Author Topic: Tying a bear hang: hitch to a tree under load, at an angle  (Read 3614 times)

camper

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Tying a bear hang: hitch to a tree under load, at an angle
« on: September 20, 2015, 07:47:30 PM »
Hi everyone,

I'm looking for knot advice for setting up a bear hang while backpacking. In a nutshell, the idea is to hoist your food and scented items, hanging them in tree to avoid bears and other creatures from getting into your stuff while you're sleeping. This is often done with the line being pulled over a branch, but some (myself included) hoist a block (pulley, for people googling) up first---same idea though.

Once you've hoisted your food up, you want to tie the line off to a tree, and the requirements for the knot are roughly as follows:
  • Tied under load (ideally easy to tie)
  • Ideally easy to untie too, after being pulled quite tight
  • Line comes in at a steep angle from the suspending branch
  • Probably tied with a bight, as by definition there is a lot of line on the ground and feeding the end through would take a long time (and more time is especially unpleasant under load)

What I've done in the past, and from my searching this seems to be the standard approach:

a. walk around the tree a couple of times to make turns around the tree, and (try to) tie a few half hitches to the standing end with a bight.

The motivation for doing something else: Those half hitches are not easy to tie because the standing end tends to be high up---that line is coming in at a steep angle after all. Some ideas I've had to improve this experience are:

b. Tie a constrictor or a bag knot with some of the lower turns around the tree, so one doesn't need to reach the standing end. (Note: there's an excellent thread on this forum about the bag knot vs the constrictor)

c. Pre-tie a shorter ('anchor') line around the target tree, done easily as it's not under load, and then tie the hoisting line to the that anchor line with a sheet bend. This would use the slip knot method of tying a sheet bend*, with the slip knot in the hoisting line so as to be done on a bight.


My concerns with the aforementioned methods are as follows:

As mentioned in the motivation, a is difficult to tie with the standing end high up.

Both a and b have multiple turns around the tree with the hoisting line, usually with the rest of the line following in tow forming the counter-helix (dragging on the ground, as you aren't hoisting a heavy load and coiling the line at the same time), which is cumbersome in practice when it comes to lowering the bear hang.

b I expect friction would make it difficult to tighten this constrictor/bag knot---the preceding turns make it tough to tighten the standing end, and tightening from the tail is problematic as well since slack needs to be added and removed from two turns around the tree. Also, getting enough turns in to stop the line from unwinding from around the tree exasperates the concern mentioned in the previous paragraph. For reference, there's some discussion about tying off to a lower turn in basically the same configuration, on this forum already**.

c requires an additional line and additional set up time. That said, the hassle of c may be amortized over multiple uses at the same location, possibly being net-convenient when camping at the same site for multiple nights. I haven't come across c described elsewhere online so I went into extra detail in this post.


My questions:
  • Are there any additional concerns a backpacker should have with any of these methods?
  • Is there a better knot to use than a constrictor or bag knot used in option b, making it easier to tie off to a lower turn with a bunch of preceding turns already in place?
  • Are there other good options that a backpacker should consider?



* This note will be obvious to regulars on this forum, but I'm including it for campers who come across this thread, and who might not otherwise notice the difference in sheet bend configurations. A slip knot is made on the hoisting line, feeding the end of the anchor through the slip knot, and then capsizing the slip knot into a sheet bend. Note that you don't need to feed the end of the hoisting line through for this, feeding only happens with the short anchor line. Also note that the slip knot should be formed such that the loop gets smaller when pulling on the standing end (the end that goes up to the food bag), and with attention paid to the direction the anchor line is inserted, so the result is a secure sheet bend rather than a left-handed one. There is a right way and a wrong way to tie this, and it's easier to figure out how that works by trying it a couple times at home rather than a text explanation or a rote-memorized diagram.

** In that thread knot4u suggests a Marline Hitch rather than a helix of turns, which is problematic in this application with such a long standing end and a large diameter tree.

Edited to fix dash formatting
« Last Edit: September 21, 2015, 03:02:22 AM by camper »

roo

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Re: Tying a bear hang: hitch to a tree under load, at an angle
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2015, 10:52:07 PM »
Have you tried the counterbalance method?:

http://www.princeton.edu/~oa/training/bearbag.shtml  (figure 6.27)
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camper

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Re: Tying a bear hang: hitch to a tree under load, at an angle
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2015, 02:50:28 AM »
Have you tried the counterbalance method?:

I have not, and that's a great option roo! Thanks for pointing that out, it's definitely outside the box.

Counterbalancing requires a sturdy branch, about twice as high as the final hanging height, extending far from the tree. When that's available, the counterbalance method is a great way to avoid the knot troubles altogether. I'm usually around smaller trees, so suspending a block between two trees is my typical approach for keeping the cache far from tree trunks. But speaking of avoiding that difficult hitch completely, there are some bear-proof containers available on the market which can simply be secured (tie close to the ground on a tree trunk, so the container isn't carried away) a distance from your camp site. They're pricey but some are lightweight, including a bag made from tightly-woven spectra.

Any other options for when the tricky hitch (namely, attaching loaded line at a steep angle to a tree) needs to be tied?

roo

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Re: Tying a bear hang: hitch to a tree under load, at an angle
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2015, 05:18:03 AM »

 I'm usually around smaller trees, so suspending a block between two trees is my typical approach for keeping the cache far from tree trunks.[...].

Any other options for when the tricky hitch (namely, attaching loaded line at a steep angle to a tree) needs to be tied?
You could screw an anchor into the tree trunk or you could tie a separate anchor line to the tree with a loop available for the bag line (later) as you mentioned. 

For example, using a relatively short rope, you could make a few turns and finish with a Gnat Hitch, snugging everything up.  Then tie a bowline close to the Gnat Hitch so you have something to reeve your bag line through.  That way, you can just pass the tensioned line through the loop a few times rather than trying to tie a bend with a tensioned line.

I would tend to prefer keeping all parts of the system out of the reach of the bear.
« Last Edit: September 21, 2015, 05:31:40 AM by roo »
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Ruby

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Z

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Re: Tying a bear hang: hitch to a tree under load, at an angle
« Reply #5 on: September 22, 2015, 05:22:14 PM »
Based only on visual examination, I like that PCT method over the counter-balance method. The PCT method looks simpler, more easily adjustable, and harder for a bear to hack.

Off topic, I have a friend who recently got into real hiking and camping.  (He likes to go on 5-day trips, hiking and camping over 50 miles.)  I'm certain he is not thinking about a bear bag or a triangle.  I'll have to talk to him about this.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2015, 05:23:58 PM by Z »
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roo

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Re: Tying a bear hang: hitch to a tree under load, at an angle
« Reply #6 on: September 22, 2015, 06:46:49 PM »
Based only on visual examination, I like that PCT method over the counter-balance method. The PCT method looks simpler, more easily adjustable, and harder for a bear to hack.
Except that the bear can pull the rope and possibly break off the limb or slide the load down the limb. 
« Last Edit: June 06, 2017, 11:52:29 PM by roo »
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Z

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Re: Tying a bear hang: hitch to a tree under load, at an angle
« Reply #7 on: September 22, 2015, 08:22:24 PM »
Based only on visual examination, I like that PCT method over the counter-balance method. The PCT method looks simpler, more easily adjustable, and harder for a bear to hack.
Except that the bear can pull the rope and possible break off the limb or slide the load down the limb.

So, there is no hanging rope with the counterbalance method? Are you supposed to wrap the rope around the second bag or something?

By the way, with the PCT method, the hanging rope portion could be 550 paracord.  I doubt a bear could do anything with that.  Still, I get what you're saying.  Having no rope hanging would be better.
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roo

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Re: Tying a bear hang: hitch to a tree under load, at an angle
« Reply #8 on: September 22, 2015, 08:45:30 PM »
So, there is no hanging rope with the counterbalance method?
Correct.  You need a long  stick or pole with a hook to pull a loop to overcome the balance.
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