Marmots, squirrels and chipmunks are by far some of the cutest creatures we encounter in the backcountry. They always brighten your day on the trail as you see them scamper through the forrest or over rocks. But on occasion these adorable creatures use their appearance against you. You drop your guard for ten minutes and set your pack on the ground. Before you know it one of these little assholes (see how quick that changed?) is making off with a few days worth of food. Suddenly their adorable status changes into more of a demon woodland creature. If you do any backcountry hiking you probably have had a similar situation or someone in your group has suffered from it (while you presumably laughed).
Simple Outdoor Solutions is a Flagstaff based company that is doing their part to keep your food protected. For years they have been producing the 'go-to' product for storing food and keeping the creatures out. The OutSak is a steel mesh bag designed to house your food (or anything) and keep all the above mentioned creatures out. It even protects against ravens, raccoons, ringtails and deer. The small company has done an excellent job of recognizing a problem and developing a solution.
A few years back we were planning a multi-day trip along the Tonto Trail in the Grand Canyon. From the previous trip reports we knew that rodents and ravens were an issue along the route. Stories of ravens opening backpack zippers and feasting on your food or rodents enjoying a midnight snack after gnawing through your pack were all to common. I decided it was time to invest in some food protection so I would not fall victim. The Outsak from Simple Outdoor Solutions seemed to be the ticket.
The Outsak comes in many sizes and weights depending on your needs. I purchased the Spectrum Series (love that orange color) in a size small. The total weight comes in at 7.5 ounces, a small price to pay for food protection. The bag is constructed of stainless steel wire mesh with each end attached to a thick nylon webbing. SOS describes the webbing as a 'seat belt webbing' that is uv resistant. The bottom of the sack is sealed shut, while the top incorporates a hook and loop closure that is 2" wide to keep critters from opening it. The top of the bag also has a loop for easy hanging for added protection. When not in use the Outsak rolls up and is contained by the included strap. This allows the hiker to sacrifice minimal amount of space while not using the bag. The bag is flexible and seems to be constructed of high quality materials.
When I originally purchased this product I was one of those annoying customers. The kind that waits to make the purchase till a few days before the trip, and the continues to spread their panic to the manufacturer. Anyway SOS responded to a frantic email about shipping time, and whether or not the bag would make it in time. As I remember it, they even offered to allow me to pick up the Outsak while passing through Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon. SOS got the bag to me in time for my trip, as promised and provided excellent customer service along the way.
The Outsak I purchased has been all over the state. The initial use at the Grand Canyon provided protection as advertised. Although no ravens attempted to acquire our food, multiple mice along the trail took a stab at it. Lucky for us they were not successful. Due to the thick hook and loop closure the mice were unable to get into the bag. The metal mesh also kept them from gnawing holes into the bags that were protected inside the Outsak. SOS does recommend placing food in bag and then placing the items inside the Outsak. There have been stories of rodents gnawing in between the tiny mesh openings and tearing holes in the food packaging. I have never had an issue with this, even when storing the food directly in the Outsak without a second layer. The bag itself is durable and shows no signs of wear at this point. The hook and loop closure works just as well as the first day. The loop that is at the top of the bag has also been strong enough to hang a full Outsak on a line when in bear country. Although the Outsak is not intended as protection against bears, I have hung it (using traditional techniques) as a backup against any smaller creatures that decide to try.
Although nearly flawless there are minor issues I have come across. The main one is that I find the bag to be awkward to pack when full. If you intend on storing your food in the Outsak while on the move, I would advise against it. It is not ideal to pack things around. Most the times I use the bag after arriving in camp or stopping at the end of the day. The second issue which relates to the first is that after repeated rolling and storing I have noticed that there are some edges in the mesh. They are not sharp per say, but I would not feel comfortable stuffing the bag inside of a pack next to something that could potentially puncture. This obviously is avoided by just rolling the Outsak and storing it on the exterior of the pack. Like I said, minor issues.
Simple Outdoor Solutions nailed it on this product. They saw an issue while backcountry camping, and created the Outsak to solve it. The bag is build from high quality materials that make the investment pay for itself easily. The attention to detail in production as helped to solidify the effectiveness in use. Mix a high quality product, with a decent price and you have the Outsak. If you are planning a trip where woodland creatures are known to harvest your food, make sure you consider using an Outsak. Remember to not feed the wildlife, intentionally or not.
*This product was purchased personally.
Check out the Outsak at Simple Outdoor Solutions.