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Ursack Minor Critter Bag Review

The Ursack Minor is a Kevlar food storage bag that has a large volume and can protect your food from small animals such as raccoons, fox, squirrels, mice and other critters in the backcountry. Unlike some of the other Ursack products, this one is NOT bear-proof, but the Kevlar fabric is strong enough to keep small sharp teeth from getting at your food. When backpacking in areas where bears are not a concern, the Ursack Minor provides efficient and easily packable food storage and protection and is a valuable alternative to the more traditional food sack when hanging food in bear country. The Ursack Minor weighs just 5 oz, it can hold about six days of food (for one person).

Ursack Minor Critter Bag

Small Animal Proof
Volume
Weight
Water Resistance
Ease of Use
Durability

Food protection from small animals

The Ursack Minor protects your food from rodents and small mammals but not big ones like bears. It's a good alternative to a hung food bag when bears are not an issue because you can leave it on the ground or in a bear box and not worry about small animals getting your food.

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Specs at a Glance

  • Material: Kevlar, Velcro
  • Weight: 5 oz
  • Capacity: 10.65 liters / 649 cubic inches (about 6 days of food for one person)
  • Dimensions: 8 inches in diameter (opened), and 13 inches tall
  • Recommended: odor barrier bag (OpSak 12×20)
  • Features: Velcro bag closure, short hanging loop
  • Warranty: Limited lifetime for tears, gaps or holes bigger than 1/4 inch caused by a wild critter (excluding bears)

A good portion of the backpacking I do is in bear country, and that requires diligence, and the right gear to protect food and other fragrant camping items from an unwanted visit from a bear. Over the past couple of years, I have transitioned from using a nylon sack to hang my food to using a hard-sided bear canister. I like bear canisters because they are easy, convenient, and dang-near foolproof. What I do not like about bear canisters is that they are bulky and the container alone weighs a couple of pounds. Bears have also been known to steal them if they’re not anchored down somehow. .

6 days’ worth of food ready to pack into the Ursack Minor.

Using the Ursack Minor in Bear Country

Each trip into the backcountry has its own unique gear needs, and that is especially true regarding how you plan to pack, carry and store food while on the trail. Most often, I am backpacking with one or two companions and we are sharing food. Sometimes this means that there is too much food for one bear canister and not enough for two, or pack capacity and weight are a concern, which makes two bear canisters an unpopular choice. Either way, these are the kind of scenarios in which I am inclined to bring a bear canister for in-camp convenience and a food bag to hang food and other fragrant items that we may need in camp right up until bedtime. Alternatively, I may simply leave the bear canister at home and just plan to hang my food at night, especially if I am concerned about saving a couple of pounds in my pack. It is in this context that the Ursack Minor becomes an interesting piece of equipment for a backpacking kit while in bear country.

The Ursack Minor is not bear-proof, but it is a strong Kevlar bag (the same fabric used in bulletproof vests) with a large storage capacity. The Kevlar fabric is strong enough to withstand vicious, food-crazed attacks from raccoons, squirrels, and rodents, but as stated above, it is not bear-proof and therefore a proper bear bag hang is necessary to avoid losing your food to a bear. The sack is simply constructed, the top closes securely with a Velcro seal, and the large capacity makes it easy to drop food and other smelly items into it and seal it up tight. The fact that it is critter-proof, means that you don’t need to worry about wild critters going after your food while you are hanging out in camp during the day, but you should never leave it unattended in camp for extended periods of time because bears don’t just come out at night.

The Ursack Minor is not waterproof and doubles in weight (from 5 oz to 10 oz) when it is soaked by rain.

The Ursack Minor is not waterproof, items in the bag can become wet, and the fabric of the Ursack Minor can become waterlogged, which makes it less than appealing to store back in your pack the next day. If the Ursack gets soaked in an overnight rain, the bag will nearly double in weight and water will penetrate the interior of the sack. Therefore, when I use the Ursack Minor, I add a 20L Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack (1.5 oz) to my kit, which protects the Ursack from rain and may even help with odor control to a certain extent. Inside the Ursack, I generally put my food in Ziploc bags for organization and another layer of odor control and waterproofing.

As a primary or even secondary food storage system in bear country, the Ursack Minor has some advantages. It is easy to use, critter-proof and it is lightweight. The disadvantage is that it is not water or smell proof. While Ursack sells an odor barrier bag for inside the sack (Op Sak 12×20), it is very hard to contain all odors when handling the food bag and, ultimately, I question the effectiveness of an odor barrier bag at all. Having spent years hanging nylon bear bags in bear country, smell-proof (for good or ill) is not my most pressing concern as long as the bag is hung well out of reach of any prowling bears.

Using the Ursack Minor when Bears are Not the Main Concern

There are situations where the Ursack Minor is an even better solution for food storage than a hard-sided bear canister or a simple nylon bag, most notably when storing your food bag in metal bear-proof boxes which are not rodent or small-animal proof. These are increasingly used in National Parks and on major trail systems to protect backpackers’ and campers’ food from bears but are easily penetrated by small critters. The same holds for mouse-infested trail lean-tos or cabins where mice and rats take up residence and demand a fee for stay. In these situations, your food will stay intact and untouched when packed in an Ursack Minor, even if you lay it on the floor and don’t hang it from a nail in the ceiling. weighing just 5 oz, it’s a wonder that more Appalachian Trail Thru-hikers don’t use Ursack Minors, especially those that like to sleep in lean-tos along the trail.

The Ursack Minor is also useful for food storage where bears are completely out of the equation, such as desert camping, where bears are uncommon but rodents and small mammals are not. Without the need to do a proper bear bag hang, the Ursack Minor provides the protection needed to keep those critters away from your food. Simply tie the bag to a tree, a rock or hang from the branch of a tree and all should be well in the morning… or your money back, a small consolation no doubt.

Weighing only 5 oz (6.5 oz with a waterproof dry sack) and being soft-sided and flexible, the Ursack Minor is much easier to pack and lighter to carry than a canister and the Kevlar fabric of the bag protects your food from wild critter food raids, which is the primary concern in areas where bears are not present.

An Ursack Minor weighs less than one-fifth of what a BearVault BV450 (5 oz vs 31 oz) weighs and can hold 2 days more food.

Recommendation

The Ursack Minor is a lightweight Kevlar food storage bag that is critter-proof but not bear-proof. It has enough capacity to hold up to 6 days of food for one person, and it only weighs 5 oz. Ursack sells an optional odor control barrier bag (Op Sak) to store food inside the sack, and provides a money-back guarantee should the product fail to stand up to repeated attacks from small animals. The Ursack Minor is not waterproof, and when soaked it weighs twice as much as it does dry and will get your food wet if not protected. While the Ursack works well hung up as food storage bag in bear country, it really excels in areas where bears are not a concern but critter management is necessary. The addition of an ultra-lightweight waterproof silnylon sack is one workaround to keep the Ursack dry if it rains at night, but ultimately it would be a huge improvement if Ursack completely waterproofed this product.

Likes

  • Rodent and small critter-proof when bears are not a problem or bear boxes are available
  • Has a cord loop so it can be tied to a stationary object and/or safely left on the ground
  • Weighs 5 oz, one-fifth what a BearVault BV450 Bear Canister weighs (31 oz) and holds more food
  • Weighs 5 oz, nearly one-third what a bear-proof and critter-proof Ursack AllMitey (13 oz) weighs

Dislikes

  • Not waterproof, best used with outer waterproof stuff sack in wet conditions
  • Food can be crushed by larger critters

Disclosure: Ursack provided the author with an Ursack Minor for this review.

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About the Author

Erik Birkeland is an avid hiker with a backpacking problem, that is, he just can’t seem to get enough. Living in Duluth, Minnesota with the Superior Hiking Trail just outside his backdoor, daily hikes and weekend treks fill his free time while he contemplates the next big adventure. He has completed numerous backpacking trips into such diverse landscapes as Escalante, the Wind River Range, the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness, the BWCA, Isle Royale National Park, and even Iceland. While he hasn’t gone the farthest, fastest, nor the ultra-lightest; he does aspire to establish as many trekking BKTs (best known times) as possible - meeting the wilderness as it is, by simply getting out there.

4 comments

  1. I got the Minor for a trip to Isle Royale last year. Was able to stuff 8 days of food in it & the aggressive red squirrels on the island were unable to get my food. I’d also be comfortable taking this somewhere like the Smokies or Mt Rainier were campsites all have bear poles for food hanging. Poles keep the food safe from bears & the bag keeps mice that climb the poles from getting your food.

  2. I purchased my Ursack in the late 1990’s. I’ve yet to lose a morsel of food to the local fauna. I’ve camped in areas where there are black bears & only tied the Ursack to a stout tree. I always use the scent-blocking liners, so it’s possible that’s helped my success. Or maybe it’s just dumb luck.

    I won’t rely on it where hard-sided cannisters are required, but I’ve grown spoiled with the ease of use & lightweight of this thing.

  3. I have used the Minor in the desert Southwest. Been very pleased that it keeps pesky mice and squirrels at bay. I always also use either “Smelly-Proof” bags or the Ursack. And, I seldom prepare any food in the same location where I will be camping for the night.

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