SEKI Publishes 2016 Canister Policy–No Ursack, No Explanation

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Sequoia Kings Canyon National Park (SEKI) has published its 2016 guidelines. Containers are required in the Dusy Basin, Rae Lakes Loop, North Dome and Rock Creek areas from May 1 through October 31. Ursack is allowed in all other areas of SEKI. The list of SEKI approved food storage containers does not include or mention Ursack. There has been no explanation given to us despite the fact that SEKI has had years to evaluate the IGBC approved Ursack S29 AllWhite. Our letters and phone calls have gone unanswered. Ursack’s perfect record has been ignored. We are not aware of any bear anywhere in the world, much less SEKI, that has torn a greater than 1/4 inch hole (the IGBC standard) in an Ursack S29/S29.3 AllWhite.

Still Waiting to Hear from Yosemite and SEKI

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We have been promised, since November 2015, that a letter was coming from the Solicitor’s (Department of Interior lawyer) office concerning Ursack’s approval in Yosemite and three parts of Sequoia/Kings Canyon National Parks. Four months later, we are still waiting. We actually began seeking approval in October 2014 after we received IGBC certification. Apparently, some people in government think that confirming the approval of a bear bag in an election year is inappropriate. One official stated: “It is about a principle, not a specific product like Ursack.”

Hard sided canisters failing in Yosemite

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Here is an article by Tom Stienstra from the August 30, 2015 S.F. Chronicle:

Nature bats last, goes the saying, and in the past week, clever bears in the Yosemite wilderness are getting the last word.

You know those bear-proof food canisters we’re all required to carry in our backpacks? The same canisters that have proved so effective in wilderness? So effective that many bears have left the remote wilds in order to ply the easy-to-get eats at many drive-in campgrounds in national parks?

The bears know that food is inside those canisters, you see. Drives ’em nuts, literally. If the bears stay in the wilderness, because of those canisters, they’re forced to eat plants, berries and nuts. In the past few weeks, a few bears have come up with Plan B.

In several encounters last week, bears grabbed, tossed or absconded with the bear-proof food canisters, according to rangers at Yosemite National Park. Something like a robber stealing a safe, then taking it home to figure out how to get the goodies.

Brother Rambob, on his last trip out of Tuolumne Meadows, said one hiker told him a bear grabbed his locked bear-proof canister, ran off with it, and when the hiker followed in pursuit, “the bear threw it into a deep ravine.” I heard a similar tale on a trip out of Hetch Hetchy.

Then, in separate episodes last week, reported Caitlin Lee-Roney, a wildlife specialist at Yosemite, bears went inside the tents of wilderness campers to look for food.

In another case, a hiker didn’t latch the canister quite right. Even though it was partially secured, “a bear was able to pry open the canister lid by prying it back,” said Lee-Roney.

New Lifetime Warranty (and Yosemite, SEKI, Inyo update)

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We have changed our warranty effective immediately.

Limited Lifetime Warranty.

We will replace, or refund the cost of, any properly deployed Ursack in which a gap, tear or hole larger than 1/4 inch is caused by a wild animal. This 1/4 inch standard is the criteria used in the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee’s test protocol. We ask that customers return any damaged Ursack to us for inspection.

Meanwhile, there is nothing new from Yosemite or SEKI. Several customers have contacted us confused about misinformation given to them by Inyo Rangers. We have confirmed with the authorities there that Ursack is allowed in Inyo–as it has been for several years.


Is anything happening with Ursack approval at Yosemite and SEKI?

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A customer recently forwarded an email from a SEKI wildlife biologist in which he responded on behalf of Kings Canyon, Sequoia, and Yosemite National Parks to the customer’s query. Here is the email I sent to Yosemite and SEKI on June 10, 2015 in response:

 “Your email [to the Ursack customer] stated that the parks periodically review “new” portable bear-resistant containers certified by the IGBC to assess whether newly IGBC certified products are “a standalone device that functions independently of park resources” and whether there are “any other issues or concerns” relevant to the objectives of the program. You went on to state that the Parks you represent are currently reviewing the IGBC certified Ursack Model S29 AllWhite.

     As you know, the Ursack S29 AllWhite was certified by the IGBC in July 2014. The actual grizzly bear test was more than a year ago. On October 22, 2014, I wrote the superintendents of Yosemite and SEKI (copied here) asking them to approve Ursack. Two months later, they responded by asking for a sample for further evaluation. I sent one within a week. I have heard nothing since. The recent lists of approved canisters posted on the Parks’ websites do not mention Ursack.

     Rachel Mazur’s interesting new book, Speaking of Bears, tells of a Yosemite bear that broke about 25 canisters in 2013 by rolling them off a cliff. Presumably, all of these canisters remain on the Parks’ approved list while Ursack remains in limbo.

     In short, Yosemite and SEKI have theoretically been reviewing the IGBC certified Ursack for six months or more with no indication of what that review process is, what the specific criteria for approval are, or when a decision might be made. As you might imagine, both the company and thousands of customers and potential customers are frustrated by this lack of progress. (Thousands of customers is not an exaggeration. One of them started a petition which has garnered more than 2,500 signatures).

     Please let us know, with specifics, what is happening with your evaluation. If it is easier to call, please do.


Yosemite/SEKI and petition

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Unbeknownst to us, some interested backpackers started a petition a while back to persuade Yosemite and SEKI to accept Ursack. We do not personally know any of these people and had nothing to do with starting the petition, but–needless to say–we approve. If you would like to add your support, go to

Yosemite and Sequoia Kings Canyon

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Yosemite and Sequoia Kings Canyon are currently reviewing the current version of the Ursack S29 AllWhite for use in those Parks. I do not know when they will make their decision or what that decision will be. In a recent letter to them, I pointed out that the recent release of the movie Wild and the upcoming release of the movie A Walk in the Woods are very likely to lead to an increase in long distance backpacking, and that thru-hikers are already making equipment choices for this year. Hopefully, these Parks (and others) will acknowledge that IGBC certification and the 2014 Ursack’s perfect record against wilderness bears warrants approval.

Happy New Year!

Book & Film Recommendations

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A few book and movie recommendations. All consider themes of man in nature:

“Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. “Wild” the movie starring Reese Witherspoon.

An absorbing account of the author’s 1000 mile solo trek on the PCT. The book has received deservedly high praise and continues to be a best seller. The movie is a worthy adaptation.

“A Walk in the Woods”

by Bill Bryson. Published in 1999, this is a highly readable tale of the author’s attempt to rediscover America on the Appalachian Trail.

“The River Why”

Screenplay by Ursack’s founder/CEO (Tom Cohen) and produced by Mrs. Ursack (Kristi Denton Cohen) is available at (and everywhere else). Sick of living in a home shrouded with secrets, lies and a smothering sense of competition, Gus (Zach Gilford, Friday Night Lights) runs away from home and the shadow of his famous fly-fishing father (William Hurt). Determined to live life like on his own terms, Gus makes his new home in a secluded cabin on the banks of a river where he plans to fish all day. Instead, he is propelled into a quest for self-discovery. An assortment of eccentric characters, including a free-spirited girl (Amber Heard, Zombieland) who shares his fondness for fishing, helps him find his way toward adulthood. Based on a book that has become a cult classic and set in the breathtaking wilds of Oregon.

“Vertical Frontier”

Narrated by Tom Brokaw, produced and directed by Kristi Denton Cohen, this is the award winning documentary of the history of Yosemite rock climbing. From John Muir in the 1860s to the super athletes of today, “Vertical Frontier” is the character-driven story of the art, sport and philosophy of climbing the legendary big walls of Yosemite. Illustrated by spectacular old and new footage shot on those granite walls, the story is told by the climbers. Available at


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