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Re: [John Muir Trail] Knots and Ursacks

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  • John Ladd
    ... Though I am also a mild supporter of Ursacks (as a bearcan supplement), I have several areas of concern about this advice. Thinking about this has also
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2010
      On Thu, Sep 30, 2010 at 7:07 AM, Jack Young <auctionjack@...> wrote:

      I've used an ursak for years and love them.  A good friend of mine in a retired SEKI backcountry ranger and guide and also loves them.  The trick, like any bear canister, is to use them properly.  Tie them to a log using a figure 8 knot.  DO NOT HANG THEM.

      Though I am also a mild supporter of Ursacks (as a bearcan supplement), I have several areas of concern about this advice. Thinking about this has also motivated me to add a resource to the Photo area of the site re knots (see bottom of this post if you are interested in knots, but not in Ursacks).

      In areas along the JMT that do not require approved bearcans, (roughly the middle 70 miles) they are legal only if properly hung. (It is the hanging, not the sack, that makes it legal.) Multiple rangers have told me this and the written regs to confirm it. I've had good luck personally with hanging Ursacks with either the counterweight method or the PCT method.

      In addition, note that the Forest Service is definitely opposed to tying Ursacks to tree trunks (which Jack does NOT advocate) and even to downed logs.

      The Ursack FAQ page says:

      Should the Hybrid be tied to a tree or other fixed object?

      Not in restricted areas of the Sierra National Parks or Forests. Maybe elsewhere. Please check local regulations--approval and use of Ursack varies from place to place around North America.

      The Sierra rangers are concerned that tying Ursack to a tree branch or even a rock could lead to resource damage as the bear struggles with it. Therefore the approved method of use is to cinch the Ursack tightly closed, TIE A STRONG KNOT, and place the Ursack a safe distance from camp.

      Won't a bear carry the Ursack away if it is not tied to a fixed object?

      Probably not. The SIBBG rangers tested the Ursack Hybrid in both the summer of 2004 and 2005 to see whether a bear would carry it away. They even put a tracking device in it as part of the testing procedure. The results, so far, are that bears are leaving Ursacks very close to where they found them.

      There are people who disagree with the wisdom of all this, Jack apparently included, but I thought people should be reminded of the legalities involved and of the official Ursack view.

      Note also that the Ursack FAQ above suggests that "Sierra rangers" would approve of a Ursack left on the ground.  That has NOT been my experience.  The ones I talk to want me to hang it the same way I would hang a nylon sack in areas permitting hung food.  Maybe the Ursack people (and Jack) know something that I don't.  Opinions on Ursacks are definitely evolving over time.

      The advantage of tying to a log or rock is that the bear's efforts to tug at the bag may tighten the double overhand knot that secures the opening of the bag.  It's not so much to prevent the bear from carrying it off. As noted on the Ursack FAQ page (quoted above) SIBBG testing showed that bears tended not to drag Ursacks very far, even when unsecured.

      For sure, don't tie them to the trunk of a live tree (I agree with that aspect of Jack's advice).  The bear's effort to get into the Ursack is likely to kill the tree by stripping its bark.

      Also, remember that the knot that secures the bag closure is a different knot than the one that ties it to a log, if you chose to do so.

      To close the bag opening use a double overhand knot

      Double overhand knot.png

      double overhand pic.jpg

      The knot used to tie it to a log has to be one that you can get undone even if the bear has pulled hard on it.  Many knots would get so tight after bear treatment, that you'd have a hard time untying the knot to retrieve your sack.  That's why Jack recommends the figure 8 knot to tie to the log.

      According to the Ursack FAQ page:

      Will I be able to untie the cord after a bear pulls on it?

      If you follow the directions and use a figure 8 knot secure URSACK®, you should be able to untie the knot even after a bear has yanked on it.

      Many of our customers have already done this successfully. We actually tested the Kev-Kord and knot by looping it around the trailer hitch of a truck and pulling on a steel pole. We were still able to untie the figure 8 knot.

      Worst case
      : although Kev-Kord is highly resistant to chewing, you can cut it with a very sharp knife.

      Unfortunately, Ursack's link to a picture of a figure 8 knot is broken and it is hard to find a good picture online that shows a figure 8 knot used to tie one cord to another cord (as you'd probably do if securing the Ursack to a log.  But, in general, here's two illustrations.  The second is a rethreaded figure 8 and would allow you to use one side of the Ursack rope to tie around a log.

      knot figure 8.gif

      knot figure 8 rethreaded.gif

      I'm quite clumsy at knot carrying.  I print small graphics of knots (12 to a page) to bring with me on a trip to help me remember how to tie them.  This issue has motivated me to put the knot pictures on the photo area of the site.  (A nice illustration of the PCT bearhang method is included). If you have better pics than mine, please add them to the collection.


      Links to pages at Ursack site re knots and related issues:



      John Curran Ladd
      1616 Castro Street
      San Francisco, CA  94114-3707
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