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Ultimate
Photo by Faith Malpeli

Ursack
Ultimate Bear Bag Test

We let grizzlies put this bulletproof fabric to the test.

By Mike Lanza, BACKPACKER Northwest Editor, May 2001


The first grizzly bear pounced on the Ursack stuffed with food, clawing at it and trying to bite it open without success. Then the second grizzly stepped in and snatched the sack away. He clawed at and bit the sack for about 3 minutes, finally ripping a gaping hole in it. The pair then licked the sack clean.

We wanted to really test the Ursack, which is made of aramid fiber, the same tough fabric used in bulletproof vests and other body armor. But no one at Backpacker volunteered to hand a food-filled Ursack to a wild bear in the backcountry, so we contacted the Grizzly Discovery Center (GDS) in West Yellowstone, Montana (800-257-2570; www.grizzlydiscoveryctr.com). Next door to Yellowstone National Park, this nonprofit preserve for grizzly bears and gray wolves agreed to put the Ursack-its inside smeared with peanut butter, tuna, Kool-Aid, and fruit-in front of two 600-pound grizzlies.

Did the Ursack fail? Yes and no. It defeated one grizz, but not the second. Its maker doesn't claim the Ursack is bearproof, although it does point to the success of tests done with real bears. Plus, we did stack the deck against the bag: The problem bears at GDS are habituated to stealing food from humans. So, the Ursack was by no means a failure. While you shouldn't depend on it to safeguard your vittles from hungry bruins, especially in the Sierra and other places where highly habituated bears are found, the sack is an excellent preventive measure when combined with other bear-thwarting tactics, like a good rope-hanging system.

During 6 months of testing, the Ursack foiled rodents in areas from the Grand Canyon to the Appalachian Trail. On several occasions, mice chewed holes in nylon food sacks, but they never penetrated the Ursack. That's another point in the sack's favor, since in many parts of the country, food is more often lost to varmints than to bears.

The Ursack's primary competition, the hard-plastic Backpacker's Cache container, is almost impregnable. For remote trips where losing your food may jeopardize your survival, we recommend the Cache containers. But for trips near civilization, where you face a hungry day or two at worst, the Ursack is more convenient. It's less bulky, easier to pack, and weighs nearly 3 pounds less.

Price: $40
Weight (mfr./BP): 5 oz./7 oz.
Size: 8" x 13" (holds food for 5 or 6 days)
Capacity: 650 cu. in.

(The 1,200-cubic-inch Ursack Major measures 8 by 24 inches, costs $60 and, according to the manufacturer, weighs 7 ounces.)

Contact: Ursack, Inc., (866) 232-7224; www.ursack.com.

 






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