Pack Rats and Mice and Ringtails, Oh My!

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 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.

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