Ursack Major Bear Resistant Food Bag Review

Aaron

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The Ursack is a bear-resistant backpacking food storage bag that's both light and more packable than typical hard sided bear canisters - like the BearVault BV450 we reviewed in Issue 30. The Ursack has been around a while, and the latest version, the Ursack Major (Previously referred to as the Ursack Allwhite S29.3), features a tighter more tear resistant weave than previous models and is IGBC certified.

Ursack Major Review

The Major comes in a standard, 650 cubic inch model that holds about 5 days of food for one person and weighs 7.6 ounces, while the larger Ursack Major XL holds 925 cubic inches of storage at 8.8 ounces. The Ursack Major models aren't designed to thwart rodents and other small critters, so if bears don't frequent the area you're hiking in, Ursack also offers rodent specific food bags like the Ursack Minor that would be a better choice, or if you’re looking for the best of both worlds Ursack also offers the AllMitey.

Ursack Major and Ursack Major XL

Ursack Major XL (left) and standard size (right)

The Major is best utilized in conjunction with an Opsak liner, purchased separately, that perfectly fits the standard model and is essentially a heavy duty Ziploc bag. 2 of these would be required for the Ursack Major XL. The Opsak waterproofs your food when the Ursack is tied off during the night hours out in the elements, and helps to reduce food odors that could attract wildlife. While Opsaks are fairly durable, I usually get one or two longer trips out of mine before the bag develops holes or the seal starts to break down; it's a good idea to always have a few stocked in the gear stash.

Ursack with Opsak

To use the Ursack one seals the Opsak with your food inside (after sealing, gently compress the Opsak to verify no air is leaking), cross the drawstrings at the top of the bag, cinch these tight, then tie a double overhand knot tightly at the top. At this point there are several ways to complete the process. One way is then to hang the bag with an otherwise proper hang from a tree branch, or (more conveniently and the most common way to use the Ursack) is to tie it off above the ground to a secure tree branch or trunk with branches to keep it elevated and with a figure eight knot. You're looking for a branch or part of a trunk that the Ursack cannot be pulled off of and one that's quite sturdy. You could tie off at ground level, but tying off above ground helps limit any possible stomping and crushing of your food.

Closing and Beginning the Ursack Tie Off

Once properly secured and hung, any pulling on the bag only closes the top more securely, and when properly tied off even after a lot of tension the knots are easily untied in the morning – by a person – as Ursack states bears don’t have thumbs. The Spectra fabric, weave, and construction of the Ursack is designed to be both strong enough and dense enough to withstand Ursine investigation. If you're above treeline, it is suggested to tie additional knots and either hang over a boulder / cliff or leave on the ground. If crush resistance is desired, an aluminum liner is also offered. For any method, well away from camp and downwind of your campsite is a great idea.

Closing the Ursack Major With a Double Overhand Knot

Over the past 10 years or so, I've used multiple versions of the Ursack in several areas of the country, and on one occasion, it has even successfully kept my food safe during a black bear investigation at the hang site. I find that the standard model is indeed about right (at first tightly) for about 5 days of food solo and fits great horizontally in my ULA Circuit, and you can either hang a separate food bag the first few days if this isn't enough space, take another Ursack or more than one on group trips, or look at the Ursack Major XL which offers more space at not much of a weight penalty and offers more room for cookware at the end of the day, at the cost perhaps of packing ease when full and depending on your pack.

Ursack Hang from Tree

Compared to hanging a silnylon food bag / dry sack or similar every night and retrieving each morning, using the Ursack is much more convenient, albeit with a little weight increase. Over time some failures have been reported, although many times the Ursack may not have been secured and used properly and as instructed. On the flip side, some canisters have been compromised on occasion as well. Compared to a canister however, the Ursack is lighter and more packable while being more convenient than a typical food bag hang, and thus hits the sweet spot for me and is my nightly food storage system of choice on every excursion I take.

The Ursack Major retails at $80, or $95 for the Ursack Major XL. (Compare all models on this page at REI) You can find the most popular standard standard size version here at REI.

The Ursack is best utilized when combined with an Opsak, retailing at about $12 for a pack of 2 - Find them here.

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Nice review, this pretty much covers it all.

I long ago came to the conclusion that hanging food is a fool's errand in Colorado unless you use the 2-tree method. There just aren't many trees that have branches 12-20 feet up where you can hang 6+ feet from the trunk. People get away with substandard hangs and think they are protecting their food but really our bears are just not as numerous or wily as Sierra bears.

I've probably stashed my food on over 100 nights in an Ursack in the Rockies and another 50 in the Sierras with no issues, but also I've never seen any evidence that a bear has tried to break into it either. Maybe I have just been lucky as well.

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Thanks - without a doubt the perfect tree for a proper traditional hang can be a rare find around many campsites. The Ursack is heavier but the time saved at the end of the day is well worth it to me.  

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We’re thinking of doing a week in The Bob next summer. Supposedly it’s teeming with wildlife, especially bears. I have the ursack, and it was great in the Pecos this summer. Would you switch back to a bear can for Montana?

 Thanks!

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I personally would still go with an Ursack and would feel confident with the newer S29.3 model with the denser weave etc. that's IGBC certified...after all that's what it's designed to do. :) 

If you're especially concerned you could always add the optional liner, and as always and most of all paying special attention to keeping a clean camp, proper food storage and Ursack / canister use, and keeping smells down as much as possible / using an Opsak that's in good shape all to hopefully avoid an encounter altogether are key practices. You could also do a high hang. Any specific places where there may have previously been issues and any obvious wildlife corridors could be places to avoid as well.

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