up tying off the rope to a nearby tree.

So for any backpackers out there, what bear bag techniques do you recommend?

1 comment:

  1. Very cool post, and the pics just look awesome!