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Bear Canister Reviews: Which Bear-Proof Storage Solution Is Best for You?

Bear Canister
Russell McCarty
Written by Russell McCarty

When camping or hiking, the last thing you’ll want is to have an unexpected encounter with the furry kind, right? All adventurers who like hiking in bear-prone regions would agree that they need one important tool for their safety—as well as the safety of their food and belongings—a bear canister.

A bear canister is defined as a special container, usually made of a high-quality plastic, the role of which is to keep food and various strong smelling items inside so bears wouldn’t be attracted to them. In this article, we are going to provide you with the best bear canister reviews so you’d know which ones are really up for the challenge of fending off a bear.

Bear canisters do not only protect contents from hungry animals but also prevent them from getting wet in case of a rainy weather. They allow you to remain environmentally friendly. You can also use a bear canister for carrying water. With a bear canister, you are given the freedom to choose where to camp and stay overnight without the necessity of searching for a particular place because a bear canister can be easily left anywhere at night.

Mother and a cub

Today, the outdoor market offers a great variety of bear canisters of different shapes, sizes, and brands. Therefore, it might be tricky and quite difficult to find the best one, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. In order to help you with your choice, we have written this guide that contains basic useful information about bear canisters to help you buy the right product.

Our Top Picks

Product NameCapacityMaterialBest UsePrice
Ursack S29.3650 cubic inches"Bullet proof" spectra fabric6-7 days camping in bear-prone areasCheck price on Amazon
Bear Vault440 and 700 cubic inchesTransparent polycarbonate4-7 days camping in bear-prone areasCheck price on Amazon
Counter Assault Bear Keg Container Carry PackN/A600 denier nylonFor carrying Counter Assault Food KegCheck price on Amazon
Counter Assault Bear Keg716 cubic inchesPolymer blendFor the safe carrying and storing of up to 8 days’ worth of foodCheck price on Amazon
Backpacker’s Cache614 cubic inchesABS polymerFor storing up to 6 days’ worth of foodCheck price on Amazon

Things to Consider Before Buying

There is no shortage of bear-proof canisters and accessories that you can buy. However, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the many options that are available to you. So you’d be able to make a choice easily, below you can find some useful tips on how to choose the best bear canister for you.

Capacity

One very important factor that you should consider before buying a bear canister is the capacity. Bear canisters, in general, have a capacity of 400 to 700 cubic inches. That kind of volume should be able to hold food supplies for one person for up to one week.

Canister in the woods

When you pack your canister, plan your diet and menu thoroughly by choosing proper food, including dried fruits, nuts, energy bars, tortillas, chocolate, etc. In addition to food and various snacks, a good bear canister should be able to hold such items of personal hygiene as soap, mosquito repellent, lip balsam, deodorant, sun cream, etc.

If your canister is too small, you can leave the first two meals that you are going to eat during the first day outside of the container.

Versatility

One of the most important things in using a bear canister is choosing the right place for keeping it at night. For your own safety never leave a container inside or close to your tent.

Make sure that the distance between your camping site and the place for the canister is minimum 50 ft. Because of this, the versatility of the canister is important. A good canister should have a rope or a buckle so you can hang it from a branch away from the camp.

Bear canister in the snow

Specialists also recommend leaving a canister in the upside-down position at night. It is worth doing this for two reasons. First of all, such position will prevent your food and belongings from getting wet in a rainy weather. Second, if the container is put upside-down it reduces the likelihood of a bear breaking it with its jaw. A good canister, in this case, should be able to hold all the food inside upside down without spilling anything.

You should avoid leaving a container near ledges, cliffs or water resources, including rivers and lakes, because a bear by trying to open it can kick it into the water or roll it down. The best places are spots in bushes or between rocks, where it is not so easy to find it.

Accessories

Generally, any additional accessories attached to a canister make it easier for bears to grab it and take it with them. Therefore, it is not recommended to attach a rope or anything else to your food container.

Bear canister on a backpack

On the other hand, there are also accessories that can come in handy, like a reflective tape. At night in the dark, it can be very easy to lose your canister and you might spend much time for looking for it. Therefore, it is worth attaching a special reflective tape on it for making it easier to find.

A carrying case is also a useful additional accessory for bear canisters. It is not advised to carry a canister by hand, especially for long distances. You might get tired very quickly, and secondly – both hands are needed for balancing, especially if you are walking through a hilly terrain or hike somewhere in mountains. With a carrying case, you would be able to strap the canister to your backpack.

Size and Weight

Bear canisters differ in size and weight so you can essentially choose one that suits your needs when buying one, but generally, a bear canister is quite a bulky equipment. Therefore, if it is carried incorrectly it can cause notable discomfort.

Carrying a bear canister

A proper position to carry the canister during hiking is near the shoulders and close enough to the back. This position provides you with a necessary balance and feeling of comfort even if the container is full and heavy.

Credentials

It is important to check the rules of each area where you are going, especially if it is the National Park or a protected area. Most national parks and sanctuaries require hikers or campers to have a bear canister with them, but not all bear canisters are allowed.

BearVault vs Garcia

Each National Park in the United States set their own rules concerning the use of bear canisters. Therefore, it is important to make sure that your bear canister is approved by the particular area. Usually, such information is available on official websites of Parks.

Best Products on Today’s Market

Below we offer you detailed reviews of the products that we recommend you to buy: not only bear containers themselves but also various additional accessories for better convenience.

Hopefully, they will help you decide for yourself which canister and its accessories will become a great addition to your outdoor arsenal in order to make your experience in the wilderness as safe and pleasant as possible.

Ursack S29.3 Bear Resistant Sack BagUrsack S29.3 Bear Resistant Sack Bag

Price: Approximately $80

Weight: 0.5 pound

Dimensions: 2.2 x 6.7 x 9.8 inches

Specific features: “Bullet proof” spectra fabric, tighter weave, BPA-free, 6-foot long 2,500-pound tensile cord, 650 cubic inches capacity, critter-resistant, limited lifetime warranty

Best use: For 6 to 7 days camping in bear-prone areas

This Ursack S29.3 Bear Resistant Sack Bag is a soft-sided bag with bear resistant qualities that are perfect for storing your food or strong-smelling items at night in the wilderness. It has a 650 cubic inches or 10.6 liters capacity and can hold up to 37 servings of food for two people. You won’t need to worry about running out of bear-proofed food while camping outside with this bag.

One unique characteristic that makes it different from other bags: you do not have to hang it very high off the ground because the bear-proof fabric will prevent bears from easily opening it. Also, this Ursack has improved Spectra seams that have passed the test of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.

The bag is also a huge time saver because it has a simple design, is easy to pack and you do not need any additional tools to handle it. Experienced adventurers will also appreciate the fact that in comparison with bulky bear canisters, the bag will not occupy too much space in your backpack. This is a great storage solution for long-day hiking trips.

PROS:

  • Small and compact, it’s perfect for backpacking trips
  • Approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, so the quality is guaranteed
  • Lightweight
  • Prevents smells from getting out perfectly

CONS:

  • Cannot be placed on the ground because the top does not seal off the food completely
  • Runs small in size

Related: You can purchase Ursack Aluminum Liner as additional protection to your Ursack. It adds crash resistance and also protects your food and items from being crushed.

Check the price on Amazon

Bear Vault Bear Resistant Food CanisterBear Vault Bear Resistant Food Canister

Price: $67 – $80

Weight: 3.4 pounds

Dimensions: 14 x 9 x 9 inches

Specific features: Made of transparent polycarbonate, innovative tool-free top, extra-wide lid measuring around 7 inches in diameter, available in 440 cubic inches capacity (M) and 700 cubic inches capacity (L), shatter-resistant

Best use: For 4 to 7 days camping in bear-prone areas

The Bear Vault Bear Resistant Food Canister is a pretty large bear-resistant canister and is a perfect storage for various items and food during trips outdoors. It is available in two different capacities. If you plan to go on a 4-day camping trip, you should take the 440 cubic inches option with you. If it’s a 7-day trip, you’ll need 700 cubic inches capacity.

Due to its large volume, you can easily pack in food that will be enough for a multiple day journey. In addition, it is made of transparent polycarbonate which means that you do not have to rummage around just to find the items inside. This material is also shatterproof, so you don’t have to worry about it breaking even if you drop it or accidentally smash it against rocks.

Despite its large capacity, this canister is not bulky so you can easily attach it outside of your backpack if necessary. Its opening mechanism is a bit tricky, so you might face some difficulties with opening it, but this can hardly be considered as a serious disadvantage.

PROS:

  • Durable, shatterproof material
  • Two capacity options available
  • Small and portable, so it’s easy to carry around

CONS:

  • Bit hard to open, especially when it’s cold outside
  • Some areas with bigger and more dangerous bears like the grizzly might not accept this canister because bigger bears have been known to be able to chew through the bottom
  • Heavy

Related: If you’re wondering what kind of food you should take on your trip and put into this bear canister, the Mountain House Beef Stroganoff can be a great option. Not only is this highly delicious and nutritious, the packaging also minimizes the smell that bears can pick up on. Coupled with the bear canister, it’ll be hard for even well-trained dogs to sniff the food out.

Check the price on Amazon

Counter Assault Bear Keg Carry PackCounter Assault Bear Keg Carry Pack

Price: Approximately $15

Weight: 0.45 pound

Dimensions: 9.88 x 2 x 5.25 inches

Specific features: Easy access to food without removing the bear container, four webbing loops that secure the canister when packing, 600 denier nylon

Best use: For carrying Counter Assault Food Keg

This one isn’t really a bear canister; it’s a container carry for the Counter Assault Food Keg we are going to review after this, but we believe that this accessory deserves a spot on our article because of how handy it is.

Due to its light and easy to use carrying case, you will surely enjoy carrying and packing your Counter Assault Bear Keg Carry Pack. It is very strong and durable because it is made of 600 denier nylon, so you can use it for heavier cans. Though you do not have to buy this one necessarily, it can become a very useful accessory.

With the help of this pack, you can easily attach the canister outside of your backpack which can seriously help in saving pack space. Another great thing about this accessory that’s worth mentioning is its lighter weight.

The only thing that might be considered a drawback is the absence of straps which can present some inconveniences. However, you can always buy straps separately or make it by yourself.

PROS:

  • Durable
  • Can be attached to the outside of your backpack so you’ll have more space inside for other things
  • Lightweight

CONS:

  • The straps have to be purchased separately

Related: With this carrying case and the Counter Assault Food Keg, you’ve got the sustenance front pretty much covered. But man does not live by bread alone. Man also needs clean water to drink. That’s where this Sawyer Products PointOne Water Filter comes in.

Check the price on Amazon

Counter Assault Bear KegCounter Assault Bear Keg

Price: Approximately $77

Weight: 3.5 pounds

Dimensions: 14.13 x 9.5 x 9.5 inches

Specific features: Made of polymer blend material, bright yellow color, meets the Inter-agency Bear Committee Recommendations for Bear Deterrents, approved by Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee Recommendations for Bear Deterrents, 716 cubic inches capacity, critter-proof

Best use: For the safe carrying and storing of up to 8 days worth of food

By having the Counter Assault Bear Keg in your hiking trips in bear-prone areas, you can be sure that your food and belongings are completely protected. With the capacity to hold up to 8 days’ worth of food, you’ll never have to worry about going hungry even when you’re on a long-distance hiking trip.

The main advantage and significant element of this canister is its locking system: the container is equipped with stainless steel locks that are easy to open for people but impossible for beasts. It’s also critter-proof. Your food will be protected not only against bears, but also smaller threats such as squirrels and rodents.

But you might want to double-check to see whether the canister has been locked properly or not because the locking mechanism is quite tricky and will only clamp down in one exact position.

The keg is extremely durable due to its capacity to withstand a force of 250 pounds, so it leaves no chance for bears to break it. The bright yellow color is also a great boon especially when you are camping in a particularly dark area.

PROS:

  • Very durable
  • Lots of space to place food in
  • The bright color makes this canister easy to spot

CONS:

  • Tricky locking mechanism
  • Heavy

Related: Although you shouldn’t encounter any trouble with bears out in the wild when you’ve got this food keg with you, just to err on the side of caution you should take this Surviveware Small First Aid Kit with you whenever you’re going out on a trip.

Check the price on Amazon

Backpacker’s Cache Bear-Resistant ContainerBackpacker’s Cache Bear-Resistant Container

Price: Approximately $66

Weight: 2.2 pounds

Dimensions: 12 x 12 x 12 inches

Specific features: Expertly tested, durable, locks securely and easy to open, ABS polymer material, 614 cubic inches capacity, critter-proof

Best use: For storing up to 6 days’ worth of food

With Backpacker’s Cache Bear-Resistant Container you can be sure that you won’t be left hungry in the wilderness for almost a week because there is enough space for all your meals. It also earns a commendation for its durability which makes it one tough container. The container is cleverly shaped, therefore it fits easily in any backpack.

In addition, this item is multifunctional because you can also use it as a camping stool or a small table. This item is durable enough to withstand any kind of bear attack, but it likely won’t ever come down that because once you’ve flipped it open and used it as a table, bears aren’t likely to be interested in it.

The only one disadvantage is that is made of black, non-transparent plastic, so it can be quite a chore to try and find items inside. This shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, though. This is definitely a top-notch container in every respect.

PROS:

  • Roomy, so it’s perfect for long-distance hiking
  • Can also be used as a table or a stool
  • Very durable
  • Great locking mechanism

CONS:

  • You’ll need to rummage around to find the things you need because the material is non-transparent

Related: You should consider purchasing the Garcia Machine Nylon Cases also since these will make it easier for you to transport the above container since you can fasten your canister to your hand carry, backpack or even to your companion pet.

Check the price on Amazon

Wrap up

If you like hiking in bear-prone areas, you will definitely need a bear canister for not just for protecting your food but yourself as well. With a bear-proof canister, you can be sure that you have a reliable storage container without the fear of attracting unwanted attention from the furry residents of the great outdoors.

If a bear has already found your container and you are watching him trying to open it, you should not intervene. At times like this, bears are very aggressive, so your intervention can result in tragedy. The best way out for you would be to leave the bear alone: in most cases, the bear would lose interest in canisters that they cannot open and go off on a search of other sources of food.

Black bear dining in the woods

Tell us, which one of the bear canisters we’ve reviewed for you above would you buy and why? Do you also think that additional accessories are necessary? Are there any other bear canisters that you would like to suggest to fellow hikers and campers? Let’s get this discussion going in the comments! 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Russell McCarty
Russell McCarty

Russell considers backpacking one of his great passions in life. He actually managed to transform his passion into a living becoming a professional adventurer. Russell loves long-distance backpacking and he enriched his portfolio with famous trails like the Alaska-Yukon Expedition or the Appalachian Trail. With thousands of miles under his feet, Russell is the expert to consult when it comes to how to prepare for a successful outdoor adventure.

  • Marcus Sheehan

    I bought the Counter Assault Bear Keg Food Container earlier this year. My review? I think it’s well made and feels really strong. I also like that it doesn’t take up a lot of room as is mentioned in the article, you can just attach the canister to the outside of your pack. Thinking about buying straps for it but haven’t done that yet. I’ll report back and update this review if I end up doing that! Still a great buy even without the straps, though!

  • Russell McCarty

    This is very strong and durable stuff. You won’t worry with this canister around. Yeah, one of the drawbacks is the lack of straps, although I was contemplating whether a paracord strap might do the trick. What do you think?

  • Nick Sarocco

    My wife and I have one each of the Bearvault Food Canister. We use them to hold most of the food that we bring with us and we’ve found there is plenty of space in the canisters. Also, it’s multi-functional as you can also use it as a little stool, too!

  • Russell McCarty

    Hi Nick! I wonder did you get the smaller version of this bear canister? Because the original one is huge! It has a big capacity so if you’re just camping for only a day or two, then the BearVault BV450 is more apt.
    Thanks for sharing!

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