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  1. #1
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    Default Bears and food and stuff

    Hey,

    As a Brit doing his first section hike of the AT (between Harper's Ferry and Duncannon), I was hoping someone could clarify what I should do with keeping food away from bears.

    From what I have read it seems I need to hang food so will bring a rope of some description. In terms of hanging it do you just use stuff at the shelters?

    Do I need a bear cannister for this section or would some kind of food bag be sufficient?

    Does anyone have any gear recommendations for this kind of thing?

    Is there anything else I need to bring/plan for?

    Sorry for the newbie questions - we don't have any bears in England anymore.

  2. #2
    GoldenBear's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Here's a start

    First thing to know: the only bears in the Eastern U.S. are black bears. Fortunately, they are RELATIVELY safe, at least compared to grizzly bears.
    Here's some starting info on being "Bear Aware."
    http://www.bebearaware.org/Hiking_an...d_camping.html

    You can hang your food, or buy a bear canister or an Ursack{R}
    https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-adv...g-storage.html
    https://www.ursack.com/

    Do NOT simply leave your food hanging in or near the shelter in a cloth bag, in easy reach of a bear -- and black bears can reach VERY far to get food.

    > In terms of hanging it do you just use stuff at the shelters?
    Some shelters have bear-proof boxes, poles, or cable systems; but some don't. If you don't plan on bringing your own bear-proof gear, check for info on every shelter you plan to stay at.

    Note that mice and raccoons can be just as nasty as bears in terms of getting to your food.
    Last edited by GoldenBear; 05-02-2019 at 15:30.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by DH42 View Post
    I was hoping someone could clarify what I should do with keeping food away from bears.
    It will depend on where you are camped. If there are food storage facilities (metal, bearproof vaults), store your food in them.

    Some campsites will have a cable system installed to hang your food.

    Bear-resistant canisters are effective, and required in some areas, but they add weight and bulk.


    If you are at a campsite with nothing provided, hanging from a tree is recommended. At least twelve feet above ground, six feet from the trunk. A few resources:

    http://theultimatehang.com/2013/03/1...he-pct-method/

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBuE7GbFw7U (this hang isn't really high enough in my opinion, but it's a good demonstration)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eCXTtagYDHk
    Last edited by johnacraft; 05-02-2019 at 15:54.

  4. #4

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    They also make odor resistant bags to use inside which ever system you choose.They may help reduce the smell signature your food gives off.They are available on Amazon.The green Base Camp bags last longer than LokSack from my personal experience.

  5. #5
    Registered User scope's Avatar
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    Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't believe that's a bear heavy section? In general, plan to hang your own bag (don't rely on cables at shelters) or take a bear cannister. However, you'll find plenty of folks here that sleep with their food - presumably with some sort of odor protection. Here's the deal... if there is bear activity in the area, you really don't want to do that out of protection for the bears and to get along with your fellow hikers. If you're staying at a shelter, for sure hang (or cannister). If you're camping solo in backcountry sites, do what you want.
    "I wonder if anyone else has an ear so tuned and sharpened as I have, to detect the music, not of the spheres, but of earth, subtleties of major and minor chord that the wind strikes upon the tree branches. Have you ever heard the earth breathe... ?"
    - Kate Chopin

  6. #6
    13-45 Section Hiker Trash
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    If you've been hanging around here at all you know you're gonna get a bunch of differing answers. Some will say hang it and some will say sleep with it. You might even get a canister user to chime in (that's actually my current method). With that said here's my thoughts:


    Quote Originally Posted by DH42 View Post
    As a Brit doing his first section hike of the AT (between Harper's Ferry and Duncannon), I was hoping someone could clarify what I should do with keeping food away from bears.

    From what I have read it seems I need to hang food so will bring a rope of some description. In terms of hanging it do you just use stuff at the shelters?
    If my memory serves me right the section you are doing does not have any shelters with bear food storage (i.e. boxes, cables or poles). So if you want to hang your food then bring some para cord or better yet some small diameter dyneema cord (this stuff does not bind on the tree branches like regular para cord).


    Quote Originally Posted by DH42 View Post
    Do I need a bear cannister for this section or would some kind of food bag be sufficient?

    The short answer is no. Canisters are not required, and may be overkill for this particular section. They do provide piece of mind though...at least in my opinion.



    Quote Originally Posted by DH42 View Post
    Does anyone have any gear recommendations for this kind of thing?

    If you are going to do a hang then a sil-nylon dry sack and some dyneema cord works. If you want to do the PCT style hang (recommended) you will also need a carabiner. If you are talking about canisters then the main one most people get is the Bear Vault. I have a Wild Ideas Bearikade myself. The other option is the Ursack that was mentioned by another poster, and lots of people on here use them. Don't have any personal experience with one.



    Quote Originally Posted by DH42 View Post
    Is there anything else I need to bring/plan for?

    For bears specifically? Ummm...a camera...cause if you actually see one you might get a chance to take a picture of it.



    Quote Originally Posted by DH42 View Post
    Sorry for the newbie questions - we don't have any bears in England anymore.
    No problem. Bears aren't as big of a deal as many would make them out to be, and you are probably not going to even see one on that section. I hope you have a great time on your hike.
    AT: 2007-2019 (45 sections)
    JMT: 2013

  7. #7

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    It is not only bears you should worry about, but also mice. You will hate to find in the morning your newly purchased and expensive gear being chewed by mice. If you camp in a place with no bear poles, bear box or bear cables, your options are: (A) hang your food, using a regular dry bag, (B) bear canister or, (C) Ursack, which is a kind of hybrid between the two. I, personally, use the latter. Do your research. The web, including this site, is full of information.

  8. #8
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    We usually sleep with our food in our tent. When we use a shelter, we typically hang food from the "mouse-proof" hangers that are usually present.

  9. #9

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    Almost every shelter has a register. Read it when you walk into the site and you will quickly find out if there are local bear problems as there will be notes. Bear issues are far rarer if you camp at dispersed sites. There are some shelters with human habituated bears, they have figured out by interactions with hikers how to maximize their haul of food. They dont want you, they want your food. The nice thing with the AT is with rare exceptions even if the worst case happens, you are always close enough to a town that you will not starve.

    One thing about shelter registers is Norovirus seems to crop up every year along the AT and a shelter register is possible vector as many people have contact with it. its good practice to wash your hands with soap after reading and writing the register.

  10. #10
    I plan, therefore I am Strategic's Avatar
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    The advice to hang your food is a good thing to follow in this section. It's not so much bears (though there may be a few in the PA state parks like Michaux) but the other smaller creatures that will gladly grab your food when given the opportunity (raccoons, mice, etc.) that you need to guard against. Use the PCT hang method on a good branch when there are no other provisions for storing food. Some of the shelters in this section do have bear boxes (Quarry Gap, for instance), but by no means all. Usually hanging your food only requires a good dry bag, a small carabiner, and about 15-20 meters of light line like Dyneema. You might also want to carry the line in a very small bag that's tied to one end and can act as a rock bag to make it easier to throw over hanging branches. Good luck and good hiking!
    Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
    Sun Tzu, The Art of War.

  11. #11
    Registered User cneill13's Avatar
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    I have been sleeping with my food for years. Black bears are nothing more than big raccoons. Absolutely nothing to be afraid of. Bark like a dog and they will run like the wind.

    I am more afraid of wood mice getting into my food bag when hung than a bear getting my food in my hammock. I have had wood mice ruin several trips chewing holes in my hung food bag. Never again.

  12. #12
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    Ehhhhh, usually they are pretty timid but sometimes not so much. I encountered a bear in the Nantahala forest last year that was pretty hiker habituated and wasn't at all timid. He sat on hill and watched me set up camp and then made multiple attempts at my Ursack throughout the night. He wasn't going to go away no matter how much I yelled at him. I found that being alone in the woods at 2 am yelling at a 250 - 300 lb bear is a bit unnerving. So yes, usually very timid, but they can be considerably more aggressive if they've been around people a lot and have learned that humans are a food source and not a threat. I would advise that you don't need to worry too much about black bears aside from protecting your food but you shouldn't ignore them either. Predatory attacks are very rare but they do happen.

  13. #13

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    20 years ago, High Point Shelter NJ had a photo of bear with distinctive ear tags on it posted on the back wall of the shelter. There was a warning that the bear would bluff charge into the shelter and steal whatever food was not in the bear box. There was stream bed nearby with steep banking to momma bear and cubs would sneak up close to the campsite and come over the stream bank around supper when folks were cooking. The cubs would go over to the bear box and see is if was locked and momma bear would run towards the shelter and occasionally enter the shelter if the picking were good. She would haul her load back to the wood. I missed out on the show but met a father and daughter who got their own private show. Sure folks can sleep with their food and have been lucky just like some folks win lotteries but its manageable risk. Note in areas with flying squirrels they can get at any hang. The only way to keep them from getting at your food is and Ursack a, Rat Sack steel mesh bag or a food storage can.

  14. #14

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    I had a friend that left an unopened Gatorade powder pack in his backpack outside his tent while he was sleeping. A black bear found it and got to it, luckily with little damage to the backpack. Not a good thing. But their noses are so strong that it doesn't even matter if it is sealed tight.

  15. #15
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    Lots of variables involved, I did Comptons Gap to HF last year and saw 5 bears. Camped 1/4 mile from a wayside with food in the tent, go up went to the wayside for breakfast only to see a cub come running out of the woods and onto the trail. People came out of the trail reporting mama bear and other cubs were where I camped. Because I scouted the area for a cat hole prospect I know there were no bear tracks around my camp that morning. So they were either uninterested in my food or never caught scent of it. I have no doubt the bears were very near to me that night, but obviously never approached.
    At Blackburn Center incoming hikers reported a bear on the trail to the Center. There is a bear hang pole there and we all hung. The next morning as the first one up I found the bear less than 100' from the camp...apparently I scared the crap out of him as he ran away the fastest I've seen a bear run...even though I made no sound.
    That bear could have easily defeated the hang but again, no evidence he tried.
    All the other bears I saw then and other times studiously avoided contact. I only hang when others are present, for their piece of mind.

  16. #16

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    Unfortunately, there will always be the oppositional ones. But when you keep the food in your tent, you endanger (A) yourself, (B) your fellow hikers and (C) the bears. A bear habituated to human food will have eventually be destroyed.

  17. #17
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    Thanks everyone who took the time to offer advice. Good to know most bear contact is not a problem and the different options. Reckon I will go with the hang bag - don't want to lug a cannister if I can avoid it and as only doing 11 days, hopefully the odds are in my favor. Will check out some of the suggestions on gear - looking forward to it but man the costs keep going up!

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by DH42 View Post
    Thanks everyone who took the time to offer advice. Good to know most bear contact is not a problem and the different options. Reckon I will go with the hang bag - don't want to lug a cannister if I can avoid it and as only doing 11 days, hopefully the odds are in my favor. Will check out some of the suggestions on gear - looking forward to it but man the costs keep going up!
    Did you already hear this joke that a hiker is a homeless in a $3000.00 gear......?

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