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Buyers guide: Bear canisters || Comparison of volume per weight & cost

For years I have been using the BearVault BV500. Among reasonably priced models, it offers the greatest volume for its weight.

During the day, properly protecting food is as simple as not leaving it (or a backpack full of it) unattended.

The conversation about overnight food protection is longer and more nuanced. Multiple techniques can be used; regulations vary by location; and misinformation and poor practices are abundant.

In this post I will focus on one specific food protection technique: hard- and soft-sided canisters and sacks that are resistant to bears and/or “mini-bears,” a term that I believe originated at Philmont Scout Ranch and that refers to the mice, rats, squirrels, rabbits, marmots, pikas, racoons, porcupines, gray jays and other small animals that seem to take up residence in popular frontcountry and backcountry campsites.

Hard-sided canisters vs. soft-sided sacks

Hard-sided canisters like the BearVault BV500 are heavy and cumbersome. But they have proven to be the most effective protection technique against both bears and mini-bears.

I carry a hard-sided canister when I am required to. I don’t enjoy it, but do I appreciate the peace of mind that it affords. It also doubles as a decent camp chair.

Canisters are not immune from human error, however. Bears have been “rewarded” by:

  • Finding canisters that were accidentally left unlocked;
  • Breaking open canisters by rolling them off cliffs; and,
  • Walking into camp during dinnertime, hoping that everyone runs away and leaves behind unlocked canisters.

Go ahead, laugh — it wasn’t your canister. But don’t repeat these mistakes.

When camping in areas with a bear/mini-bear risk but without canister regulations, I often carry a wildlife-resistant food sack like the Ursack Major (formerly S.29 AllWhite). This form factor is much lighter and comfortable than hard-sided canisters.

Sadly, Ursacks are generally not accepted as an approved food storage technique, even though the Major has passed the gold-standard Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee test. Read this interview with the CEO of Ursack for additional performance and regulatory insight.

Where are canisters required?

Hard-sided canisters are increasingly the go-to solution for land managers who want to reduce wildlife/food conflicts. They are now required throughout or in specific parts of:

  • Adirondack High Peaks;
  • Canyonlands National Park;
  • Inyo National Forest;
  • John Muir Trail;
  • Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness in Colorado;
  • North Cascades National Park;
  • Olympic National Park;
  • Pisgah National Forest;
  • Rocky Mountain National Park;
  • Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park;
  • Sierra National Forest; and,
  • Yosememite National Park.

This list may not be exhaustive. Check local regulations before you go.

Purchase or rent?

Canisters and sacks can be purchased online and at local outdoor retail stores. Most cost $50-$80, although carbon fiber models will run $255 to $350.

Canisters can also be rented. At Yosemite National Park, for example, they cost $5 per week, though you’ll be stuck with one of the clumsiest canisters on the market. The aforementioned pricey carbon fiber canisters can be rented from Wild Ideas for $5-6 per day plus round-trip shipping.

If you regularly backpack in an area where canisters are required, owning a canister is probably more cost-effective in the long run. And it’s certainly more convenient — you can arrive at the trailhead with your canister packed and ready to go.

Renting may be more economical if you rarely backpack in areas where canisters are required. The break-even points given the rental prices cited above are 98 days (at $5/week for a $70 canister) and 51 days (at $5/day for a $255 canister), not including shipping or taxes.

Canister and sack comparison

If you are in the market for a wildlife-resistant storage container, this section will be very helpful. I have collected the key specifications for each canister and sack currently available (i.e. no discontinued models) and compared their performance stats.

There are two useful calculations in comparing canisters:

  1. Volume per weight, and
  2. Volume per price

If you are debating between two models that have comparable specs, consider the ease of opening, commercial availability, and opaqueness.

The options

By my count, there are 19 hard-sided canisters and soft-sided sacks currently available. Sorted by brand and then volume, they are:

Comparison: Volume per weight

In the table below, I have sorted the canisters and sacks by their volume-per-weight calculation (specifically, cubic inches divided by ounces). A high number is more desirable than a low number.

By this metric, the Ursacks are the hands-down winners. They provide up to 122 cubic inches per ounce, which is nearly five times better than the top-rated hard-sided canister.

Among hard-sided canisters, the Bearikade models — which are made of carbon fiber — have more storage volume for their weight than other models. For example, the Weekender is 22 percent larger for its weight than the BV500, which is made of transparent polycarbonate.

Notice that larger canisters and sacks perform better than smaller ones. This is due to the relationship of surface area and volume: a doubling of surface area triples the volume. For example, the Bear Vault BV500 offers 30 percent more volume per ounce than the smaller Bear Vault BV450, even though they are identical construction and materials.

The Lighter1 models may be unfairly represented in this chart, because the 6-oz lid and 1-oz handle can double in a kitchen set, saving the weight of a pot and pot grip. Adjusting for this use, the volume-to-weight ratio of the Lil’ Sami and Big Daddy are 14.3 and 18.1, respectively. This puts the Big Daddy ahead of the BearVault 500. In actuality, they are probably about even, since a conventional pot and pot grip weigh less than 7 oz.

Comparison: Volume per price

In the table below, I have sorted the approved canisters by their volume-per-price calculation (specifically, cubic inches divided by $USD). A higher ratio is better.

Here, we can see the cost of the Bearikades — $1 buys only 2.0 to 2.6 cubic inches, making them about four times more expensive per volume as, say, the BearVault BV500.

Buying advice

Purchase a carbon fiber Bearikade model if you:

  • Have a generous budget;
  • Obsess over every ounce in your pack; and/or,
  • Backpack regularly in areas that require hard-sided canisters.

Purchase a BearVault or Lighter1 model if you:

  • Have a smaller budget; and/or,
  • Are willing to carry about 10 extra ounces to save about $200.

Finally, purchase an Ursack if hard-sided canisters are not required where you backpack regularly.

Personally, I own a BearVault BV500 and Ursack Major. I use the BV500 when it’s required, and the Ursack Major in areas with bears and/or mini-bears but without canister regulations.

Buy now: BearVault BV500


Disclosure. This website is supported mostly through affiliate marketing, whereby for referral traffic I receive a small commission from select vendors, at no cost to the reader. This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support.

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65 Responses to Buyers guide: Bear canisters || Comparison of volume per weight & cost

  1. Jeff McWilliams July 9, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Great article!

    I seem to recall the from visiting the Adirondack LOJ visitor center last year that the Bear Vault canisters were not approved for use in the High Peaks. They’ve been defeated by at least one black bear in the area.

    They recommend, and rent the Garcia containers at the information center near the LOJ.

    • Andrew Skurka July 9, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

      I decided not to make this article about what canisters should be “approved.” I just used the Yosemite and Olympic National Park lists. The reality is that probably all canisters have been successfully accessed by a bear at one point or another. For example, when I was in Yosemite in May the ranger told me that a week earlier a bear had rolled a canister off a high cliff, causing it to tumble down and smash against the rocks, busting it open. I’ve also seen photos of a Wild Ideas canister that had been destroyed by a grizzly.

      Bottom line: while canisters are less skill-intensive than stealth camping or counter-balances, there is still some skill involved.

      • kevin connor May 20, 2015 at 1:59 pm #

        Do you have access to these photos of the destroyed Wild Ideas canister?

    • Hugh Schmidt July 17, 2014 at 3:29 pm #

      That’s true. There was a bear called yellow yellow who could open, but she was shot. However, taught her children to do so. She is also known for cutting the ropes that people hung their food from in the Marcy Dam area.

    • Katherine Stuart July 17, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

      The Bear Vault canisters are not banned by the DEC/ADK; their regulations simply stipulate that you use a hard sided commercially available canister. They only prefer that hikers use the Garcia model.

      I bought the BearVault 450 for hikes in the ADK High Peaks region because the short+squat shape fits my backpack better and having my food in a bear can is only the last line of defence against bears. In the eastern US the worse case scenario is a days hike back out to the road with an empty stomach as the roads are never too far away.

  2. LiteTrail July 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm #

    Thank you for this article Andrew. A great comparison of what’s out there. For myself, the BV500 was the best choice too.

    A big consideration that influenced my decision is the reactionary banning practices of the various bear canister approval agencies. One day your $225 canister is approved and the next it’s not. Then it is again 3 months later but in a green color or with a new piece of hardware. It just doesn’t make sense to spend so much when there is no consistency or future guarantee that your investment will pay off down the road by reaching your break even point.

  3. Alan Dixon July 9, 2012 at 4:23 pm #

    A big consideration that influenced my decision is the reactionary banning practices of the various bear canister approval agencies.

    Wild Ideas canisters have been around for quite a while. They have always been approved. There have been few design changes–nor have they needed significant design changes.

    I have been using Bearikades since 2001. For me, the weight savings (and hassle not to rent) are well worth the price of the Wild Ideas Bearikades. I think they are a a *good value*, and have owned one for almost 10 years.

  4. John B. Abela July 9, 2012 at 7:32 pm #

    Excellent analytical article Andrew. Exactly the type of articles the hiking community needs these days.

  5. Chris Alexander July 13, 2012 at 8:16 am #

    We love our our Wild Ideas Bearikade, and are currently carrying it on our Pacific Crest Trail thru hike. Because of a bear encounter we had previously on the PCT before Kennedy Meadows, we recommend carrying a bear can anywhere there is bear activity, even if it’s not required. We describe our encounter in full on our blog here:

    http://mexicotocanada.com/2012/06/09/day-46-51-farewell-desert-hello-bear/

    We were using an Ursack Minor, which failed to protect our food. It’s possible an Ursack Major would have remained intact, but we feel a bear can is the safest bet.

    • Andrew Skurka July 13, 2012 at 8:26 am #

      That’s an amazing photo of your torn-up Ursack. I bet the manufacturer does not want that going viral.

      Sad to say, but the Bearikade is not bear-proof either. Read this thread.

      It might sound crazy, and I don’t necessary recommend it, but personally I sleep on or next to my food — where both black bears and grizzly bears are present — because I don’t trust bear canisters. And I also take a lot of preemptive measures to avoid bear encounters. I’ve NEVER had a bear wander into my camp, despite 300+ nights in known bear habitat, and my technique is meant to tell the bear, “This is MY food, not yours. If you want it, you will have to fight for it.” And most bears do not want to pick a fight with a human — an easier meal is available elsewhere.

      • Jess July 13, 2012 at 3:13 pm #

        I’m sure they don’t. Trying to use an ursack minor against bears isn’t the intended use though – I’m not surprised it failed.

        I’ve seen two ursacks stand up to bear attacks. One was ours – we didn’t recognize the sounds at first and let the bear tug on it for a good hour or so before waking up enough to chase it off. There was some slobber and a little mushing of the food inside the bag, but the bear went hungry and we didn’t in the end.

        Unfortunately there do seem to be some legitimate concerns about ursacks. http://www.blog.smalladventures.net/2012/05/reality-of-ursacks.html has some more information as well as a link to the decision from one of ursacks’ lawsuits.

    • India Andrews May 5, 2015 at 3:04 pm #

      The Ursack Minor isn’t made to withstand a bear attack. It is made to repel mice, squirrels and other rodents. I’m not surprised a bear made a meal of it.

    • J April 2, 2018 at 4:20 pm #

      Hardly seems fair to say an ursack minor failed, when it isn’t designed or advertised to protect against bears.

      • Nicole April 6, 2018 at 11:14 am #

        I think part of the marketing challenge with Ursack is that people do not realize that some are not to be used in bear areas. When those people see pictures like this, they think Ursacks fail.

        • Andrew Skurka April 6, 2018 at 3:07 pm #

          I agree. The product names should be more descriptive, so that the intended purpose is more implied. For example, Ursack Critter Bag and Ursack Bear Bag.

          Duh.

  6. James D. Marco July 13, 2012 at 9:51 am #

    Yeah, avoid the discussions. I hike the High Peaks region a couple times a year. I still use the Bear Vault, albiet modified a bit to defeat Yellow-Yellow. Simplistic, I just put a screw in the side, opposite the latch. It works fine with tacit aproval by a couple rangers that have seen it. They are still legal up there, the bad publicity is all about a single bear. Hard for them to justify changing their law, as unpopular as it was, for one black bear. Good Write Up!
    Thanks!

    • ScottB September 18, 2013 at 10:38 pm #

      Sadly Yellow, yellow was killed by hunters last year. I’m not sure how this affects the Bear Vault now that she’s no longer around.

  7. Diane July 15, 2012 at 8:30 pm #

    Sadly I have a Garcia. It was purchased long ago when that was your only choice. I also have a Bear Vault 450. I am glad to have it for short solo trips, but it’s too small for longer trips. It’s way too small for a thru-hiker’s appetite. And it weighs almost as much as a full-sized bear can. Never get a smaller bear can if you plan to thru-hike any long trails.

    • Andrew Skurka July 16, 2012 at 5:57 am #

      This is a great point. Look at the weight differences between the small and large cans (e.g. BV450 versus BV500) — for an extra few ounces, you get much more volume. So if you only want to buy one canister for all of your needs, realize that there’s only a small weight penalty for the larger sizes (and only a small cost penalty too!).

  8. Jeff July 17, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    This is slightly off topic, but I’ve been trying to find answers to these questions for a couple days. If there’s 10 days between resupply points, do you think it’s possible to fit all your food into a single canister? In terms of volume, how many cubic inches of food would you need in a day? If you can’t fit all your food into a canister, do you just shrug your shoulders and move on?
    Thanks for any help you can give.

    • Andrew Skurka July 18, 2012 at 10:09 am #

      How many days of food you can fit into a canister is a function of:

      • Quantity of food per day
      • Spatial density of each day’s food
      • Volume of the canister

      The marketing copy for canisters in not reliable — Who knows what each manufacturer considers to be a “day’s worth” of food? You just need to get a canister and find out.

      Personally, I know that no canister would fit a 10-day ration of mine, at least if it was a hard-charging trip. The Park Service requires that you store all food in your canister, for your safety and the bears, which means that I’d technically have to take two canisters. Shoot me.

      • Jeff July 18, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

        I figured you’d say that ;). I unfortunately don’t have the resources to experiment with canisters.

        In other words, when you use your canister, how many days worth of food can you roughly expect to fit in the canister? I realize your experience isn’t universal, but it will, at least, provide a rough estimate.

        • Andrew Skurka July 18, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

          At 2-2.25 lbs of food per day of spatially dense items (chocolate, cashews, couscous, and potatoes), I can fit about 5 days in my BV500.

  9. Fabian Sandoval July 17, 2012 at 11:00 pm #

    EVERYBODY needs to take a serious look at these super INNOVATIVE bear canisters, completely new and certified by SEKI/YOSEMITE. http://www.lighter1.com

    • Andrew Skurka July 18, 2012 at 10:15 am #

      I strongly disagree with the adjective, “innovative.” Cylinder made of hard plastic, capped with a lid…Gee, I haven’t seen that before! It’s not any lighter than current models. It’s not any less awkwardly shaped than current models. And, finally, I don’t need or want a frying pan. And if I did, I certainly would not want to use that same frying pan as the lid to my food canister — it will make it about as attractive to a big bruin as a sow in heat.

  10. jeff July 24, 2012 at 12:41 pm #

    I saw an innovative design at the Outdoor retail show a year or two ago, it was a large clear plastic ball that came apart in the middle and was meant to be carried in two pieces. I think for the volume it was a good weight and would theoretically be a good light weight solution for two people to split it – it also looks like it would fit in a smaller volume pack better. This looked attractive for our Boy scout troop (multiple people on all our trips). Does anyone remember this manufacturer and if they have a go to market date?

    • Andrew Skurka July 24, 2012 at 12:43 pm #

      Saw that product too but I haven’t seen anything about it since. It really doesn’t matter, however: the National Park Service has a list of “approved” canisters and no canister that is not on that list is sufficient.

  11. Fabian Sandoval July 25, 2012 at 6:55 pm #

    Hi Andrew, thanks for replying but I disagree with you. The smalll bear bin is: > 1 lb 5 oz for the canister
    > 6 oz for the pan/lid
    > 1 oz for the handle/ support
    > Total weight is: 1 lb 12 oz

    The Scout by Wild Ideas is 1 lb 12 oz and SMALLER volume. I do not use the pan/lid as a frying pan, ONLY to boil water. So now I just saved 2.9 oz by not carrying a Snow Peak 600 mug. Other people carry smaller pots but you’re still saving weight. I still can use the pan/lid for quesadillas, it’s wide enough.

    So how is this NOT innovative? It’s JUST as light as any bear canister and the pan/lid works as a pot! It’s a NO brainer plus it’s half the cost of the cheapest Wild Ideas bear canister. Oh, and I failed to mention that you can buy a much larger bin and use the lid/pan and you have 2 bear bins for about 130 dollars! Personally I have used most bear canisters out there and this one is the best for me. I can’t even believe it fits in my Zpacks Zero back pack that is 1500 cubic inches.

    • Brian August 7, 2012 at 3:45 pm #

      @Fabian

      I think the point is that something that is a bit lighter than one of the options covered but not significantly different in other ways is not necessarily innovative. That’s like calling the Bearikade Weekender “innovative” when compared to the BV500 because it’s lighter and made out of cool materials like carbon fiber and aluminum. It’s not really, though – it’s just a bit lighter and provides a different price/weight trade-off.

      It’s essentially the same thing in this case when comparing the Lighter1.

      The other – and perhaps more important – point was that the Lighter 1 doesn’t appear on any major park approved canister lists. Andrew avoided comparing which ones might be allowed at some parks and not others, but one that doesn’t appear on any won’t be usable in any of those areas.

      • Jacob Portukalian March 29, 2018 at 8:12 pm #

        The innovative part is listing the lid weight separately from the bear can, so you think your base weight is 6 oz lower than it actually is 😉

    • Bearifide August 15, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

      I believe your specs are incorrect. The Bearikade Scout holds a volume of 500 cubic inches, while the Lighter1 Little Sami only holds 300 cubic inches. So the Scout is the superior choice when looking at weight and carrying capacity. Plus with many backpacking stoves coming with pots and heat shields for quick boiling and to reduce weight, I think the lid as a pan thing is really not needed for the ultralight backpacker.

    • joni loverin February 9, 2016 at 8:01 pm #

      I carry the BV500 and snow peak pot/mug because I put my cozy around it to eat out of after it sits to rehydrate, I considered the wt saving but the lid just had no use as its too large to rehydrate in.

  12. Fabian Sandoval August 25, 2012 at 2:33 pm #

    Hi Brian,

    I guess you’re right, it’s notvery different than most options out there but it is innovative in a way.

    1) You can use the lid to boil water and save 1-5 ounces depending on wether you carry a beer can or and Evernew pot.

    2) You can get the small bin and the large one at much better price than the lightest canisters out there and use the lid/pot to function for both for weekend trips or longer trips.

    To me out of ALL the bear cansiters out there it’s hands down the best. In regards to SEKI/Yosemite approval, they just received it about 1.5 months ago and they’ll post this on their website.

    The thing about backpacking, UL and SUL is that there is no perfect way to do it, everybody has different needs so all gear is good for some and not others. Regardless, I think lighter1 has the best out of all canisters out there. Hopefully John Abela can get a hold of one of these and determine who’s the ultimate winner! I would put my money this would win hands down!

  13. Nick October 31, 2012 at 11:57 am #

    Andrew, I don’t understand the value of price/weight comparisons.

    A comparison of price/weight is comparing two negative factors, therefore there is no particular advantage to having a high or low result.

    Imagine an ideal canister which weighs 1 oz and costs $10, and works perfectly. Now, imagine a terrible canister which weighs 61 oz and costs $610. Now do a price/weight comparison between the two, and you’ll find that they’re both exactly equal, at a ratio of $10/oz. These are two extremes, but they show that the comparison is meaningless no matter where on the spectrum your canisters are.

    In order to get meaningful results, you need to compare a good feature to a negative feature, such as the volume/weight comparison that you did, or price/weight savings.

    Price per weight savings is a little more difficult and there are somewhat complicated mathematical issues with it if you get technical, but provides some excellent meaningful values at normal numbers.

    In order to do this comparison, you have to imagine that you already own canister that weighs too much, and want to buy a new one. Say it weighs 81 oz.

    The weight savings of my ideal canister would be 80 oz, resulting in a price/weight savings of $0.13/oz. That’s meaningful–it means that for every 13 cents I put into the canister, I get 1 oz of savings. The terrible canister, meanwhile, would yield a cost/weight savings of $30.50 per oz. This shows the huge difference between the two extremes which I set up arbitrarily.

    You probably already know this, but I keep seeing gear reviews trumpetting price/weight comparisons, and I needed somewhere to vent.

    • Andrew Skurka October 31, 2012 at 12:55 pm #

      I see what you are saying here, but I thought there was enough value in this ratio to offer it, e.g. the high price of the Bearikade canisters versus canisters of similar volume. I probably should have offered a volume/cost chart, instead.

    • Andrew Skurka November 1, 2012 at 9:05 am #

      Good point — the price/weight ratio never struck me right either, but I didn’t know why. I have updated the post with a volume/price ratio, which is a much more useful ratio in comparing canisters.

      • Nick November 1, 2012 at 3:05 pm #

        For what it’s worth, I did a price/weight savings calculation, which also illustrates the expense of the Wild Ideas canisters.
        I’m also confused as to why the Bare Boxer Champ and the Backpacker’s cache apparently have exactly the same specs…are they the same product or is this an error?

        Model Weight Volume Price Price/Weight Savings
        contender 26 275 50 0.93
        BV 450 33 440 67 1.43
        No-Fed Bear 38 455 70 1.67
        Champ 43 615 70 1.89
        Gracia 812 43 615 70 1.89
        BV500 41 700 80 2.05
        Bear Kek 56 716 80 3.33
        Scout 28 500 195 3.75
        Weekender 31 650 225 4.59
        Expedition 36 900 275 8.09

  14. Dave May 10, 2014 at 6:17 am #

    Maybe we should just use a 5 lb Protein container since no bear can is bear proof. They are the right size, and free after you use the Protein LOL!
    Paint it like a rock and put some moth balls in it..
    🙂

  15. Lary Huls June 16, 2014 at 7:33 am #

    I keep seeing a Frontiersman brand. 722 CI. ANY THOUGHTS ON this?

    • Andrew Skurka June 16, 2014 at 9:17 am #

      I have not heard of this brand before. At least in appearance (materials, shape, closure), it looks very similar to the Garcia, which I have used before. However, the Frontiersman is quite a bit lighter than the Garcia, which leads me to believe that it’s also smaller. And as this post’s charts showed, all else being equal smaller canisters are heavier per volume than larger canisters.

  16. TJ July 17, 2014 at 11:26 am #

    Really good information.

    To toss this out there, SEKI rents Wild Ideas Bearikades. I’ve used them a couple of times and thought they were fantastic. They were rented at the same price as the Garcia’s but that might have been due to a combination of cool rangers and off-peak travel.

    I do like that they make them available for rent through their site but $6 bucks a day can add up. That said, you only pay for the time on the trail and they offer a 45% discount for long trail hikes including the JMT.

    I messed around with the LIghter1 recently, (Sport Chalet just started carrying them) and while I appreciated their effort to ‘innovate,’ I just didn’t see the value. It’s sort of like marketing a bear can with “And it eliminates the need for a camp stool too!.”

  17. Stephen Fletcher July 17, 2014 at 1:10 pm #

    I just completed a wander along the Sierra High rt. Bearicade Expedition held ALL my food for 10 days @ 3,000 calories per day. I always carry it, peace of mind is important to me and there are other ravenous creatures out there that want your food other than bears. Marmots, mice,ground squirrels,chipmunks. Once these animals get someones food they can make it a nightmare for the next person. So, using a Bear canister helps protect the next person as well as you.

  18. Rob of the WV July 17, 2014 at 3:54 pm #

    Thanks for the wondrous analysis. Well done. I purchased a custom Wild Ideas (11.25″) and was very happy I did so. For one thing, the latching mechanism is so much easier to use – and you won’t find yourself rolling around in the dirt wrestling with that Bear Vault. Also, you can sit on the Wild Ideas without screwing down the lid (just pop it into place, no need to latch it). And, more and more areas are requiring bear cans, including Canyonlands (recent requirement), the Lost Coast, Yellowstone, Grand Teton NP, many sections of the Sierra…. and more are coming soon. It’s worth the investment. And, your sore feet will thank you because of the weight reduction. And, it’s made in the USA – it’s time we quit buying inferior junk and start supporting US cottage industries.
    I have a ULA Catalyst, and the 11.25″ can fits horizontally and it holds the exact same as a BV. Email me if you want to know how to exactly fit the can to your pack. (Hint, a 12″ can will not fit in a ULA Catalyst, at least not horizontally.) (Hint #2, use sleeved-together concrete form tubes to test length.)
    Happy trails, Rob of the WV. http://wildernessvagabond.com/

  19. A guy from BPL July 17, 2014 at 4:53 pm #

    When looking at cost, also worth considering that if a bear played soccer with the bear can, rolling it down the steep hillside, becoming unsafe and too far to recover, then the ENTIRE cost of the the can is forfeited, as well as the cost of the food contents.

    So A bear can is not an investment, because the first hungry bear pinata attack on the canister, may be the last time you see the can.

    For my budget, I can afford to replace at $60 bearVault can with another like it, but if I lost a $200 carbon fiber can to a bear, my disposable income limit would reduce me to renting the $5 a week.

    i don’t have sponsors or vendors sending me gear. I’m an IT geek in a cubicle prison.

  20. Craig July 17, 2014 at 5:46 pm #

    I often see hikers with a bunch of stickers and or Duct Tape on their Bear canisters. Is there a better chance of Bears being able to grip or pick up the bear canisters with stickers or things stuck to the outside of them?

    I have thought about attaching a bell to mine with duct tape once in camp so I could hear if something is trying to get inside it while I’m sleep or fishing and such.

  21. Danny August 6, 2014 at 5:30 pm #

    Just got a Lighter1 Lil Sami through Amazon/Gear Co-op. $84.95 with free shipping. The smaller 7″ diameter fits into the rucksack that I use for overnighters. I’ve got a BearVault BV 450, but it’s too fat to fit. Having the lid double as a pan means I can do away with the kettle I usually use to cook (meaning “boil water in”). The 300 cu. in capacity is enough to easily hold food for a single overnighter, plus a fuel canister, pocket rocket stove, collapsible cup and folding spork. With more careful packing, I could squeeze in food for a double overnighter, but that would probably be the limit.

    Fit and finish were disappointing, as no effort had been made to deburr the threaded holes tapped into the aluminum pan handle. I had to file those down to prevent slicing a finger while using the handle. Design of the pan’s lid is awkward — the knob on top of the lid is fastened with hardware that protrudes beneath the lid by about 3/8″. That keeps the lid from sitting flush on top of the bottom of the pan when it is used as the top of the canister. Not a big problem — I just replaced it with a bakelite knob scavenged from the lid of an old Primus Trek kettle so that it now sits flush on the assembled unit.

  22. JRinGeorgia April 2, 2015 at 11:36 am #

    Great article Andrew, thanks.

    Coming late to this discussion, but had an additional thought as I am contemplating the rent vs. buy question. First off, I own a BV450 and really like it. However, I have a trip this summer of 9 days without resupply so that small canister obviously won’t cut it. In fact, by volume the only one that will is the Bearikade Expedition (assuming I want to carry only one canister, which I do).

    Price is up since this article was first published, now $330 with shipping for the Expedition. Or, I could rent one, which would cost somewhere around $70-75 with shipping. So part of my thinking is that yes, plunking down $330 now is exorbitant, it would take about five trips before buying would make more sense than renting. If I do plan to take more extended trips then buying is the way to go. And if this is the only extended trip I foresee then renting should be the way to go, right? Not necessarily, I’m thinking….the Bearikades have extremely high resale value, if I’m not planning a lot of trips of that length I think I actually would be better to buy, use this summer, and then I could re-sell for a net cost to me of only $30-$50 (for example sell it for $300 and I pay shipping). So could end up cheaper than renting.

    Any thoughts on that?

  23. Davis Moell April 27, 2015 at 8:20 am #

    Hi Andrew,

    I’m hoping you still monitor this. Thank you so much for the detailed post.

    The Scout is no longer on Yosemite’s site. Appears it’s no longer approved, however I’m not sure as I haven’t asked a Ranger. Maybe someone knows.

    The Bearikade prices have gone up a lot. Their site has them at $232, $262, $317… ouch.

    The Lighter1 containers are now on the Yosemite list. I think it’s fair to include them here. Given the controversy over the lids, I think the containers should be judged based on their weight including the lid/handle. If people leave their normal pot at home while using these then good that’s some extra savings. But to me, the container is not complete without the lid/handle so they should be judged as such. However if you’re able to leave your normal pot at home then factor that in on your own of course!

    Lighter1 Lil Sami: $95 28oz 300 IN3 – Volume/oz = 10.7
    Lighter1 Big Daddy: $100 43oz 650 IN3 – Volume/oz = 15.1

    So unremarkable. If you do leave your pot at home, you’ll need the 2oz lid so factor that in.

    For the person asking about renting vs buying… personally I’d never buy something for that much money ($300+) that I thought I’d only use once, on the notion that I would just turn around and sell it. Selling stuff is a PITA unless you do it a lot. And doing it while also actually losing money? I’d rather just invest in it and consider it a long term investment or rent or go with something cheaper. If you don’t backpack that much, maybe grab a cheaper model to see how often you’re gonna use it first. If you find yourself using it a lot then you have one to loan to a friend or sell and you can upgrade to a Bearikade.

    http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/containers.htm

  24. Monica August 18, 2015 at 7:50 am #

    I am trying to figure out if I need a bear canister for the Appalachian Trail, or if I can hang my food in a Zpacks dry bag with a roll top. I have heard that there are some areas on the AT that require bear canisters, but I can’t find a comprehensive list. I’ve been trying to figure this out for days, but all the information I find contradicts itself. Can anyone help me out?

    • Andrew Skurka August 18, 2015 at 8:49 am #

      I never hang my food, and don’t encourage anyone else to, even if that’s the recommendation of the land managers. I’ve only met one backpacker, Kevin Sawchuk, who knew how to properly hang their food. He was trained in the High Sierra in the 1970’s. Everyone else does a super shitty job, and any bear that’s worthy of being called a bear could easily get the food if it wanted to. If the food was still there in the morning, that’s because no bear walked by during the night.

      There are places along the AT where bear hangs are provided. Use them — that’s an indication there are active bears around. In other areas, I would recommend using the Ursack S29 AllWhite, which only weighs 8 oz despite being rodent-proof and bear-resistant (at least).

      All that said, the best way to avoid bear encounters on the AT — or anywhere, for that matter — is to avoid the heavily used campsites. But that’s hard on the AT — most campsites are heavily used — so you should have some reliable bear and rodent protection with you at all times.

      • maeglin March 30, 2018 at 12:50 am #

        “Kevin Sawchuk, who knew how to properly hang their food. He was trained in the High Sierra in the 1970’s. Everyone else does a super shitty job”

        Sounds like an article idea to me 🙂

        • Andrew Skurka March 30, 2018 at 9:18 am #

          You might be able to find it archived on BPL. I wouldn’t post it here. If you’re trying to hang like Kevin, you should just carry a damn canister.

  25. Coach Bill315 March 25, 2018 at 11:08 am #

    I noticed this article was written in 2012… I would love to the same article for this year 2018.

    The prices have changed… example: $350 for The Bearikade Expedition.

    I definitely love this article those. Very helpful.

    Thanks,
    Coach Bill315

  26. Jeff Hunter March 29, 2018 at 8:32 pm #

    The Ursack Major (formerly S29.3 AllWhite) is *not* critter-proof. I had one, and a marmot or some other critter chewed a hole in it. I contacted Ursack and they informed me that they do not warrant against critter damage for the Ursack Major / S29.3:

    https://www.ursack.com/faq/

    The newer Ursack AllMitey is supposedly both bear and critter proof, but it is significantly heavier than the Ursack Major.

    • Andrew Skurka March 29, 2018 at 9:43 pm #

      The Minor is rodents only. The Major is bears only. The AllMightey is both.

      I find it remarkable that mice can tear up a Major. Sorry you had to learn the hard way.

  27. Edward March 29, 2018 at 9:22 pm #

    Hrm… would be cool if SEKI and Yosemite and JMT areas would allow Ursak AllMitey.

    The bear and critter and water resistance sound interesting for only 13 ounces.

    As always, arigato Andrew for the thoughtful articles.

  28. Chris Ramias March 30, 2018 at 12:54 pm #

    A potentially useful addition to this post might be those popular parks where bear protection is required, but ursacks are acceptable. Its a smaller list (unfortunately), but may be useful information for people trying to weigh a buying decision between an ursack and a canister. I’m planning trips to both Glacier and Grand Teton this year, and after some research decided to pull the trigger on an Ursack. As far as I can tell they are permitted in both parks. I know they’re ok in Denali as well. Any place else?

  29. Brent March 30, 2018 at 3:23 pm #

    An update here. Maroon Bells does now allow the ursack. They updated their approved list and I even called to confirm with the forest service. We were planning on going last year but had to reschedule to this year.

  30. Joe April 1, 2018 at 8:03 pm #

    Dang. When I bought my Ursack Major, I was under the impression that it was critter-proof as well as bear-proof.

    So mice can have their way with it?

    I’ve had many encounters with bears, but none in camp.

    Otoh, rodents have ruined more than a few nights’ sleep for me in the backcountry.

    I can still get the horrors when I recall a night in the backcountry of the Grand Canyon, up near the Little Colorado, , with big mice or small rats running all over my sleeping bag, and occasionally my face.

    All night long.

    I don’t go to high-use areas anymore, no matter how scenic or iconic they are.

    I am not very afraid of bears.

    I am not a bit afraid of rodents.

    Rodents are likely to ruin a trip though, and bears are not.

    As a rural Coloradoan, I take bear risks in stride. I may not win the fight, but I am prepared to fight a bear.

    Bears are spice in my backcountry life, I reckon.

    Aggressive rodents just suck. I hate them. They are edible though. The smaller ones are tasty and tender.

    Marmots not so much. Tough as a jackrabbit.

    A stewed pika is very tender and succulent, but they are too cute and sweet to kill unless it is absolutely necessary.

    In assumed outdoor solidarity,

    Joe

  31. Jen Nicholson April 5, 2018 at 5:24 pm #

    Hi there!

    My partner and I are Australians about to head off on a CDT thru hike this year. When we travelled through the NPs last year we carried our BV500 because almost every park required a hard sided cannister.

    However, on the CDT that doesn’t seem to be the case and we are (very) open to carrying something as light as we can. There seems to be a very blasé attitude amongst previous thru hikers regarding the necessity of carrying any bear protection at all. Obviously, that is a whole conversation, but I’m just trying to get a sense of how risky you think it is (in your personal experience) to only hang food in “Beary areas” and simply keep it in your tent at most other times? This seems like a floored strategy to me, but appears to be widely accepted amongst American thru hikers, and I fully acknowledge I don’t have the exposure to bears that Americans would have had…. But the thought of this still gives me some deep anxiety….

    Is that rightly placed anxiety or is the risk actually as low as many of these people make it out to be? (Obviously, in your opinion!)

    Thanks, Jen

    • Andrew Skurka April 5, 2018 at 6:51 pm #

      An Ursack is a good compromise solution: it offers a level of defense that’s nearly as good as hard-sided canisters (I say “almost” because if a bear really gets into your food, you’ll be eating Snickers powder for the next few days), but it only weighs a half-pound. I think it’s MUCH better than hanging your food, because hangs tend not to be effective against smart bears and because they are time-consuming.

      On the CDT you really don’t have “problem bears” until Yellowstone (nothing notable in NM or CO). In the park, they have bear poles at all the established camps; and outside of the park, I don’t think use is high enough to create problem bears. Bears are a consideration again in Glacier, but here there are metal boxes in all of the camps. There are definitely bears in the Bob Marshall, just to the south, but I don’t hear of bears regularly charging into campsites. It’s a totally different game than, say, Yosemite or the ADK High Peaks.

  32. Al D April 8, 2018 at 8:09 pm #

    Your volume specs for the ratsacks are WAY off. I have both a BV500 and a Ratsack Medium and the Ratsack has far more volume than the Bear Vault. My Ratsack will easily hold a weeks worth of food for me.

    • Andrew Skurka April 8, 2018 at 8:30 pm #

      Good catch, thank you. They’re fixed. I didn’t just make up those specs, but I can’t trace the source — either REI or Ratsack had it wrong, or I mis-converted a volume measurement (e.g. liters were given, and I f’d the conversion to cubic inches).

      Now that these numbers are accurate, they are much more competitive. Curious: Have you had rodents try to get into your food protected with your Ratsack? And do you know enough about the Ursack Minor to make a comparison of the two products?

  33. Al D April 8, 2018 at 9:54 pm #

    I got the Ratsack mainly for protection against rodents and racoons but I haven’t used it that much yet. Never saw an Ursack.

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