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We ran into a hiker on the AT last year using a kevlar back to keep out bears and rodents. He said the product was an Ursack and seemed very happy with it. However he'd never had a bear try to get into it.

Will a kevlar sack actually prevent a bear from getting to food in the sack?

(Yes, it's still best to hang anyways, but I'd like to know if this would work assuming the bear got the bag down).

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I own an ursack. In areas like Yosemite Valley or Little Yosemite, which have huge bear problems, IMO it's appropriate that ursacks are illegal; the extremely high frequency of bear hassles more than justifies the extra weight of a hard-sided canister. But in other areas ursacks are legal, and I think that's appropriate too, because bear encounters are an order of magnitude less frequent there. I hate government as much as the next red-blooded American, but in this case I think the local regulations are extremely well matched to the actual levels of bear problems there. –  Ben Crowell Apr 22 '13 at 21:02

2 Answers 2

In the test report of 2004 according to Ursack:

Bears carried inadequately-secured Ursacks short distances suggesting that users should be able to locate most bags that might get carried off by bears. Distances carried during the four tests were 0.3m, 1.6 m, 5.8 m, and somewhere between 41 and 67 m.

In those cases, the sack did prevent the bear from getting to the food in the sack.

Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group (SIBBG) did investigation on Ursack failures during the 2007 season at Yosemite.

SIBBG did not conclude that the six Ursack failures in 2007 were caused by the same bear.

Over the past 10 years Ursack have been improved. However, just as bear canisters fails, Ursack is also prone to occasional failure.

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A fuller history: They were approved for a few years (2004-2007) for use in Yosemite, which is a proving ground for bear-resistant containers. In 2007 I believe there were a couple incidents where bears were able to puncture an Ursack and "suck" food out of it. This led Yosemite to ban them from the park (and ultimately some other national parks followed suit). Since then, Ursack has released new versions it claims work better, along with an aluminum liner (that basically turns it into a more traditional container).

In my personal experience, I have used an Ursack with an odor-proof liner (Ursack sells these as well) on the PCT, CDT, and many other trails in black bear and grizzly country. I'm not sure how well the Ursack itself would hold up to a sustained attack by a determined bear. My experience suggests that the odor-proof liner does it's job well enough though - I've had bears and other pests (rats, mice, etc) in my camp and they never seem to figure out where the food is, even if I've left it right by my tent. The worst I've had is mice a couple times nibbling at the seams of the bag (no damage done).

From what I've heard from other hikers, you almost have to "defend" your Ursack from bears. You tie your Ursack to a tree nearer to your camp than you normally would do a hang. If you hear a bear going after it, you're going to have to actually do something - make noise, throw rocks, whatever, to get it to go away. Because the Ursack is a soft container, even if a bear doesn't get in, it's going to slobber all over everything, crush all your food into mushy bits, and generally make a mess.

All that being said, it has one obvious, major advantage over traditional containers - weight :) 7oz vs 2 lbs 9oz for a comparably sized container!

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Are the kevlar sacks much lighter than my standard black bear can? –  theJollySin Sep 6 '13 at 21:32
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Read the bottom of my post - up to 2lbs lighter! –  Ryley Sep 7 '13 at 22:39

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