[pct-l] Trailside repairs: Pack fabric and bear story

sdscpcts sdscpcts at yahoo.com
Sun Oct 2 18:18:40 CDT 2016

Putting packs in cars isn't a good solution! Bears can tear them apart too. 

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-------- Original message --------From: ned at mountaineducation.org Date: 9/30/16  11:10 AM  (GMT-08:00) To: 'PCT' <pct-l at backcountry.net> Cc: johnmuirtrail at yahoogroups.com Subject: [pct-l] Trailside repairs: Pack fabric and bear story 
[.reposted for those who don't "do" Facebook.]

Your backpack is your house. It has everything you need nicely tucked away
inside. However, sometimes animals need what's inside, too!

We tend to think that it is impenetrable, wonderfully made, and strong
enough to take all the punishment we might throw at it, but what
inexperience or denial doesn't consider are claws and teeth!

My pack's biggest enemies on my PCT and CDT thru hikes were the mice,
marmots, chipmunks, and assorted ground squirrels that had no reservations
about using their teeth to chew their way through tough, old-school nylon to
investigate something that smelled edible inside. 

For these little repairs, I've always carried a strong sewing needle and
thick pack thread. These little critters don't do tremendous damage, so this
repair just takes maybe a half-hour, once you calm down and stop throwing
rocks at every mouse or chipmunk you see nearby.

However, I would suggest that you carry with you bigger patches of nylon
fabric or tape for when bears decide your house is their lunchbox!

One of my first encounters with bears on a thru hike was not on-trail at
all, but in a National Park campground one late April, 1974. (go figure.!)

For the first 800 miles of the PCT, I slept "cowboy-style" outside on my
tent or inside it with my pack leaning nicely against a tree near the tent
door, where I could easily see it. We didn't have bear canisters back then,
so the pack was usually full of all my food for my typical 17-day segments.
I never had a problem with "the locals" trying to get my food to that point,
but Park bears were about to teach me my first lesson!

I awoke, not long after I went to sleep, to the sounds of nylon being ripped
and shredded alternating with grunts and snorts from some big animal outside
in the dark. At first I wasn't sure what was going on, as I attempted to
extricate myself from my sleeping bag. 

I listened intently. The snorts and snuffles were deep and loud implying
something big was near my tent. The ripping sounds were like the screams of
a friend being attacked!

I scrambled out of my tent and couldn't see a thing. There was no moon and I
was camped under lots of tall pines. The sound was coming from somewhere
right in front of me. Of course, when I turned my puny flashlight on, I saw
my pack lying on its frame in the dirt totally disfigured and disemboweled
with wrappers and plastic bags lying shredded and partially eaten scattered

Towering astraddle the pack were two glowing eyes about garbage-can-height
off the ground. I couldn't see the black, furry body in the dark. The bear,
fresh out of its winter hibernation, looked at me and went back to its
dinner of my dream-hike-sustaining food. 

Swirling feelings of anger, bewilderment, and frustration clouded my
thoughts all at the same time. I didn't know what to do. I watched. Then I
thought I could scare the bear away from further killing my close companion
by advancing on it with my ice axe.

The bear did stop shredding, chewing, and drooling to look up at me as I got
closer while yelling, and waving some apparent stick in the air.
Defensively, it quickly hopped off the pack and made a short charge toward
me, then abruptly stopped while snorting loudly. I stopped and stood still.
It went back to its dinner, probably angry at me for even thinking I could
take it away from him.

Threats didn't work. Yelling did nothing. Then I thought of throwing rocks
at him. The little ones close to me made quiet little thumps on his body and
looked the size of mosquitoes when they hit. These didn't even faze him. 

Then I grabbed the rocks from the fire ring, some being the size of
footballs, and those disturbed him a bit more. At first, I could tell that
he didn't know what to make of the sudden pain coming from nowhere. He
stopped chewing and looked around. The second rock hit him and he moved off
of the dead pack. The third one gave him enough incentive to move a little
further away, yet still looking around for his attacker. Upon the thump of
the fourth rock, he decided to surrender his prized dinner discovery and
reluctantly sauntered off into the dark of the forest.

My house-on-my-back looked like it had been hit by a Kansas tornado!
Multi-colored dinner and candy wrappers were thrown by the devilish twister
in all directions around my home. The fabric of the pack was avulsed, its
strong threads dangling like electrical wires from a ripped and tossed
building wall. Though I had a hiking partner, I suddenly felt all alone.
What now?

I had thought to put our packs in someone's car for the rest of the night
(which we would do 5 months later after the next bear attack), but no one
else was in the early-season campground to ask for help. So, unable to think
of any other solution, we put them on the roof of the nearby outhouse and
tried to go back to sleep.

It took me two days to sew my home back together again.




Ned Tibbits, Director

Mountain Education, Inc.

ned at mountaineducation.org <mailto:ned at mountaineducation.org>  


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