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


Randy and Scott

Awaiting the official certification letter

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We are still awaiting the official certification letter and number from the IGBC, but can share some of the details. At IGBC insistence, we baited an Ursack S29 AllWhite, knotted it securely and placed it on the ground with no aluminum liner and not tied to a tree. The first two grizzlies went at it for an active 57 minutes. One of the bears was nick-named “The Destroyer,” but neither he nor his sister were able to compromise the Ursack. The Grizzly Wolf and Discovery Center rotates bears in and out at approximately one hour intervals. So the Destroyer went back to his quarters and five, count ’em, five more grizzlies came out to work on the same Ursack. The IGBC testing protocol requires a total of 60 minutes of active bear encounters, so even though we needed just a few minutes more to pass the test, there was no way to get the Ursack out until the five bears finished their shift. Not to worry. Ursack made if for another hour. A total of seven grizzly bears and two hours of active clawing, biting and scratching–yet Ursack survived. After washing the Ursack one could barely (bearly?) tell that it had been attacked.

Here is a picture of Randy Gravatt of the Wolf and Grizzly Discovery Center in West Yellowstone (left) and Scott Jackson of IGBC (right) after the test.


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Ursack was tested in two configurations by the IGBC at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone on May 30, 2013. I was there for both tests. Check out a video excerpt on our Bear Test Videos page. This is a slightly newer version (since April 2013) of the Ursack S29 AllWhite which is sewn with Spectra thread. Ursack did extremely well. The IGBC test protocol requires that a product must survive 60 minutes of bear contact, which is defined as: “biting, clawing, pounding, rolling, compressing, licking or scratching.” More than one Grizzly worked on the Ursacks, but the clock only runs while a bear is actively engaged. In one test, at least three (possibly four) bears attacked a baited unlined Ursack tied about five feet up a tree trunk. At the end of 60 minutes, the Ursack was fully intact with no punctures or tears. I easily untied it from the tree and opened it without the use of tools. The current IGBC published protocol states that: “If the product is not breached within the required 60 minutes of bear contact time, it will be considered to have “passed” the captive bear test.”

In the other test, an Ursack with an aluminum liner was placed on the ground and not tied to anything. Sam and Illie–a brother sister tag team (Sam weighs 950 pounds)–attacked the Ursack. This bag was torn after approximately forty three minutes of contact. My interpretation is that the grizzlies were able to use their massive shoulder strength and claws to compromise the Ursack. Black bears are very different. They do not have the shoulder strength (no hump) or size of grizzlies and their claws are different. We have tested lined Ursacks on the ground with captive black bears and the Ursacks have easily survived. In the thirteen years we have been in business selling across North America (including Alaska and Canada), I have never heard of a grizzly compromising an Ursack.

It is my very strong belief that Ursack, whether lined with aluminum or not, tied up a tree or not, would pass a captive bear test with black bears. I suspect that an Ursack (aluminum lined or not) tied up a tree to minimize claw and shoulder advantage would survive a captive grizzly test.

The IGBC has not issued its official evaluation yet. We hope to receive approval within a couple of weeks. Stay tuned. I will post video excerpts of the IGBC test soon.

If you have any questions feel free to Email Us