To reduce unwanted bear-human interactions, you need to keep human food away from bears. Secure food, trash, and scented toiletries like toothpaste, sunblock, or hand-sanitizer out of reach. The most common method to do so is a by hanging a bear bag. This also protects from other animals, like squirrels and raccoons.
There are several methods for hanging a bear bag. The basic method is to put your food in a nylon stuff sack with drawstring cord and tie it (or connect it with a carabiner) to a roll of lightweight 50 foot nylon cord. Tie one end of the cord to the stuff sack and the other to a rough edged rock that easily fits in your hand. You can also use a very small stuff sacks to hold the rock.
Select a tree at least 200 feet away from your tent that has a sturdy branch about 15 feet off the ground. Ideally, the bear bag should hang ten feet away from the trunk and 15 feet above the ground.
Hold the loosely coiled rope slack in one hand and throw rock above the sturdy branch. Once you've got the cord over the branch, hoist your food bag up with the free end. Tie off the free end to the tree trunk.
Established backcountry camps with a history of bear problems are sometimes equipped with bear wires, which allow you to clip your bag onto a metal wire and hoist it to the required height. Other camps have bear poles or bear caches.
You can also use a bear canister, which is heavier, bulkier, and more costly than bear bags. Some areas that require bear canisters offer them to visitors for free or a small fee.
Need a visual? Watch a video from the folks at Leave No Trace
For more bear hanging techniques see:
- Bear Proofing your Camp from The Backpacker's Field Manual by Rick Curtis.
- Bear Bag Hanging Techniques from Backpackinglight.com by Ryan Jordan.