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Andrew Applegate
(andrewpdx) - F
Bear bag system for Oregon/SW Washington areas on 04/25/2011 16:59:07 MDT Print View

I'm in the market for a bear bagging system and am looking for recommendations.

Most of my time is spent in the PNW (not bear country like Rainier or the Olympic penninsula - for those spots, I'll just rent a canister).

I'm having a tough time deciding between the Ursack, Ursack Minor, and a cuben bear bag set-up. I like the Ursack minor option the best (lightweight, no throwing involved), but I'm wondering if this is sufficient for the PNW?

I'm kind of new to this and I'm not sure if I'm being overly or underly paranoid about bears. Anyone spend a fair amount of time in Oregon/SW Washington and have any advice on keeping my food out of the hands of bears and other critters?

Thanks.

Kyle Meyer
(kylemeyer) - M

Locale: Portland, OR
Re: Bear bag system for Oregon/SW Washington areas on 04/25/2011 17:56:36 MDT Print View

Don't buy a system. Use an existing stuff/dry sack from your sleeping bag or tent/tarp, buy some spectra cord and a tiny, non-load-bearing carabiner and watch a video on the PCT method.

Mary R
(pietimer) - MLife
Bear bags on 04/25/2011 19:49:16 MDT Print View

I'm with Kyle on this. I don't have any experience backpacking in the NW, but I've done lots of backpacking in bear areas. I don't use one of my sleeping bag or tent stuff sacks though. I bring a dedicated food bag (which is just a dry bag) and some nylon rope.

I never liked the idea of my food and my sleeping bag sharing containers. Maybe I'm just too paranoid though.

Edited by pietimer on 04/25/2011 20:04:34 MDT.

Todd Taylor
(texasbb) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Ursacks are fine on 04/25/2011 19:55:56 MDT Print View

PNW bears, for the most part, have read the manual. Almost any responsible system will work, including Ursacks and basic bag hangs. I'm a hanger myself (PCT method). The Ursack is a little tempting, but I'd just as soon not have a bear crush all my stuff and slobber all over it.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Bear bags on 04/25/2011 20:46:47 MDT Print View

"I never liked the idea of my food and my sleeping bag sharing containers."

Your concern is well founded, IMO.

"Maybe I'm just too paranoid though."

You're not paranoid, you're right. ;-)

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Ursacks are fine on 04/25/2011 20:47:53 MDT Print View

"The Ursack is a little tempting, but I'd just as soon not have a bear crush all my stuff and slobber all over it."

Buy one with the aluminum insert.

Andrew Applegate
(andrewpdx) - F
Are small critters much of an issue? on 04/25/2011 21:29:25 MDT Print View

Thanks for the feedback.

I tend to save up to buy quality goods from the get-go instead of spending my money little by little on things that I continuously want to upgrade, thus my urge to go for the big guns on this purchase.

But, after thinking more about it, I think I'm going to go simple with my food storage (rope from a hardware store and a stuff sack that I've got lying around), at least until I get my own system worked out. I'd hate to spend a lot of cash on fancy rope that I might lose in a tree until I get the hang of the PCT method.

One more question for those of you who hang bags around the PNW - how big of an issue are birds, mice, and other small critters? Keeping them out of my food was one thing that led me to consider the Ursack minor (not the larger Ursack).

Edited by andrewpdx on 04/25/2011 21:32:46 MDT.

Chris S
(csteutterman) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Bear bag system for Oregon/SW Washington areas on 04/25/2011 21:47:36 MDT Print View

another option is the ZPacks Blast food bag. it's light, not too expensive and apparently rodent resistant.

(scroll to the bottom)
http://www.zpacks.com/accessories/stuff_sacks.shtml

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Bear bag system for Oregon/SW Washington areas on 04/25/2011 21:53:34 MDT Print View

Here are my thoughts coming from years of hiking in Wa/Or - I only use a canister if outright required. And that is only in Olympic NP these days.
Otherwise I use a plain Ursack everywhere else.

In Rainier all backcountry camps have established bear poles so you don't need anything else - but and a big but -

To avoid pesky birds, mice, rats, marmots, squirrels, chipmunks, skunks, etc....an Ursack is priceless. A hung bag can be easy pickings for many visitors, easy to rip through/bite.

Yes a bear can squash your food through an Ursack if it wanted to - but if like so many of us you carry all dry food that is no loss. Your food is still edible (if the slobber gets through that would mean the bag got shredded). Having said that I have yet to have any of my Ursacks been totaled (knock on wood) although I have woken many mornings to it covered in small rodent poo - since apparently the local family spent all night trying to get in. Without luck.

I bag my food inside my Ursacks in gallon freezer bags to keep it clean and also to keep any moisture from dew or rain out.

Todd Taylor
(texasbb) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Are small critters much of an issue? on 04/25/2011 22:32:47 MDT Print View

"One more question for those of you who hang bags around the PNW - how big of an issue are birds, mice, and other small critters?"

I've never had anything get into a well-hanged bag. I did have rodents chew down my hang once in Idaho when I had draped it over a big boulder. I should have known better.

Kyle Meyer
(kylemeyer) - M

Locale: Portland, OR
OPSack on 04/25/2011 22:50:27 MDT Print View

I should add that I carry my food in a large OPSack (odor proof plastic bag) while backpacking. At night, everything goes in that odor proof bag, which then goes in my sleeping bag dry sack up the tree. This should be more than adequate, especially for PNW bears that aren't crazy smart or wily like Sierra bears and weighs just a few ounces.

Plus, hanging food is really fun. I get pretty competitive with myself to get a sweet hang, mannn.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Bear bag system for Oregon/SW Washington areas on 04/25/2011 23:05:22 MDT Print View

The closest encounter I've had with bears was in Olympic NP and Alpine Lakes. Generally, if you are safe about your food in the PNW, they don't seem to be a problem yet, like in CA. The only creature that has gotten into my pack was a rodent of some kind who ate through a pack mesh pocket when I left a used zip-loc in it (my fault). I think small animals are probably more of a problem, just statistically.

+1 to the PCT bear hang method; I usually use an Opsak inside the storage bag.

Last fall, I bought an Outsak UL, which I plan to use with a Opsak on the ground sometime, like on an overnighter in Eagle Creek or some trip where losing my food might not be an emergency. I might be more inclined to use this as I get more used to it.

Finally, a bear canister if one is required.

Andrew Applegate
(andrewpdx) - F
Ursack vs Ursack minor on 04/26/2011 00:26:09 MDT Print View

"Otherwise I use a plain Ursack everywhere else."

Sarah - I'm assuming that you mean the bear-proof Ursack and not the Ursack minor, right?

I've read posts from other NW folks who are fans of the Ursack, but I haven't been able to discern whether most people are using the minor or the Ursack proper. I really like the weight savings of the minor, but if getting it would require hanging, then I'm back to thinking I might as well use a stuff sack.

Edited by andrewpdx on 04/26/2011 00:31:08 MDT.

Lyan Jordan
(redmonk)

Locale: Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem
Bear bag system for Oregon/SW Washington areas on 04/26/2011 01:02:12 MDT Print View

Are you asking if a bag designed to stop a squirrel will work for bears ?

Andrew Applegate
(andrewpdx) - F
re: bear bag clarification on 04/26/2011 01:27:15 MDT Print View

"Are you asking if a bag designed to stop a squirrel will work for bears ?"

Cameron - no, I'm not.

I'm asking about bear prevalence and clarification.

Rakesh Malik
(Tamerlin)

Locale: Cascadia
Re: re: bear bag clarification on 04/26/2011 08:19:42 MDT Print View

Based on the advice of some backpackers that I met when I was a total newbie to backpacking (as opposed to now, when I'm just mostly a newbie ;)), I've been hanging my food and such in a bear bag. I didn't have enough stuff sacks at the time, so I went for one of Ron Bell's bear bagging kits; it's not too expensive, and it's very light. I use the waterproof food bag with an OPSack inside, and since I got the kit from MLD I didn't have to go out and get a small stuff sack and a mini-biner ;)

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Re: Bear bag system for Oregon/SW Washington areas on 04/26/2011 08:37:35 MDT Print View

I'm with Sarah, I generally use an Ursack. I have an Ursack Minor too, I quite liked that on the AT last year, but in the PNW am talking about a regular Ursack.
The uncomfortable truth is that, outside of places where bears are habituated, sleeping with your food generally works fine, but I think the responsible thing to do is to ensure that bears don't get our food. An 8 oz Ursack isn't that big a hit.

Hanging (PCT, counter-balance, or "string-it-up-and-hope") has some real disadvantages. My sense is that way too many people do a sort of slap-dash bad job of it, and would be better off (correctly) using an Ursack. Someone mentioned that they find that hanging the food bags is fun; I find it to be somewhat of a time consuming PITA, especially if coming in to camp on the late side (and doing a hang that's really, credibly bear proof). The Ursack is dead easy to use, so I tend to use it.

Kyle Meyer
(kylemeyer) - M

Locale: Portland, OR
Re: Re: Bear bag system for Oregon/SW Washington areas on 04/26/2011 08:47:32 MDT Print View

Ursacks weigh 8oz! Plus, it truly is simple to hang an effective bear bag with the PCT method. 2oz for rope and carabiner and 5 minutes can't be beat. I think the tagline of this website sums up why bear bagging by the educated in low risk areas is the right choice.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Ursack vs Ursack minor on 04/26/2011 09:14:37 MDT Print View

Andrew - IMO the whole point of the Ursack is you get to be lazy and not have to hang said bag. I HATE hanging bags. I am short and have the throwing skills of a 1 year old. So yes, my Ursacks are all regular ones. I have two versions. The Minor isn't what I want.

The weight might seem an issue but for me the tradeoff is well worth it. OTOH, my husband who is a foot taller than me has no issue throwing lines over branches.

PS: On bear bagging and hanging - only works if you have trees. And the PNW has soooo much good alpine hiking above tree line!

Edited by sarbar on 04/26/2011 09:17:43 MDT.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Ursack vs Ursack minor on 04/26/2011 09:19:32 MDT Print View

On weight: my Ursacks only weigh 5 ounces :-D I have older ones though.