The Ursack is a bear-proof bear bag made out of bulletproof Spectra fabric that is lighter weight than hard-sided bear canisters and requires no training to use, making it a convenient and more reliable alternative to hanging a bear bag from a high tree branch or bear cable. The Ursack S29.3 AllWhite Bear Bag is approved for use in most US National Parks, National Forests, and State Parks and was certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) in 2014. The current exceptions (as of May 2016) are Yosemite and parts of Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park (SEKI) where hard-sided bear canisters are still required. If in doubt, contact the land manager and ask.
REI started carrying two models of the Ursack last year (2015), the Ursack Major S23.3 AllWhite Bear Bag ($89.95), which weighs 8.7 ounces and can hold 15 liters/925 cubic inches and the slightly smaller Ursack 29.3 AllWhite ($69.95), which weighs 7.8 ounces and can hold 10.7 liters / 650 cubic inches. The smaller model can hold approximately five days of food for one person. Note: MEC also sells the Ursack in Canada.
As a longtime advocate of the Ursack, I wanted to measure how widespread awareness and use of the product is today. Given its light weight, effectiveness, and ease of use, I feel that it provides an excellent way to conserve the natural habitat and behavior of wildlife while providing all visitors, regardless of their skill or experience, with a safe way to protect their food in the wilderness.
There were 409 participants in this survey. Of these, 338 reported that they camp or backpack in areas that require protecting food from bears. Within that population:
- 58 respondents (17%) already own and use a Ursack;
- 65 respondents (19.2%) have definite plans to acquire a Ursack;
- 101 respondents (29.9%) are considering a Ursack;
- 140 respondents (41.4%) have used a bear canister in the past, when required;
I was surprised that 17% of the people who participated in this survey already own an Ursack and use it to protect their food from bears. These individuals reported being very satisfied with the product which is light weight, reliable, and easy to use. While the Ursack has been available for many years (SectionHiker.com first reviewed the Ursack in 2008) – it was only certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) in 2014, enabling broader national adoption.
Results: The fact that 17% of our respondents already own an Ursack, is a strong sign of robust adoption within the portion of the backpacking community that needs to protect their food from bears.
A further 19.2% of this survey’s respondents expressed plans to purchase an Ursack, an indication that the Ursack adoption rate remains strong. The fact that an additional 29.9% of respondents are considering the purchase of an Ursack indicates an strong awareness of the product and its claimed benefits.
While our survey did not directly measure the geographic distribution of respondents, many provided this information, leading us to conclude that respondents have backpacked and camped both in areas where hard-sided bear canisters are required and where they are not. For example, 41.4% of respondents own or have used bear canisters in the past, an indication that our survey population has experience with the full range of bear/food protection methods available and is not skewed by bear bag hangers alone.
About this Survey
This survey was conducted on the SectionHiker.com website which has over 300,000 unique readers per month, so a large pool of potential respondents. Readers were incented to participate in the survey in exchange for a chance to win a raffle for a piece of backpacking gear.
While I’m confident that the results are fairly representative of the general backpacking population based on the size of the survey results where n=409 people, we can’t claim that the results are statistically significant.
There are also a number of ways in which the results could be biased including: backpackers who read SectionHiker.com might not be representative of all backpackers, backpackers who read Internet content might not be representative of all backpackers, backpackers who respond to raffle incentives might not be representative of all backpackers, our methods for recording responses might have been unconsciously biased, and so on.
The author is an expert in statistical analysis, survey, and experimental design and is sensitive to these issues. However, given the size of the respondent pool and the very strong consensus among user responses, we believe that the survey results published here will be useful to backpackers who are interested in learning about bear bags and food protection techniques that are lighter weight than hard-sided bear canisters and more effective than traditional bear bag hanging techniques.
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