At 12:15, July 4, 1999 disaster struck. Straight line winds hit our area and obliterated most of our neighbors. It just missed us by about a 1/4 mile. In its path, every tree taller than 40 feet snapped off have way up. Power line poles went as well and the just after Northwind Lodge went dark. I went over to the Moose Lake road to check on my mother-in-law Edith and her husband Bob Cary to see what happened. There were trees and exploded electrical transformers on the ground. Good thing I put a chainsaw in my truck because when I got there, Bob Cary was in his early 80’s and sawing on the pavement trying to open the road. Trees were twisted and under load so you had to be careful to watch so you wouldn’t get whacked when you poked the chain bar in there. It was truly surreal and the damage hard to believe. Fortunately, all the houses seemed to survive I think because the trees ate up the force of the wind. Now, where there once was brush, you had a scenic view of Moose lake as you drove down the road.
Well, as a result of the big wind, our outfitting customers had nowhere to hang their food packs. Everything snapped off. I had experimented with barrels and harnesses before and was not a huge fan of the one big barrel because it hits me on the tailbone. After a day of portaging, my tailbone is not a happy camper. So, I abandoned those in the mid 90’s. I really wanted to be able to carry 2 barrels but nothing existed to do so. Two barrels would allow two people a place to sit. They also allow one to separate out supplies better. Hiding two barrels makes it far more likely that a bear won’t find both and smaller barrels are easier to stash. The one big barrel has to be dumped out on the ground because everything you want ends up on the bottom. Also, the big barrel likes to roll around in the canoe which irritates me to no end. I hate stuff clunking around. I actually took one out on a long, 7-portage, day-trip to see how it would work. Well, it worked I guess, and comparatively, it’s cheap to own, but I was not a big fan.
I wanted a custom-made pack that would haul two 30 liter barrels so I headed over to Kondos Outdoors and met with Dan Kondos about my idea. In about 45 minutes, the Super Pack was born. I was going to make those little labels to sew onto the pack but I figured I would only sell 3 or 4 of these and at the time, I had to buy 5,000 labels so I held off. I should have had them made. We sold hundreds of Super Packs over the years to all sorts of happy campers. The only people who ever had a problem with it was a group of Boyscouts in a different state who borrowed a Super Pack from a guy who bought one from us, and a US Forest Service clean-up crew. In both cases, the scouts and the USFS did exactly the opposite of what you do with a Super Pack. They left the barrels inside the pack and hung it from a branch only to show the bears that the big pinãta at the end of the rope might have something good in it. Then they left camp for the day. When the USFS returned, a momma bear and two cubs were wailing on that nice, grounded pack which was holding those two barrels together resulting in their not sliding around which normally makes them hard to handle for a bear. In this case they were easy to hold down, jump on, and pummel. The bears managed to completely shred the pack into a garbage heap and tear a 6″ hole in the side of one barrel. Both barrels were completely flattened but they only got into one. That USFS worker who told me about the bears complained that these were not bearproof barrels to which I responded, “Well, who ever told you that they were bear proof and why the hell are you hanging in the first place?”
He answered that it was “government policy” to always hang your food pack, to which I replied by pointing out how asinine that was given that these packs are supposed to have the barrels removed and stashed in two opposite directions after they’ve been sealed shut. Then you hang that completely empty pack on any tree branch. If the bear smells no food, he won’t touch it and you won’t have a destroyed pack. I don’t think I was able to get through to that government worker about the error in his ways. Nobody really knew what the scouts did on their adventure, but I’m guessing it was equi-dumb. Those were the only two instances of which I’m aware regarding the destruction of a Super Pack going on 16 years of outfitting them now.
Now, when you get to camp, take the Super Pack up to the site and pull the two 30 liter, air & water tight barrels out of the pack. Use them to keep your food and it’s associated odors sealed off from the outside world. Use the two barrels as two chairs while in camp. When you leave camp and/or at nightfall, standing at your fireplace, stash one barrel 50 feet to the left and the other barrel 50 feet to the right, in the brush. Throw a couple of rocks and/or sticks, maybe an old downed log over the barrels to break up their appearance as they lay in the brush. You don’t need to bury them but if you can find a slump in the ground to lay a barrel in so they are harder to see, that is even better. And, while thse two 30 liter barrels are great to sit on in camp while you are there, make sure you don’t fry fish next to them. Don’t smear grape jelly on the outside. Also, don’t leave them unattended on a trail or the path to the biffy – bears walk on paths, too. What you are trying to do is minimize exposure to bears. You don’t have to go crazy in camouflaging them. If they are clean and odor free on the outside, they are not a target.
If you have the misfortune of getting the last campsite on the lake and it’s laden with bear signs including fresh scat, a ring of bark at the base of the hangin’ tree from where the bear has been running up and down the previous night, do this: Tie a rope around the necks of your two barrels, take them 15 feet offshore and anchor them floating in the lake. It’s pretty unlikely that a land animal like a bear will swim out and go “bobbing for apples” to see what’s in those barrels.
Contrary to myth and various internet bulletin boards, these barrels are incredibly tough, but not “bear proof”. Bears just don’t want them because a sealed up barrel smells like food-grade polyethylene which is a very clean, inedible plastic.
While portaging, remember to get the pack on your shoulders and then reach behind your head and pull each of the cover straps snug for a great fit up against your back. For short-torsoed folks, pull out the hip belt, flip it over and re-install it back in its slot. Easy to do and requires no tools. This puts the belt up about 1.5 inches higher for women’s torsos generally allowing the waist belt to be on the hips.
Each Red Rock Super Pack is custom built for Red Rock by Kondos Outdoors of Ely. Our Red Rock Super Pack holds both barrels beautifully and allows an extra 6″ of space on top for things you may need quick access such as raingear, lunch, a 2-3 man tent, etc. It’s easy to carry with a built-in foam-padded back, 2 contoured padded shoulder straps complete with sternum strap and hip belt. Made out of 1000 Denier Cordura Nylon containing 2-8 gal/30 liter barrels (20″ H x 12″ W) with tough dependable “V” channel lock band. Pack is 6684 cu in. Too much room for your food? Put the food in one barrel and your clothing or other things you want to protect and keep dry in the other barrel. Just don’t put the your clothes in a barrel with hard German salami or something truly ridiculous to bring on a canoe trip: cantaloupes. You might end up with a bear licking your ear on the portage…
This is a picture of a used Super Pack. You always see the shiny new gear, not the one that’s been out in the woods and actually used by real people. This one was on many canoe trips. I just shot some quick pics to show the straps, the barrels in the pack. Then I had to move because a truck was coming down the driveway, so I didn’t get the top zipped shut, but you get the idea.