Last year I bought an Ursack Minor food storage bag for use on the Pacific Crest Trail. Normally I just hang my food bag from trees in order to keep it away from critters, but I was afraid that in the deserts and high alpine zones of the west coast I wouldn’t be able to easily find branches suitable for hanging. The reviews from previous hikers I’d heard were that mice were the only real problem on the PCT (except in areas where bear canisters are required, in which case I carried a bear canister instead of the Ursack), so I figured I’d give this a shot.
Initial impressions are pretty simple. It’s just a pretty big stuff sack. The material is tough, and about as stiff as a new pair of Carhartt pants. The drawcord is a thin rope rather than string. If you look closely at the sewing, you can tell it’s put together very ruggedly. The bag weighs around 3 ounces, so it’s not significantly heavier than a similarly sized sil-nylon stuff sack.
All through Southern California, I left all of my food in the Ursack Minor sitting next to my tent each night. I would wake up in the morning and see no evidence of mouse activity, so I couldn’t be sure that it worked. Through the Sierra, I used a bear canister, so I didn’t get to test the Ursack there. Then, in Northern California, I finally got to test the bag.
I woke up in the middle of the night to hear mice chewing on the bag. It sounded like they were getting into the bag, because I could hear what sounded like ziplock bags being chewed apart. If you’re a hiker from the east coast, you probably know the sound I’m talking about. But in the morning, I couldn’t find a scratch on the Ursack, and all of my food was perfectly intact. There was a bunch of mouse poop on the outside of the bag, but otherwise there were no signs that they had been there.
Almost every morning for the rest of the trail, I woke up to find mouse poop on the Ursack, but not a scratch on the bag. Oftentimes my hiking buddies’ food bags would be chewed open, but my food was untouched.
Only once, late in the trail and right after I had bragged about my indestructible food bag, did a mouse manage to chew a hole into the bag. I was mighty angry. But after that I sewed the hole up and things got right back to normal, with signs of mouse activity but no break ins. I did notice at the very end that there were a few spots on the bag that seemed worn. After being attacked by razor-toothed mice every night for approximately four months, I’m not surprised by that.
The bottom line: the Ursack Minor is a great food storage bag for hikers on popular hiking trails. I may use it on the Appalachian and Long Trails in future hikes as added insurance against shelter mice. If you use the bag as added insurance against mice (in other words, hang the bag rather than put it right where the mice are certain to get at it), the chances they’ll get into the bag even once will be cut down significantly. If I have any more good info to report on this after my Long Trail hike this summer, I’ll be sure to let you know.