One of the most annoying things about coordinating backcountry trips, is hanging a bear bag. Luckily for us there are a fair amount of trips that don't require the use of one, but occasionally (especially during the summer months) we find ourselves needing to hang. The process isn't complicated, but does require some planning, especially when hanging multiple people's food together. I have snapped lines, got rope tangled in trees and had to cut lines. Unlike most areas that require food hangs, Arizona lacks proper trees to do it from. It isn't the height, but rather the length of strong branches. Looking for a better solution I cam across a company called Ursack. They developed a bear bag that doesn't need to be hung, and doesn't weight a ton either.
Initial Thoughts- Ursack currently makes three different versions of their bags. The original 29.3 All White, the Major S29.3 and the Minor. The first two versions are designed and have passed the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee Test. Basically that means that is acceptable by most areas as bear proof, similar to bear canisters. Unfortunately, not all parties are on board so it is important to check with the rangers of the specific area you plan to go. The Minor sack is designed for critters and is not suitable for bears.
The All White and Major are very similar except for the Major is slightly larger and weighs .9 ounces more. The total weight is a scant 8.7 oz. The Major holds 275 cu in more volume, bringing the total to 925 cu in. It is very larger. It has about enough space for five days of food for two people (depending on the food of course). I decided to go with the Major because the weight difference was so minor, but it provided so much more volume.
Ursack recommends the sacks be used with OPSaks which are tough, waterproof and odor proof bags. Unfortunately I have had terrible luck with the OPSaks durability and longevity, so I cannot recommend them. Ursack also sells an aluminum liner that ensures your food is not crushed, should a bear attempt to make a withdraw. Again I skipped this option, because I am yet to have a bear even attempt it. Backing up their product they have a warranty that will replace the bag if a gap, tear or hole is made larger then 1/4" when using the bag properly.
Use- The Ursack Major was bought with the intention of eliminating annoying bear bag hangs in less then ideal conditions in the Southwest. By being able to anchor the bag down low, the amount of time it takes to hang/retrieve the bag is significantly less. On a recent trip 3 of the 5 people on the trip were sporting one as an alternative to the traditional bear hang. Obviously there will be instances where we will have to hang, but a majority of trips won't require that. The Ursack seems to be holding up well, although it hasn't seen the jaws of a bear. In reality, I have yet to have any animal (besides rodents) attempt to harvest my food in the night. The simplicity, of the Ursack really appeals to my backpacking style. I don't like wasting time in camp doing camp chores, I would much rather enjoy my surroundings.
Final Thoughts- The Ursack Major is changing the way we keep our food bear free in the backcountry. Unfortunately the powers that be are slower to change with the times. Although the Ursack is lighter, safer and more efficent not all agencies have approved them. Luckily for us we spend most of are time in Arizona where simple bear hangs are effective and bear bag/vault regulations are more relaxed. If you plan on using this in one of the National Parks or heavily managed areas, I would recommend confirming the Ursacks approval. Otherwise you may find yourself in Colorado buying a bear canister that will probably only be used once a year at best. Set aside the technicalities the Ursack works excellent, is lightweight and about the same price as hard sided bear canisters. The Ursack allows you to spend less time hanging your food and more time enjoying it. Checkout the Ursack or the other innovative items here.
*This item was purchased for review.