Algonquin & Beyond

Approx. 5 Minute Read

Whether this is your first time booking a trip in Algonquin Park, or your’e a seasoned canoe tripper, you’ve definitely heard people say “make sure you hang your food at your campsite.” While most people do hang their food, few people know how to do it properly. We’re going to look at why you should hang your food in Algonquin Park, and how to do a simple single-branch food hang.

Artsy photograph of my food barrel hang at campsite on Sproule Lake
Can you spot what's wrong with this food hang?

Why You Should Hang Your Food in Algonquin Park

Hanging food in Algonquin Park is a heated debate with some people who swear by it, and some who never do it. Sure it can take a lot of effort, you might not always have the ideal branches around the campsite, and it’s not guaranteed to be effective, but there are so many reasons why you should hang your food.

Just like any skill you learn in the backcountry, hanging your food should be something you practice until you can do it properly. Even though a proper food hang won’t be 100% effective, it will greatly reduce the odds of rodents or larger animals accessing your precious food supply. 

With a proper food hang, your food is extremely difficult if not impossible to access by most rodents and small animals, and much less accessible for bears to find their way into. To put it simply, if a bear made its way onto my campsite, I’d rather my food be hanging 15ft off the ground than leaning against the trunk of a tree. It’s no surprise that the official Algonquin Park website recommends hanging your food on their Black Bear Safety Rules info page.

Now, let’s take a look at how to perform a simple single-branch food hang in the interior of Algonquin Park.

David Lake campsite #1 food barrel hang
A 30L barrel hanging on the island campsite at David Lake

How to Hang Your Food in the Interior of Algonquin Park

So it’s time to learn how to actually hang your food when you get to your campsite. Let’s start with a simple checklist to hang your food.

  1. Find the right branch
  2. Prepare your throw bag
  3. Throw the weight!
  4. Hoist your food

1. Find the right branch

This is often the most difficult and time consuming part of hanging your food. And sometimes, there may not even be a branch to properly hang your food. Thankfully, in Algonquin Park this usually isn’t an issue.

Here’s what the ideal branch looks like:

  • 50 feet away from the main campsite / fire pit area
  • at least 15+ feet off the ground
  • extends 5+ feet away from the trunk of the tree
  • thick enough so that it doesn’t break when hoisting your food

That’s pretty much it. A good branch is high off the ground, far away from the trunk of the tree (or other surrounding branches that animals could climb onto), thick enough to support the weight of your food, and far away from your campsite.

It’s important to mention that these are the main criteria for the ideal branch, but you may not be able to find a branch that fits all of these criteria perfectly. Just remember that almost any food hang is better than no food hang. 

* What’s wrong with the first image at the top of this post? The food hang isn’t 50 feet from camp, it’s right in the campsite!

2. Prepare your throw bag

Once you’ve found the perfect branch, it’s time to prepare the throw bag to throw over the branch. You’ll need three things:

  • a rope
  • a bag
  • a weight (i.e. a rock)

First, find an appropriate weight at the campsite. I always use rocks from the ground or the fire pit. Keep in mind you’re going to need to throw this over the branch, so don’t pick something too heavy. Also keep in mind that once it gets to the other side of the branch, it needs to be heavy enough to act as a proper counterweight. So balance is key here, and with practice you’ll learn what the ideal weight is to add to the bag.

You want to place the weight into the bag, and then tie your rope to the bag. A cheap drawstring nylon bag will do the trick. These bags will take quite a beating, so don’t use anything expensive or something you’d be upset ripping.

Next, make sure your rope is long enough for the branch that you’ve picked out. A 50 foot rope is what I use; it’s usually long enough and has rarely been an issue for me.

3. Throw the weight!

By now you should have your rope tied to a drawstring bag with a weight inside, and you should be standing in front of your branch.

Now the fun happens. It’s time to throw the rock!

Throwing a big rock high into the sky can be pretty dangerous, so make sure you use some common sense here. Don’t stand directly below the branch which would require you to throw the rock straight upwards, and don’t let any bystanders stand within range of where the rock is being thrown.

As fun as this step is, it can also be the most frustrating. Maybe you’ve chosen a branch that’s just too tall and you can’t throw the weight that high up. Maybe you got it over the branch, but it’s too close to the trunk of the tree so you need to do it again. Maybe you got it over the branch, in the perfect spot, but the weight isn’t heavy enough to act as a counterweight.

These are all situations that might require a re-throw. But hey, that’s what makes this step so much fun, right?

4. Hoist your food

Ok, so you found your branch, prepared the throw bag, and threw the bag over the branch. Everything is set up and ready to go. If you haven’t already, you can untie the rope from the bag since you no longer need the counter weight. Now the last step is actually hoisting your food.

You probably won’t need to hoist your food at the time of setting up the food hang, but it’s a good idea to do a ‘practice hoist’ to ensure that the branch is strong enough to support the weight of your food. You also need to make sure that there’s a separate tree nearby to tie the slack to, after hoisting. 

There are a million different ways that you can attach the rope to your food pack, but however you choose to tie them together, just make sure it’s secure enough to hold throughout the night.

Hoisting a food pack in the interior of Algonquin Park
Hoisting my food in Algonquin Park

That’s it! Not too complicated, right? Hanging your food will probably take 15 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how quick you can find the right branch, and how many throws it takes to get the rig over.  Just remember to hang everything that has a scent; this includes your dishes, toothpaste, sunscreen, etc.

Hanging your food is an essential skill to learn when camping in Algonquin Park, and you’ll be able to sleep peacefully knowing that your food is safe from those pesky animals and rodents.

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