Bear Canisters: An Overview

When I was preparing for the John Muir Trail (JMT), I dove deeply into the world of bear canisters. I already had a Garcia canister, which I would use for trips to the Adirondacks, but I needed a canister that would be able to handle at least a week’s worth of food. So, I gave myself a project–research available canisters. Others on the trip piped in. We looked at volume, size, cost. And, then as any good UL backpacker would do, a spreadsheet was made to compare the canisters in consideration.

If you’re in the market for a bear canister, there are two questions you’ll want to answer first.

  • How many days worth of food will you need to store?
  • Which bear canister is approved for use in the area you’ll be traveling to?

Once you know that, you can start to narrow down your options. I wound up going with the BearVault 500 for the JMT. It was large enough to handle about seven to eight days of food that I needed to store, plus it was priced reasonably. Perhaps if I lived or backpacked in a region where bear canisters were required, I might have been tempted to spring for the more expensive (and lighter) canister.

We’ll talk about other food storage options in future posts, but this will give you a good look at a number of bear canisters to help you get started with your search. 

Bear Canisters

Make and Model Weight (oz) Volume
(cu. in.)
Volume/oz Size Capacity for One Person (as advertised)
Bearikade Scout 28 500 17.86 9″ diameter by 8″ length Four to six days
Bearikade Weekender 31 650 20.97 9″ diameter by 10.5″ length Up to six days
Bearikade Blazer 33 650 22.73 9″ diameter by 12″ length Up to nine days
Bearikade Expedition 36 900 25.00 9″ diameter by 14.5″ length Up to 12 days
Garcia Backpacker’s Cache (sold through REI and EMS) 44 614 13.95 8.8″ diameter by 12″ length Up to six days
BearVault BV500 (sold through REI) 41 700 17.07 8.7″ diameter by 12.7″ length Up to seven days
BearVault BV450 (sold through REI) 33.6 440 13.10 8.7″ diameter by 8.3″ length Up to four days
BareBoxer 25.6 275 10.74 7.4″ diameter by 8″ length Up to three days
UDAP No-Fed Bear 38.4 455 11.85 8″ diameter by 10″ length Up to four days

Originally published by Jen Adach on DC UL Backpacking “Gear Talk” message board on Dec. 29, 2013. Chart contains contributions from other JMT 2014 trip members. Photo by Brian H. 

One thought on “Bear Canisters: An Overview

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  1. Great list! I agree about the more expensive canisters. I rented a Bearikade Expedition for the PCT. I found it easier to open than the others, and it was nice that it was lighter. Even renting a Bearikade can be expensive, but it’s a good way to try it out if you’re not sure you want to spend that much. I did not buy one because I didn’t think I would use it enough. At thru-hiker eating levels, I’d say the capacity of the Bearikade Expedition was about 7 days. If I were taking it out now (at my regular calorie-burning level) I would only get 12 days with some very careful rationing.

    Liked by 1 person

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