- Jun 8, 2019 at 5:53 pm #3596822
Jonathan SkilesBPL Member
I apologize if I am repeated earlier posts. Does anyone have any info on potential changes to Yosemite’s ban on the use of Ursack? I know Ursack was recently purchased and was hoping that might mean Yosemite was finally ready to apply the same standards to Ursack that it uses to approve all the other approved containers. Any info would be greatly appreciated. I would love to use an Ursack on a through-hike of the Sierra High Route next year.Jun 11, 2019 at 12:19 pm #3597177
As an aside, I assume the benefit of the Ursack is a risk vs reward scenario. By using it, one assumes that the probability of a bear finding the sack is low, thus the risk is worth the savings in weight compared to a canister. If a bear does find it, most of your food will probably be ruined. It won’t tear the bag open, but the food inside will be smashed to bits and/or a paste.Jun 11, 2019 at 1:57 pm #3597186
Most likely. It could be modded to reduce that. An example of a mod that might help. Take two 1/4″, high density foam pads cut to slightly longer/wider than length/width of the Ursack as it lays more flat, put a little curve in the foam with some heat. Put a thin coat of epoxy on the outside and inside of these (even better if you dope the epoxy, 2% ratio by weight, with some high crystalline content carbonized nanocellulose, but not completely necessary).
Take some thicker, high density foam, cut into round columns, and stack/epoxy some together as much as need be to get the approximate width (slightly under) your Ursack filled up. Create 5 of these columns, also treat the outsides with epoxy, and also epoxy the columns onto one of the larger, slightly curved foam rectangles. 1 at each corner and one in the middle.
Put that one into the Ursack before loading with the food, and while loading w/ food, leaving enough space that you can slip the other one in after. I suspect, though am not certain, that this would likely help keep the food from getting mangled beyond all recognition, at not much extra weight, though of course it will take away some volume space.Jun 11, 2019 at 3:38 pm #3597198
Jon FongBPL Member
@jonfongLocale: FLAT CAT GEAR
I don’t think that foam is going to do one bit of good. My 2 cents.
All big bears (including grizzly bears and brown bears) have roughly comparable bites, but the winner by a nose—or, we should say, by a back molar—is the polar bear, which chomps down on its prey with a force of about 1,200 pounds per square inch, or more than four times the power of your average Inuit. This may seem like overkill, considering that a rampaging polar bear can render its prey unconscious with a single swipe of its well-muscled paw, but it makes sense given that many animals in Arctic habitats are swathed in thick coats of fur, feathers, and blubber.Jun 11, 2019 at 3:48 pm #3597200
jeffrey armbrusterBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
Bear slime is incredibly nasty stuff. I doubt that you’d want to eat to eat food from a slime covered tooth punctured bag. Sure, you can wash the ursack but in my experience some punctures allow the slime in–just a little, but remember everything inside is mush. How do you feel about bear germs?
Pony up and get a Bearikade. Problem solved. It’s no good having a bear hanging around gnawing on your bag for some time rather than walking off when it realizes it can’t get into your canJun 11, 2019 at 5:21 pm #3597213
Paul SumnerBPL Member
I’ve used my Ursack on basically all of the SHR, w/ the exception of the Yosemite portion (used a model 101 for that bit). Never had a bear touch it, mostly just tried to a small tree as the manufacturer recommends. Note: Inyo, etc. want you to hang it like a regular food bag. Sierra bears in my experience (>20yrs) are most frequently encountered in well-known areas during the summer: Le Conte Canyon, Rae Lakes loop, Yosemite, etc. — read high traffic & also good for real bear food (i.e. not above treeline). Camp stealthily (do dinner before stopping or away from camp) and don’t worry about it.Jun 11, 2019 at 5:51 pm #3597215
It’s not just bears that I’m protecting my food from but also all the other critters: squirrels, marmots etc especially above treeline. Having my food inside a canister gives me peace of mind of one less thing to think about. I even take the canister when it’s not required – my pack and rest of my system is dialed in just right for that.
The Ursack question comes up at least twice every hiking season……one wonders if Ursack pays these people to post here ………. ;).
(Note: Sarcasm alert)Jun 11, 2019 at 6:29 pm #3597223
Paul SumnerBPL Member
Never had marmots, mice, etc. chew thru it either. I have watched in shock as a marmot took food sitting out in front of me while having lunch (1ft away)… as I turned my head after talking to my hiking buddy. I think there is a lot of FUD being repeated w/ regards to Ursacks — not disrespect meant.Jun 11, 2019 at 7:57 pm #3597232
I’ve used my Ursack quite a bit, certainly prefer it over a canister. I do take extra precautions though – all of my food is usually inside mylar bags, which I then put inside a double layer (meaning 2) nylofume bags, each closed separately, then tie up the Ursack and tie it to a tree. Has worked fine so far, but I’ve also never seen any indication of bears within any of my camps so perhaps I’ve just been lucky.Jun 12, 2019 at 2:57 am #3597305
Tom KBPL Member
“Pony up and get a Bearikade. Problem solved. It’s no good having a bear hanging around gnawing on your bag for some time rather than walking off when it realizes it can’t get into your can”
Or buy the aluminum insert for the Ursack and convert it to a hard sided canister, with a weight savings of 7 or 8 oz(can’t remember off the top of my head) over the Bearikade. That combined with Doug’s odor reduction protocol would make your food about as bearproof and light as is currently feasible. Also much cheaper.Jun 12, 2019 at 3:37 am #3597316
I don’t know Jon. Perhaps I’ll test it. Not completely sure how to. Maybe by putting it on gravel, with also gravel on top, and running over it back and forth with a truck? That might approximate something akin to a bear bite? How intact does the food have to be to say that it was successfully protected?
Unfortunately the Al insert will not keep the food from getting super squished, but should keep slobber off it. I was never sure what the Al insert was really suppose to be doing to begin with?Jun 12, 2019 at 6:44 am #3597335
“That combined with Doug’s odor reduction protocol would make your food about as bearproof and light as is currently feasible”
That’s actually Tom’s odor reduction protocol that I co-opted!Jun 12, 2019 at 10:28 am #3597345
J RBPL Member
To the original question:
Does anyone have any info on potential changes to Yosemite’s ban on the use of Ursack?
Not me, and apparently not anyone else either. And I wouldn’t expect there to be any changes — Yosemite’s bear canister requirement works, and I don’t know of any incentive for them to invest time and energy into approving additional “bearproofing” approaches. We’ve seen failed attempts to introduce new products that are actual bear canisters because they couldn’t get momentum for testing and approval.Jun 12, 2019 at 1:01 pm #3597356
Brad RogersBPL Member
@mocs123Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Even with the ownership changes, I doubt we will ever see the Ursack approved in SEKI or Yosemite for two reasons.
1.) The Ursack is much more prone to human error then a hard sided canister. I realize it can be effective when used by competent, experienced backpackers, but there are a lot of inexperienced backpackers that visit these areas and I don’t think the rangers there will think it is worth the risk.
2.) Ursack is the reason for the demise of SIBBG, and SIBBG was made up of rangers from SEKI and Yosemite- There is bad blood there. In case you (or someone else) doesn’t know the history, SIBBG was a group that approved bear canisters, much like the IGBC still does today. Supposedly, the Ursack passed all of the field tests, but SIBBG decided to deny approval anyways (presumably due to the likelihood of human error) so Ursack sued SIBBG, causing it to disband and dissolve.Jun 12, 2019 at 3:13 pm #3597373
Interesting info Brad, thank you for sharing.Jun 12, 2019 at 3:36 pm #3597377
Brad’s post sums up the Yosemite and I guess the Seki situation as well, but here are still several questions raised by this thread.
- The aluminum insert. How much does it weigh and does it work?
- A thorough discussion of Doug and Tom’s “odor management” approach might be useful for backpackers less experienced with bear issues. I too follow that pretty closely up to double nylofume bagging but haven’t stepped it up to the mylar bags stage. I think Doug or someone had some for sale? Looks like I’ll be picking up my game once again.
- I don’t think I’ve ever exactly read a breakdown on what are apparently the two major different behavioral tendencies that lead to most bear issues. I’d classify them as territorial defense on the one hand which seems to be the biggest problem with Grizzlies (read Stephen Herrero and Tom Smith) and food scavenging which seems to be the primary problem with black bears; although a potentially important side tangent to black bear issues involving mostly food is the apparent tendency of some black bear populations to straight up regard humans as a potential food source!
- Generally both species seem to stay down in forested areas at lower elevations because that’s where the food is BUT; what’s the deal with grizzlies and those army cutworm moths? From what I’ve read the moths might possibly be the determining factor here, meaning there’s only certain very specific places they cluster but possibly OR there’s only certain specific grizzly populations that are using this resource. Here’s a link to a brief article : Grizzlies and moths around Yellowstone . The clusters seem to be high in steep southeast facing 30-40% rubble/scree/talus fields of which there are quite a few in the Absaroka’s south of the east entrance/Cody Road (south of the Pahaska TeePee and Wapiti). One example of a site that seems to have the requisite slope and exposure in the Winds might be the one leading up to Blaurock Pass. The moths seem to need the earliest/longest and warmest exposure to sunlight and plenty of rock for cover. The rocks get warm and can retain the heat but also provide shade and cover evidently. Enough that they cluster in these locations in very large #’s like 6 and 7 figures, maybe 8!
- Ok at any rate staying near or above the tree line seems to be a useful strategy. Both types of bears also use the whitebark pine as a major food source. Also the greater number of human food sources due to lack of knowledge and bad practices seems to be lower.
- Which causes one to revert back to Smith and Herrero. Clustered people seem to keep grizzlies at bay unless there’s some really powerful food bait (un-tended steaks on a cold grill at Green River? sheesh, or about about a recent elk kill left overnight) and I’m pretty sure Herrero’s statistics indicate that with I think one exception there have been no recorded grizzly attacks on groups of 3 or more ( exception something like 3 people in a group but dispersed in thick willows getting all attached one at a time by the same bear or something like that.
- On the other hand clustered people especially those practicing sloppy or no good food storage or hygiene/odor practices are a proven major magnet for black bear. Just look at Yosemite. ehhh BooBoo. As a side note Tom Smith carefully studied bear bells. They don’t work. At all.
- What is the deal with the IGBC refusing to approve the Bearikade? Evidently some really large grizzly was able get his jaws around one and crush it? Is there any example of failure in the wild? Are they really a very popular and widely approved canister by the various agencies in Alaska?
- What’s with all the cross-agency and cross park variation in approved storage containers anyway? I had a situation with this in the Needles last year. The Needles follows the strict IGBC list; evidently because it’s just bureaucratically the simplest thing to do. Best I can tell there is only very random and sporadic incursion by black bears into the back-country most specifically into the very upper reaches of Salt Creek down stream to SC-4. Has there ever been a verified report of black bear getting food from a Bearikade? On our trip in Late April of 2018 we saw some scat up around Kirk’s cabin that seemed to be @ a month old but I’m no bear scat age expert. We didn’t see any signs of recent activity. Everybody had cans but cooking and food practices around camp were pretty relaxed. Wouldn’t it be better to encourage everyone, even in front-country sites and larger groups, to adopt good practices. I guess it’s the art of the possible but long term wouldn’t it be better to work towards dis-associating people and food as far as bears are concerned
- Anyway as others have mentioned up thread the one-sized fits all regulatory regime is useful really in many ways. First off it protects the bear population. It inevitably “encourages” more experienced backpackers to pick up their game and adopt even better practices like double bagging with nylofume AND using mylar around the actual food, and ideas like stopping for dinner @ a mile or so before the ultimate destination. to cook and eat, clean up and carefully store smellables for the evening. 2 practices that ought to really cut the odds to near zilch of being troubled by a bear in camp.
I thought about listing all these things one at a time but that would be a LOT of posts. Hopefully some of you will have useful information on one or more of these items and maybe even a few of your own to contribute. Maybe we can discuss Skurka sleeping with his food! (nevermind!..just kidding!)
Jun 12, 2019 at 4:02 pm #3597380
- This reply was modified 2 weeks ago by obx hiker.
“Maybe we can discuss Skurka sleeping with his food! (nevermind!..just kidding!)”
Eventual Skurka flavored bear sandwich?
Course, Skurka sounds a bit like Skunk to me, and thus unappealing, BUT I doubt a hungry Grizz will be phased by the name.Jun 12, 2019 at 4:12 pm #3597382
Oh My Sweet Baby Jesus. I just realized I’m slowly but surely morphing into the new, but much younger Bob Gross.
“Bob, stop trying to get into my body, just stop already!”Jun 12, 2019 at 5:11 pm #3597400
Ken ThompsonBPL Member
@hereLocale: Right there
Everyone knows to check updates here,
don’t they? Nothing since last Nov.Jun 12, 2019 at 5:17 pm #3597403
I don’t know about that Justin. I miss Bob Gross. To paraphrase a famous quote: I knew Bob Gross, he was a friend of mine. And you sir, you are no Bob Gross ;) Again just kidding around, and certainly not intended to be at your expense. I’ve always liked that quote and it’s fun to get to toss it out!
Edited again to add I’m pretty sure it was from Bob that I first learned about Diamox. Nice to know when you don’t have weeks to acclimate, drawing up on an age starting with a 7, and are making a rather abrupt change from an elevation of @ 15 feet to one @ 11,000 And yes if Bob was an opinionated or Asperger’s like old fart I guess I should cop to that as well. You kids!Jun 12, 2019 at 6:36 pm #3597422
jeffrey armbrusterBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
“Generally both species seem to stay down in forested areas at lower elevations because that’s where the food is”
Th above is from an earlier post. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case in Yosemite and Seki and environs precisely because food IS above treeline: backpacker food.
Bears hit on frequented camping sites everywhere–above treeline too– so that camping off trail would add much, much food security for those using an Ursak.
I do wonder how effective nylofume bags and their like are. I’m sure they'[re better than nothing but really a bear has Tremendous sense of smell. They certainly can smell You and your pals from far away and they know that a person equals food. Once in the area, my guess is that they will smell your food easily enough despite taking precautions. Oh an if you and a group cook food…
in short I wonder if using nylofume bags is just a way to convince ourselves of what we want to believe in the first place: a bear won’t gnaw on our Ursak all night and so we’ll be fine using one.
Jun 12, 2019 at 8:33 pm #3597452
- This reply was modified 2 weeks ago by jeffrey armbruster.
“in short I wonder if using nylofume bags is just a way to convince ourselves of what we want to believe in the first place: a bear won’t gnaw on our Ursak all night and so we’ll be fine using one.”
I don’t necessarily think that a bear can’t smell my food in nylofume bags if the bear comes upon it, I do think that it greatly decreases the ‘smell radius’ so that food within the nylofume bags has a much lesser chance of bringing a bear into camp in the first place. When properly deployed I don’t think a bear can access the food in an Ursack, so just like a bear canister the bear learns that Ursacks won’t get them food and won’t spend the time on them in the first place.Jun 12, 2019 at 9:44 pm #3597461
Agreed with pretty much all of the above though Jeffrey you might note that a part of the discussion was about the idea of; well here’s the copy:
“On the other hand clustered people especially those practicing sloppy or no good food storage or hygiene/odor practices are a proven major magnet for black bear. Just look at Yosemite.”
I’m also not so sure that those clustered folk around Yosemite/Seki are largely above treeline. Maybe that’s along the major routes but that’s the fun about getting above treeline….making your own trail. And if the bears ARE coming above treeline just for “people food” well that’s the point, trying to break that cycle and can you do it with an ursack. In addition to Doug’s observation about dispersal there’s the tactic of dining well away from camp, I also try to make camp on the upwind side of a large body of water or against a mountain wall so the scent has to travel across that to get to the mighty ursine nose. Also avoiding camping in obvious corridors.
IDK it’s probably just luck but so far I’ve been lucky. It seems logical (Spocking here) that if you’re keeping odors to the most attainable minimum a bear would have to somehow walk right up to the sack to smell anything. How’s that stream of molecules going to travel for long distances enough to pull a bear to the target when there’s other more natural food sources and smells all around? It also seems that your own “people” smells would be wayyy stronger than anything coming out of an ursack with food in a mylar bag inside a nylofume bag inside ANOTHER nylofume bag that hasn’t been opened in @ 30 minutes at least a quarter mile or more away. (I keep breakfasts, lunches and dinners, waste and other personal smellables in separate nylofume bags and then those 5 in a mothership nylofume bag which doubles or triples? as a liner for the Ursack) You do pee somewhere near camp right? Heck I don’t want a bear in camp if I’ve got a can either. Just because the food is in a can doesn’t make that a swell occurrence. Oh hey Mr. Bear… I know it smells like food around here but hey sorry I put it all in that can over there. Go fish..
You also seem to be hinting at confirmation bias and that continually crosses my mind. I guess I’ll just have to keep the experiment going for as long as I can. edited to add: Speaking of confirmation bias; How about commercially influenced confirmation? hmmmJun 12, 2019 at 11:39 pm #3597494
Another take on the reputation of the Bear as THE ne plus ultra of carnivorous scent detectors
I think the bigger problem is just bad habits on the part of people and the resulting conditioning of bears associating people with food. Of course excepting Grizzly problems which seem more territorial in nature and defending cubs which is basically a territorial defense/aggression.
here is the money quote from the linked article: “Put another way, the available evidence does not support (certainly not unequivocally) the idea that bears have a truly exceptional sense of smell compared to other carnivores.”
By the way: the article also notes that bears don’t have particularly good hearing and could quite possibly not hear or totally disregard high pitched sounds like bear bells?
And also have pretty poor vision. Maybe why groups of 3 or more get their attention more quickly.Jun 12, 2019 at 11:41 pm #3597496
Tom KBPL Member
“Unfortunately the Al insert will not keep the food from getting super squished, but should keep slobber off it. I was never sure what the Al insert was really suppose to be doing to begin with?”
With all due respect to the new Bob Gross, I would disagree. The insert is crafted to be wider than a bear’s widest jaw aperture, denying the beast the opportunity to really clamp down. Have you ever actually seen one, fully loaded?
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