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Bear Containers...
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Kenneth Gurney
(Drunkenblade) - F
Bear Containers... on 01/12/2005 12:53:18 MST Print View

I day-hike in the Mokelumne Wilderness and have just decided to do some overnights this summer... Now, I have been Hiking the Sierras for quite a few years, but have never Hiked in Yosemite. As you all wel know I will have to carry a Bear Proof Container that meets the requirements of that area... Garcia makes a 3lb contianer and here starts my delema. I have spent the past few months cutting about 12lbs from my overnight-pack and now I have to add 3lbs back to it. Does anyone know of a lighter model that meets National Park requirements or am I just going to have to live with the Garcia model???

Richard Nelridge
(naturephoto1) - M

Locale: Eastern Pennsylvania
Bear Containers... on 01/12/2005 13:33:54 MST Print View

There are several that would be available. They include the 2 lb. 6 oz., 380 fluid oz. BearVault ( BV200 which sells for around $69 to $79 and the very expensive Wild Ideas ( The 650 cubic inch Bearikade Weekender MKII weighs 1 lb 15 oz. and has a list price of $195. The 900 cubic inch Bearikade Expedition MKII weighs 2 lb. 5 oz. and has a list price of $245. Wild Ideas also rents their bear canisters.

Edited by naturephoto1 on 01/12/2005 13:42:46 MST.

Colin Thomas
(fullofadventure) - F
a list of bear cans on 01/12/2005 13:43:24 MST Print View (8.2oz) temporarily out of business due to lack of spectra fabric because of the US Army using all the spectra for body armor. This system is hopefully going to get a pass by SIBBG. SIBBG has agreed to an extensive wilderness testing program for the new TKO and if used proper with odor bags to mask odors and hung right it should get a pass. There are many areas within Yosemite, SEKI and Inyo that the Ursack TKO can be used. (weekender 1lb 15oz and expedition 2lb 5oz) (2lb 6oz and c-thru too, also the only can you do not need a tool to open, they have been having problems with the lid though but the company is quickly replacing them with new ones. All new cans come with the new lid) (2lb 11oz) I think this is the one you have mentioned.

It seems a lot of people lately have been getting the bear vault because it is light, c-thru, and easiest to use. This is just what I have noticed and I am by no means an expert.

Here is the website that will show you what has been approved by SIBBG.

Tony Burnett
(tlbj6142) - F

Locale: OH--IO
You can rent... on 01/12/2005 13:58:11 MST Print View

If you going on a single trip, consider renting. I believe you can rent any/all of the canisters for as little as $3/day.

Kenneth Gurney
(Drunkenblade) - F
Bear Containers... on 01/12/2005 14:09:08 MST Print View

Thanks to you all:)
I checked and the garcia BC weighs in at 2lbs 12oz... So I will look at the websites provided and look at my options.
My wife and I have more trips planned this summer for the Northern California Coast than the Sierra, so I have quite a few months before I have to buy anything...
I've also been taking some serious looks at packing lighter and I'm sure that reading everyones posts and asking more questions I'll cut more wieght buy this Spring...

Holy Cow!!! I looked at the Bearikade Weekender MKII and at $195.00... The rental Idea may have to be the best option...

Edited by Drunkenblade on 01/12/2005 14:22:12 MST.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
bear containers on 01/12/2005 14:36:42 MST Print View

I was on Ursacks site the other day. They had a press release stating that the Ursack passed all tests with flying colors. The agencies involved in giving Ursack their ok decided not to allow Ursack in Yosemite or SEKI. What a waste. I still am scratching my head wondering why they won't allow it after Ursack passed all tests with no problems what so ever.

Peter Horan
(PCHoran) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Ursack on 01/12/2005 20:34:11 MST Print View

As much as we all would like the Ursack to pass the tests, until recently the bears shredded them. The Garcia cans are a pain but they work and most other systems don't. I hope that they really have passed the tests but as of the last season they were not approved for SEKI or YOSE.

Eric Lehman
(rucken) - F
ursack passes all tests on 01/12/2005 23:38:10 MST Print View

I think the Ursack site offers a sort of one-sided interpretation of the recent TKO success in testing. For example, the site says trees were damaged only because the sacks were not used according to instructions.

The problem, I think, is that if Ursack is approved, then EVERYONE is going to start using them--- the advantages over hard cannisters are huge. But probably only a small fraction of users WILL use them exactly as instructed. So they've not only got to perform well in the hands of skilled, responsible people, but also passably in the hands of folks who threw out the instruction sheet and are just winging it.

I sure hope Ursack succeeds eventually!

Bernard Shaw
( - F

Locale: Upstate New York
We spot the enemy it is us on 01/13/2005 11:13:38 MST Print View

The problem is not Ursack, or the bears. It is us. This is their place. The bears are only trying to survive for God's sake. The park service and many packers used to actively give bears human food, developing this problem. Packers still leave food.

In 25 years of backpacking in Yosemite, Sequoia and Kings Canyon I have never been hassled by a bear. I camp in a different spot from where I cook. I use a plastic container that is virtually smell proof. I do not camp where hundreds of other backpackers leave food.

This is a solveable problem. The solution is us. Why not fine each and every person who camps irresponsibly? The entitled approach we use so often, it is our right, bring a gun, shoot the bears, is just so darned elitist. How about respect for all.

Edited by on 01/13/2005 11:15:14 MST.

Bernard Shaw
( - F

Locale: Upstate New York
Here is the full account on 01/13/2005 11:18:47 MST Print View

November 9, 2004

November 8, 2004.

The Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group (SIBBG) conducted an exhaustive wilderness study of 15 Ursack TKOs in the summer of 2004. Despite numerous bear encounters, no bears or marmots were able to access food from an Ursack. SIBBG, through wildlife ecologist Harold Werner, produced a 20 page single spaced footnoted report accompanied by hundreds of photographs and field notes. The abstract from that report is reproduced below. In spite of Ursack's success in keeping bears from getting food, SIBBG refused to grant conditional approval for its use--primarily on the basis that there could be damage to trees and soil. Ursack has not yet determined how to respond.

Although Ursack is grateful for SIBBG's considerable effort in testing the TKO, the report must be read with the knowledge that SIBBG did not deploy the TKO in the same manner that campers are advised to: (1) SIBBG did not use the odor bag to mask odors--in fact the outside of the TKOs were smeared with bait in order to entice bears; and (2) SIBBG did not suspend the TKOs from tree branches, but instead tied the bags around tree trunks. This enabled bears to pull the TKOs to the ground where they could be easily stomped on and chewed. Ursack does not fault SIBBG for these testing techniques because they were trying to determine whether bears could chew through the TKOs. Had they masked odors or tied the TKOs to branches, the bears might never have attempted to gain access. IF ODOR BAGS HAD BEEN USED AS DIRECTED AND THE TKOs HAD BEEN TIED TO TREE BRANCHES (NOT TRUNKS), IT IS LIKELY THAT THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN CONSIDERABLY LESS DAMAGE TO THE FOOD CONTENTS. PLEASE KEEP THIS IN MIND AS YOU READ THE ABSTRACT.

ASSESSMENT OF MODIFIED URSACK TKO on behalf of SIBBG dated September 28, 2004


The Ursack TKO was evaluated for adequacy to provide bear-resistant food storage and to assess potential resource effects associated with securing the Ursacks to trees. The Ursacks were tested using three different configurations (Ursack only, Ursack with Ursack vapor barrier, Ursack with aluminum insert) and three different backpacking cuisines to represent a range from very basic (dry food only) to two increasing levels of diversity that added snacks, liquid and finally some fresh produce. The baited bags were hung overnight or longer in areas with known bear problems, and the results were recorded and photo-documented. Three Ursacks were randomly selected from these test units (excluding those used with aluminum inserts) to test for cumulative damage by exposing them to a minimum of three more bear encounters. Three new units were used by the Inyo National Forest staff to test options for using the Ursack above treeline. One new bag was dedicated to testing the ability of the Ursack to resist marmot damage, and another was fitted with a transmitter to see how far bears might carry the bag if it was not secured properly. Bear staff were contacted in eight parks to learn of their requirements and experiences regarding the Ursack.

All of the Ursack TKO tested remained intact during the testing. The primary damage was small
micropunctures from the canines causing thread separation. Additional damage included some seams losing one layer of thread, pulled and lose threads, partial failure of grommets, abrasion, and formation of fuzz from tiny broken fibers. The bags continued to remain intact even after the cumulative damage testing though the density of micropunctures did increase and the bags did lose 0.7 to 1.9 % of their weight. The vapor barriers were punctured and some were severely damaged. Aluminum inserts became tightly wrapped around the food and some inserts were punctured. One was ripped into smaller pieces. Marmots were not able to penetrate the Ursack, but some small animal (believed to be a mouse) did chew a hole through the Ursack twice.

Food loss from the bags was evaluated by weighing the Ursacks and their contents before and after each test. Weight changed from a gain of 2.9% due to acquired dirt and absorbed moisture to a loss of 7.3% primarily from punctured containers of liquids. There were no significant differences in the weight change among the different configurations (bag vs bag and vapor barrier vs bag and aluminum insert), but significant differences in weight change did exist among the different cuisines (basic vs intermediate vs diverse). This was attributed to those Ursacks that contained fluids. Overall, loss of solid food appeared to be insignificant.
Most of the food in the bags was mutilated, and it acquired a foul smell. The aluminum inserts did improve the amount of food that survived intact, but the insert also created a safety hazard where it was punctured or ripped apart creating sharp edges or small pieces of sharp metal mixed in the mutilated food.

Most (89%) of the Ursacks could be untied from the trees at the end of the tests without using tools. Untying the bags that did not require tools took 23 to 161 sec., and up to 6 min. were needed to untie bags that eventually required a tool to loosen the knots.

Bears carried inadequately-secured Ursacks short distances suggesting that users should be able to locate most bags that might get carried off by bears. Distances carried during the four tests were 0.3m, 1.6 m, 5.8 m, and somewhere between 41 and 67 m.

The testing in rocky areas indicated that it was feasible to secure the Ursack in areas above timberline. However, the user will need to carry extra gear for that to be successful.
The bears efforts to break into the Ursacks generally caused some damage to the tree bark and to the soil. More damage was sustained by trees with a soft bark than those with a hard bark. However, some level of bark damage was found on every species (6 species) of tree involved in the testing. Eighty-five percent of the trees showed some bark damage on their first use as a mount for the Ursack. Some of the trees that were reused did appear to experience cumulative bark damage. Ninety-two percent of the test sites showed damage to the substrate at the test trees. This included removal of the litter and small vegetation leaving bare soil with a tilled appearance. The damage usually did not go all of the way around the tree but it extended outward 69 to 181 cm from the tree trunk.

Because of the stiffness in the fabric and force required to open and close the Ursack, an anticipated misuse of the Ursack might be people leaving it open around camp to facilitate getting snacks. Other errors might include leaving the Ursack unsecured when trees are not present, failing to tie an overhand knot by the cord lock if the bag is not snug to the tree, or failing to tie a figure eight knot to secure the Ursack to a tree.

Of the eight parks contacted, three permit (but not encourage) use of the Ursack for food storage. One park allows the Ursack to be used above 7,000 ft only, and four parks require use of foodstorage facilities provided. Some of those parks permit canisters.

As a bear-resistant bag, the Ursack TKO performed well. The testing relieved concerns about ability of the Ursack to remain intact and retain solid foods, even with multiple bear encounters, concerns about users being unable to untie the bag, concerns about the bag being carried off to become longterm wilderness trash, and concerns about being able to secure the bag where trees are absent. However, some resource and safety issues remain. The testing reenforced concerns about bark and soil damage, and the analysis generated concerns about safety and about the possibility of users dumping mutilated food in the wilderness rather than eat it or carry it out to a proper disposal facility. The safety issues include: 1) the bears efforts creating small sharp metal or plastic objects inside the Ursack that could get mixed into the food, 2) the chance of a user being injured when attempting to chase a bear from their Ursack to prevent their food from being mutilated, and 3) the remote possibility of rabies being transferred via saliva in a bag. It might be possible to mitigate these concerns with appropriate warnings and use restrictions.

Nicholas Pandiscio
(npandiscio) - F
Don't get Bear Vault on 02/17/2005 12:06:03 MST Print View

I had problems with the Bear Vault. The lid can sometimes get stuck, and it is a pain to open when that happens. The last time I used it, the lid actually cracked and made the whole thing useless.

I prefer a bear canister like the Garcia.

William Siemens
(alaskaman) - F
bear canisters on 02/18/2005 01:42:43 MST Print View

I really wish I could get an Ursack - I haven't had trouble with bears, but marmots and squirrels have ruined some food, so I've taken to carrying (and hating) a Garcia canister. Now, to be fair, it does make a wonderful stool for sitting while cooking and so on, and I do manage to get it into a Granite Gear Vapor Trail, but it is a heavy sucker, isn't it. I really like the idea of the Ursack. The store near me that handles them supposedly had one this fall, but when I went there, they couldn't find it. Come to think of it, a crisco can or paint can would keep out the rodents probably, perhaps will save some money......

Kenneth Gurney
(Drunkenblade) - F
Rat Sack? on 02/18/2005 09:32:36 MST Print View

Hey, I ran accross a stainless steel bag that claims to keep out critters from mice to marmots...
These things are heavy, so they probably wouldn't meet UL needs, but what if they were made from Titanium w/ a smell proof bag inserted? Do you think a (small) Titanium version would/could meet the UL/Forestry Dept. Specs.???


Justin Gunn
(biggunn) - F
URSACK along the JMT on 02/18/2005 12:30:29 MST Print View

Does anyone know where I can find a list of the areas along the JMT where an URSACK is permitted? Also, suppose I were to simply "go for it" in areas where the URSACK is NOT permitted. What is the likelyhood of being stopped and asked to produce a qualified container? And if I was to be stopped and searched, what might the penalty be for failing to comply? Surely some parks are worse than others, but I'm curious if anyone has had any experience with this?

John Carter

Locale: Pacific Northwest
canister fines on 02/18/2005 13:11:27 MST Print View An account of a ranger ckeckimg at Kearsarge Pass, just south of Bishop. $150 fine. So you get caught once and pay almost as much as a bearikade.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Ursack on 02/18/2005 16:07:18 MST Print View

Justin, from what I have experienced, if you do encounter a ranger, they might ask you for proof that you have a cannister. Mainly busy trailheads and certain areas that backpackers might congregate while camping. If you're caught without one you will be fined and I think escorted out by said ranger. I hate the weight of those cannisters and love my Ursack, but sometimes I have to bite the bullet. Hey Ryan, can you produce a lighter cannister?

Bernard Shaw
( - F

Locale: Upstate New York
if a thru hiker on 02/20/2005 13:52:28 MST Print View

if a thru hiker at least last year I was told OK to use Ursack. if you do not camp where you cook and eat, and keep odors away from your clothing, and use the special odor proof bags as well, never wil see a bear unless camp in heavy area where others not careful. Thus you can be considerate of the bears and yourself.

Justin Gunn
(biggunn) - F
Grin and Bear it! on 02/23/2005 11:43:24 MST Print View

Obviously, being a responsible backcountry traveller is a high priority. However, laws and regulations are designed as catch-alls. Certainly, a responsible hiker can use an Ursack properly and so not contribute to the problem. My brother and I took two Ursacks along the Sunshine Coast Trail in Brittish Columbia in heavy bear country. My Ursack received a few scratches and one tiny puncture hole, but performed flawlessly. So I know that in combination with the right gear (oder proof bags for everything), proper technique (not camping where I eat), and judicious site location (not around popular areas), I can be responsible without carrying a cannister.

The problem is with the Rangers. But then, Rangers have to spot you before they can question you. And theat's when it pays to be wearing all green... hehe.

They don't call me "Jolly Green" for nothing!

Patrick Baker
(WildMan) - F
Ursack & Inyo on 02/23/2005 13:08:08 MST Print View

I hiked last year in INYO (North Lake to South Lake) where bear canister use is mandated only in select areas. According to the INYO office I spoke with, bear canister use is mandated based on where you camp not where you hike. Although I did not get this in writing, I used an URSACK without incidence.

David Spellman
(dspellman) - F
Bear Cans on 02/23/2005 17:34:14 MST Print View

The Purple Mountain bear can made completely of aluminum and weighing in at the same as the Bear Vault can still be had and is approved in most or all of the same places as the Garcia.

Comments about the Bear Vault: There's some anecdotal evidence in the forums that bears are selecting the Bear Vault for attack and leaving the opaque bear canisters alone primarily because they can see the food. There've also been stories that the bears, when allowed to work on the Bear Vaults, have discovered that putting their front paws on the Bear Vault near, but behind the screw-on lid, and smashing at the Bear Vault, using all the power of their shoulders, will sometimes pop the lid off. According to the stories, which I've been unable to verify, more than one Bear Vault has been defeated this way.

Other comments about the Ursack note that the "odor proof" plastic bags may not be all that odor proof, particularly after they've been used a bit. One tester noted that he put water into one of the odor proof bags after a trip and found that it leaked. Obviously if water can get out, odors can, too. Another user responded that she'd performed the same test and alas, hers leaked as well.

Edited by dspellman on 02/23/2005 17:36:26 MST.