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hanging food


Sep 17, 2012
In the past, my food hangs have all been over a high branch. But I endeavor to only kayak in places where I am at the top of the food chain - compared to say, "bear country". So the only thing I really have to be concerned about is raccoons or maybe deer - I've met some very aggressive deer on Orcas Island - one came right into the camp area, while I was at the table, and tried to open the food box by pushing the lid with his nose.

So I'm thinking that instead of finding a high branch, I could just run a line between two trees and suspend the food bag on that line. If it was four feet off the ground and four feet from each tree trunk, I'm guessing it would be raccoon proof. But maybe not deer proof.

When I was on James Island (San Juan group), the people there told me they were more concerned with crows. In fact, they said that while one person was in the tent and another at the pit toilet (about 15 minutes) the crows and pecked their way into a nylon bag. I didn't have any problem myself, but no matter how high the food is hung, it is still susceptible to bird attack.

I have some "bear proof" containers but they are not waterproof - so I hesitate to use them kayak camping. Maybe I can warp the food in a plastic kitchen garbage bag enough to make it waterproof and put that in the "bear" container and that in the kayak. Then, when camping, I just need to keep the food in the bear container and not string it up in a tree. It should be raccoon, deer and bird proof that way. Actually, I guess it would be bear and wolf proof too.

But mostly I'm concerned about smaller critters - raccoons and maybe birds - so hanging the food might not so important. But still, I wouldn't want to keep in next to my tent/camp. And I don't want it in my kayak because I've heard too many stories (and seen raccoon claw marks on rubber hatch covers) of critters damaging a kayak to get to the food.

Some talk about putting a rock or some heavy item in the dry bag to make it heavy, then sinking it in the water - making sure it is still covered at low tide.

How do you keep your food safe... and dry?

I am no expert in these matters but these might help you:

http://www.mec.ca/product/5020-583/ursa ... stant-bag/

http://www.mec.ca/product/5044-253/loks ... k/?q=opsak

The first item claims to be critter proof by way of the tough Spectra fabric, so sharp teeth can't get into the bag once it is correctly cinched shut. Gotta make sure the opening is entirely closed and knotted correctly.

The second item is the odour proof bag that is air tight to keep smells inside, and is also water proof, at least by the claims on the label. Impressively odour proof by my standards. I also use one as my garbage bag. Stuff the opsak in the ursack and hang it, hide it, secure it, stuff it in a bear box. I would not submerge it though. Works for me.

I quite like this combo for storing food, but I don't believe any critters have attempted robbery on my pantry.

Crows generally need a place to stand to peck, so your hanging may actually be fine. They are an issue down on the Channel islands (of Santa Barbara, CA) and they didn't bother any hung bags, but did peck at an inflatable lantern I had which I had left on the ground to recharge. We were also warned not to leave tent zippers closed such that the zip was at the bottom, as they could open them with their beaks.

My critter issue on one of the islands off of Orcas was mice - they chewed through the pocket of my PFD to get at a power bar wrapper.
Critter problems seem to be area specific, so that I have adopted different techniques in different places.

Bears are my main concern, for which hanging very high seems the best: in dry bag(s) reserved for the task, using 1/4 inch D line minimum to reduce friction and to ease hand abrasion on the haul.

After bears, it is wolves, with hardshell hatch covers the best, in my very limited experience.

Raccoons are devilishly clever, but hardshell hatch covers seem to work.

Crows? The most persistent, clever, intuitive thieves, in areas where they are habituated to stealing food from humans. Hardshell hatch covers are good for overnight storage. I have never had trouble with hung food because in the areas where I hung food (bears), the crows did not associate humans with food (mostly, Charlottes). But during food prep and during brief excursions away from an open cockpit, they are aggressive and quick, with constant vigilance the only thing that works. But, I love them for their skill and intelligence. They are marvelous pirates.
http://www.mec.ca/product/5017-443/bear ... -canister/

This bear can fits nicely upright in the front hatch of most P&H Kayaks and on its side in the back hatch of my current boat. 100% critter-proof and is my chair around the campfire. I don't carry it with me hiking up in the mountains but on a kayak trip it comes with me every time; even on a day trip into Surge Narrows where the ravens are very opportunistic. Being bear proof is just the bonus as I was mainly interested in feeding me and not the mice, squirrels, racoons, etc.

The advertisement claims 4 days worth of food but I find I need to be careful not to eat the container empty by the third day. It is not 100% water proof and does not claim to be odor-inhibiting. For me, it has worked 100% as the box has claimed.
My inexpensive options are five gallon pails with screw top lids. I also use collapsible fabric style coolers.

Height plus distance from trees is my preferred location. This takes two strong trees with good distance between then. That requires some climbing, because the sag loss (height wise) is directly proportional to the rope length. The greater the distance, the higher I need to climb. Sigh.
Sludge is accustomed to hanging food on a haul line suspended on a second line which runs between his two strong trees. In lieu, you can throw a rock attached to one line over a strong limb, exchange the rock for a pulley through which the haul line runs, and hoist the pulley up towards the limb, stopping short a couple feet. Then hoist food bags to whatever height you need, short of the pulley.

It is a rare bear which can defeat this method.
Dave's method, but with the pulley pulled out from the tree


from viewtopic.php?f=3&t=2218&hilit=+pulley
Smooth move, nootka. Easier to hang and a lot tougher for a bear to defeat.

BTW, we hung our food really high in the Charlottes ... maybe 30 feet off the ground. No issues with bears, even though they were all around us. The only mishap was a failed knot which allowed a huge drybag to plummet to earth one evening. Aside from converting our pilot crackers into pilot dust, there were no effects on the rest of it, gorp, dried fruit, some cheese, lots of dried veggies, etc.
I thought I'd seen everything and I've been to two county fairs. I wonder how long I'd try hanging before I figured out I could pull the pulley away from the tree; given "anchor" branches at the right height/location.

I use the pulley over the branch then hoist the food on a separate line through the pulley - with, as Dave says - a thicker rope for easier handling and knot untying. But instead of hanging the dry bag, if I have room in the boat, I carry a cheapie canvas duffle and put the food bag in it. That way the seams of dry bag don't have to withstand the pressure of hanging pounds of food (I had an old dry bag tear out on me once). Or if I have a gear bag to haul multiple dry bags from the boat to camp, I can put the dry bag with food in the gear bag and hoist that. I'm sure I could go the rest of my life without ever having another dry bag tear out on me. But still .....

I have two sizes of the BarVault and a Garcia Machine model - but they are not waterproof so have never used them with the boat. I probably bought them long ago in anticipation of hiking somewhere where they were required.

I must have had "beginner's luck" on Vargas because at that time the food bags were all of 4 ft off the ground (raccoon proof) when we saw wolf tracks in the sand, skirting the camp area, the next morning. Perhaps "night noises" made the wolf think there was a bigger, more ferocious critter nearby and it was best to move on.

I've had some flying creature with talons tear open a well hung nylon feedbag at night during a spring XC ski trip in YellowStone. And before I learned to never have food in the tent, I did have a mouse chew an access hole in the side of one.

Remember (those of you with fabric coolers) - Raccoons can open zippers.
I like Paul's canvas duffel trick. Keeps any food odors on one bag, more or less, as well as protecting things.

The wolf which ran our beach on the NW corner of Vargas left prints near our camp, but not amongst the tents, perhaps because we were pretty good on our food hygiene, or maybe because the landowner near us put a couple rifle rounds over its head earlier that summer, just to keep it away. Once they associate food with humans, it's over, although they learn quickly.