Best Bear Canister: Keeping You and Your Food Safe While in Bear Country

Best Bear Canister
Russell McCarty
Written by Russell McCarty

For those who enjoy hiking in bear-prone areas, a bear canister is one of the most important and indispensable outdoor equipment. A bear canister is a cylindrical container that is designed specifically for keeping food and personal items with strong scents. Their shape, toughness and special mechanism make canisters almost impossible to open which means that bears are not able to get access to your personal items and food.

Bear containers has started to become quite a new trend because they are only being actively used by hikers and backpackers during the last decade. In addition, nowadays most of national parks in North America, where many bears live, it is required by law to have a canister with you. Therefore, if you are going for a hike in such areas, you should start thinking about purchasing or renting a canister.

Since there is wide range of bear canister in outdoor market today, it is difficult not to get confused and to make the right choice. For that reason we have prepared this article for you: it contains not only useful information about bear canisters in general but also reviews of the most popular and high-quality storage options, which will help you to choose the best bear canister that will serve you well in the wilderness and avoid possible creature encounters.

Why are bear canisters essential?

As mentioned above, bears canisters have been actively used only over the last decade. Before, hikers had used others methods to protect themselves and their personal items against bears. One of the most popular techniques was hanging a bag with food on a tree. However, the time has shown that this method has many shortcomings.

Food bag on a tree

First of all, an environmental disadvantage: it may cause damages to the trees. Moreover, a bear’s physical capacities should not be underestimated: when they are hungry they can easily climb up a tree. Even if you close your bag properly, bears still can find it because of their ability to detect scent over long distances. It has been discovered by scientists that they have over 230 million receptors, due to which their sense of smell can be compared to that of a bloodhound’s.

Therefore, instead of hanging you food in bushes of trees, it is more effective and much smarter to give priority to a better way of keeping your personal belongings and food safe – bear-proof canisters.

Advantages of using bear-proof canisters

If you still doubt the necessity to have a bear canister with you while backpacking, below we provide you with the list of advantages which should help you decide in the future.

  • They are easy to use, which means that it does not require much time to handle them. At the end of a long hiking day, when you are tired, this time-saving advantage might be especially important.
  • They protect your food and items from getting wet in case of rain and other weather conditions.
  • By using them you take care of environment: in contrast to the method of hanging bags, the use of bear canisters do not damage trees.
  • Even though they are not the most comfortable thing in the world, you can use them as chairs or small tables.
  • They can also serve as water buckets for transporting and storing water.
  • With a bear canister you have a freedom to camp in any landscape and environment because there is no need to worry where to store your food and strong scented items at night.

Sitting on bear canisters

How to use a bear canister in wilderness

Though at first sight a bear canister seems to be an easy tool to use, and you might think that there are no rules on using it. However, in order to be sure that you bear container works for you as it should do, below there is some useful information and tips on its usage in the backcountry.


Pack your canister thoroughly by making sure that all you smelling items and food are placed inside of it. According to the rules of hiking in a bear-country, all things that are put either on your skin or taken orally must be stored in the container. Thus, it means that you should pack not only food but also such personal hygiene items as deodorant, mosquito repellent, lip balsam, medications, soap, sun cream, and etc.

Do not forget to repack your canister from time to time by getting rid of empty packs and garbage. In order to save some space in your keg, you can leave the first two meals, including the first lunch and dinner, outside of the canister.

Packing bear canister

When you pack the canister, choose proper food, including energy bars, chocolate, tortillas, dried fruits, nuts, and etc. Do no put food in its commercial packs inside, since it takes to much space.

Never leave your canister open. Even if you are cooking or having a meal, close it properly – you never know when an unexpected hungry creature comes to visit.

Canister placement

The right placement of the canister is also extremely important. The first and the most important thing that you must remember is that you must keep the container far enough from your camping site. The minimum distance from your tent should be 50 ft.

Bear canister placement

Also, try to avoid water sources, cliffs or ledges because a bear can easily roll it down the hill or kick it into the water. The best places to put your canister are behind rocks or bushes because, which makes it more difficult for bears to find it.

When you leave the container for the night, it is better and more practical to flip it upside-down for two reasons. First, it is a kind of guarantee that you belongings will not get wet in case of rain. And second, it reduces the likelihood that a bear will break it with its teeth.


When hiking, make sure that you attach your canister in the correct position: it should be placed close enough to your back and near the shoulder. Such position will allow you to ensure the balance and feel comfortable while hiking even if the bear container is stuffed full.

Bear canister in a backpack

Avoid carrying the canister by hand because you will need your hands for balancing, and you will probably get tired after one mile.

Additional tips

In order to prevent a bear carrying your canister off, do not attach anything to it including ropes, shoe laces or carabines. It is recommended to place a reflective tape on the canister, so you will be able to find it easier at night.

If you noticed a bear clawing, kicking or trying to open your bear canister, do not intervene. Usually, after some time of failed attempts to get food from inside, the beast will eventually lose its interest and leave.

Reflective tape on a bear canister

Before going to your hiking trip, always check the rules of the particular area that you are heading to: each National Park has its own rules and regulations regarding the usage of bear containers. Make sure that the bear canister that you are taking with is approved by the particular National Park.

Types of bear canisters

Nowadays, there are primarily two bear canisters available on the market – the BearVault and the Garcia.  The Garcia is considered to be the classic bear canister, and in most cases if you decide to rent a canister in one of the national park, you will probably receive the Garcia. Their color is black, they are usually made of ABS plastic, and their gear capacity is approximately 10 litres.

The second type of bear cans that is quite popular today is the BearVault. In contrast to the Garcia canister, it is a bit lighter and has translucent design. The BearVault provides two models: one is smaller solo model (known as BV450) and a larger model (BV500).

Bear canister

In addition it has a wider mouth than the Garcia, therefore you can easily open the BearVault can without using any additional tool. Thus, in general the BearVault canisters are more convenient and are believed to be more innovative, though their prices tend to be higher.

Reviews of the best bear canisters

Although two main types of bear-proof canisters have been already briefly described above, we would like to share with you the more detailed reviews of the best canisters that we highly recommend. We are sure that among them, you should find one that easily fits your needs.

BearVault BV500 Food Container

Weight: 2 lbs 9 oz.BearVault Bear Resistant Food Canister

Volume: 700 cubic inches

Product dimensions: 21 x 32 cm

Features: Transparent polycarbonate material

Best use: Hiking, backpacking, camping

The BearVault BV500 Food Container is one of the largest canisters available in the market with its volume of 700 cubic inches (around 11.5 liters). It is also available with volume of 440 cubic inches. There are two significant benefits that should be mentioned.

First, it is quite light, which makes it easy to carry. Second, it is its see-through plastic design, so you can easily see the full content of the canister and to find exactly what you at a particular moment. Moreover, this container has a wide opening, which makes the canister easy to pack and a dimpled exterior which makes it convenient to grab and strapping it to your backpack.

Due to its extended height, you can also use this as a convenient stool while camping which is definitely an asset. Though it might be expensive, it is worth buying it because it can last for quite a long time.  The only one disadvantage – its inconvenient locking system: in order to open it you have to press in on the rim of the lid and then slide them past a locking snap. If you have numb fingers or bulky gloves it might become a serious challenge.

Check the price on Amazon

Garcia Bear-Resistant Container

Weight: 2 lbs. 12 ozBACKPACKER Food Cache Bear Canister

Volume: 615 cubic inches

Product dimensions: 22.4 x 30.5 cm

Features: Lightweight, handy size

Best use: Hiking, backpacking, camping

Garcia Bear-Resistant Container has a classic cylindrical shape, smooth sides and rounded edges. Thanks to such characteristics, the container is almost impossible for bears to break it, so you can be sure that your food and items are fully protected. It is made of ABS polymer which is a very protective material.

The locking system of the canister is quite convenient which makes it easy to open: you just need a coin to operate the screws. The mouth of the Garcia is wide enough, but a bit limited by the lip surrounding the lid and the edge.

Since the Garcia containers are the most common container for rent in most national parks, it is safe to say that it is very durable. However, it is a bit bulky which is a disadvantage when you have a heavy backpack. Also, its plastic is opaque so you cannot see what is inside, so it might be tricky from time to time to find an exact item in it.

Check the price on Amazon

Lighter1 Big Daddy Bear Canister

Weight: 2 lbs. 13 ozLighter1 Big Daddy Bear Canister

Volume: 650 cubic inches

Product dimensions: 33 x 20 cm

Features: Includes canister, pot, pot lid, and handle

Best use: Hiking, backpacking, camping

This durable, transparent and lightweight canister deserves to be called one of the most unique bear containers because it includes two products: one is a polycarbonate ultralight canister itself and the canister’s lid that doubles as a cooking pot. The volume of the container is approximately 10.5 liters, which means that it is able easily to fit food for a 7-day trip.

Since the canister is absolutely transparent, you will not waste time by searching for a particular item inside. It is also worth noting that Lighter1 containers are approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) for its use in national parks.

Moreover, Lighter1 Big Daddy Bear Canister has been also individually approved by national parks like Yosemite, Kings Canyon, Denali, Rocky Mountains and Glacier Parks. The only one disadvantage is its big size, but if you are planning a long hiking trip for several days, this spacious canister is a perfect choice.

Check the price on Amazon

Counter Assault Bear Keg Carrying Case

Weight: 1 poundCounter Assault Bear Keg Carry Pack

Product dimensions: 9.88 x 2 x 5.25 inches

Features: Zippered lid, webbing loops

Best use: Hiking, backpacking, camping

The carrying case is designed specifically for storage of bear containers, which makes it easier to pack and carry. It is well made and feels quite strong. Though it is not item of a basic necessity, the Counter Assault Bear Keg Carrying Case can become a perfect addition to your bear container: attached outside of your backpack it can free up space inside for other sings, such as clothes or sleeping bag for example.

Since it is made of 600 denier nylon, the case can boast of a long durability for many years. One more significant advantage is its lightweight profile, which means that it does not add any noticeable weight to your backpack.

The case also has a sewn webbing handle, so you can easily carry your bear keg by hand. One disadvantage is that it does not have straps to attach the case to a pack, so you will have to purchase them separately.

Check the price on Amazon

Final words

If you are going in hike in a bear country, you might need many things for your trip but the most important should be a bear container. It will not only protect your food by keeping it safely inside, but can even save your life by preventing the event of meeting a bear face-to-face.

Nowadays, the outdoor market offers many models and types of bear canisters, so it might be difficult to choose the most appropriate one. Therefore, we hope that our article has served its purpose and after reading our bear canister reviews and recommended accessories, you now have the right information that will help you buy a suitable container.

Have you used a bear-proof canister before? Which product would you recommend? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section.

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.

  • Kyle Short

    I do hike in bear-prone areas from time to time so I started using the Bearvault BV500 container. I bought it because it seemed secure and lighter than other canisters. So far, I have found that to be the case, but I have also found it’s two-click safety lid and strong sides to keep the bears out. Quick tip: On cold days, maybe use a spork to push in the sides to get the two-click lid to open. That’s what I do and have had no problems!

  • Russell McCarty

    Hi Kyle! Thanks for this valuable tip. I’m sure the readers will appreciate this. The Bearvault BV500 is an excellent choice, by the way!

  • Brian Oakes

    We go hiking out in the deep woods pretty often and we ended up selecting the Lighter1 Big Daddy Bear Canister. What we like most about it is that it’s clear so it’s easy to see what contents you have inside. It’s roomy and, as an added bonus, you can use the lid as a cup or bowl. Bonus!

  • Russell McCarty

    Although it’s quite large, I love this see-through canister – very spacious and what more, approved by national parks. It’s just right for me when I’m out for longer periods of time in one of my camping sprees. And I waste no time in trying to find what I need – I can see everything clearly.