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MEPPS
senior member (55)senior membersenior member
 
05/11/2022 11:36AM  
I know I am stirring up a hornets nest with these observations but I don't see the utility in the ursack bear bags. Yes the bags protect against bears and varmints from getting your food (provided it is the Alimitey). At the end of the day if a bear finds the bag it will crush what ever is inside. I've assumed no liner. A good chance of saliva on the outside of the bag and probably inside. Rendering the food mostly useless or at the least undesirable.

If used for varmints with Ursack minor (and Allmitey) and taking the chances with bears, then okay but there are cheaper alternatives like the GrubPack or Ratsack (~$40). Bear canisters are the ultimate in protection but they are heavy. I get the fact of preventing bears from getting food and the resulting consequence. That is the ultimate benefit of the Ursack. As with many gear choices to each his own and the choices we make with our gear.

BTW, I own all three of the storage options above.
 
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05/11/2022 12:33PM  
I think the biggest factor is getting the bear to give up because there is no reward. If the bear tries to rip into it, it can't get in and gets frustrated so eventually gives up. With no reward, there is no motivation to continue, and it never becomes a learned behavior, like going after hung food bags.

Sure, your food might get ruined if a bear is really motivated and spends a lot of time chewing the whole sack, but that outcome is unlikely. Unless you store liquids in the sack that are easily broken open or punctured, there shouldn't be any reason for a bear to spend time chewing on it. The most likely outcome is the bear biting a corner and pulling for a little bit before giving up. There might be some loss in that corner but most of your food should be fine.
 
spud
member (37)member
 
05/11/2022 12:38PM  
I think the reason you don't get it, is when people think of them as a way to protect your food.. The reality of them is their goal is really to protect the bear. If they don't get rewarded for raiding camps, they don't connect people with access to easy food.. This can keep them from becoming nuisance bears to others, and keep them from needing to be dispatched in the future...

They can and will completely destroy what you have in there if they feel that this is food.. combine it with an opsack and it should hopefully be something they don't even identify as food and attempt to get into it (similar theory for the blue barrels)..

I now have all 3, blue barrel, BV and ursacks, and really the trip determines which to bring and use..
 
mschi772
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05/11/2022 01:49PM  
spud: "their goal is really to protect the bear. If they don't get rewarded for raiding camps, they don't connect people with access to easy food.. This can keep them from becoming nuisance bears to others, and keep them from needing to be dispatched in the future."

This.
This.
This.
THIS!

Their first priority is to protect the bear from our food.
Their second priority is to protect our fellow campers by preventing bears from learning lessons that can make them a nuisance or danger to campers that follow after us.
After that, they may try to protect our food, but Ursack has chosen to compromise there for the sake of their container being softer and lighter for people who prefer that compromise.
 
05/11/2022 03:54PM  
My food is oatmeal, freeze dried dinners, jerky, energy bars, coffee, and bags of M&Ms. Not sure the "crushing" is going to matter. Not sure the Ursack material is easily bitten through. so the saliva thing isn't an issue, especially with the plastic liner. If done correctly the bear will be frustrated and not allowed to take the bag with it. Of course with time anything can be destroyed in some fashion
 
05/11/2022 05:13PM  
MEPPS: "I know I am stirring up a hornets nest with these observations but I don't see the utility in the ursack bear bags. Yes the bags protect against bears and varmints from getting your food (provided it is the Alimitey). At the end of the day if a bear finds the bag it will crush what ever is inside. I've assumed no liner. A good chance of saliva on the outside of the bag and probably inside. Rendering the food mostly useless or at the least undesirable. If used for varmints with Ursack minor(and Allmitey) and taking the chances with bears then okay but there are cheaper alternatives like the GrubPack or Ratsack (~$40). Bear canisters are the ultimate in protection but they are heavy. I get the fact of preventing bears from getting food and the resulting consequence. That is the ultimate benefit of the Ursack. As with many gear choices to each his own and the choices we make with our gear. BTW, I own all 3 of the storage options above."

You may not "get it" but that is your choice as several other methods are available. A Ursack fits well with the style of BWCA/Quetico tripping I do and it is good to have a choice. Been using them since they became available, and will continue to do so.

butthead
 
dschult2
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05/11/2022 06:01PM  
All great answers. They're great for places where hanging is not an option. I'll also add that an Ursack should never be used without an Opsack and that Opsack ideally should be replaced yearly. If used correctly, you shouldn't have any issues with bears
 
05/12/2022 07:48AM  
Ursacks are a great option for some but they are not for everyone. They were really designed with backpackers in mind. Some paddlers bring mostly dry food that’s well suitable for an Ursack, but others like to bring steak, eggs, and other items that could be easily crushed or ruined if the bear works at the bag. Liquids like oil for frying fish or maple syrup might be poor choices since they could potentially leak through and reward the bear. For these types of foods, bear canisters or hanging are much better options.

“ A good chance of saliva on the outside of the bag and probably inside. Rendering the food mostly useless or at the least undesirable.”

If a bear decides to work over one of my Ursacks, I know there is some chance that a tooth could work it’s way inside the weave (eventually), and that it then might puncture my opsack, and possibly one or more of the individual meals I have packed inside - but believe based on what I’ve read and seen that this is not the “probably” outcome. Bears can carry rabies, so if food directly comes in contact I would consider it ruined. But I think the probably outcome is the bear would try to pull it down or rip it open, and after a short time would give up leaving most or all of my food safe. So I assume some small chance of some food loss, but as long as the bear is not rewarded that’s a fair risk for me to take in exchange for a light weight and flexible solution.

As others have said, using “scent proof” bags to minimize oder is important, but it’s also important to keep the outside of the bag very clean to reduce the chance a bear will take interest in the first place. I had to mention that having just watched a video where a guy in canoeing in Canada cleaned a fish, then grabbed his barrel and cooked the fish right next to the barrel. That’s just looking for trouble.



 
05/12/2022 09:21AM  
More of a weight and space saver for me. When I solo, I bring nothing fresh, so the Ursacks are perfect for the reasons others have mentioned.

 
05/12/2022 02:34PM  
Frenchy19: "More of a weight and space saver for me. When I solo, I bring nothing fresh, so the Ursacks are perfect for the reasons others have mentioned.


"




I use em like you. Just remember if a bear actually messes with it you’ll never see it again cause chances are he’ll bring it to an undisclosed location to mess with it. So I tie mine off. Only time I ever had a bear mess with anything was at home, a bear vault and I wanted to see what he’d do. He gave up very quickly. Had many bear in camp and they never touched anything.
 
user0317
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05/13/2022 01:30PM  
Last year I purchased 3 different bear resistant containers, a BearVault, an Ursack, and 2 of some awfull orange container that I can't recall the name off. All were IGBC certified. My group was paddling throughn Gates of the Arcitc and this is a requirement for entering the park.

We had a lot of discussion regarding the advantages and disadvantages of each product, but I think we universally preferred the Ursack even though we expected the least out of it. This wasn't because we felt it was the most bear resistant, but because it was the most adaptable to our needs. If you have a lot of different shapes and sizes of food, the hardshell containers can be really difficult to fit everything in. The Ursack also packs up small when you have consumed your food, and is cheaper per liter of food storage.

None of the 3 storage methods were waterproof. I'd maybe call the BearVault water resistant but the Orange affair was worthless for keeping out water. Since they aren't waterproof, I think it is safe to assume that none of the products we used were 'scent proof' either. The bear resistance of the designs are entirely reliant on frustrating the bears attempts to penetrate the container/bag.

I do recall thinking that the translucence of the BearVault was handy for being able to see where things are inside of it, and it was a decent height for me to use as a seat.
 
ockycamper
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05/13/2022 08:12PM  
The only advantage of the Ursack I can see is weight and bulk.

We have brought Ursacks, blue barrels and BV 500 bear cannisters. Most of us have moved totally to the BV500's. They are clear, and you can see what is inside without opening them. You can sit on them or use them for a table. And they are not only bear resistent, but also mice resistent.

The only downside I can see is the size and weight. We have solved that issue by spreading out the BV 500's one per canoe on our trips.
 
MReid
distinguished member (399)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/13/2022 11:43PM  
user0317: "Last year I purchased 3 different bear resistant containers, a BearVault, an Ursack, and 2 of some awfull orange container that I can't recall the name off. All were IGBC certified. My group was paddling throughn Gates of the Arcitc and this is a requirement for entering the park.


We had a lot of discussion regarding the advantages and disadvantages of each product, but I think we universally preferred the Ursack even though we expected the least out of it. This wasn't because we felt it was the most bear resistant, but because it was the most adaptable to our needs. If you have a lot of different shapes and sizes of food, the hardshell containers can be really difficult to fit everything in. The Ursack also packs up small when you have consumed your food, and is cheaper per liter of food storage.


None of the 3 storage methods were waterproof. I'd maybe call the BearVault water resistant but the Orange affair was worthless for keeping out water. Since they aren't waterproof, I think it is safe to assume that none of the products we used were 'scent proof' either. The bear resistance of the designs are entirely reliant on frustrating the bears attempts to penetrate the container/bag.

I do recall thinking that the translucence of the BearVault was handy for being able to see where things are inside of it, and it was a decent height for me to use as a seat."


Ursacks are only effective if you tie it to a tree. There are no trees where you were, so you were outside of proper food storage requirements (that, and canisters were required, not Ursacks). I spent a month on the Noatak last summer and we were able to use canisters effectively and within requirements. It just takes a lot of canisters (we had 5 per person, most on loan from NPS.)
 
mike2019
member (40)member
 
05/14/2022 06:59AM  
I have the liner
 
user0317
distinguished member (372)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/14/2022 10:55PM  
MReid: "user0317: "Last year I purchased 3 different bear resistant containers, a BearVault, an Ursack, and 2 of some awfull orange container that I can't recall the name off. All were IGBC certified. My group was paddling throughn Gates of the Arcitc and this is a requirement for entering the park.



We had a lot of discussion regarding the advantages and disadvantages of each product, but I think we universally preferred the Ursack even though we expected the least out of it. This wasn't because we felt it was the most bear resistant, but because it was the most adaptable to our needs. If you have a lot of different shapes and sizes of food, the hardshell containers can be really difficult to fit everything in. The Ursack also packs up small when you have consumed your food, and is cheaper per liter of food storage.



None of the 3 storage methods were waterproof. I'd maybe call the BearVault water resistant but the Orange affair was worthless for keeping out water. Since they aren't waterproof, I think it is safe to assume that none of the products we used were 'scent proof' either. The bear resistance of the designs are entirely reliant on frustrating the bears attempts to penetrate the container/bag.


I do recall thinking that the translucence of the BearVault was handy for being able to see where things are inside of it, and it was a decent height for me to use as a seat."



Ursacks are only effective if you tie it to a tree. There are no trees where you were, so you were outside of proper food storage requirements (that, and canisters were required, not Ursacks). I spent a month on the Noatak last summer and we were able to use canisters effectively and within requirements. It just takes a lot of canisters (we had 5 per person, most on loan from NPS.)"


There are millions of trees on the Alatna (both in the woods and washed up on gravel bars), and plenty of rocks to tie off to as well. The ranger in Bettles did not object when he asked what we were using for food storage. He had a long and extensive speech regarding bear safety.
 
05/15/2022 05:13PM  
FYI, I use the urbearck bag to protect the be more than it's contents. I'm not going to give you a bear lecture, but if you understand the bear/human relationship, you'll understand.
 
ockycamper
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05/15/2022 06:05PM  
not sure I understand last statement. How can a Ursack protect the bear better then a bearvault? And who really wants to eat what's in the ursack after the bear smashes everything inside and covers it in saliva?
 
billconner
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05/15/2022 06:37PM  
ockycamper: "not sure I understand last statement. How can a Ursack protect the bear better then a bearvault? And who really wants to eat what's in the ursack after the bear smashes everything inside and covers it in saliva?"

Are there reports of this occuring?
 
Wharfrat63
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05/18/2022 11:29AM  
billconner: "ockycamper: "not sure I understand last statement. How can a Ursack protect the bear better then a bearvault? And who really wants to eat what's in the ursack after the bear smashes everything inside and covers it in saliva?"


Are there reports of this occuring?"


Yep. Happened to me on Agnes last year. Holes in one urasak: food smashed. The second was totally compromised. Bear got everything in it. Must have worked on it for hours. As a matter of fact, when we went to get our food at 5:30am, the bear was still there! Trip was over.

They are not Bear proof! They are bear resistant. A suggestion was made to my post, that a bell or alarm tied to the Urasak may have helped alert us. That is most likely good advice, except for us we experienced high winds that night...We would not have heard a thing.

This happened near the end of the trip. I had messy trip mates who suffered from extreme "Normalcy bias" and We got lazy about eating and then touching the bags, urasak and opsak, with food smelling hands. And in hindsight, I placed two bags on the "Agnes Bear Highway" that goes from camp to camp. Keeping them clean (no smells) and hidden in dense forest, will help. But having trip mates that say "I have been camping in the backcountry since I was a kid and I never needed to worry about bears...blah, blah, blah), may thwart all efforts to keep them bears away.

 
mschi772
distinguished member(784)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
05/18/2022 12:46PM  
Garcia and BearVault and other makers of food containers for backpackers wouldn't claim to be "bear proof" after so many hours of having a bear work on them either--they aren't even tested to that extent in the first place. Expecting these devices to keep food permanently safe is foolish. A loud, windy night giving cover to the bear is a bummer and a reminder to us all to try to plan for such cases with whatever tools we might think of to help alarm us to bear activity on our food containers. Also a great reminder there that a food container handled poorly and scented with food on the outside sets it up for failure. Crushed slobbery food is still a win as far as I'm concerned since that's better than that food feeding the bear a dangerous lesson--primary objective of protecting the bear from our food achieved.
 
ockycamper
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05/18/2022 12:55PM  
I wouldn't call smashed food covered in bear saliva a win in any book. As with the previous poster, we would throw it out.

I have read the accounts where Bearvaults were supposed to be breached. Per the accounts, most of these were the result of the lids not being engaged past the brackets. In other words, human error, not manufacture default. I have yet to see any evidence in BWCA of a bearvault being breached or cracked open by bears. I know of several individuals who have had their food smashed, slobbered on and occasionaly drug off with Ursacks.

Other then the size and weight, I don't see what Ursack brings to the table.
 
mschi772
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05/18/2022 01:00PM  
ockycamper: "Other then the size and weight, I don't see what Ursack brings to the table."

Why isn't less bulk/weight enough for you to accept its existence as an option? It's one of multiple options available. No one is forcing it on you. I personally prefer the compromises of my Ursack XL. Achieving the same volume of storage with BearVaults would cost me more than twice what I paid for my Ursack, weigh much more, be far less efficient for fitting into a pack, and would be more annoying to pack food into smaller hard cylinders instead of a larger flexible sack. The Ursack may not be for you, but it most certainly is for me until someone finally makes something better.
 
ockycamper
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05/18/2022 01:08PM  
totally agree. However the question was regarding bear protection. There is no question the food will be smashed with a Ursack and probably covered outside the sack and maybe inside with saliva. If that is worth the benefits of lighter weight and flexibility. . .rock on.

Things that haven't been mentioned regarding bearvaults: You can sit on them, see what's inside without opening them, and if the lids have duct tape around the edges they are water tight in a capsize. Lastly, in my case, they serve as food storage containers at home.
 
mschi772
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05/18/2022 01:24PM  
ockycamper: "If that is worth the benefits of lighter weight and flexibility"

Speaking for myself, yes, in addition to the other differences I value about the Ursack over others mentioned in my previous post, it is worth it. My #1 goal with something like an Ursack is NOT to keep my food perfect and unmolested. My #1 goal is to prevent a bear from being fed by me in order to prevent it from learning that raiding humans is a worthwhile activity. My #2 goal is to frustrate the bear enough that maybe it even learns that not only is raiding humans unrewarding but that it is actually punishing in the form of frustration and wasted time/energy. If my food remains unmolested, that's a bonus, but that bonus is not worth losing the benefits of an Ursack or enduring the frustrations of a Garcia/BearVault. For me.

I think MEPPS's question of "Ursack - I don't get it" has been pretty thoroughly addressed at this point.
 
tumblehome
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05/21/2022 06:29AM  
mschi772: "ockycamper: "If that is worth the benefits of lighter weight and flexibility"
.


I think MEPPS's question of "Ursack - I don't get it" has been pretty thoroughly addressed at this point."


I’ve read through the entire thread and it’s a good read with many good perspectives.

Historically I do little to protect my food other than keep it close to me at night with a bell on the pack. I’m one of those guys that after 30 years has not had a bear incident. But I’m like Bigfoot. I camp in seldom used places or at the least in the off season. And you rarely see me since I’m not on busy routes so I’m not on a bear’s radar

As I read threads about bear/food protection I wonder if I should do more. Until reading this thread I had come to believe that the Ursack is to protect your food.. But alas it is not so. Therefore, I guess my method will still be my best bet. I don’t camp on the bear highway around Agnes but if I did you would bet I would be far more cautious than I am now.

I do appreciate the conversation. Much learned in this thread.
Tom
 
05/21/2022 04:01PM  
Lots of assumptions without actual direct knowledge here.
 
tumblehome
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05/21/2022 04:09PM  
Blatz: "Lots of assumptions without actual direct knowledge here."

Oh enlighten me.
 
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