Nunatak Gear Bears Ears 50 Review

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Nunatak Gear Bears Ears 50 Review

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    Andrew Marshall
    BPL Member


    Locale: Tahoe basin by way of the southern Appalachians

    Companion forum thread to: Nunatak Gear Bears Ears 50 Review

    The Nunatak Gear Bears Ears 50 (MSRP: $330, ~28 ounces / 794 g) is an innovative frameless pack designed specifically to accommodate bear canisters. It features a unique water bottle storage system, optional shoulder-strap pockets, a removable foam back panel, a floating hipbelt, a large wrap-around exterior pocket, and a closed-cell foam pad attachment system.

    Dustin V
    BPL Member


    That looks like a really interesting design. It reminds me of the old frame packs with a big sleeping bag lashed to the bottom. Don’t know how they pulled this off frameless.

    I have a bunch of questions that I hope are answered in the long-term review, but I ask this now; did the water bottle holsters bounce a lot?

    Scott Nelson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California and Sierras

    What was it like to set the pack down on the ground?  Did the bear can get beat up?  Did the water bottle pockets have to splay out or go on their sides?  Did the pockets want to discharge the bottles when put down on the ground?  Was it ever slippery if you had to sit down with the pack on? Like if you had to sit down to descend a big rock drop-off, would the bear can scrap or slip on the rock behind you?

    It seems like the design would benefit from aluminum stays that extended vertically down to the “can” level from standard “load lifter” height.  More load carrying and no instability between the can and pack.

    I’m intrigued by this pack.

    BPL Member


    Andrew purchased this pack at full price without any fuss.

    Scott: Using it will scratch your bear can more than if it was fully inside, obviously. Down climbing face out will scratch the can. Sitting down with the pack on should be fine.

    Pockets do not drop bottles when putting the pack down, or bending over, or scrambling, or glissading. If still concerned a small loop of shock cord can easily be tied to the holder and slipped over the top of the bottle.

    Part of the reason the bottles are easily retrieved, yet does not fall out, is the fluid joint between the holder and hipbelt that keeps them closer to vertical independent of the user’s movements. So, to answer Dustins question, yes they do swing around. This is barely noticeable when hiking, very noticeable when running.

    When we first developed this concept in 2016 it was a framed pack. Unfortunately it was too complex to built. Later, some improvements in design allowed a frameless version to work as well if the user’s base weight is under 12 lbs or so (not including the canister)

    Albert N
    BPL Member


    That bear can looks like a Bearikade? Is it the Weekender?

    H S


    Just returned from a ten day trip on the Tuscarora Trail carrying a Nunatak Gear Bears Ears 50 prototype that I purchased.  With the Tuscarora having bears, rock scrambling and blow downs, this was the perfect choice.  Carried up to 27 pounds comfortably.  To address some of the previous posts, I found that 750 ml water bottles did not bounce nor come out easily.  When placing the pack on the ground, I did have to ensure that the water bottles where not under the bear can but this did not become a nuisance.   Of course you need to be careful placing the bear can on the ground, but was surprised that my Bearikade Weekender did not really show any major scuffs or wear even after several “trail stunts”.  On my prototype, there are three external pockets versus the one larger wrap-a-round pocket on the current model.  This revision is a great idea to allow a wet tarp to be dried out during the day.  As always, Nunatak sewing and finish work is the best.   Would buy again. “Jake Blues” AT ’86Bear Ears


    Dominick T
    BPL Member


    So, I purchased the Bears Ears after hearing Andrew’s initial review. Before purchase, I contacted Jan at Nunatak to ask about the availability of hipbelt pockets since I would miss them terribly if not present and since they seem to have some modular options. He said he could fabricate some and voila…I now have the Bears ears with what will hopefully be prototype hipbelt pockets. It depended on the size hipbelt – small would not fit but larger sizes have enough room. They are large enough for my Sony point and shoot camera and some Larabars. This reminds me of my old external frame Boy Scout pack with the bear can where my 6lb cotton sleeping bag used to go. I have to say that working with the people at Nunatak was wonderful – this is a great and innovative product. With a bear can in place, it fits into the small of my back and is super comfy. Very well made construction. Andrew thanks for a very thoughtful review and update as I don’t know I would have come across this pack had it not been for your discussion on podcast. I really appreciate it. Dom



    Dan R
    BPL Member


    Thanks for the review, Andrew. It was the final confirmation that led me to purchasing the pack. I live in the Blue Ridge of Virginia and was getting reeeeeally tired of rushing to camp to hang a bear bag before dark, my most hated camp chore. Figured I would just eat the weight of a bear can for simplicity of life (oh how far I’ve come from 4oz bear bags), but after taking this pack out for its first trip, I’m completely sold. It rides so very nicely and the bear can (Bearikade Weekender) feels much less than its weight. Water bottle holders are the best I’ve ever used, super simple and convenient. Paired with an HMG Versa I don’t miss hip belt pockets. And just plopping everything into a bear can after dark and setting in the bushes was amazing! Thanks for the review.

    Tom M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kalispell

    This pack has me intrigued. I dont use a Bear Cannister because of the abundant trees (bear hangs) in N.W. Montana, however using the carved out space for a packraft seems legit. My initial thoughts would be it puts the raft in a core position, keeps the raft separate for easy deployment, and allows for a wet raft to be packed up without effecting other gear. Thoughts anyone?


    Duane Hall
    BPL Member


    Locale: Nova Scotia

    I am intrigued with the packraft possibilities as well.  You would have to have a sturdy protective cover for the raft I think. I also think I would like a little more internal volume, but still . . . an interesting concept that I will be following.

    obx hiker
    BPL Member


    re packraft:  The ‘pocket’ or really it’s an an open harness or holster that used the shaped bottom of the pack to form the harness/holster and so anything in that ‘HH’ is completely external to the body of the pack and not getting anything wet except maybe your rear end. If the packraft fits within the parameters of the HH you should be good to go with that idea. And yes the position of the harness/holster and whatever is in it is completely secure and very well balanced.

    As for size;  ‘bear’ in mind that whatever is in the canister or HH is now not in your pack so that can be a lot of extra CC’s.

    Gotta walk the dogs before sunset but I’ll try and send a couple of photos to illustrate better soon.

    Tom M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kalispell

    The 35 l main plus whatever you can shove in the back panel is perfect size for my kind of party.  Maybe I missed it but is the 28 oz  the stripped down tally?

    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    No one’s mentioned a bounce from the bear canister, so I assume that it doesn’t. It’s hard for me to fathom how that is, but I’m unclear from the pictures how the canister attaches from the bottom to the pack.

    obx hiker
    BPL Member


    ^^ Hmmm that’s a good question. Would a canister in the bottom of a suitably sized and long/deep pack bounce around?

    In this case the bottom of the pack main body is cut, sewn and shaped on the bottom to form an arc that fits around a cylindrical shape and within certain limits (the arc must have a radius in the ball-park of the cylinder) is snugged tight by the well designed strap system and is thereby not just attached but encompassed within the pack body.

    Then or also the strap system is incorporated into the very comfortable and load transferring hip belt so the canister is snugged to the belt . The hip belt is really nice. So anyway the canister probably moves less than it would somewhat loose in a pack though last time I did that this spring with an ‘old school’ Go-lite Gust. I don’t remember that being a problem/issue. What I do remember is how much better I like the easy access to the canister instead of having to completely empty the pack to get to anything considered smellable and thereby stored in the canister. This pack also transfers wayyy better to the hips.

    I’ve used another canister strap system which attaches to the top of my MLD Burn several times so have a little experience with the problem; and it worked after a fashion but despite strapping it on tight as Dick’s hat band it flopped around. This system holds still and places the canister in a much better position.


    Zack L
    BPL Member


    Would the bottle pouch fit a variety of hipbelts or is it dependent on features on the Nuntak packs?

    obx hiker
    BPL Member


    ^^ The bottle holder is designed specifically to fit on belt loops set to align the bottle at like a 30-40 degree angle. Could copy the idea and align it to work on another belt maybe.

    A couple of photos attempting to explain the canister attachment. The arc bottom of the pack is @ 9″ and has a fabric extension for another 5″ for a total of 14″ of fabric encapsulating the canister. The vertical circumference straps are sewn to the fabric of the extension and the pack thereby fixing the spacing of the straps. With the aftermarket rig I used with the MLD Burn the straps tended to wander no matter how tight. These can’t wander. The canister pictured is just over 28″ in circumference so basically half wrapped in fabric.

    nunatak harness 1

    The vertical straps are sewn to the fabric extension and the bottom of the pack completing the circle and also looped through the belt. The horizontal strap is looped through both dual vertical circumference straps, sewn horizontally across the fabric extension and also looped through the belt on each side of the pack/canister. The belt is thereby attached to the pack body by the fabric extension and the straps. This sets the canister height.

    One could assert that this arrangement is at least as secure as having the canister wedged in place by items stuffed around it inside the pack, keeping in mind the potential for items above a canister inside a pack to shift around and loosen up.

    John D
    BPL Member


    I’ve just completed an AT thruhike with the bears ears for the last 1300 miles, using a bearikade can. There’s definitely no bouncing issue.  The weight distribution is excellent; you do have to make some daily/occasional pack adjustments depending on food and water weight, as the pack carries differently since the ‘waist weight’ can be as much as 10 lbs (2l water and 6 or occasionally more lbs food), less as you head toward resupply or if you can go with less water.  I would guess a pack raft would fit fine in place of a  4-8 lb bear can filled with food.  I found it to be a very comfortable carry, and very durable.

    baja bob
    BPL Member


    Locale: West

    Bumping this thread. Anyone using this pack as their regular pack without a canister? I think you need some weight in the bottom with the framed version. Corresponded with Jan and thinking aboubt the framed version and doesn’t necessarily require something in the bottom of the pack.

    Chris K
    BPL Member


    I carried the framed Bears Ears All-Season for a little over 100 miles on the Colorado Trail with an Ursack XL.

    It’s spacious, comfortable with heavier loads (~40 lbs), and well organized. I found it carried a heavier load just as well as a lighter load.

    I haven’t used it without anything strapped to the bottom, so can’t comment on that. But even when the Ursack was down to one day of food and some small misc gear, it carried fine. I do think the ideal carry is with a canister.

    Great pack.

    Bowen D
    BPL Member


    I just got back from a 4 night and then a 7 night trip with my Nunatak Original Frameless/Bears Ears 50 (the name, and the web site, are both a little confusing) and a BV500 bear can. I carried 28-34 lbs starting out on the two trips respectively, no problem at all, very comfortable and stable both on trail and off. Some have asked about this above, and I can say definitely that the bear canister does NOT bounce at all.

    I am 5’10.5″, 175-180lbs, inseam length 30in and although at first a Large was recommended, we agreed that a Medium would be the better fit based on how I like to wear the hip belt relatively high, and I think that was the right choice.

    The pack felt great both trips, which were about 2/3 on trail and 1/3 off trail/XC, at 10-12k’ in the high Sierra. I also used the pack as a day pack to summit Langley, just removed and stashed the canister and cinched the bear can straps down to zero length, and it worked just fine.

    I bought mine with a right-hand gear pouch and a left-hand bottle pouch on the hip belt; I ended up moving the bottle pouch to the left shoulder, it works better for me there, and I was able to easily reposition the bottle pouch using the existing strap.

    Someone asked: “What was it like to set the pack down on the ground?  Did the bear can get beat up? sure, a bit. But, less than a bear would beat it up!

    Q “Did the water bottle pockets have to splay out or go on their sides?  Did the pockets want to discharge the bottles when put down on the ground?” yes, a bit — that’s part of the reason why I moved the water bottle pocket up to the left shoulder strap.

    Q “Was it ever slippery if you had to sit down with the pack on? Like if you had to sit down to descend a big rock drop-off, would the bear can scrap or slip on the rock behind you?” I didn’t find this to be an issue, but I suppose it was more slippery than a pack. Worked fine for me, not an issue.

    The single exterior mesh pocket is awesome—just use it, no wondering which pocket things are in.

    Although I don’t love carrying a bear can, that’s kindof 0a done deal here in CA and I love how the pack is designed around the purpose and allows access to the can at any time without having to dig it out of the pack. Love it, way to go Nunatak!


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