View Full Version : how naughty are you on the A.T.? (bear bags, water treatment, etc.)

02-19-2016, 16:59
Hello A.T. hikers!

It certainly seems like a lot of you more experienced A.T. hikers, and perhaps 2,000 milers especially, have made your bargains with the devil. I'm beginning my thru-hike in late April from Springer, and am fascinated by how many don't seem to treat their water at all, and who sleep with food in their tents.

Certainly problems get exaggerated online, and in the media in general, but these topics almost feel taboo to approach practically and realistically, given the chance for highly miserable outcomes!

How many folks actually do seal and hang a bear bag EVERY night on their thru-hike? Is it sorta a judgment call, like water treatment, based on current environmental conditions (water source, known bear activity/sightings)?

Thanks - lookin forward to meeting some of you out there soon!


Lone Wolf
02-19-2016, 17:00
i'm naughty. i've never hung a bear bag or treated/filtered water

02-19-2016, 17:09
Im an angel. Always treat my water and hang bear bags.

02-19-2016, 17:46
I'm crazy. I usually treat my water and use a bear canister.

02-19-2016, 17:50
I always hung food I treated all water I sleep in a hammock so a lot of people think I'm crazy and I don't mind cause I am

02-19-2016, 17:52
I always bear bag if cables aren't available...and only treat water if I pass through an area with obvious cattle grazing areas, or it is standing water, ponds, etc.

02-19-2016, 17:56
I hang when I find a proper tree.It isnt that easy.
A poor hang, will lose your food. Which is bad for you and da bear.

02-19-2016, 18:00
If I'm wilderness camping I sleep with my food, but if I have to stay at an established site I'm happy to take advantage of a bear box or line if one is provided. The bears in the wilderness are afraid of me, but the civilized bears don't care. They just know there is food there every night and come to see if anyone left some out for them. Those are the sort of bears that might rudely reach into my tent not knowing just how dangerous touching my food is :)

Gambit McCrae
02-19-2016, 18:25
I'm half naughty half nice. I always treat water, 99% don't hang bear bag. If there are cables I will, other wise, comn get it :)

02-19-2016, 18:39
thanks for the responses, backpackers!
so --- has anyone had a bad experience sleeping with their food? do you make sure it's in a sealed or purportedly odor-free bag?

02-19-2016, 18:48
Only from mice. Food is in an Ursack because of rodents.

Sarcasm the elf
02-19-2016, 18:50
What the heck do you mean by naughty? We're not children. Naughty implies that we're doig something wrong and that certainly isn't the case.

02-19-2016, 19:05
I always filter my water. I've seen a lot of people never treat it and stay healthy but I just rather not roll the dice for how easy I find filtering to be. I stopped regularly hanging somewhere in VA? and went the rest of the trail without incident except from rodents. I do use the boxes when they are provided. Much prefer boxes to cables and poles as they're more idiot proof and do a better job stopping rodents. I didn't see a single person hang every night on my thru.

02-19-2016, 19:22
Rarely treat water especially on southern AT. Will treat water if cattle are in the area or if it's not a small near source stream or spring. Rarely hang food on the AT, hang food out west when possible, use canister out west and in Adirondacks if required. Often use my food bag as a pillow.

There is nothing naughty about either. I would say it is equally as naughty if not naughtier to handle a trail register after filthy hikers have crapped all over themselves or those who chose to cook up a gourmet meal three feet from where they sleep. Or those that hang those crappy bear hangs that test against the tree trunk. All of those are likely far more dangerous in their respective areas than the two issues you bring up.

02-19-2016, 19:37
I'm a naughty little hiker...Naughty! lol

Usually hang food in Ursack. Have slept with my food also. I feel a little better at night with my food hanging knowing that if something comes into camp it will go for my food bag first, hopefully by then I will be ready to pepper who ever, I mean, what ever it is.

I always treat my water no matter where I am. So simple to do, why not? Have also not treated before when younger and was fine. Then again I drank out of my first North Georgia stream at a very early age...?

After a few nights you will know what to do when you camp. Happy hiking!

Cotton Terry
02-19-2016, 19:53
Interesting the number that don't hang their bags. On my Georgia section hike last year, I hung when there was a bear cable. Otherwise, I kept the bag in my tent. Those I hiked with were aghast and tried to hang theirs. I did not find that many good hang options on the AT and chuckled when I saw the wad of tangled cord hanging from a limb at Lance Creek Restoration Area. I tried a couple times and said screw it!

I treat all of my water, it's so easy. Regarding the shelter journals, I've heard that's a good way to catch a bug, so I ain't touching them. Nobody cares where I am, anyway, and the feeling's mutual, lol.

02-19-2016, 20:31
Hang food when bear cables are available. I treat water if I can't see the source. Many times when staying in shelters hikers will ask each other if you want to Mouse Bag or Bear Bag.... Most of the time it is Mouse Bag.

02-19-2016, 20:43
I always treat water and only hang bear bags in Grizzly country (I also don't cook in camp and change the clothes I cook in and hang them with my food when I see signs of Grizzly). Otherwise, I sleep with my food.

02-19-2016, 20:56
I treat and hang my water, and sleep with my naughty bits.

Sarcasm the elf
02-19-2016, 21:09
I treat and hang my water, and sleep with my naughty bits.

I sleep with my food, but I make sure to take it on at least three dates first.

Another Kevin
02-19-2016, 21:24
Water treatment: Always. Since heating water to boiling suffices to treat it, I don't bother treating water that I use to cook, or to make coffee or tea. There are also a couple of sources that I trust, like the artesian spring on the east side of Slide Mountain in the Catskills. The sources I trust are very few.

Food storage: I use bear boxes, cables, and poles where they're provided. I use a canister where the law says I have to. I'll sleep with food during the part of the year when the bears are asleep, or if I'm more than 4-5 miles away from a settlement in an area where hunting is permitted. (That combination means that a bear that I encounter is likely not to see humans as a food source and likely to have a healthy fear of humans.) The rest of the time, which is most of the time, I hang. If I don't spot a suitable tree, I'll hang between two unsuitable ones. I can always find a pair of trees where I can get the rope over branches, even if the bag would hang too close to the trunk.

I don't hike in the West, so grizzly are not a concern. I'd imagine that the whole changing-clothes ritual is a bit overblown. I'm a human, I'm going to smell like human food. I don't think I have any good way on trail to get the scent out of hair and beard, for instance.

I haven't had a bear bother my food yet. I've had a raccoon try to drag my (foodless) pack away, and I've had a porcupine steal my skivvies out of my tent vestibule, but my food's always been safe so far.

02-19-2016, 21:58
It's not naughty, it's common sense learned through long experience.

02-19-2016, 23:17
what about the hammock hangers who don't hang food. where do you store it overnight? in the hammock?

02-20-2016, 01:27
what about the hammock hangers who don't hang food. where do you store it overnight? in the hammock?

I'm a hanger... I use a canister.

02-20-2016, 03:01
I always hung my food, and always filtered and or aquamira'd my water.

The really naughty habits you should ask are... Do you cook and eat in the shelters? Do you pee on the outside of the shelter and spit your tooth paste right next to the shelter? Do you throw wet wipes and other non biodegradable trash in the privys? Do you approach shelters after dark when you know everyone is asleep, or for that matter do you approach other camp sites after dark and flash your head lamp around and cook and make noise knowing people nearby are trying to sleep? And the absolute worst of them all, do you wash your dishes at the water source and dump rice and oatmeat or noodles right in the collection pool? Oh and do you bath or wash your cloths at the water source?

There's a very slippery slope out there on the trail and as soon as someone starts doing naughty things it snowballs pretty quickly.

02-20-2016, 07:21
I'll bring a couple of condoms, in case Mr. Big gets some exercise.

02-20-2016, 08:36
what about the hammock hangers who don't hang food. where do you store it overnight? in the hammock?

In the hammock clipped to the spreader bar at the head end.

Pedaling Fool
02-20-2016, 08:37
There's no hope for me....

Harrison Bergeron
02-20-2016, 08:50
Your poll will get a much different result here than if you conducted it on the AT.

In my experience, virtually everyone I met on the trail filtered their water and hung their food.

The food was never hung "correctly" except when cables were available (often not even then). It's virtually impossible to find a branch higher than 20 feet that is strong enough 10 feet from the trunk to support a food bag, and nobody can throw a rock with a line attached straight up 20 feet even when one is found, anyway. So people knowingly hang their food laughably close to the ground, anyway. The first time you give up and sleep with your food, you learn why -- the mice. They may not actually get into your food bag, but they will harrass you all night.

As for filtering your water, the first time you watch a herd of stinking idiots play in the water source, you'll filter, believe me.

02-20-2016, 09:28
I always treated the water but I drank the beer straight from the can. Argh. I was horrible at hanging the food bag and could not count the times the rock came back and almost smashed me or someone else in the head. But I hung that bag almost every night. I had mice try to get in it one night when i slept with it and know lots of folks with holes in their tents where mice had chewed through. One woman had a bear come in her tent- near Springer. Her trail name was Go Away Bear.

Sandy of PA
02-20-2016, 10:37
I treat all water, my Mom's thru-hike in 1976 was ended by giardia, she never was able to hike long distance again. It took her 6 months to recover. I use a bearcan, I suck at throwing rocks!

02-20-2016, 11:49
A bit of context: I've been backpacking since I was a baby (1961), but only in the western half of the continent. We recently (this fall) moved to the New England area.

I've spend all of one night along the actual AT in the White Mountains. I slept with my food, and I didn't filter or treat any of the water that I gathered during that three day trip.

In general, over many decades of backpacking, I have only ever occasionally treated water in the last couple years to help me save weight by not having to carry as much water. I can now carry less water because I can safely fill up at questionable water sources if I run low and need to.

I also never hung a bear bag or used a bear canister (read: I always slept with my food) until the last couple of years when I started experimenting with bear bag hanging (so I carry what I need to do it easily). Now, in areas of known bear activity or high people traffic (read: likelihood of activity from food acclimated animals of all kinds) I have fun trying to prefect the art of hanging my food bag.

02-20-2016, 11:55
Always treat water.
If there are bear cables, box, or pole I use it. Otherwise only hang if in a heavy bear area like SNP or NJ.

02-21-2016, 00:23
I always filter our water, but detest hanging a bear bag. . .buying an Ursack. [emoji4]

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02-21-2016, 01:42
You're applying a judgement call against people because they don't assume your standards? I'm quite satisfied that whether I decide to treat H20 or not bear bag or not on the AT my actions will demonstrably entail less risk for me than you deciding to treat or not or bear bag or not. HYOH.

English Stu
02-21-2016, 08:27
I treat and hang. Finding a suitable branch is not easy; if it is fair way from my camp spot I put nearby a twig marker on the trail. The woods can look different in the morning.

02-21-2016, 10:20
I hung my food more than I filtered. Mainly because of rodents. As for filtering, not all that much.

02-21-2016, 12:25
I hang when I find a proper tree.It isnt that easy.
A poor hang, will lose your food. Which is bad for you and da bear.

It amazed me when I was using the PCT hang, how hard it is to find a decent limb! Too high, too low, too thick, too thin, too rotten, too much brush under it, too many other limbs close by...

I use an ursack now, and always treat my water.

evyck da fleet
02-21-2016, 14:01
Treated 99% of the time. 100% after GA. As others have mentioned it had more to due with what the hikers in front of me may have been doing around water sources.

Hung using PCT about 1/2 dozen times in GA/TN, used bear cables/boxes when available otherwise slept with my food. The worst damage to my pack was chew holes in the hip pockets from hanging pack in a shelter. Since I saw mouse hangs (bear pinatas) at most shelters, I figured my food was safer in my tent. I did run across several hikers who hung their food regularly. Never had a problem with rodents around my tent.

02-21-2016, 14:22
Oooh be-have

02-21-2016, 19:38
I use aquamira about half of the time and use an ursack (rarely treat springs if ever)

02-22-2016, 10:52
Very naughty!

I don't always hang my bag....

But when I do it's well-hung.

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02-22-2016, 11:32
I slept with my food and only treated water a couple of times.

02-22-2016, 12:34
Always filter water unless very confident regarding the source. Never hang food unless cables or pole are available. Food stays in the tent or hammock with me.

02-22-2016, 14:00
I always hung my food on my 2010 thru. It was a massive pain in the ass, and one of the things I hated about hiking. Probably won't do it this time unless there are boxes or cables.

V Eight
02-22-2016, 14:07
I will occasionally filter my water, rarely treat. I sleep with my food. It goes in an "OP" sack, then a dry sack, then in my pack. "Knock wood" no trouble with any creatures. I might use a Bear box if it was not full of trash.

Since moving to Virginia I get to see a lot of thru hikers, and like 99% of the thru hikers have stopped hanging there food, while most are still filtering/treating water.

Casey & Gina
02-22-2016, 17:23
Each time I feel an abdominal rumbling, I like to create a new mini hill right in the middle of the trail. As a courtesy to others, I attach a warning flag of used TP to the peak, so that they can step over it if they choose to. That should work just as well as digging a cathole way off the trail, right? I find this really environmentally friendly, as it provides a nice accessible food source for the local flies.

Not really, though.

02-23-2016, 10:52
I always treat my water. Sawyer Squeeze or Aqua Mira.

My food bag gets hung in certain areas, other that the dead of winter, on a pole, cable or in a bear box if available. Otherwise I only hang my food in a tree if I am in an area that looks well used and if I have seen signs of bears. Those saying a proper hang is not possible, in my opinion haven't practiced enough. I prefer the PCT method but also use the method using two trees if needed. Otherwise I stick my food bag into my trash compactor bag in my backpack. The backpack gets my rain cover on it, I flip it upside down, put my sit pad on top and my shoes on top of that and store it in the vestibule. I've never had anything bother my food.

02-23-2016, 11:33
I used to hang my food but have dropped the habit, and sometimes treat my water - depending on the source.

02-24-2016, 16:08
I'm in favor of treating water from streams and lakes but not from springs with good flow. If I think I'm in bear country I always hang my food; when I don't think I'm in bear country I don't. I use an Ursak Minor either way so that varmints can't chew their way into my goodies. I don't have it in my shelter so that varmints don't chew through the shelter to get at what smells good to them. If I'm sharing real estate with bears but not where there are trees to hang from, I use a canister or a lined regular Ursak.

I base these habits from personal experiences of having holes in shelters and packs made by varmints, by seeing people lose food to bears when not properly stored/hung, and by reading accounts of others' experiences. Bears that get food learn a lesson that often leads eventually to their death. I like Bears too much to let that happen through my actions. YMMV.

02-24-2016, 16:27
I hang religiously. Nothing's ever gotten my stuff or chewed its way into my tent. Maybe because it's all tasteless vegan food. I drink untreated water, but only recreationally

Wet Foot
02-24-2016, 17:40
Here's a thought on treating water from an AT section hiker (900+ miles down!) who also spent 28+ years in the Army. You may unnecessarily treat water many times, but the one time you don't and come down with a nasty GI problem, you'll regret it. It can lay you low for many days and you'll be ejecting from both ends. If you're already sick or weakened, it could kill you. Of course you don't need to treat potable water from a hose, bottle, or faucet. The only water I've not treated was from either a piped spring a spring head with a high flow rate where I could take the water before it hit the ground. Once in Maine we took water from a bubbling spring, but maybe that wasn't wise. Never from an open stream or creek or anywhere an animal could have defecated, either there or upstream. All these folks saying they never treat water are doing you no good service by giving that advice. It doesn't take too long to treat water and there are countless good, not-too-expensive methods to treat.

Lone Wolf
02-24-2016, 18:35
All these folks saying they never treat water are doing you no good service by giving that advice. It doesn't take too long to treat water and there are countless good, not-too-expensive methods to treat.
i don't ever treat/filter and have never advised folks not to. nobody else in this thread has either