November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Ursack Vs. Bear cannister?
Display Avatars Sort By:
James Hemphill
(jhemp_00) - F
Ursack Vs. Bear cannister? on 02/28/2006 12:55:12 MST Print View

What do you guys think? I like the idea of a sack that is collapsable, rather than a hard plastic keg. But are that sacks as safe?

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Ursack Vs. Bear cannister? on 02/28/2006 13:31:31 MST Print View

The short answer is no, they're not as secure and even if they save your food from a frontal assault, it'll be pretty squashed afterwards.

That said, the bag is hugely easier to pack and carry, and will suffice in areas without savvy bears or where you're concerned with smaller critters. Also, there's now a metal Ursack liner that's evidently approved for use in SEKI, although I'd personally be willing to let others try it out there next summer to see what happens with the grad-school bears there.

An additional strategy when using an Ursack is odor control using odorproof bags inside. If the critters don't know the food's there they perhaps won't bother it.

First Last
(snusmumriken) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Re: Odor proof bags on 03/01/2006 11:06:40 MST Print View

My experience with the odor proof bags was not great. They developed lots of tiny holes within a day or two of living in my pack. These small holes let air in and thus render them useless as an odor proof barrier. If you read the reviews on backpack gear test, several of the tester, in spite of treating the bag very gingerly, reported the same problem.

The other problem that is very hard to avoid is that you when you touch the exterior of the bag with your hands you put food odors on the bag.

Long and the short of it - the bear will catch the scent of your food, plastic ziplock or not.

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Using Odor Barrier bags on 03/01/2006 11:37:09 MST Print View

double bag , don't overstuff, carrying simple premeasured ingredients or freezer bag meals and washing food contaminated hands before handling the OB bags is your ticket to success. I advise retiring old OB bags after 3 or 4 trips, they are fragile and they do degrade in use.

I've been using them for several years in the most vermin and bear infested backcountry w/ no problems, no losses, no worries.
I use/carry them in either an Ursack or in an Ursa-lite
system bag.

Edited by kdesign on 03/01/2006 11:40:36 MST.

Mike Storesund
(mikes) - F
Re: Re: Ursack Vs. Bear cannister? on 03/01/2006 23:51:58 MST Print View

I have the Vectran Ursack bag with the metal liner. I plan to test it in Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain National and some of the other parks in Colorado this summer under the ‘conditional’ allowance. However, even Ursack advises that the smaller critters, rodents, canines and felines with sharper teeth than bears can possibly gain access to your ‘fare’.

Since the liner is a rolled flat sheet of aircraft aluminum, it can roll into itself as supplies diminish to make a smaller diameter container and compressible when strapped down horizontally in/on the pack.

As for the odor-proof bags, my experiences have found to make sure the outsides do not get ‘contaminated’ by any of the inside contents. I usually have 4 bags in the sack; one for trash, one for liquids, one for meals and one for other ‘smellables’ (toiletries, etc).

Michael Doughty
(woebegone2006) - F
Re: Re: Re: Ursack Vs. Bear cannister? on 04/19/2006 22:35:49 MDT Print View

As Mike S pointed out:

>>> "Since the liner is a rolled flat sheet of aircraft aluminum, it can roll into itself as supplies diminish to make a smaller diameter container and compressible when strapped down horizontally in/on the pack."<<<

This is something you could NEVER do with a hard-sided canister, where even as your pack weight diminishes, the volumne remains the same, as empty space, unless you start putting other gear into your canister, which is probably not a good idea as odors will transfer to whatever to store there.

I carry a MONSTER elastic band and as the ursack empties I can reduce it's volumne.

I'll be "Field Testing" this on the PCT this summer.


Mark Regalia
(markr) - MLife

Locale: Santa Cruz
Re: Re: Odor proof bags on 04/20/2006 16:25:57 MDT Print View

I tested my odor proof bag by filling it with things like sausage and cheese and leaving it on the floor of my kitchen. My two dogs were free to do what they wanted with it. They ignored it for a couple of days. Then I noticed my cattle dog go over to it, look it over then bite it. That was that.

I would say it works as advertised. But either it got punctured or Spike just decided to chew on it, which he sometimes will do with plastic bags left around.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Ursack Vs. Bear cannister? on 04/20/2006 17:13:01 MDT Print View

I assumed that Usack users would hang the bag like any other bear sack, using the armor as backup insurance.

Our packs and gear must reek to animals. Sweat, soap, coffee, laundry detergent, fabric softener, toothpaste-- you name it-- all have been associated with the possibility of food.

When we camped on the Olympic National Park beaches last summer, we borrowed a bear can from the ranger (they have dozens to loan) and we put it under some driftwood each night. I was hoping the seaweed and other flotsam might help mask the smell. I'm sure if I could move the log, a bear could too. As it was, the $%^&* raccoons were the problem-- never saw a bear or signs of one.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Re: Ursack Vs. Bear cannister? on 04/20/2006 17:59:57 MDT Print View

>I assumed that Usack users would hang the bag like any other bear sack.

I suppose you could, but if you're going to do that then save weight and bring a silnylon bag. If a bear gets the bag down it will probably take it away, so your food is gone one way or the other. Ursack recommends that you tie the sack to a solid object such as a small tree or big branch. In Yosemite, Sequoia-Kings Canyon and Inyo, the protocol is to place the Hybrid Ursack on the ground a safe distance from camp (and hope the bears don't drag it away).

I do hang my (non-Hybrid) Ursack when I have bear wires, but otherwise I do the tree thing. Olympic bears haven't bothered it (but then they never bothered me when I kept my food in the pack).

Take a look at the UrSack site for more info. <>

>As it was, the $%^&* raccoons were the problem-- never saw a bear or signs of one.

Raccoons _are_ the reason for canisters on the Olympic beaches, not the bears.

Edited by Otter on 04/20/2006 18:05:04 MDT.

Curtis Presson
(Obdewla_X) - F
Ursack Vs. Bear Cannister? on 04/20/2006 18:22:28 MDT Print View

I have used the original Ursack with very good success on quite a few outings over the last 3 years. I have always put my meals into separate resealable freezer bags; 1 bag for breakfast items, 1 bag for lunch items and 1 bag for dinner items and then combined them all into the odor proof bag. This works pretty well as long as you're careful with the odor proof bag and getting it in and out of the Ursack.

I usually hang the Ursack although I have had to tie the cord around the base of a small tree when it was not possible to hang it. Only once did some critters try and chew through it but to no avail. My Ursack has never had to suffer at the hands (or paws) of Yogi though. I'm pretty sure that if that were to happen he probably wouldn't get the contents but he'd for sure smush everything.

The odor proof bag has proven to work as advertised except one evening in the Aldo Leopold Wilderness Area when I ripped the bag open... on my first night out too! Easy to fix though with a bit of duct tape.

I do like Ursack although on my last 2 trips I have used the odor proof bag with a silnylon bag and that works pretty well too.

Edited by Obdewla_X on 04/20/2006 18:24:25 MDT.

Bernard Shaw
( - F

Locale: Upstate New York
They may not pass the idiot test on 04/20/2006 18:47:55 MDT Print View

I have used the Ursack every since their inception in Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, and the Northeast, many years now.

I stealth camp, that is never cook and sleep in same spot. I wash daily. I don't use ANYTHING scented. I boil water, and rehydrate organic vegetarian food with less odors than fish, frying meats etc. I use the odor bags, and if treated with respect, that is inside a silnylon bag of their own, I find no problems. I have never had a bear show interest in my camp in 15 years of being there.

All that said, I can see that for a number of backpackers, they may not make the grade. Bears are lazy, they will hang with those places of easy food. The folks who frequent these places leave food out and about and big odors with cooking, their clothes have allot of scent as do their bodies and tolietries, etc. They may not secure the bag and they may not know how to chase off a bear successfully and ethically.

This summer is a big experiment, I fear the worst but pray for the best.

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Ursack on 04/20/2006 18:59:42 MDT Print View

I have had an Ursack going on 5 years now, and have not had ONE problem with them. I bought the aluminum sleeve so that it can be used in Yosemite, SEKI, etc. So that I could reduce my weight with food storage. I too am afraid that use error is going to make this shortlived. Well at least I will hopefully get a summer's worth of hiking without a cannister. If I do camp at places with bear boxes I will be placing the Ursack in them just to avoid any situation with bears in habituated areas. NOW lets keep in mind that bears did figure out to an extent how to open Bearvaul products when not secured well. I have even heard stories about bears sitting on them and "popping" them off. Soooo, maybe sometimes it is not the user but the product. In other cases, user error. Me thinks that user error is usually the problem. Steatlh camp people if you can.

robert courson

Locale: lake michigan
ursack on 04/23/2006 08:25:42 MDT Print View

A friend of mine had a small hole in his ursack while thru-hiking the AT 2 years ago. A mouse? Still, not bad for that many miles.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Original Ursack on 04/23/2006 12:02:16 MDT Print View

I've got an original yellow Ursack, but they're not claiming that adding the liner technically qualifies it for the conditional approval, even though SIBBG seem not to be concerned about which material the bag's made of:

"Are older Ursacks, retrofitted with the aluminum insert, conditionally
approved by SIBBG?

"Here is the answer from Harold Werner of SIBBG: 'It does not matter whether they are using the Spectra or the Vectran bag, just as long as it contains the heavy-duty insert. I consider the two materials interchangeable. It is the insert that makes the difference.'

"To which we add: The older Kevlar Ursacks, which are yellow, have not been evaluated by SIBBG. Theoretically, they will do well with the aluminum insert, but it is unlikely that such bags would be considered 'conditionally approved' for the Sierra. Also, we have changed the construction of the bag itself since our early days with Kevlar."

All that said, I'd still think that an original yellow bag with liner would 1) effectively protect one's food in all but exceptional circumstances and 2) pass any potential field inspection in SEKI. It's an attractive alternative to a rigid canister!

Dave Curry
(currydl) - F
Maybe just bad luck... on 05/18/2006 16:41:51 MDT Print View

All that said, I was on one outing where we had bear bags suspended from trees, a canister, and a neighbor with an UrSack. Then the bears came. Survey says!:
Suspended - fail, bears climbed trees and pulled/munched on the lines for 2 hours(!), tore the bags, and had a feast.
UrSack - fail, destroyed by bears, actually ripped open, happy bears.
Canister - success, not even touched.
I now carry a canister.

Tim Cheek
(hikerfan4sure) - MLife
Re: Maybe just bad luck... on 05/18/2006 18:04:26 MDT Print View

Where were you?

Robert Miller
(procab) - F
Re: Maybe just bad luck... on 05/18/2006 18:30:09 MDT Print View

... and what year was it?

kevin davidson
(kdesign) - F

Locale: Mythical State of Jefferson
Maybe more than just bad luck... on 05/18/2006 18:58:26 MDT Print View

...and in what Dimension? ;-)>

Jeesh, I would never be camping close to anyone who was bear bagging in the trees* while using my Ursack or a canister in areas known for high amounts of bear action.

* with the caveat that if they were using odorproof liners and using them correctly and we were stealth camping, I'd reconsider. But then again, if this event had taken place in SEKI or Yosemite, everyone would have to be carrying canisters (or the metal lined Ursack)and perhaps this event would never have had happened. Sounds like people were sloppy in more ways then one.

Edited by kdesign on 05/18/2006 19:04:19 MDT.

Tim Cheek
(hikerfan4sure) - MLife
Arctic 1000 bear protection on 05/23/2006 20:11:51 MDT Print View

I am curious to read what Ryan uses to protect his food supply of 45 lbs per person on this trip.