Bearvault vs ursack usability?
May 2, 2021 at 5:47 am #3711185
I am looking to get a bear canister for a trip planned that starts in RMNP. I have compared bearvault and ursack+ aluminum liner for use on the trip. The ursack is attractive for lower weight/ease of packability and greater capacity.
Are there many places where the ursack is not permitted? I would like to go with the ursack but don’t want to find out it’s not allowed in many places and end up needing to purchase another canister for future trips.May 2, 2021 at 7:23 am #3711192Paul WagnerBPL Member
@balzaccomLocale: Wine Country
I think the Sierra Nevada would fall into that category–particularly Yosemite National Park. They won’t allow Ursacks or hangs,…just canisters. SEKI is a little different…in that they have bear boxes at many of the key backcountry campsites, and encourage/insist that you use their bear boxes in those areas.May 2, 2021 at 10:54 am #3711210PaulWBPL Member
@peweg8Locale: Western Colorado
I don’t know how it is now, but a few years ago RMNP did not allow the Ursack. It would be best to contact their backcountry office before your trip.May 2, 2021 at 11:37 am #3711219Chris FormyDuvalBPL Member
Worth a call to the backcountry office. The website wording is a little vague so its not clear if urasck w/liner is still approved as it previously was.May 2, 2021 at 11:46 am #3711220John BBPL Member
@jnb0216Locale: western ColoradoMay 2, 2021 at 12:55 pm #3711231H WBPL Member
In the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness – White River area a hard sided bear canister is required. Hanging is illegal. Fines can be steep and I’ve heard stories of people immediately escorted back to the trailhead.May 2, 2021 at 1:48 pm #3711240Rex SandersBPL Member
What’s accepted in one park or wilderness often isn’t allowed in the next one over. Even adjacent units of the same agency (NPS, USFS, etc.) often have different rules.
On longer trips, you must carry for the most restrictive area – usually a well-known, hard-sided bear canister. Renting looks good if you rarely travel through those areas.
— RexMay 2, 2021 at 2:16 pm #3711243Steve HBPL Member
Several areas around Western NC mtns (Shining Rock, GSMNP I think, & others) don’t allow the Ursack. I was considering the ramifications like you, & decided on the two Bear Vault sizes.May 2, 2021 at 6:28 pm #3711266
H W, several years ago, there was a question about whether Ursacks were allowed in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. At that time, there was some ambiguity in the information available on the web, so I checked with a couple of rangers who told me that they were allowed.
Sloan, it appears that regulations are all over the place. Since I don’t like carrying unnecessary weight, I like Rex’s idea of renting a bear can when you absolutely need one.May 2, 2021 at 7:55 pm #3711270
I put in a call to RMNP before starting to look into ursacks. they were super helpful in the wilderness office and answered more than a few questions for me including confirming that they allow ursacks with the aluminum liner.
Just wondering if that is the case in most other parks.May 2, 2021 at 8:07 pm #3711271Steve HBPL Member
As residential developments continue to increase & encroach on wildlife habitats the feeling I get, at least in the WNC mountains & logically in other wilderness area is the equally increasing requirements for hard-sided bear canisters. Here it’s getting to a point where many backpackers are throwing in the towel & just biting the canister bullet so to speak. I recognize & understand the attraction of soft-sided (liner or not) solutions – much lighter & easier to pack, but the illegality of bear bag hangs & the bear activity has caused what may be a continuing trend for human safety. Time will tell.May 4, 2021 at 8:05 am #3711412
Sloan, thanks for checking on Ursack approval for RMNP this year. I know they have allowed them for the past two years (with aluminum insert), but the original “announcement” only appeared in the newspaper-like handout in a short article on backcountry camping. The wording was vague enough that someone unfamiliar with Ursacks would never have known what they were talking about. Even last year you had to present your Ursack at the backcountry office so the rangers could verify you had the right product and the insert. Ironically, two years ago when I brought mine in, most of the rangers had never even seen one.
Do you happen to know if the rangers still need to see and approve an Ursack when you pick up a permit?
Unfortunately, it only takes a few bears getting into unproperly tied Ursacks to put the kabosh on widespread use. Hard canisters can be compromised on rare occasions, but it’s generally easier for humans to close them right.May 4, 2021 at 11:11 am #3711436
I was told they would want to check to be sure you had the appropriate liner for it.May 4, 2021 at 3:14 pm #3711478
Yup, thanks. Have a good trip!May 5, 2021 at 12:18 pm #3711571H WBPL Member
Dondo — here’s the ruling from 2015. The Ranger I spoke to several years ago said Ursack is not allowed, nor is hanging. I’m very surprised at this update. I’ll visit the district office to clarify. I see that the Ursack is IGBC-certified but wondering if that is with the liner.
ASPEN, Colo.– July 14, 2015 – The Aspen-Sopris Ranger District is implementing a regulation (known also as a “Special Order”, or “Order”) for the 162,333 acre Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area on the White River National Forest. This order requires mandatory storage of all food, garbage and attractant in hard-sided bear-resistant containers. All overnight hikers need to provide their own hard-sided containers approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, which are readily available on-line from several manufacturers and retailers.May 6, 2021 at 2:04 am #3711621John S.BPL Member
HW, it’s a big mess at Maroon Bells. Your 2015 order states one thing and Dondo’s link to the forest service page says any approved container as of 2021. Another interesting thing is the Wild Ideas Bearikade is not on the approved list. Wild Ideas said, “…we do not wish to be included on a list that approves canisters that are breached every season…”May 6, 2021 at 8:16 am #3711634
Bear-Resistant canister approvals are a mess as each National Park set’s it’s own list not to mention National Forests and other public lands. Sometimes it makes little sense to me as well for example I don’t believe the Bearikade is approved in Rocky Mountain National Park where they just have black bears, but it is approved for Wrangell St. Elias NP where they have both black and brown bears.
The UrSack will never be approved in SEKI if you frequent the Sierra. It get’s political with the SIBBG (Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group) who was a testing organization of bear canisters made up partially of rangers from SEKI was sued by UrSack for not approving their design (despite reportedly passing the tests) and that lawsuit forced SIBBG to disband. The UrSack later got IGBC (Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee) approval, which is often used as a blanket approval in many parks but not all.
Despite the UrSack getting IGBC approval it isn’t hard to see SIBBG’s concerns that it is a much more error likely than a hard sided canister. I have an UrSack as well as a Bearikade and Bear Vault and admittedly I have much less confidence in the UrSack to protect my food than either of the hard sided canisters. I use it in areas where an IBGC canister is required, but I don’t expect to actually come into contact with any bears (i.e. I will be away from high traffic areas and staying in off trail high alpine camps where bears could be, but there is a low probability of one coming around my camp). If I am going to be camping lower or in higher traffic areas then I use a hard canister.
I’ve been backpacking in canister required bear country for a decade and only last year had an event where a bear touched my canister (that I know of). I was doing the Southern Sierra High Route and camped one night on the JMT (mistake). A bear silently came into camp and turned my canister over, apparently rolled it around a bit, and bit my fuel bottle that was sitting beside, but not inside (mistake) the canister.
If you are looking for a canister that is good everywhere then the BearVault is as good as it gets. I think it’s allowed everywhere except for a small area in NY where a now deceased bear named Yellow-Yellow learned how to open them. I dislike the Bear Vault for a couple of reasons, but it is fairly inexpensive, has a wide opening, and is approved nearly everywhere. That being said I use a Bearikade when I can as I prefer it to the Bear Vault, but there are a lot of places it isn’t approved.May 6, 2021 at 8:19 am #3711636Ben H.BPL Member
@bzhayesLocale: No. Alabama
Bearikade doesn’t want to be on the list because it can’t pass the IGBC test. They are just trying to misinform their customers.May 6, 2021 at 9:18 am #3711641
The rumor is that the Bearikade failed the IBGC test, and pictures are floating around that show the failed canister. Bearikade states that those pictures were from a test with a potential new supplier of carbon fiber and was not the production version Bearikade.
I’m not sure whether they are telling the truth or not, but they don’t seem to show any interest in gaining IBGC approval which seems shocking to me as it excludes them from so many areas. My two guesses for reasoning are that they A.) don’t think they could (or didn’t already) pass the tests, or B.) that they have as big of business catering mostly to Sierra hikers already and don’t want to grow.May 6, 2021 at 9:46 am #3711646
Unfortunately, it only takes a few bears getting into unproperly tied Ursacks to put the kabosh on widespread use. Hard canisters can be compromised on rare occasions, but it’s generally easier for humans to close them right.
Great point, Jenny. Don’t know if you’ve seen this yet, but it will affect those of us who recreate along the Front Range.
The last sentence is most relevant to our discussion here:
Armstrong said bear-proof containers will be required this year for campers across almost all of the Arapaho and Roosevelt forests.
If Ursacks are approved, I can see a few careless campers using them improperly and screwing things up for the rest of us.May 6, 2021 at 7:32 pm #3711694Bruce TolleyBPL Member
@btolleyLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Thanks for bringing up the sad story of the SIBBG. SIBBG was an organization of volunteers from various agencies that developed common test standards and testing and also worked to coordinate common bear canister policies among the various Sierra agencies.May 6, 2021 at 10:01 pm #3711701
Dondo, I did see that article and actually put a call into the district ranger office for the AR Nat’l Forest. A ranger left a voice mail that basically said the policy is still evolving but that for now the policy targets high-use areas where human-bear conflicts are becoming more frequent, and that approved food storage methods will include hanging a food sack. He implied that hard-sided canisters would be optional, and storing food inside a vehicle would suffice in the front country. (People must be leaving food outside in coolers or something….)
Um, I don’t pretend to know more than the professionals, but I do know that it can be nearly impossible to effectively hang a food sack from the closely spaced, thin, spindly, high branches in the trees at most back country campsites in this area. I have certainly done it, knowing that my hang was more of a formality and banking on no bears being around. Much as I dislike hard-sided canisters, I dislike bears being put down because of human carelessness more. The FS should just cut to the chase and require hard canisters.
He said updates would be forthcoming. I’m guessing the area west of Boulder on the east side of the Divide will be targeted, including sites in Indian Peaks Wilderness and maybe James Peak Wilderness, and maybe some areas west of Ft. Collins.May 7, 2021 at 6:36 am #3711730
I’ve always just hung food in the east and it generally not that hard with hardwood trees with good branches. My first trip to WRR, I decided to hang as well (canisters weren’t required) and to be honest I’m not sure any hang I did out there was bear proof. The trees below treeline weren’t appropriate for a good hang at least compared to what I was used to, and above tree line I used boulders, which was probably decent, but not great in many locations either. My next trip to WRR I took a canister, and have used a canister or UrSack in every trip there since.May 7, 2021 at 7:29 am #3711732Paul WagnerBPL Member
@balzaccomLocale: Wine Country
One of the reasons that Yosemite moved to bear canisters is their survey of hikers and food hangs a number of years ago. Something like 70% of the hikers thought their food hangs were appropriate, but the rangers determined that over 90% of them did not meet the requirements of “off the ground and away from the trunk” distances. And this was for the majority of people who thought they were doing it right.
We now take a bear can on all our backpacking trips in the mountains–Sierra or otherwise. Yeah, it is more weight. But it’s a weight off our minds that we don’t have to worry about raccoons, mice, etc.May 7, 2021 at 8:10 am #3711735
I agree that it’s difficult to find good trees for a hang, at least out here in the Rocky Mountain west. Five years ago, I bought an Ursack for a trip where a bear resistant container was required. Despite the extra weight, I found it so easy to use that I haven’t done a bear hang since. I’ll admit that I’m still reluctant to carrying the extra weight of a bear can, but of course will do so in areas where they are required.
To avoid the crowds, I’ll use the same strategies that I used last year: Going mid-week or off-season. Stealth camping away from water and trails. Avoiding 14ers and other obvious destinations. Driving a bit father to access out-of-the-way trailheads. Seeking out lesser-used trails and wilderness areas.
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