If you like inspirational stories, you’ll love this one. Derick and his brother show us that the “trail” is never that far away from us and if you have the desire, you will find it. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy puts together another AT Story about two brothers and their willingness to get on the trail.
Derick quit his New York City life to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in 2012. Now he wants to share the Trail with his brother, a first-time backpacker.
“Trail Brothers” is the first story in our myATstory video series. Over the next six months, we will showcase inspiring tales from some of these unique individuals about how the A.T. has changed their lives forever.
Visit appalachiantrail.org/myATstory/contest today to share your story
I created TheBackpackerTV because of my passion for the outdoors and seeing nature up close and personal. To inspire, and share all of our experiences so we can bring people closer to the wonders and awe of the outdoors. After 20 years of backpacking I decided to share everything I know, (and I’m still learning).
Started backpacking in 1997, and had an excellent teacher. After my first solo hike through the Smokey Mountain National Park, I was ready for more. In 2003 I Thru-Hiked the Appalachian Trail and since never looked back. I’ve backpacked all over the country and was even lost in the Sycamore Wilderness Canyon one time. (that was a close one).
A few years ago, I spent the weekend taking a high level Wilderness Survival Class where we all spent 25 minutes laying in a cold creek to learn how to get warm again. (Yikes)!
I’ve been asked twice by the Discovery Network to do a survival show, and have personally talked with some of their Producers.
Ariane and I now teach backpacking and are Guides for Full Moon Adventures. We travel around the country in a renovated 1976 Airstream meeting people who all love the outdoors. Hopefully, that will be you!
In this episode, Scott and Ariane discuss what to look for when choosing a tent or other shelter. They also chat about different shelter systems like, Hammocks and Tarps, and what is best for you.
Choosing the right shelter can be tricky, since there are so many too choose from. Answering a few questions first however may help:
Where you will be using it?
How many people will you be sharing it with? (dogs included)
How important is weight to you?
They also discuss some epic failures with their own gear, and why they have chosen a Tarp over everything else.
Don’t get caught up in the hype
Do your research! Online maybe the best way to go
I fell out of my hammock
My tent is leaking
They also discuss that people that are only going out one time, shouldn’t spend thousands of dollars on gear. As promised in their podcast, sometimes renting gear is the best option. www.lowergear.com is a good place to start when looking to rent gear. Also, sometimes your local outfitter will rent gear.
Do you have Hammock, Tent, or Tarp stories you would like to share? Or maybe a question? We love to hear, and always get back asap. See you next week.
Recently we had the pleasure of touching base with Film Director Garrett Martin who is the brainstorm behind the project UNBOUNDED: Patagonia Documentary We were fascinated about how 4 people came together and said “yes” to trekking through Patagonia, not to mention trekking over 350 miles. We also wanted to know more about how to help promote his Kickstarter Project that is raising money for the Conservacion Patagonica, an organization that works to establish national parks in Patagonia for the protection and restoration of the environment and wildlife of the area
In this interview, Ariane Petrucci and Scott Janz discuss how he came up with the idea, when it starts, and how he got 4 people to participate in the film.
From the Unbounded Web Site:
‘Unbounded’ is an adventure-travel documentary following an unaided crew of four hailing from different corners of the globe as they hike and pack-raft over 1,500 km through the Patagonian region of South America. The expedition will take place from mid-December to mid-April, documenting the extreme and unique conditions of Patagonia and the surrounding area. The crew will base their trip along the “Greater Patagonian Trail,” (see below) trekking it in its entirety until their journey comes to an end in Patagonia National Park.
The interview that last’s about 15 minutes has some very cool moments as Garrett explains how he got the idea for the show. The film starts shooting in December of 2016. It was really fun to meet Garrett and we really hope that the whole team at Unbounded have a safe and exciting time on thier adventure.
To learn how you can help his project, please go visit his Kickstarter Project and help them raise some funds.
We love projects that Inspire the outdoors. More Than Just Parks does just that. Their video’s are simply beautiful and breathtaking.
More Than Just Parks is a project started by brothers and filmmakers Will Pattiz & Jim Pattiz, founders of Sea Raven Media. This project was born out of their love for the National Parks and enthusiasm for engaging multimedia. The goal of our project is to share the wonders of our national parks with as many people as we can, thereby ensuring their continued protection and enjoyment for generations to come.
This video is the culmination of more than two weeks spent exploring Joshua Tree National Park. We chose Joshua Tree because of its unique landscape. Its immense boulder piles, colorful cactus fields, endless desert expanses, and unusual Joshua trees make for a spectacular setting.
Our journey started in the Joshua tree fields of Black Rock Canyon. From there we hiked, camped, backpacked, and drove all around the park, ending up where our journey began. Scroll down to learn more about our journey through the park including filming locations, equipment we used, photos, and more.
For more information on how to become involved in their project or furthering our efforts in any way please feel free to shoot us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org, and/or donate to our cause!
Backpacking in the late Fall, or early Winter is unlike any other season of the year, for obvious reasons. There are definitely some gear changes that need you need to be aware of. Not to mention, it’s COLDER. When I go backpacking in the Winter, temps can get down into the teens at night. That by definition is Winter? It’s important to understand that depending on what region are you backpacking in, could be the difference in what gear you bring. The Southeast (where I am) is different than Northeast, or the Pacific Northwest. Is packing for a 20 degree night in the Southeast the same as packing for a 20 degree night in the Northeast? Probably not. Why? In the Southeast, it maybe cold at night, but it certainly warms up during the day. So your layering system maybe a little different.
Backpacking for Winter requires careful thought and planning. Weather and elevation are going to play key factors in how you pack for your trip. In the Southeast for example you are probably NOT going to run into 2 feet of snow. In the Northeast, I would makes sure I brought Snowshoes. Unlikely in the Southeast. Packing for cold nights and warm days can be tricky in of itself. Many times, it’s really cold in the morning. But once I get going, I’m pretty toasty warm
TIP: Learn the 3 layering system. This is essential when backpacking in cold temps.
I was quite warm under a tarp recently when the temps got down to 15 degrees at night. I had 3 layers and a 15 degree Marmot Adventurer sleeping bag with a 2mm ground cloth and a Long Thermarest underneath. However, during the day when temps reached a balmy 45 degrees, I had only 2 layers and never over heated.
My total pack weight was 28 pounds for two cold nights and 3 days in the 40’s. Having said that, I mixed Winter gear with Fall gear. In other words, I didn’t take snowshoes, snow stakes, a white gas stove, nor winter down snow pants.
Here is my clothing pack list for the Southeast:
Long sleeve base layer REI Midweight Polartec® Power Dry® Zip-T
Mid layer Delta AR Zip Men’s
Nail Driver Soft Shell Pants (these are excellent for cold nights and warm days) You will NOT need long johns with these.
First Ascent Downlight Jacket for camp. (I sleep in this and adds an extra R Value to my sleeping Bag. It’s also extremely packable) (look for a good deal on Ebay for this item)
Smart Wool Winter Socks
NorthFace Tent Bootie
Mountain Hardwear Balaclav
Wool Hat, and gloves.
One added piece of gear I brought but didn’t use, but I think is necessary is my Marmot Greenland Baffled Jacket. I bring this for two reasons. One, it makes a great pillow, and two, weather can change quickly in the mountains, so I bring an 800 fill jacket for the “just in case” scenario. If I don’t use it, my dog uses it as a sleeping bag.
And NEVER forget your Hardshell or Rain Jacket. I bring a Marmot Precip Jacket no matter what season it is. Your rain jacket works as a wind breaker and really stops the cold whipping wind from chilling you to the core. It also makes a great pillow.
This gear list would obviously change in high altitude conditions when snow and high winds would be prevalent. For Appalachian Trail Thru Hikers, who plan to start hiking early in the year, this gear list would work nicely for you.
It’s that time of year again. We start dusting off our Fall and Winter gear and start thinking of cold weather hiking/backpacking. So many people overlook the importance of a good quality warm hat. Keeping your head warm in the cold weather is important, but it also depends on a number of other factors, including how thick your hair is and how much energy you use in the cold. In other words, your beanie hat is only a part of the equation in staying warm.
The ratio of the surface area of a child’s head relative to the child’s body surface area is much greater than that of an adult. Our young hikers, lose an even amount of heat through their heads (less hair). Hoods and hats are more important to children because of this.
Of course buying a good beanie is still a very important decision. Only us beanie fashionista’s understand this.
There are generally 3 types:
Traditional hand-knit beanies – This type goes into my personal fav list. There is nothing like a homemade beanie to wear proudly on the trail. The crazier the better.
Synthetics (Fleece, or Polyester) – These are great. Make sure you keep them dry however. Beanies made of fleece are generally great windblockers, and provide better insulation in breezy conditions. Polyester beanies are great for wicking moisture, which helps perspiration evaporate during a hard hike up that mountain.
Merino Wool is usually the softer material and combines both the knit feel and the fleece feel. The nice thing about Merino Wool, is it can get moist and still keep it’s R-Value keeping your head warm. They are also a bit cheaper of the other two options.
Of course, there are often times I wear a ball cap. On a rainy day (especially a down pour), I find wearing a ball cap keeps my rain jacket hood from falling on my face. Ball Caps are a good choice to wear when the rain really starts falling. The trade off is letting my Ball Cap get soaking wet, but keeping my beanies nice and dry. I often keep a beanie on when I sleep in cold temps. So when picking a Ball Cap, I totally go Synthetic. This let’s my Ball Cap dry very fast. Even if it’s doesn’t dry right away, it still feels better putting it back on then a soaking wet beanie.
There are other options also.
All of these have their purpose. It comes down to what makes YOU feel comfortable and what you can live with when temps drop.
Picking the right beanie is important, but also knowing how to layer your clothing system is essential. Feeling comfortable on a cold rainy, snowy day, will make you a happy hiker.
Affectionately known by the lightweight hiking underground as the “PCT Method” (presumably because it was first used by long distance hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail), a bear bag hanging method exists that is lighter, requires less rope, offers the benefits of counterbalancing, is easier to set up, and offers simple and quick hanging and retrieval of your food.
You can make your own system quite easily by assembling the following components:
* Food storage bag
* 40 feet of hanging rope
* Keychain carabiner
* Small stuff sack for a rock (“rock sack”)
* Pencil-sized twig about 4-6 inches long.
Bryan DeLay has 30 years experience in the backcountry and shows us in this video produced by thebackacker.tv, the PCT method of properly hanging a bear bag. Bryan also is a lightweight backpacker and understands that the PCT method can sometimes be the most effective way. and quickest way when your looking for the perfect limb to hang your bag.
How do hand your food bag?
You’ve been trekking all day in the wilderness. Your tired, sore and ready to get into your sleeping bag. The campsite is a important part of your backpacking experience. A good campsite definitely contributes to a great trip…and a poor campsite can make your trip more difficult. The rule of thumb is to understand Leave No Trace principals to guide you in your decision.
First and foremost, (if your planning a backpacking trip in a National Park) you will have to fill out an Itinerary, or apply for a Backcountry Permit. In this case, your choice is made for you. However, in a designated Wilderness Area, backcountry sites can be subject to different rules and regulations depending on that designated area. Generally, backcountry camping is recommended at least 200 feet from Meadows, lakeshores, and streams. If you are in a designated Wilderness Area, here are some things to look for: TIPS from LNT
Sometimes however, a made campsite is ok, IF you understand that you have to clear all evidence that you have been there. This is the quintessential guide for Leave NO Trace. There are sometimes when making your own camp area is necessarily if you just can’t make it to where you want to go.
There are other key things to remember also:
Water sources nearby? And, will it be easy to get water?
Disposing of waste. Make sure you have plenty of room and 200 feet from water sources.
Look for dead trees nearby. You don’t want to pitch your tent under a dead or dying limb
Speaking of tree limbs, are there adequete limbs to hang your Bear Bag?
Know the rules & regulations of the area that you will be backpacking in. ALL Wilderness Area’s have their own PDF sites to help you plan and prepare your trip.
Remember that practicing Leave No Trace makes a fun and safe trip for the next person who meanders into that camp area. It also protects the wildlife.
See you on the Trail.
Backpacking food is a broad subject. Each person has their own unique likes and dislikes. In this episode, Scott & Ariane tackle the Freeze Dried Food Myth and talk about alternatives’s that are available in your local grocery store. Don’t throw away your Mountain House bags! Recycle them, and use them for other foods that need to be re-hydrated and save some money.
They also discuss which foods to bring in what Season. What foods will keep you warm in Winter? What foods will keep you hydrated in the Summer?
Never bother Ariane while she’s eating
Creme brulee – the best desert ever!
Knorr foods – get creative!
The Pickle Pop is amazing!
Have a favorite backcountry recipe or foodie? Share with us in comments below. We would love to see them. Subscribe in iTunes and get this podcast every Thursday in your feed.
Fall is when most hikers, backpackers, and campers really get motivated to get out into nature and soak in all the colors of the Season. So we put together the top 5 backpacking destination to see spectacular fall colors and hike some amazing trails. We stayed within the Midwest, and Southeast and judged on easy to park, trail head access, and fall views.
If you had to pick the best trail to go backpacking on, where would you pick? We pick the top 10 Backpacking experiences in North America. The criteria we to pick the top ten was simple. Views, the length of hike, and difficultly. First we looked at views. What would a backpacker experience in the Backcounty when hiking a specific trail? How long is the trail itself? We thought it best to stick with a trail that would take at least a weekend to complete. Of course, we looked at how difficult was the hike going to be. As an avid Backpacker, I tend to look for a more “strenuous” hike. So getting the blood pumping was the thought here.
Here is our TOP TEN LIST:
10: KAIBAB TRAIL – Grand Canyon, Arizona – South Rim to North Rim adventure, real risk of heat stroke! 3 days is ideal 20.6mi plus sidetrips. WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? This is the only trail in the Park, including Bright Angel, maintained consistently the hike crosses the only bridge spanning the Colorado River. Best time to hike is Spring, or Fall. Bring lots of water, and NEVER try backpacking this trail without the proper permits.
9: PARIA CANYON– Arizona/Utah, canyon walk in knee-deep water, some risk of flash floods, minimum 4 days, 3 nights, 37.5mi WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? High, colorful, sculpted red-rock walls, walking in knee deep water is fun, if you have good shoes, pictographs & historical artifacts. Better get your permit now because only 20 hikers are allowed in at any given time.
8: TETON CREST TRAIL-Wyoming. 3-5 days depending on route 31-40 mi depending on route WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? Grand views of the toothy Tetons, the most striking range in the Rockies, the challenge of several high passes, and good chance to see marmot, American Bison, Moose, Pronghorn, Wapiti (elk), or Mule Deer in the Park.
7: CHILKOOT TRAIL– Alaska. Just on the first day (Sheep to Happy) is long and exhausting! 5 days, 4 nights recommended, 33miles. WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? An astonishingly wide variety of terrain and scenery. Temperate rain forest to high alpine to boreal forest, and the hike is well managed with full-time maintenance
6: THE FLORIDA TRAIL Florida. Hit this Trail and a collection of loop and linear trails on public lands throughout Florida. 1,400 mile trail. WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? Trail heads are all close to main roads, climate is good, although hot. Well maintained trail. Be prepared to hike a long distance in water.
5: Mt. WHITNEY TRAIL California – 3 days, 2 nights is ideal due to altitude 22mi round trip with an elevation gain of 6100ft WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? No climbing gear needed surprisingly easy if you get good weather it’s a beautiful and impressive peak. Permits are hard to get however, so apply early and be prepared.
4: COLORADO TRAIL Colorado. Thru hikers should allow at least 4 – 6 weeks between late June and early September to cover the entire 483 miles. WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? CT offers a wide range of elevations and levels of difficulty, accommodating a variety of skill levels and hiking preferences. Awesome Views. Colorado is a awesome state to live in, let along hike through.
3: THE LONG TRAIL Vermont. With its 270-mile footpath, 175 miles of side trails, and nearly 70 primitive shelters, the Long Trail offers endless hiking opportunities for the day hiker, weekend overnighter, and extended backpacker. Do this in the Fall, and you may find yourself moving to Vermont.
2: APPALACHIAN TRAIL Georgia – Maine. After completing this hike in 2003, there is no way this can be off our top 10 list. This 13 state trek is about is as close to finding a new family than actually being adopted by one. The community of this trail is a magical experience. WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? The Appalachian Trail offers a variety of hikes. Day hikes, Thru-Hikes, Section Hikes, it has a different hike for everyone. It makes no difference whether you are a pro hiker or a beginner. This is America’s Trail.
1: PACIFIC CREST TRAIL Zigzagging its way from Mexico to Canada through California, Oregon and Washington the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) boasts the greatest elevation changes of any of America’s National Scenic Trails, allowing it to pass through six out of seven of North America’s ecozones including high and low desert, old-growth forest and artic-alpine country. Indeed, the PCT is a trail of diversity and extremes. WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE? From scorching desert valleys in Southern California to rain forests in the Pacific Northwest, the PCT offers hikers a unique, varied experience.
If you have favorite trails that you think should be on our list, let us know. OR, wanna write your own favorite list? Apply to become a Trail Blogger with us.
Backpacking in the Grand Canyon has always been a bucket list trip for me. But never did I think the opportunity would present itself to lead a trip into her grandness. We could have done something a bit more touristy like backpacking from the South Rim and some of the more popular routes. But that’s just NOT how we role.
I was able to secure permits for the North Rim and the Thunder River Deer Creek route. The route is a favorite of some guiding companies that take people down into the Canyon. It’s hard, but doable. It’s also a route where water (in the Spring and Fall) is plenty full. However, make NO MISTAKE about it. You will HAVE to cache your water on the way down, to make it back up without dehydration taking place.
You would think finding a 50 mile wide gap in the earth would be easy. Not so much coming through the dense Kaibab National Forest. The North Rim is deceptive, and it took us a lot longer to find Monument Point where are trip begins. We left Flagstaff, AZ early in the wee hours of the morning to get to the North Rim by 9:00 AM (to beat the heat of the sun). We got lost of course and didn’t get to the Bill Hall Trail Head until 11:30.
Bill Hall Trail Head to the Thunder River Trail. The Bill Hall trail traverses down 3,000 feet into the Esplanade where you can camp for the night. This is where you need to cache your water. There is NO water at the Esplanade and you still need to hike down another 3,000 feet to water. The Esplanade will also be the place you come back up. Remember NO WATER. There is a nice cave to camp in on the Esplanade to take in the view of the canyon. It’s on the way to the RED WALL where the drop really starts. When you get to the Trail Head of the Bill Hall and Thunder River trail, keep going about another mile or so and look for hiding spots to cache water. This is also the place where guides cache their water also.
The Thunder River Trail treks to the RED WALL where you will have about 52 or so switchbacks down to Surprise Valley. OH, you’ll see the Colorado River right before you make your way down, and say “oh wow we’re close”. NO NO NO. You still have a FULL DAY. The trail is very rocky and slippery. Watch your step while going down the Red Wall. The views however are amazing!
Surprise Valley: Do why they call it that? Because people thought they were close to the River…”surprise”.
Thunder River Trail to Tapeats Creek: There are two campgrounds. Upper Tapeats, and Lower Tapeats (PDF). Always choose Lower Tapeats. It’s on the Colorado River. Upper is NOT. However, both campsites only accommodate a few tents. Make sure you understand you maybe sharing a tent on this route.
Thunder River is the smallest river in the World. Only about 1,200 feet when it hits Tapeats Creek. Stop and have a good lunch at Thunder River. You can get some shade under the trees and stand right next to the thunderous stream of water shooting out of the side of the Grand Canyon. After lunch be prepared for some strenuous backpacking. The Thunder River trail crosses the Tapeats Creek twice (which is flowing pretty damn good in the Spring). You will be on a amazing ridge going up, then coming back down to cross the Tapeats again. You will then go way up about 800 feet to see the Colorado River and Lower Tapeats Campsite. (which looks really tiny when you way up there) Dropping down 800 feet to get to Lower Tapeats will probably take your breath away and pray that you don’t slip. (Just sayin, it’s steep).
Relax, you on the Colorado River, and congrats, it’s taken you two days to hike 10 miles.
You have two options at this point. Hike up and connect to the Deer Creek Trail on Surprise Valley. OR backpack along the Colorado River on a “route”, (that is not marked by the NPS by the way). Follow the Carrins to Deer Creek which is only 3 miles away. This route has it’s challenges. You should pack a 50 foot cord on this trip also. There are few places where you may have to scramble and hoist your backpack up or down. This route is one of them. You will climb away from the Colorado River when you start getting close to Deer Creek.
Deer Creek. It really is an oasis. You scramble down into the “Patio” and think it’s something out of Vegas. Almost looks man made it’s so perfect. This is where you are brought the “gift” of Mother Nature. One of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Follow the Deer Creek through the Patio where the creek has cut a huge gorge through the Canyon. The trail can get narrow, but you will soon come out to one of the most scenic views in the Grand Canyon. Hike down another 800 feet to a waterfall that empties into the Colorado River.
Take a day off and enjoy this amazing desert oasis because you are gonna have to climb back up to 8,000 feet.
The Deer Creek trail leaves the campground and goes up, up, up. Take time to read your map. It can be a bit tricky because it doesn’t look like you can hike up over the ridge. After you get on the ridge the trail is quite tiny in width. But it’s not long until you are in Surprise Valley again and hiking back up the Red Wall.
Here is the NPS route info:(pdf)
Bill Hall Trail (down)
Thunder River Trail (down)
Colorado River (Route) (across)
Deer Creek Trail (up)
Thunder River Trail (up)
Bill Hall Trail (up) and out![geo mashup]
As an outdoor Instructor and someone who has backpacked for a long time, I often hear a ton of excuses as to why people just can’t find the time to spend a weekend outdoors. With the “healthy living” movement, you would think that people would be rushing outdoors to get their “hike on”. But actually, people are spending more time indoors than outdoors.
In a article published in the LA Times James Cambell wrote:
Are we as Americans actually losing our connection to the outdoors? Conservation ecologist Patricia Zaradic of the Environmental Leadership Program and conservation biologist Oliver Pergams of the University of Illinois at Chicago have documented a disturbing trend of declining per-capita visits to national parks and forests, drops in park attendance, and other sliding indicators of nature recreation since the late 1980s. They see at work a fundamental cultural shift away from nature.
But the Healthy Lifestyle is growing…
According to www.franchisehelp.com “People will spend hundreds of hard earned money each year to get healthy. In fact, one out of every five Americans are heading to the gym, or at least paying for a membership. Which puts the fitness industry in a pretty sweet spot: a largely unhealthy and overweight population is looking for ways to get in shape. Whether it’s pumping iron like our forefathers or the newest trampoline workout – there is an immense appetite for exercise. Over 54 million Americans paid gym membership fees in 2014, and for the second year in a row actual visits to the gyms exceeded 5 billion! The average member visited their club over 100 times, an all-time high. Memberships have grown 18.6% between 2008 and 2014, and the trend continued in 2015”
Going to the Gym is GREAT, and definitely a hand clap is appropriate here. (hands clapping). But where does your Vitamin D come from unless they have put treadmill outside? What about your psychological health? Your mental health? Isn’t that part of “the healthy lifestyle?” It doesn’t do anyone any good if we are in great psychical shape if our stress level at work is through the roof.
In an article written by PAUL G. MATTIUZZI, PH.D. http://www.everydaypsychology.com/ he explains the need to “CLEAN YOUR BRAIN”. He writes:
“Psychological health is important with respect to how we function and adapt, and with respect to whether our lives are satisfying and productive. In the end, psychological health and well-being basically has to do with the question: “how are you doing?”
If your answer is “Not Good”, then maybe a dose of extreme Nature is what you need. This is why WE think that maybe you should take your workout on the Trail. (with a backpack on of course)
If you are spending time indoors and not out on the trail. New research say’s that is NOT OK.
In an Article published on http://www.healthline.com/ Vitamin D fights disease. In addition to its primary benefits, research suggests that vitamin D may also play a role in:
D fights depression
Research has shown that vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression. In one study, scientists found that people with depression who received vitamin D supplements noticed an improvement in their symptoms.
Healthy Living is a balance between eating right, exercise and “cleaning your brain”. The “trail” offers all those and much more. So next time you get that Gym Membership bill in the mail, or your feeling completely stressed out, or maybe even think you need to drop a few pounds. Remember, the trail is always near by, patiently waiting for you to partake. So tear up that bill, get your gear on, pack a pack, and get out there.
Bear Canisters and the governing rule to carry them in some wilderness areas and on some parts of our National Park Trails has come to some debate recently. Are they working to keep Bears from associating people (backpackers) with food? Each governing agencies have different rules regarding their canister requirements in different parts of the backcountry. National Park Service, or Federal Wilderness Agencies each can post different requirements. For example: On some parts of the Appalachian Trail, Thru-Hikers are required to carry a Bear Canister IF you camp on that section of the AT. While in other Wilderness Area’s you are required to carry a Bear Canister at all times.
The question then is: Are Bear Canisters really necessary in order to protect your food, protect the bear, and protect the next backcountry user? In our opinion the answer is “NO”. We think we could make them obsolete if everyone practiced “wildlife avoidance” techniques and mastered the hanging your food bag the right way. Of course Bear Canisters were specially made so that novice backpackers could keep their food safe and have hopefully keeping a Bear alive.
Bear Canisters for obvious reasons are made and enforced to protect the BEAR, NOT YOU. After all, if a “problem Bear” get’s into your food or challenges you for your food, more than likely that bear is a dead bear. YOU on the other hand hike out hungry and probably a little scared, but alive. All to often (especially in the Smokies) do we hear that Bears have been put down for being too aggressive for food. Which raises a different debate: Are Bears starting to learn that people in the backcountry equals food for THEM? YIKES!
The worst we witness for “wildlife avoidance” is seen on a regular basis at AT Trail Shelters. They are literally becoming a den of garbage with food everywhere. Which is why I NEVER camp in them anymore. Here are a few tips to practice “Wildlife Avoidance”.
We looked for some good tips on “wildlife/bear avoidance” and found a great article by Andrew Skurka:
“DON’T camp where you cook. Cook at least a few hundred yards away from your campsite, downwind, preferably in an airy area where there is a gentle breeze to disperse the scents.
DON’T camp in established sites or near popular trails. The bears live in the backcountry (duh!), and they know exactly where their “neighbors” live. And in heavy-use areas, it is more likely that a previous backcountry user has acted improperly and encouraged problem bear behavior (e.g. by leaving trash at their campsite, or leaving food unprotected on a log while they went to get water or watch the sunset). Bears are more likely to visit these areas regularly because they know their odds of obtaining an easy meal are better.
TRY and camp in un-designated, non-established sites. However, make sure you practice LNT and cover up your camp area when you pack up. When the bears make their evening “rounds,” they are less likely to come across you. If you are in an area where camping in designated areas is required (e.g. Glacier, the Smokies and Yellowstone National Parks), this is sometimes not possible, but thankfully there is usually good food-protection infrastructure at these sites.
CARRY food in odor-proof bags. These bags (such as the OP Sacks from Watchful Eye Designs) will help make me “invisible” to the bears.
DISPOSE YOUR TRASH ASAP. Bears have a great nose. Your trash smells and lingers odors. Again, having a Odor-proof bags for trash is a good idea also, and make sure you constantly are disposing trash regularly.”
DO NOT THINK that throwing your trash in the fire is preventing wildlife from eating your garbage. My domesticated Dog goes right to the fire pit every time we go backpacking. If my dog knows the smell of food in the fire pit so does every other wildlife that lives there. Burning your trash is bad for the environment and doesn’t work to deter bear encounters. I had a Bear right behind me one time savaging through another fire pit. Also, don’t think that just because you are caring a Bear Canister that you are safe from Bears getting into your stuff. If you are cooking next to your tent, with your Bear Canister right next to you, what difference does it make that you have a Bear Canister? The Bear (who smells the food soaked into your nylon tent) will just make a grab for your tent. Sometimes with you in it. They’ll also (often) carry off your backpack also. But hey! your food will be safe I guess. 🙂
Having said all that: My take on canisters is this… They are heavy, bulky, expensive, and they are uncomfortable to carry their cylindrical shape that fits awkwardly in small packs. Andrew Skurka
We agree! Canisters would be unnecessary if everyone practiced the “wildlife avoidance” techniques described above and mastered the (video) PCT Bear Hang Method.
We need to be good stewards of our outdoor environment. Which means protecting wildlife from being put down because you were too lazy to cook away from a Shelter or Tent. We have it in our control to eliminate the need for Bear Canisters if we want to. Bears are usually the victims of the “food” issues. But practicing good habits, also protect your food from Mice, Raccoons, Marmot, and all other little pesky creatures lurking for YOUR food in the night.
Let us know what you think?
With the rise in media attention about the Appalachian Trail such as books, and recent movies (A Walk In The Woods) Baxter State Park is worried about the influx of traffic already a problem in the pristine part of Maine.
Trail officials, like Polfus, are working with park leaders to alleviate chronic friction points, such as litter, alcohol and drug use on the trail, as well as large groups ascending Baxter Peak to party in celebration of the mammoth journey. Too many thru-hikers are inviting large parties into campgrounds set aside for trail hikers, and bringing dogs falsely marked as service animals, said Jensen Bissell, the park’s director.
“We are concerned that any significant increase [in AT hikers in Baxter] will strain the current system beyond its capacity,” Bissell wrote. Park officials “do not plan on expanding lodging availability or staffing effort for AT hikers in Baxter Park.”
So, to get more Thru-Hikers aware of Baxter, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy asked Hikers what they new of Baxter State Park. In the first episode of our Trail Talk series, we ask 2016 Appalachian Trail thru-hikers: what do you know about Baxter State Park and ethical hiking practices?
More videos from Appalachian Trail Conservancy
Bryan Delay has 30 years of backpacking experience and has done all 900 miles of trails in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. 6 years ago we made a popular video on How to Hang a Bear Bag PCT style. With over 75.000 views, Bryan is back with even a new and improved version of “Hanging a Bear Bag”.
This video is a description of hanging a bear bag using two cords and a ring (2CR method).
The line used to throw over the limb (“Throw Line”) is about 50 feet of 1.75 MM Zing It cord which can be found at this link:
The line that goes through the ring and used pull up the food bag (“Pull Line”) is about 30 feet of 2 MM Aircore Spectra Plus, which can be hard to find so any 2 MM utility cord will work. I prefer a 2 MM utility cord as a Pull Line since it’s easier on the hands than the Zing It cord.
On one end of the Throw Line is attached a stainless steel ring (a carabiner or pulley can be used instead of a stainless ring) using a figure 8 loop and then the loop is girth hitched to the steel ring. On the other end of the Throw Line is attached a stainless steel #0 Nite Ize S-Biner using a slip knot loop and then the loop is girth hitched to #0 S-Biner.
On one end of the Pull Line is attached a stainless steel #1 Nite Ize S-Biner using a figure 8 loop and then the loop is girth hitched to the #1 S-Biner. On the other end of the Pull Line is tied a figure 8 loop.
Below is a step by step instruction for the 2CR bear bag system:
1. Unwind both cords and lay untangled on the ground.
2. Run the #1 S-Biner attached to one end of the Pull Line through the ring, which is attached to one end of the Throw Line.
3. Temporarily wrap both ends of the Pull Line around a tree, log or something heavy, and then clip the figure 8 loop to the #1 S-Biner.
4. Put a baseball sized rock or several small rocks into the rock bag. Attach the rock bag to the #0 S-Biner attached to one end of the Throw Line and throw the rock bag over a limb or fork of a tree.
5. Remove the rock bag from the Throw Line and pull the Throw Line to adjust the height of the ring as necessary and then tie off the end of the Throw Line to a tree by wrapping the Throw Line around the tree and clipping the #0 S-Biner to the Throw line rather than using a knot.
6. Unclip the Pull Line from the tree by un-attaching the figure eight loop from the #1 S-Biner. Now attach the food bag to the #1 S-Biner, pull up the food bag to the ring and tie off the other end of the Pull Line to a tree. Make sure the food bag is at least 10 feet high, I prefer 12 feet, and make sure there are no limbs or trees within 6 feet of the food bag, a 10 foot clear area is even better.
7. Whenever you lower and remove the food bag always attach the #1 S-Biner on the Pull Line to the figure 8 loop on the other end on Pull Line, again creating a large loop out of the Pull Line, so that the Pull Line cannot be pulled through the ring accidently.
8. Before removing the Throw Line from the limb detach the #0 S-Biner from the end of the Throw Line and untie the slip knot.
Sometimes adjusting the height of the ring is a trial and error process, so you may have to untie the Throw Line and adjust the height of the ring and re-tie off the end of the Throw Line. Also I prefer to use a #1 S-Biner on the Pull Line to save weight. If the food bag or food bags cannot be clipped directly to the #1 S-Biner, run the Pull Line through the loop or cord on the food bag(s) and then clip the #1 S-Biner to the Pull Line above the food bag(s).