Pack Rats and Mice and Ringtails, Oh My!

by Dave Baker Thursday, April 23rd 2009

Even when bears are not a threat to the outdoor traveler’s food, mice, rats, ringtail cats, and other small mammals can be relentless in their effort to dine on back country food stores. Garbage and empty food wrappers also attract the attention of hungry critters. This is especially true at often-used campsites. And perhaps just as bad, these animals can cause significant damage to packs, tents and other gear as they energetically chew and gnaw their way to the food.

What to do? Metal or hard nylon cans are heavy, bulky and difficult to pack. Fiber reinforced bags can succumb to sharp teeth given enough time. In arid areas like the Grand Canyon there are often no trees large enough to successfully hang food bags out of reach.

Check out the chew resistant Outsak™. Made of stainless steel mesh, the Outsak™ is flexible, reasonably light, and very packable. The webbing backed loop closure is animal resistant yet easy to open. It is outfitted with a sturdy grommet to facilitate hanging from trees or overhangs.

Outsak™, size small

Outsak™ bags are offered in three sizes, with weights ranging from 8 to 10.5 ounces. The small size, at 18 x 14 inches is pictured here. Prices range from $32.99 to $44.99.

These bags are extremely useful, but should not be considered fail proof. Though the steel mesh offers a lot of protection at a reasonable weight, the bags are none-the-less vulnerable to many animals, even small ones given plenty of time. Bears certainly have the strength to tear them apart, and so may coyotes and other large mammals. Ravens can defeat the mesh by virtue of their strong beaks and persistent intelligence. (The manufacturer recommends hiding the sack or stacking heavy rocks around it when ravens are a threat.)  And don’t forget tiny animals like ants, which can simply crawl through the protective mesh.

I’m not sure there is a totally foolproof and lightweight answer to the problem of protecting food from animals in the outdoors, but the Outsak™  is one of the most practical solutions for keeping small animals away from food that I know of.


Comments (3) -

4/24/2009 2:05:02 PM #

Outsak has made Grand Canyon's lesser trails and extended hikes carefree from the standpoint of food protection. Sure, a bear or coyote could defeat the mesh. I'm still hoping to maintain my perfect "no bear visits" record.


5/1/2009 4:02:27 PM #

Used an Outsak on a trip to Phantom and Indian Gardens. We had 6 people in our group and the ammo cans down there don't give you enough room for food for 6 hungry people. We used an Outsak to store the extra stuff, like our deodorant and chapstick and our trash that we didn't want to store next to our food. We hung it  from the pack pole. One in our group actually put a pair of pants in it that he spilled his dinner on. I wish I would have known they were available at Summit Hut before I did my trip. Well worth the money and piece of mind.

Bill Dorchester

5/4/2009 6:50:41 PM #

FYI: I produce another option for food supply storage bags.  I call my bag the GrubPack.  I take great care in selecting every item used to produce the GrubPack.  I speak no ill-will of the other fine bags out there.  But I will tell you that the GrubPack is built with the finest components and assembly techniques.  It is truly second to none.

Jeff Walker

The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!