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September 2022

Gear Review: Ursack | Opsak | Aluminum Liner

Guest Author: Alissa Ward

Coming back to Canada after 3.5 years in Australia, meant learning how to hike in bear country again. One of the biggest parts of this is how to properly store food while on overnight trips to keep bears and humans coexisting peacefully. The two options for storage are bear canisters or bear bags and I’ve opted for the bear bag to help save on weight for my trips.

My bear bag set up:

The Ursack Major holds up to five days of food for one person, or you could use this for a weekend trip for two people. The material is durable despite being light, and is designed specifically to prevent bears from getting into your food when used correctly. The Opsak Odor bags come in handy for a few different reasons. They mask odors, so hopefully bears won’t be looking for the odor from your food kit in the first place.

Secondly, the Ursack bear sacks are not considered waterproof, so storing your food in the odor bags first keeps your food dry and crisp. Boiling water can be added to the inside of the Opsak (Note: not placed in boiling water), to rehydrate food as well. Again as they are odorless, you can pack out your garbage in them without any attractants. The package comes with two large bags, so I’ve been packing breakfast and snacks in one, and lunches and dinners in the second one, to keep my food easily accessible and organized without having to spend too much time rummaging around.

The possibilities are endless with what you could store in these bags, then just wipe them out and reuse them for your next trip. The aluminum liner is again, another lightweight addition to the set up, weighing less than 10 ounces; a small weight to add in order to prevent food from being crushed. The aluminum liner slips inside of the Ursack Major and creates a barrier (think similar properties to a bear canister), then place the food sealed bags inside of the aluminum liner. If, in the event that a bear does find your bag in a tree and gets a little curious with its paws, grabbing the bag, swinging it against a tree, or whatnot, your food will remain intact due to the aluminum protecting the food inside.

Now for the logistics! Be sure to test out your bear sack at home before you head out, knowing what knots you will be using to keep it closed. I used this handy guide from Ursack. Firstly, find a tree about 60 meters from your campsite.

Then, make sure the cord is looped in a X formation, pull it nice and tight so that there is no visible hole from the top. Tie it closed with two overhand knots and attach to your determined tree with a figure 8 knot. Also be sure to check park regulations as in some areas bear sacks are not recognized and bear canisters are the only option allowed.

I’ve now used this set up in both established and more off-the-beaten track trips. Most recently a trip through Strathcona Park, ticking off Kwai Lake Loop, Goldne Hinde, Mt Albert Edward and Mt Frink from Circlet Lake. Ringing in at about 40km, this loop took us from meandering floral meadows to high alpine trails still with visible snow. At only 10km from the parking lot, camping at Circlet Lake gives you a great base to summit Mt Albert Edward or tack on the Mt Frink and Castlecrag loop as well to see views from all across Vancouver Island and even over to the Coast Mountains on the mainland.

What I really liked about the bag:

  • Lightweight
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to pack around it isn’t a solid structure

After jumping into backpacking in bear territory, having the Ursack set is a user-friendly way to store your food. Just be sure to practice your tying techniques before you hit the trails and you’ll be sorted! Keep your food fresh and safe from critters of all sizes with this set up and hike worry free knowing you aren’t attracting any unwanted visitors.