Do you have a knack for backpacking? Some of us have the inherent desire to explore wildlife and nature in its complete glory. However, it is also important to look towards some essential concerns related to safety that must be followed at all times.
What matters the most when you are on a backpacking trip in the woods? It’s food!
It would be practically impossible for any individual to survive in the wild without any food for days. You may wonder that this may not be a problem at all if you have considerable amounts of food stuffed up in your backpack.
However, you may encounter unexpected guests such as bears, rodents, and raccoons who may try to steal your food, and they surely will. This is where you have to search for the best bear canister for backpacking.
Let us find out some reviews about bear canisters and tips on how to choose the suitable one for your needs in the following discussion. Another important aspect covered in this discussion would be the solutions for frequently asked questions related to bear canisters.
What are Bear Canisters?
Before we move on towards the discussion, it would be reasonable to present a definition of a bear canister. It is a durable container that is specifically designed for storing food and protecting it from bears as well as other animals in the wild.
With almost 5 to 15 liters of space, these containers can be the right products you want when going on a trip across the backcountry. The durability of these containers is supported by the materials used in manufacturing them, such as ABS plastic or polycarbonates.
You can also find some canisters made of metal or carbon fibers for superior durability. With a bear canister, you can make sure that bears don’t take away your food, thereby making your backpacking trip comfortable and successful.
#1 BearVault Bear Canisters (Our Top Pick)
A very popular choice among hikers, the BearVault Canister is available in two variants, i.e., the BV500 and BV450. This is probably the best bear canister on the market, and almost 9 out of 10 PCT Thru-Hikers use the BV500.
What makes this product so popular? This product is approved by various National Parks and National Forests that follow canister regulations and is recommended for long-distance trails.
Easy to Carry
You don’t have to sweat it out by carrying a capacity canister in your backpack, and that surely presents a clear advantage. For a container of this capacity, this product definitely scores well on being easy to carry. You can carry food for almost 7 days for one person in this container and use it without any troubles.
The large opening of the container helps in finding the desired food items easily, and you can take them out comfortably.
Another potential benefit noticed in this product is the robust build, which makes it safe from impact. Most important of all, you could be able to use it as a camp stool. Pretty cool way to define multipurpose use, isn’t it?
Suitable for Various Trips
Despite the various positive aspects, the BV500 and BV450 canisters do have some negative points. The most hassling setback in this product is the occasional difficulty in opening the lid.
Even if this may seem to be a good thing to keep bears away from your food, you could also face the risk of not being able to open the lid. You would also note that the groove around the lid for using a rope could make it easier for bears to open the lid.
However, these negative aspects can be overpowered by the additional benefits such as a lifetime warranty as well as suitability for various trips. You can take this product on backpacking trips and hiking as well as hunting, fishing, camping and kayaking trips.
These advantages surely paint a good impression of the BearVault Canisters, don’t they?
Most important of all, you would be getting the assurance of over 15 years of experience of BearVault. Their products are tested at various campsites in North America as well as with black bears and grizzly bears at different test facilities.
With a stamp of credibility, the BV500 and BV450 canisters could surely be one of your top priorities when it comes to choosing a bear canister for your backpacking adventures.
#2 Counter Assault Bear Keg
At an impressive storage capacity of 716 cubic inches, the Counter Assault Bear Keg definitely deserves mention in our list.
You would be amazed to know that this product has been made mandatory for trips in the majority of national parks in the United States and Canada.
Most important of all, this product satisfies the specifications outlined by the US Forest Service. It has also received a certificate from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee and the Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group which speak a lot for its credibility.
Strength and Durability
In terms of strength and durability, the Counter Assault Bear Keg performs exceptionally well. How?
The proprietary polymer blend material used for manufacturing this product makes sure of that! To top it up, the storage capacity definitely proves to be a fair deal with this product as you could be able to store almost 7 to 8 days of food for your trips.
Another benefit of the Counter Assault Bear Keg, which can catch your attention is the reflective tape strip around the middle. This yellow tape strip glows in the dark and thus you could use the product as a signal if you get lost by some chance. The glowing feature of the tape strip also makes it easier to find this canister in the dark.
Along with the positive aspects, you would also have to face some pitfalls with this product while on your backpacking trips. One of the noticeable setbacks that you would find in this product is the difficulty in closing the lid. You have to be careful of putting the lid on in the right position so that the three locks can be put properly. The size of this product can also seem to be a downturn, especially if you have too much to carry in your backpack!
If you are planning on going solo, then this canister may be a little too heavy.
On the other hand, you can gain many advantages, among which the best one would be its capacity and durability. These two factors can make the Counter Assault Bear Keg the best option for hikers going on trips for multiple nights. So, if you are going on a backpacking or hiking trip in the wilderness with a group of 2 to 3 people, this canister can be your best pick!
#3 Frontiersman Insider Bear Safe Canister
Another promising addition to the list of effective bear canisters is the Frontiersman Insider Bear Safe Canister. This product is specifically noted for higher storage capacity estimated at around 11.86L, thereby making it a suitable choice for family hiking trips for multiple days.
The shape of the canister is also a favorable highlight that supports 3 lbs weight. The ergonomic tapered shape helps in putting it in a backpack easily and taking it out when needed. Most important of all, it also provides the benefit of equal load distribution and better balance.
It is also compliant with the US Forest Service specifications and has been certified by the bear-resistant products testing program of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC). This clearly shows that you don’t have to deal with any legal or safety issues with this product.
The product is made of polypropylene that ensures durability, which is an essential requirement on a hiking trip. After all, you are purchasing this product for protecting your food from bears!
You may also note that the canister is also air-tight, thereby sealing off any odor of food that may attract bears. Even if bears can come across this product, they would find it difficult to open the canister due to the lid that can be screwed to the based tightly with the help of three solid crews.
You would be amazed to know that this canister has proved successful in a test where it was subjected to many attempts by Grizzlies for opening, crushing, or breaking the canister.
However, the same can be applicable in the case of humans too! The three screws have to be turned many times to open or close the canister and could be a considerable waste of time. This can be a real hassle for backpackers eager to make the most of their trip rather than spending time in opening and closing the canister safely.
The Frontiersman Insider Bear Safe could also be subjected to criticism based on its storage capacity, which ironically is one of the notable benefits of this product. The huge capacity of this canister would require a pack bigger than 65L to fit this one! Furthermore, you have to carry around tools such as screwdrivers and washers to open and close the screws, which can increase the weight of your backpack on the trip.
So, this canister can be considered as an ideal choice for family trips only where you could have others share the task of opening this container. This may not be the perfect one for solo trips where you might end up unable to open the canister and remain without food for days!
#4 Lighter1 Lil’ Sami Bear Canister
The convenience of cooking is one of the foremost features that can be noted in the Lighter1 Lil’ Sami Canister. This product is available with a canister, a pot, pot lid, and a handle.
The approval of the IGBC for use in National Parks for this product is one of the foremost highlights that can be observed about this product. Most important of all, this bear canister has been approved individually for use in Yosemite, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Rocky Mountain, and Glacier National Parks.
The lightweight build of this canister is also a benefit that every backpacker would love to have on their trip.
The lid could be used as a pot as it is made of thin anodized aluminum and could be used for frying.
However, you have to be a little careful while using oils with a low smoke point with the lid as it is very thin, thereby calling for the temperature to be kept low. The compact size of this canister is another advantage that can work just fine for overnight trips for groups of three or four people.
Unlike other products in this category, the Lighter1 Lil’ Sami Canister doesn’t have any problems in opening the lid! The product has two metal screws only with aptly sized knurled edges along with an optional flat-head slot which makes it easier to open with your fingers only. Seems to be a huge respite on cold mornings, right?
You would also note that this product is also light and can fit easily in a 38L pack along with other belongings you may need along the trip.
The design of the pot is also beneficial for backpackers when they face trouble with pouring boiling water in frozen food packets. The two slits provided on the pot for fastening it to the canister with bolts can be used a pour spout to your advantage. That surely makes your cooking experience a lot simpler and comfortable!
Along with these benefits, you should also take note of some issues that are associated with the Lighter1 Lil’ Sami Bear Canister. First of all, this product is a little bit much on the cost factor just for the facility of a pot for additional capacity.
The handle may not attach firmly to the pot, and you could have to read the instructions properly for using the handle, especially when pouring water. Since the lid of the canister or the pot is lightweight, there are chances that it may tip when it is attached to the handle and does not carry too much stuff in it! Therefore, backpackers would have to learn to use the handle properly to use this canister effectively.
This product could be considered as a good choice for backpackers with keen attention to instruction manuals. It is perfectly suited for individuals who don’t want too much weight in their backpacks or trouble with opening screws!
#5 Backpacker’s Cache – Bear Proof Container
An interesting product from Backpacker’s Cache for keeping your food safe from bears during backpacking trips. It is proven to lock in the odor of food inside the container to keep away bears from invading your campsite.
On the other hand, it may be too heavy and can add up to the weight of your backpack. This may appear to be a downside, albeit with the assurance of security for your food. Also, you can find this product as a suitable and dry place for sitting when you are cooking food.
It serves exceptionally well as a chair and can become a favorite of people who are inclined towards comfort and convenience when they cook food. This bear canister is aptly high enough for sitting comfortably and reaching out to the ground as well when you are cooking.
You can be able to fit in a small mess kit along with a stove in this container with enough space left to store food for two people for a two-day trip. Even if you may need more than 65L of pack capacity to carry this big boy around on your trip, it does not put too much weight on your back.
The product further adds up to its value by providing the facility of opening easily but only for humans. You could use any coin unlike bears to open up this canister easily, thereby enjoying your hiking trip without having to struggle from time to time for opening the canister to get your food.
However, there are also setbacks to this product, among which the first one would be the lack of waterproofing abilities. The Backpacker’s Cache Bear Proof Container has to be stored upside down in case of heavy rain because water may get inside when it is placed right-side up.
Another pitfall that arises in the case of this canister is the fact that it depends on an interior liner bag for containing the odor. Every backpacker knows that it is essential to fill up their bear canister with as much food as possible to have a comfortable trip.
So, you may have to tear off the interior plastic liner to make space for food and thus lose the benefit of odor locking. Most important of all, the size of the bear canister could also be a trouble for many backpackers although car camping enthusiasts won’t have any issues!
On an overall basis, you should go for the Backpacker’s Cache Bear Proof Container if you have the resilience to bear weight and have formidable interest in a using a canister flexibly.
#6 NO-FED-BEAR Bear Resistant Canister by UDAP
This uniquely designed bear canister from UDAP is associated with the assurance of UDAP quality and is considered as a must-have for campers. The strong polymer blend used in the construction of this container helps get the desired durability for preventing bears from taking away your food.
The product serves well in terms of bulkiness and could be fit easily in a backpack along with other gear. Despite the weight of the canister, you can find that it could easily fit in a 45L backpack. This bear canister could be ideally fit for trips where you can get the opportunity to refill your supplies from time to time and is quite comfortable to carry around.
On the other hand, you should also take note of the pitfalls associated with this product to check whether you can be able to cope with this product or not. At higher elevations where the temperature drops down below 50 degrees, this product could be difficult to open. You would not be getting comfortable at such temperatures with your food locked inside the canister!
Coins would not work perfectly in situations as in the case of other canisters, and you may have to deal with some other tools to open the canister. The lid is a complete design anomaly in the case of this product as you would find the metal screws tightened too hard from the factory. Also, the lid shows some prominent gaps and also rattles, which is enough to attract the attention of bears with the scent of food escaping from the gaps.
The troubles with opening the lid could, however, be resolved with a simple precaution by taking multiple tools along with you. Some other precautions which could help you score a lot of space in the NO-FED-BEAR Bear Resistant Canister by UDAP include reducing the number of toiletries.
You could also utilize the space effectively by opening the packets of the dehydrated meal and squeezing out the air in them. With these simple measures, you could be able to make the most of this amazing bear canister product for a safe and convenient trip in the backcountry.
How to Choose Bear Canisters?
As a backpacking enthusiast, you may have to encounter a few challenges in the wilderness, especially for the protection of your food from animals such as bears. Therefore, we have been able to understand the importance of bear canisters until now alongside a review of some of the notable products available in the market.
Since a bear canister is the only proven way to get the most out of your backpacking experience in renowned national parks in the US, you should purchase one. However, you should also pay specific attention to many factors to select a bear canister, which is ideally suited to your needs.
Every backpacker has their unique preferences and requirements during a trip which can be taken into account for deciding the most favorable product for an enjoyable, safe, and convenient hiking experience.
Don’t forget to read our best campfire grill grates review.
The Storage Capacity
The first thing that should come to your mind is that you would be going on a trip across the wilderness for many days. This means that you need to have an adequate supply of food and other essentials with you for the whole trip. Of course, you cannot go hunting in a national park for securing food, and that would mean that a bear canister is mandatory for carrying food.
Speaking of the number of days that you would be spending on a trip in the wilderness, it is essential to have a bear canister that can be capable of carrying the quantity of food you may need on your trip. This is where you should take a closer look at the volume of the bear-resistant food container you are considering for purchase.
On a general basis, you can stuff food for one day for one individual in 100 cubic inches of volume. Therefore, you need to plan the number of days you would be spending on the trip and find a bear canister that has the required volume for holding the required amount of food.
For example, if you are planning on a four-day trip, then it is essential to find a canister which has at least 400 cubic inches of storage space. You should also take other essentials that you may need on the trip into account for choosing the right bear canister and keep away from troubles due to lack of food on your backpacking trip.
Easy to Take Out Food
You will be in the wilderness for many days on a backpacking trip, and a bear canister should make the job easy for you rather than difficult. The bear canister should have a wider mouth to take out the required items easily. A bear canister with a wide mouth could help reduce the need for emptying the contents of your canister on the ground every time you need to take out something.
If you want an additional advantage, then it is recommended to go with a transparent canister to identify the items clearly without opening the lid. When you know exactly where to put your hand in and get your desired food item, it gets a lot easier to enjoy your trip. So, taking note of the ease of accessibility can also be substantially helpful for choosing the right bear canister product.
The Weight Should Not Bring You Down
Weight is the next significant concern that arises regarding the selection of a bear canister. You would be having many food items and other essentials stuffed in your backpack. So, you should always look for a lightweight canister that can easily fit in the backpack.
Also, the canister should not have any influence on the integrity of the backpack or else you may be in a lot of trouble with missing supplies. The recommended weight for a bear canister is 3 lbs, and that would increase gradually as you add food items and other supplies in the canister.
Furthermore, you should also keep in mind that the weight of your backpack would build up gradually as the journey progresses. So, always focus on lightweight canisters which do not impose a lot of stress on your body.
Convenience with the Shape
The shape of the canister is also equally important as the size or volume of the canister. Having a bulky canister that could not be stored easily in a backpack is not worthy of investment and can result in notable issues of handling. In some cases, you may also face the risk of wearing out the backpack with inappropriately shaped bear canisters.
Therefore, it is suitable to choose canisters which are ergonomic and can be easily maneuvered in and out of your backpack. For example, a tapered shape canister could be easily stored in the backpack and taken out when needed.
Take Note of What You Eat
Your food preferences could also be a notable determinant of the type of bear canister that would be suited to your backpacking trip. If you are a fan of pre-packaged meals, then it would be reasonable to go for a bigger canister because the pre-packaged meals take up too much space.
On the other hand, if you have the habit of dehydrating your food on your own, then you could go for a small canister. With your dehydrated food, you can optimize the packaging to make sure that they take up less space, and this is rightly suited for smaller canisters.
Bears Should Not Open it at Any Cost
The bear canister you want to purchase should be difficult to open! Not for you but for bears only. Bear canisters are solely built to secure food from bears, but that does not mean that you too have to struggle for opening the canister.
So, look for canisters which are proven and tested for safety against bears but are easily accessible. Try to stay away from canisters which have complex mechanisms to open and close the lid or require coins and additional tools for opening the canister. Nobody wants to spend a major part of their backpacking trip in opening and closing their bear canisters.
Number of People in Your Group
Consider the number of partners or members you will have in your backpacking or hiking group. If you are going alone, then it is advisable to choose a larger canister.
However, if there are others in your group, then you should go for two or more smaller canisters that can be carried comfortably by everyone. This way, you could share the burden easily and also make sure that you have all the supplies you need for the whole backpacking trip.
Certifications and Approvals
Finally, you should look for the fact about whether the bear canister you are thinking to buy is approved in the location selected by you for hiking. Different national parks do not approve some canisters because bears in these locations have learned to open them. Therefore, you should look for certification from the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee in a canister before purchasing it. Also, you should also check for the durability testing approvals in which the canisters are proven successful in dealing with the attempts of Grizzlies to break, crush, or open the canisters. These certificates not only assure the safety of your food from bears but also safety from unnecessary fines by National Parks.
We have observed the different renowned bear canister products available in the market in this discussion till now. Most important of all, the discussion also focused on the various factors that have to be taken into account for choosing a particular bear canister. To support this discussion further, it would be reasonable to find the answers to some FAQs related to bear canisters for clarifying any doubts.
Are food lockers better alternatives to bear canisters?
You would be required to use bear canisters in the backcountry because there are not sufficient food lockers as you may have thought. However, food lockers can be used in some areas where canisters are recommended only.
Most important of all, food lockers are dependent on overflow food, thereby reducing the options for you. So, if a particular national park requires you to use canisters, then it is appropriate to go for canisters only.
Can I use any other product that is not approved in the list of allowed canisters?
Yes, definitely! But as long as the areas you are visiting do not require you to have canisters. In such cases, you always have to go for allowed canisters. On the other hand, you would not want to sacrifice the functionality of a bear canister for other solutions such as a plastic zip-top bag.
Can I carry the smallest canister just to get approval?
Yes, as long as you don’t feed bears, everything is just fine! However, a small canister could not be able to hold all your food, thereby exposing the additional food in the open where bears could smell the food. In such cases, you would be completely violating the basic requirement for which canisters are termed mandatory in various places.
What can I do if my bear canister is not large enough?
The most obvious answer to this question would be purchasing a bigger canister. However, you could also try other solutions such as carrying compact food such as dehydrating food on your own and packing it. Another helpful solution for you, in this case, would be to refill your supplies quickly by hiking faster or choosing shorter routes. You could also plan your meals carefully to reduce wastage as well as the amount of food required for a backpacking trip.
How will I protect food where bear canisters are not required?
The answer to this is- Get a bear canister anyhow! If you keep your food in a tent or on the ground just because bear canisters are not required, then you could be in a lot of trouble. Therefore, hard-sided canisters would be your best bet for any hiking trip.
What are the best practices to use my bear canister?
Anything which emits odor such as food, dishes, and toiletries, has to go inside your canister. Keep the bear canister at a minimum distance of 200 feet away from the camp and away from rivers or cliffs. It is also advised to attach a fluorescent duct tape on the canister so that it can be located easily in the dark or if the bears take it for a toss!
With the information discussed above, it could now become easier for you to judge canisters. The information can also help you check individual products and test them based on your needs and criteria for functionality.
For example, you could choose a BearVault BV500 if you are traveling with two to three people and you want a sturdy and durable canister. The discussion also reflected closely on the factors that have to be considered to purchase the right bear-resistant food container for you.
For safety purpose, you may take bear spray with you. In case, you face a bear, you can use it.
Finally, the answers to FAQs related to the use of bear canisters provided formidable support to the discussion on an overall basis. Choose wisely and keep the wildlife safe from irresponsible acts!