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Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Grand Canyon Trip Report: Lessons Learned -Flying Tents, Ursack Minor Failures, LT4 Repairs on 02/23/2013 17:47:08 MST Print View

Four of us spent 7 days in the Grand Canyon hiking down Bright Angle to Phantom Ranch, then up and east on the Tonto, and out on Grandview. Nighttime lows were between 30° and 35°. We reached a high of 70° on day 5 (Feb. 19th). All in all a great time was had. But I think three gear issues are worth sharing.

We are well aware that sunrise and sunset gusts are common in canyon country and that anything not secured Will blow away. We took care in setting up both a Big Agnes Fly Creek 2 and a Copper Spur 3. Every tie-out has a 3' section of cord so a stake could be clove-hitched away from the tent body to allow the stacking of rock without damaging the tent or fly fabric.

Stake

Nonetheless, we had a Big Agnes Copper Spur 3 blown into a nearby tree. Four 6" aluminum DAC angle stakes where completely sunk into dirt/gravel. Seven were horizontal and each were weighted down with a couple of 30# rocks. One tie-out was wrapped around a 50# rock. But all that came apart in about 3 seconds. The tent was lofted, but anchored by the tied-off rock, and pivoted up and into a nearby tree. We found one stake 50' downwind, one 40' downwind and one 20' upwind. These were the stakes driven through the tent loops and were apparently catapulted away as the tent broke free. The stakes under the rocks were still tied, but all had been pulled out from under the rocks in an instant. The Fly Creek, 50' away, just as exposed, with "rocks on stakes", never moved. Luck of the draw, I guess.

The fly suffered a 6" tear and several punctures, all of which were easily repaired with Tear-Aid Type A.

Lesson Learned: Tie the cords around the rocks. Stacking big rocks on a stake only works some of the time. Keep taking that repair kit.



For food storage we have used the Ursack Minor for the past 4 years. Last year in Grand Gulch I was surprised to have a hole chewed through one. On this trip we lost Two more, each at a different camp site. One sitting on the ground, and one sitting in the fork of a tree. (The other two folks used Ursacks (Major) without any problems.)

UrsackMinorHoles
When they sit on something I think the taughtness of the fabric allows the critters (mice in this case) to work them over, and eventually "scrape" their way in. I'm hoping that if hung, the slack fabric will just move out of the way of their teeth. Or we will move on the stainless steel mesh.

Lesson Learned: Hang 'em!


I've used Gossamer Gear LT4s for the past three seasons. I broke one bottom in a "desperation save" while rock hopping and another literally falling off a wet log. In both cases the pole saved my ass. On this trip one of the others in our group had a tip fracture after being caught in a crack, and then broke the lower on the same pole with a slip and fall. The fractured tip was completely separated from the pole.

LT4Repairs
Ductape, LukoTape, and a thin-walled brass sleeve specifically sized for the lower took care of the repairs.

Lesson Learned: If it's UL and you're hard on gear, you need to have a solid repair kit. (Which we did, so all was well.)

Edited by greg23 on 02/24/2013 12:20:19 MST.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Grand Canyon Trip Report: Lessons Learned -Flying Tents, Ursack Minor Failures, LT4 Repairs on 02/23/2013 17:52:06 MST Print View

Good stuff Greg, thanks for sharing.

steven franchuk
(Surf) - M
Re: Grand Canyon Trip Report: Lessons Learned -Flying Tents, Ursack Minor Failures, LT4 Repairs on 02/24/2013 21:17:12 MST Print View

"When they sit on something I think the taughtness of the fabric allows the critters (mice in this case) to work them over, and eventually "scrape" their way in. I'm hoping that if hung, the slack fabric will just move out of the way of their teeth. Or we will move on the stainless steel mesh."

The fabric used in the Ursack is very strong in tension loads and is very resistant to punctures, and scrapping. But that said they will not hold up to scissors, or sears. The front teath of a rodent work the same way as scissors. the mice didn't claw there way in, They chewed there way in. Rodents routinely chew through wood,hard nut shells, plastic, and have chewed there way through just about every type of fabric out there.

"The Fly Creek, 50' away, just as exposed, with "rocks on stakes", never moved. Luck of the draw, I guess."

The winds in a canyon can be highly localized. The canyon wall can channel the wind into very narrow areas. Other areas only a few feet away may see little to no wind due to shape of the rock. On easy way to avoid loosing your tent is to simply put a rock inside the tent.

Edited by Surf on 02/24/2013 21:18:46 MST.

Samuel C. Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
lessons learned on 02/25/2013 18:12:11 MST Print View

Geat post, Greg. Thank you. The guy-lines will go around the rocks (or trees) from now on.

It may be that the larger tent allowed more air inside and 'ballooned'; that is, captured the wind and took off with it (like that classic picture in the Hilleberg catalog). Would be interested in your opinion.

When one of my rescue Shelties was still a pup, and was chewing through store-bought collars in seconds, I made a collar for her by folding over some Ursack material to make webbing that consisted of four layers of the Aramid fiber, sewn together with multiple tracks of kevlar thread. In less than the hour it took us to drive up to visit some Cohos Trail friends in Pittsburg NH, the sheltie in the back seat chewed quietly and completely through the collar. Last time I posted this event, an Ursack fan advised not to worry cause bears don't have teeth as sharp as some dogs. Still use an ursack, but you are so right about hanging them.

I think with carbon fiber, as with any other material, the lighter you go, even with the best quality stuff, the weaker you get. Don't mind the extra weight of using a Gabel 6 oz carbon pole (including the grip extensions that add weight). With a lot of wear and tear, it has so far shown no signs of damage. Thanks to BPL posters for alerting me to these when they were still cheap at Costco.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Lessons Learned on 02/25/2013 18:43:50 MST Print View

Samuel,
Both vestibules were zipped shut. An end was oriented up-canyon. I had my back turned when I heard the gust and then the "Oh $hit!" By the time I turned the deed was done and the tent was in the tree.

I would Guess that the wind hit the end of the tent, inflated the fly, which is high on the ends and propped open for ventilation, and then lofted the tent.

The fact that 7 "rocked" stakes and 4 "sunk" stakes were quickly sent air born suggests that it was a "perfect gust". The owner of the Fly Creek 2 50' away was standing by his tent and said it never moved.

A long time ago I was in a Timberline when an evening gust came through. The tent was wrapped around me and the poles broken. Other tents ended up far down river. Such is life in the canyons.

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Earth (mostly)
Re: Grand Canyon Trip Report: Lessons Learned -Flying Tents, Ursack Minor Failures, LT4 Repairs on 02/25/2013 19:07:11 MST Print View

The Grand Canyon provides some interesting campsites, though none as bad as the packed rocklike dirt in the Corridor IMO.
Maybe bring enough cordage to secure to the rocks in the future?

Wonder what a little shock cord on all of these tie down systems would minimize the entire tent taking flight? Have to be a very secure knot though.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Probably saved the Tent on 02/25/2013 19:21:49 MST Print View

The wind event sounds like some micro burst and may have been strong enough that if somehow it was absolutely secured to the ground/tree that the tent may have been severely damaged. In that case, having the tent go airborne may have saved the tent from catastrophic damage.

rowan .
(romonster) - M

Locale: SF Bay Area
Ursack Minor Failure on 02/25/2013 23:03:50 MST Print View

A friend of mine also had a mouse chew through an Ursack Minor, exactly as in the pictures above, only this one was inside a metal food locker at the time. The locker was meant to keep larger critters like raccoons out, but it had small drain holes that would admit tiny mice. Some pictures of the damage.

Mike Stromsoe
(phstudio) - F

Locale: So. Cal.
Re: Ursack Minor Failure on 02/25/2013 23:54:53 MST Print View

I've never had a bear attack my Ursack Major, but I have so many little critter teeth marks on mine that I'm very thankful I made the investment and take the weight penalty of having the Major. I'll never go on any trip without mine.

The worst punctures I got were from the cunning Catalina Island Fox. And when they don't get your food they like to defecate all over your stuff. :( Not cool fantastic Mr. Fox, not cool at all.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Ursack Minor Failure on 02/26/2013 05:40:25 MST Print View

Rowan -
Thanks for that link. It lead me to the Ursack FAQ.

From the Ursack Minor Product Catatlog –
"We've tested the Ursack Minor with various critters including mice and dogs, and although it came through unscathed, we rely more on the technical specifications to know that it works."


Midway down the FAQ -
"We now make a rodent resistant bag, the Ursack Minor. It is not effective against bears although we think it is more effective against rodents than the AllWhite. Other rodents have varying degrees of success. Sometimes mice can chew very small holes, but very little of your food is likely to be taken." [Emphasis added.]

Nothing like burying the truth...

"...but very little of your food is likely to be taken...".

... and as a parting gift they might leave Hanta Virus or bubonic plague.

Guess I'm done with Ursacks.

Edited by greg23 on 02/26/2013 05:58:58 MST.

Sumi Wada
(DetroitTigerFan) - F

Locale: Ann Arbor
Re: Grand Canyon Trip Report: Lessons Learned -Flying Tents, Ursack Minor Failures, LT4 Repairs on 02/26/2013 06:24:19 MST Print View

FWIW, in the Canyon, I just assume that I won't be able to use stakes. I cowboy camp unless I'm expecting rain, so anytime I set my tarp in the Canyon means preparing for real weather. I go with an extra 2 feet on my tarp lines and use a "2 rock" method where I wrap the end of the line around base rock 2x, then put the second rock on top of that but offset toward the tarp side.

If you just put a rock on top of the line or stake, it won't hold. You really need enough line to wrap around the rock. But without the second rock, I've found that a good gust will move the rock. Also, if you just stack the rocks straight, a good gust will topple the rock off. Offsetting the rocks acts like a wedge and keeps the combination in place.

Grand Canyon mice are tenacious. Most GC hikers that I know use the metal mesh bags for food protection, i.e. Outsaks/Grubpacks/Ratsacks. I use Outsaks lined with a silnylon stuff sack and have never had a failure. The smaller Outsak weighs about 3oz and holds food (1 person) for 4-5 days. Or a larger 8oz bag for 2 people for 7-8 days, so not a bad weight hit. I'm also pretty anal about not spilling or getting food on or in my pack because the mice will chew through if they smell it. Hipbelt pockets are especially susceptible.

Erik Basil
(EBasil) - M

Locale: Atzlan
Stake out the rocks... on 02/26/2013 06:43:41 MST Print View

Greg, you just need more line, so you can stake out the rocks you use to stake out the tent...

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Stake out the rocks... on 02/26/2013 06:52:23 MST Print View

"... you just need more line, so you can stake out the rocks you use to stake out the tent..."

Well, maybe...

"Every tie-out has a 3' section of cord so a stake could be clove-hitched away from the tent body to allow the stacking of rock without damaging the tent or fly fabric."

Three feet was more than adequate. As noted, I just needed to tie everything off to the rocks.

Edited by greg23 on 02/26/2013 06:53:08 MST.

Samuel C. Farrington
(scfhome) - M

Locale: Chocorua NH, USA
tent levitation on 02/26/2013 17:39:59 MST Print View

Thanks, Greg, for the detailed description of tent take-off. Food for thought.