Coping with Bear Bags

Bear Bag in the distance.

I do not like bear bags. Well, that’s not strictly true. I’ve nothing against the bags or having to hoist all the camp food and ‘smellies’ up into the trees — I’ve stood and watched a raccoon climb a campground lighting pole and unceremoniously empty the bag item by item — so I know it’s a good idea. What I don’t like is hanging them, nor do I like stumbling around the forest in the dark looking for a ‘misplaced’ bag.

Wherever we decide to stop for the night when we are backpacking it takes me ages to find a suitable place to hang a bag the recommended 6′ from the trunk and 15′ up in the air. We’ll gloss over the additional fun of actually getting the line over the branch once I’ve found a suitable spot. The Ozarks at least provides a plentiful supply of rocks to use as a weight to carry the line over.

Back in August, during our Eclipse Backpacking trip there didn’t seem to be any trees in the entire forest with a stout branch below 40′. I was saved by one tree that had fallen onto another, giving me a chance of getting our bag up off of the ground.

Just my luck — Not a stout branch to be seen below at least 40′

It’s now one of the first things I do when making camp. I like to get the bear bag all set up ready before it’s too dark to find a suitable tree.

And that brings me to the purpose of this post. Having found a tree and got the line all set up, there is another challenge. And that is finding the tree and line again in the dark. After one night stumbling around in the dark in Piney Creek Wilderness I started hoisting an empty white bag up to mark the spot. It made it easier, but it was still surprisingly difficult to find the bag in the dark. Then we discovered reflective line. Reflective line has a highly reflective strip woven into it. In normal light, the reflective strip just looks grey, but shine a flashlight on it at the right angle and it lights up like fireworks.

Tip. To make it light up the light source needs to be lined up with your eyes, so a headlamp works well, and so does holding the flashlight on a level with your eyes

Reflective line. It looks even more impressive in the dark — when you can only see the white reflective dots.

In preparation for getting out this year I’ve just bought 50′ of bright fluorescent yellow line (for $8.00 on Amazon — search for Reflective Line). The previous line we had is now doing duty as tarp tie downs, which hopefully I’ll now see and not trip over in the dark. That line was dark green, making it a bit hard to spot in daylight, which is why I’ve brought the bright yellow line this time. I’ve also got an order in for some red line from another supplier. That line is almost twice as expensive $8.00 for 25′ I want to use that line for lanyards, making it easier to locate items in the dark.

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