Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Bear Bagging: Ursack Bear Bag

One of the most important skills for a section hiker to master before setting off on a section hike of the Appalachian Trail is bear bagging. Losing one's food to a bear is very demoralizing and has caused more than one hiker to abandon their hike. In areas like the 100 Mile Wilderness, losing one's food due to improper bear bagging could result in immobilization.

During our past 2-week section hike, we spent an inordinate amount of time (15-min/day = 2.5 hrs = 4-5 miles) selecting a suitable tree and branch to set up our bear bagging system. We used the Pacific Crest Trail or PCT bear bagging system, which uses one rope, a bag, a carabiner and a stake/stick. While standing beneath the selected tree and attempting to swing our rope up and over the desired branch, we often wished for a better solution. We were very excited to receive an Ursack bear bag as a Christmas gift.

Its one thing to watch a video showing a bear attempting to get into an Ursack, but its another to hold one in one's hands and examine it thoroughly. The sack is larger and stiffer than we had imagined. We can easily bag our cook kit and at least five days of food plus even more. Our problem is likely to be trying to stuff a very full Ursack into our small $30 Walmart backpack.

The instruction card mentions crossing the cord, which is rock climbing grade kernmantel rope with about a 5,000 pound breaking strength. Looking inside we saw that the installed cords do cross. We then pulled the bag closed and tied a double overhand knot as instructed. Not only does the bag keep out bears, but there was very little gap for even a mouse to enter. After tying the overhand knot there is plenty of rope to pass around a 5-inch branch or tree trunk and still tie a figure-8 knot as recommended.

This is a well made product and we look forward to trying it out on a scheduled weekend shakedown overnighter this spring. We'll update this post with anything new or interesting we discover.

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