using an ursack

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Shiker
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using an ursack

Post by Shiker » Fri Aug 16, 2019 2:45 pm

Thinking of saving wait by using ursacks.

I'm interested in hearing other people's experiences using them in the Sierra. It does concern me that if a bear chews on the ursack, it will ruin my food and may cause me to cut short the trip. But how often does this happen?

Also, does anyone know where I can find the list of the places that only canisters (and to ursacks) can be used?








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commonloon
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Re: using an ursack

Post by commonloon » Fri Aug 16, 2019 3:09 pm

I've used one for years now all over the Sierra. I haven't had a bear chew on it yet. I do use a liner bag to reduce any scent coming out of it; odor-proof bags aren't really odor-proof but help IMHO. I tend to camp away from others and not put it in line of sight from a trail or next to creek, etc. SEKI and INYO prefer than you hang them (counterbalanced) rather than tie to a tree as the manufacturer recommends. The "Zones" that I'm aware of where canisters are required (Ursacks not allowed) are to my knowledge:

1. Yosemite
2. Rae Lakes
3. Dusy and Palisade basins
4. Rock Creek
5. Mt Whitney
6. North Dome

You can double-check by checking w/ the relevant agency's website or google (Inyo, Yosemite, SEKI). Hope this helps.

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Re: using an ursack

Post by kpeter » Fri Aug 16, 2019 3:19 pm

I've taken one along when in a group to stow the excess things that don't fit in the canisters on the first night. I also use the opsak within it to minimize scent. I've never had a bear inspect it, so far as I know. I know that in the Sierra National Forest where I just was, canisters were optional but they recommended hanging food.

I think the truth is that the canisters have been working well for thirty years which is longer than the lifespan of a bear. Most bears outside the the most crowded areas have never had a taste of human food, and so they don't recognize that scent as something edible. My guess is that in most places bears would ignore human food no matter how it is protected--until they take an experimental bite, and then that bear is ruined for 20 years. The main idea is not to save your food from bears, but to save the bears from your food. And ursaks will do that just fine. Only in the case of an already habituated bear would the creature chew on an ursak in futility.

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Shiker
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Re: using an ursack

Post by Shiker » Fri Aug 16, 2019 4:00 pm

I just spoke to the Inyo NF's ranger's office. They said that they haven't had any reports of bears chewing on ursacks recently. But they said that what was an issue in SEKI is that people weren't using ursacks correctly and improperly securing them to small young trees. Seems that this potentially allowed the bears to access them, and also damaged the trees. Apparently this was a factor in there being banned in certain areas of SEKI.

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Re: using an ursack

Post by SSSdave » Fri Aug 16, 2019 5:27 pm

Years ago when Ursacks first came on the scene, there were some dubious reports of bears having their way with Ursacks that some of us considered more likely staged for the sake of those that hated them as they obviously require more careful use, especially tying the knot. There was one well linked image of a battered bag that looked like someone had filled one with rocks, tied a rope on, and dragged it behind their car on a rocky unpaved road. Although the damaged tree from tied to a bag argument might be valid in very popular areas like Little Yosemite Valley and some trailside alpine areas with few trees, that read as ridiculous for the otherwise vast majority of backcountry areas where there are myriad other trees. The "your apple will turn to applesauce" argument likewise just seemed like another rationalized excuse for those that dominated decision making.

Here is my advice. Note I own 2 Garcias, a BV500, a small canister (I just remembered someone still has in their possession!), and a couple Ursacks.

First, according to policy one is supposed to site camps at least 100 feet from lake edges and trails, however there are endless well used camp spots closer than that to lakes and I'd bet the majority of camp spots are closer than that to trails primairly because before that policy, people and especially horse packers tended to site camps right beside trails. So simply site your camp well away from trails and use routes especially those that often go around popular lakes, out of view, don't make campfires, shine flashlights, and make noise talking after dark, so bears won't even visit. I often see bears during the day but rarely at night.

Second store food inside an Ursack in zip seal bags. That won't prevent a bear from smelling it if standing beside it but otherwise may make it less interesting than most people's backpacks or cook wear. Anyone just chucking a big dried salami inside such a bag is a moron asking for trouble.

Third hide the Ursack in your local area. Like in talus or brush or atop large boulders, wherever such won't be readily seen from camp at night and not in a open pathway animals are like to walk. In other words, use common sense.

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Re: using an ursack

Post by TurboHike » Sun Aug 18, 2019 10:15 am

I entered Inyo and SEKI about a week ago. This is what is on the information sheets they gave me when I picked up my permit.

Inyo: Bear canister required in specific designated areas. Outside of those areas, hanging your food is required. However, bear canister use is also required when camping in any area without trees adequate to hang food more than 15 feet above ground and 10 feet from trunk of tree.

SEKI: Bear canister required in specific designated areas. Bear canisters, existing bear boxes, or counter balance hanging are the only proper food storage methods. When camping in an area without a bear box or adequate trees for hanging, a bear canister is required.

Using an Ursack on the ground tied to a tree does not appear to be a legal method in Inyo or SEKI.

I carried a bear can by the way.

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Re: using an ursack

Post by jhfowler » Sun Aug 18, 2019 4:42 pm

Here's a map of the Sierra showing where canisters are required, last updated in 2017:

https://www.sierrawild.gov/media/foodst ... a-ver8.pdf

I always take my canister if I am going through a required area in SEKI or Yosemite. Otherwise I take my Ursack.

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BrianF
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Re: using an ursack

Post by BrianF » Mon Aug 19, 2019 9:57 pm

I am an ursack convert to save weight. Personally, I have not had a bear sniffing around a camp (outside of of Yosemite) in years, but again, most of my backpacking camps are at or above treeline so I would be less likely to see them. Actually I have never seen a sierra bear above tree line but have seen their tracks and sign on trails over passes. I use the liner and own the metal insert to prevent crushing but have never used it. Just be sure to tie your closure knot correctly. I use the ursack as much to keep rodents out as bears. Tip: if you are above treeline and need something to tie it to, I have wedged a rock in a crack in a big rock or cliff and tied around that (a trick from the old climbing days). Just be sure the rock is wedged tight and can't be pulled out in any direction that a bear can pull. It may take a little while to find the right crack and the right rock but better than marmots (or high altitude bears ???) dragging it away
The direction you are moving in is what matters, not the place you happen to be -Colin Fletcher

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Harlen
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Re: using an ursack

Post by Harlen » Mon Aug 19, 2019 11:48 pm

Paul notes the following:
The "Zones" that I'm aware of where canisters are required (Ursacks not allowed) are to my knowledge:

1. Yosemite
2. Rae Lakes
3. Dusy and Palisade basins
4. Rock Creek
5. Mt Whitney
6. North Dome
Why Dusy and Pal Basins? Not high use areas for bears. Without that closed area, we'd be able to use ursacks on the SHR from Copper Creek to Dusy and back. I can manage to only be in Dusy for one night? Might bend the rules- never lost a speck of food to bears in 35 years.

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commonloon
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Re: using an ursack

Post by commonloon » Tue Aug 20, 2019 3:19 pm

Harlen,

I think historically Dusy basin (and Pal) were high use areas (for people). INYO had a map showing the area boundaries (including SEKI's), but their site is down currently. I believe it is defined such that you can camp south of Potluck Pass w/o a can. The SEKI descriptions are here:

https://www.nps.gov/seki/planyourvisit/ ... -areas.htm

I think this page normally has a more up-to-date(?) map that Sierra Wild (areas shown on that map around mammoth, I think are now Ursack ok):

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/inyo/rec ... ev3_003846 (not working as I write this)

I'm with you on no loss of food and I intend to keep it that way. :-)

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