Apr 25, 2011 at 3:59 pm #1272858
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.Apr 25, 2011 at 4:56 pm #1729355
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.Apr 25, 2011 at 6:49 pm #1729432
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.Apr 25, 2011 at 6:55 pm #1729435
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
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.Apr 25, 2011 at 7:46 pm #1729456
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"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. ;-)Apr 25, 2011 at 7:47 pm #1729460
@ouzelLocale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
"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.Apr 25, 2011 at 8:29 pm #1729473
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).Apr 25, 2011 at 8:47 pm #1729478
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.shtmlApr 25, 2011 at 8:53 pm #1729480
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.Apr 25, 2011 at 9:32 pm #1729496
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
"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.Apr 25, 2011 at 9:50 pm #1729501
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.Apr 25, 2011 at 10:05 pm #1729510
@saparisorLocale: Pacific Northwest
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.Apr 25, 2011 at 11:26 pm #1729537
"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.Apr 26, 2011 at 12:02 am #1729542
@redmonkLocale: Greater California Ecosystem
Are you asking if a bag designed to stop a squirrel will work for bears ?Apr 26, 2011 at 12:27 am #1729547
"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.Apr 26, 2011 at 7:19 am #1729578
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 ;)Apr 26, 2011 at 7:37 am #1729585
@brianleLocale: Pacific NW
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.Apr 26, 2011 at 7:47 am #1729587
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.Apr 26, 2011 at 8:14 am #1729602
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!Apr 26, 2011 at 8:19 am #1729604
On weight: my Ursacks only weigh 5 ounces :-D I have older ones though.Apr 26, 2011 at 9:13 am #1729630
@jakep_82Locale: Pacific Northwest
I use the bear bag system from Lawson at Mountainfitter. It's a nice setup and it works well for only 2.6oz (4.1 with included OPSack).Apr 26, 2011 at 12:25 pm #1729713
@footeabLocale: Pacific Northwest
I have never had bear/cougar problems in Wa/Or/BC/CO/MT/WY, seen several but no problems. I have had many mouse and picca encounters. Had Marmot encounters as well. Deer encounters. Any well established well used campsite will have mouse infestation problems. The ones with toilets nearby generally, though some way side hiker established sites, I have rarely, had the pleasure of mouse bashing.
If I camp in a well defined well used campsite(I never do, or try not to) I will hang my food in a normal stuff sack and leave my pack wide open for said mice easy ingress outgress.
Otherwise, I am a Gigantic proponent of NEVER camping where everyone else camps. Move off the main campsite 1000 feet and you will never have any problems at all. Never.
I have never hung my food when not in a normal campsite and have Never had any mouse/rodent problems in all the 30+ years of backpacking. Hmm where is the bold highlighter when I need it.Aug 22, 2014 at 8:34 pm #2129602
@dipinkLocale: Western Washington
Looking at the Ursack site, I can't decide whether to get an Ursack, or an Ursack Minor. They do not seem confident that the Ursack will hold up to critter teeth, yet if possible I'd like to get the Ursack, and only have one item that does double duty, adding an aluminum liner if bears are likely. I hike in the PNW, and I *hate* hanging bear bags, going to the extent of taking a bear canister even in areas where it is not required. I do believe in not letting critters become habituated to human food, bears or smaller, but hanging is a hassle, and so often hard to accomplish properly, especially above tree line.
I'm tired of hauling the canister. Most of the areas I hike in bears aren't really the issue, it's more about protection from smaller critters. We do often camp in established campsites, where the local mice and chipmunks know what to do. Haven't seen problems from raccoons or larger. Previously, I didn't consider the Ursack because of the questions about agency approval–I didn't want to have to think about whether my system was approved or not, just preferred to grab-and-go. Now, it looks like things will be changing, with IGBC giving the thumbs up.
Could someone tell me if they've had problems with little rodents chewing into the Ursack? Thanks!Aug 23, 2014 at 7:31 pm #2129814
@mammomanLocale: NE AL
Where I hike in the Southeast, bears aren't usually an issue, but mice, chipmunks etc. are. I once had a carnivorous mouse chew through a Ziploc bag containing beef jerky! The past few years, I have used an Ursack, and it has laughed at the varmints. I tie it to a tree and go to bed, worry free.
In the Smokies, I use provided bear cables or PCT hang.
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