hanging food in BWCA


we’ll be taking a trip into BWCA this sep. (Ely area. We are used to hanging the goodybag when wilderness camping, but I’ve heard conflicting reports concerning the lack of suitable trees for doing so. In that regard, we are considering a hard-shell bear container that can be cached away from camp.

Can anyone offer me any feedback concerning hanging - I’d rather not spend the extra $$$ or deal with the added bulk of a hard-shell container if there are suitable trees for hanging.

We’ll be in the mudro-horse-crooked lake area.

thanks in advance

Its hard on the tree

– Last Updated: Aug-27-08 4:26 PM EST –

If you find a suitable tree this is a very effective system to hang at the proper height a heavy container or bag


I usually use a 30l or 60l barrel and stash it out of camp. Food Habituated bears make the rounds and search out the same trees for hanging. If they have found dinner there before they will keep expecting it.

Since bears are good climbers getting the pack away from the tree is mandatory.

And odor free storage is your best preventitive. I havent gone to bear resistant canisters yet, not finding it necessary and they are expensive. I would need at least two for a 10 day solo.

Havent camped in the BWCA for 30 years so cant speak to local conditions. I usually go farther north where there is less camping and human impact.

Your biggest food stealers are small rodents. Soft side containers gotta be off the ground. Mice and ground squirrels can do a lot of damage to your menu.

hanging packs in the BW

– Last Updated: Aug-27-08 4:20 PM EST –

A food barrel is nice and I use one in the BWCA or Quetico whenever the group size and the number of days out allows me to fill one. Bear canisters aren't the norm in the BWCA, but go for it if you think you need one, especially if you have a use for one in your back country travels elsewhere. Otherwise if you're packing food in canvas or cordura food packs, my opinion is it is still best to hang them. Finding a suitable tree to hang a pack is usually not a problem at a campsite located where there are mature trees in the BWCA. However fires change the scene, so sometimes you won't have live mature trees with sturdy limbs available where you camp to hang a pack. One way to do this where there are smaller trees is to take two lengths of parachute cord and a 1" hardware store pulley for each food pack (about a 50 lb limit per pack on the parachute cord). Look for a couple 12" or bigger diameter trees within 25 ft of each other that have sturdy limb crotches that are at least 20 ft high off the ground. Throw the first line through one of the tree crotches and throw rope #2 through the other. Tie the pulley on one end of rope #1 and thread the second line through the pulley, then raise the pulley (making sure the ends of rope #2 stay on the ground) to about 10 feet from the crotch in the tree, and tie off rope #1 to keep the pulley at that height. Tie your pack to the end of rope #2 that is directly in line with the pulley; then raise your pack by pulling on the other end of rope #2 (that goes over the crotch of the tree) until the pack is suspended between the 2 trees no lower than 10 ft from the ground and no closer than 6 feet away from any tree trunk.

Our last camp site
We had trouble because it was full of young pines. So close together it was difficult-we finally sent my son up the tree with the rope. The other sites-no problems finding trees. We used the method that DMoose described. Sounds like you have experience, but for anyone new to getting the rope in the tree, do it as soon as you get into camp. It can be very time consuming when you are learning!!

Other method
I’ve done it the DM’s way often. It’s a great way. I’ve also stored the food in a scent proof bag, walked 100 yards or so away from the campsite, and stashed the bag.

You’ll need to do something, but a bear canister isn’t needed.

I just carry food and cooking gear
in a five gallon bucket with a gamma seal, screw on lid. Easy to pack on the portages and I just sit it in the woods away from camp at night. Never a problem.

My small trash bag goes in a tree. No problems either.

Unlesss you are in the burned area you will find a tree to hang a food pack. It is usualy relatively close, but sometimes it may be a 20th of a mile away. Don’t fret. I’ve been to the BW over 40 times and this is not a problem. Personally, I’ve gone to barrels and not hanging.

the area
The area you are going to be in shoukld be ok to hang.

Do you tie to a tree
or just move away from camp & stash it?

How far away from camp?

Have you had a bear mess with it?

Just curious. I have bear barrels but took a pack this last time.

Don’t hang don’t stash
I have a friend who doesn’t do either. He leaves his food in a pack on the ground by his tent and cook outfit sitting by the campfire. Jim has made many many trips to BW/Q and swears by his “method” and he has never been bothered by bears!

I hate the smirk he wears when I am tossing the rope or looking for a stash spot away from camp for my food.

And I am quietly waiting for the night when Yogi comes calling…

probably OK

– Last Updated: Sep-01-08 9:06 AM EST –

if all of the past campsite inhabitants have not done bear attractive things like gut fish on the campsite.

Your bear safety depends on the actions of prior campsite residents.

I have rejected many a campsite on evidence of past bad people behavior..Id rather go in the bush.

There is a cool bear vid out by Stephen Herrero based on bear behavior-Staying Safe in Bear Country. There are a number of things to consider and more than one way to respond.

As an aside I occasionally camp in country where bear are not habituated to humans and will follow their noses to interesting new things. In that case my food is far away from my tent to lessen the concentration of new things. Some bears are so curious and have all the sense of a two year old.

I don’t tie to a tree. I stash it away from camp in the brush (as opposed to next to camp trails). I had a bear in camp while I wasn’t in camp (also a couple while I was and I scared them off) years ago and and it tore up some clean cookware I had sitting near the fire pit. Claw holes in the pots and pans after I found them down a hill side 50 yards away. I figure tieing to a tree is a waste of time. They’ll rip it from the tree if they find it. Hide it off a ways where bears don’t walk into camp (they use the camp trails too). All said, I repack to lesson smells and don’t leave anything obviously smelly around camp and in the packs. I’m sure there are some smells they pick up, but I try. Hiding avoids the curiosity aspect of bears and packs. And, barrels avoid all the other critters that might eat into a pack (mice, chipmonks, etc.).

Bear activity
There is several lakes in BWCA having bear activity this summer. They are not only visiting campsites daily but also are hitting packs at portages and while they are still in the canoe. Current lakes that I know of for camp activity are; Ensign, Polly, South Arm of Knife Lake, Friday Bay, Iron and Agnes. At portages they were Eddy Ponds and Fourtown. Check with outfitter and Forest Service about activity.

plenty of good trees in that area.
I’ve camped in that area several times since the “big blow down” and that area was not efected. Trees everywhere, take your pick.