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Last updated: January 30, 2023
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Whether you’re an avid camper or a thru-hiker, then you’re aware that the wood is filled with hungry bears, often looking to either eat your food or attack you. When out camping in the woods, you need the best bear canister possible as it is designed specifically to prevent bears’ attack by keeping them away from smelling and therefore even finding your food items. The good news: the woods have just become safer thanks in part to this simple device.
If you’re in the market for the right bear canister for your needs, we’ve done most of the dirty work for you. We have compiled five of the best bear canisters available now while considering some important factors. Since the canister’s capacity determines how much food you can carry on your journey, we took it into consideration. We also considered the weight and dimensions of each model since they influence ease of transportability, which is so important for outdoorsmen.
Deep research is always the strong point of every guide we write, and this one is no different. We have read different reviews and specifications of dozens of models, before picking five out of them as the absolute best. To make everything easy for you, we’ve included a comparison table in which all our picks are compared and a review section in which our picks have been reviewed extensively. What’s more, we also included a buying guide, all aimed towards guarding you to the right product for your needs.
More features: includes a food-grade plastic bag for wrapping food for storage
One of the most crucial parts of your preparations when going into the wild is getting something to prevent wild animals from reaching your food supply. For this, you can’t find anything better than the Backpacker’s Cache Bear-Resistant Container. Offering a very a large 10-liter capacity that can hold you down in the wild for almost a week, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that we’ve chosen this model as our top pick. Apart from that, the container has a very durable construction, which allows it to stand up against the tough conditions in the wild.
Additionally, this product is designed to be multifunctional as it can also be used as a small table or as a camping stool. While the container is sufficiently durable to endure any type of bear attack, things are unlikely to get to that because bears will be hardly interested in it once you have used it as a table. Moreover, the container has a very clever shape, which allows it to easily fit in any backpack. Indeed, this model is the ultimate bear canister, owing to its perfect construction.
While this container offers a lot of benefits, probably its only shortcoming is the black, non-transparent plastic it is made of, which prevents you from seeing the items in it. Of course, this isn’t likely to be a deal-breaker, considering the overwhelming pros it comes with. Moreover, it means your food will be protected from the direct sunlight and melting if not kept in your bag. In every aspect, this bear canister is a top-notch product.
Being one of the most reputable bear canisters amongst outdoor enthusiasts, anyone can hardly fault us for including the BearVault BV500 in our list of the best bear canisters. Sporting a unique design which makes the container hold up to rough usage despite looking like it’s produced using soft plastic, this model is one of the top choices for outdoorsmen. With its super-durable design, even bear claws and teeth won’t be able to damage it.
Featuring an 11.5-liter capacity, this can is capable of packing a week’s worth of food, making it one of the most ideal options when you’re hiking, camping, or going to bear country. The food canister is designed to cut off smell completely to reduce bears’ interest. At 2.9 pounds, however, this food canister is a bit weighty, which is completely understandable considering its large capacity. The canister is very well-built, priced reasonably, and is often one of the most highly-rated options for people looking for high-quality bear cans.
It has been occasionally reported that the latches may be difficult to work, especially if you don’t have enough strength. Of course, we don’t expect this to be a deal-breaker, but it’s something you should keep in mind when doing your shopping.
As suggested by its name, the Counter Assault Bear Resistant Food Keg isn’t exactly a bear canister but a food keg. While it’s not the most lightweight option you will find out there, it offers a very large capacity to make up for its heavy weight. At 11.7 liters, this food keg is capable of holding you up for a week-long expedition in the bear country or in the outdoors.
Additionally, the food keg has the approval of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, which shows that it meets every standard in place. Sporting an extremely rugged construction, it’s even been reported by some users that it is capable of withstanding a tank running over it. Of course, its super-rugged construction is due to the patented polymer blend, which is designed to withstand very hard impacts and bear attacks as well. It’s also outfitted with stainless steel locks, which despite being straightforward form people to open, is too complex for bears.
The design of the product is also magnificent, sporting a round and edgeless design which prevents a bear from getting a grip on it. Its yellow color also makes it easy to spot in the dark, making it an ideal option for the wild. Probably the only drawback it has is its non-transparent construction, which prevents you from seeing your remaining food. It’s also designed wisely to easily fit into your backpack despite its large capacity which is an added bonus.
Why are we impressed?
Approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee
The No-Fed UDAP container is a typical example of a heavy-duty bear canister. This model features a cylindrical construction with round edges, making it very hard for bears to grip firmly. Besides, the can’s body is produced using sturdy polymer material which gives you sufficient durability, low density, high corrosion resistance, and low thermal conductivity. The No-Fed UDAP is designed to deliver optimum safety and quality, which makes it a perfect bear canister for tough bear environments.
However, this canister does more than prevent bears from reaching your food – it protects your family from all types of food contamination during your stay in the wild or in a National Park. In a bid to make it easy to take the canister apart when you want to, its lid is attached with a few plastic screws that are easy to unscrew. With a large capacity of 8.2 liters, this bear canister can be taken on a four-day trip in bear country. Of course, expect it to add a little weight to your bag considering it weighs 2.4 pounds.
However, despite being heavy in weight compared to the other models in its class, the benefits it provides overwhelm its only shortcoming. It’s also equipped with a middle rib, thereby allowing you to hang it with a parachute cord on trees. In general, this is an excellent product that you wouldn’t want to miss out on.
More features: IGBC approved; comes with a pot, pot lid, and handle
Apart from being incredibly resourceful, the Lighter1 LIL’ SAMI is a lightweight bear container that offers a lot of versatility. Sporting a very unique design that is comprised of a cooking pot, a pot lid, and handle, it is very easy to see what makes it stand out. Measuring 6.9 x 2 inches in dimensions, the pan or pot has a capacity of 850 milliliters. The can itself has a capacity of five liters, which is sufficient to store three days’ worth of food items. With the canister, handle, and pot having a combined weight of 1.12 pounds, you won’t have any issues transporting this product.
Furthermore, it is made with corrosion-resistant materials, which shows how durable it is. Made with polycarbonate material, the can is specifically designed for demanding environments like bear country since it is known to be a high-performing thermoplastic substance. With all the features we’ve mentioned, the Lighter1 LIL’ SAMI is surely one of the most suitable options to include in your gear.
Also, removing the lid on this can is very easy as it doesn’t use screws, unlike other cans that are clasped with the help of them. Although it’s very expensive and doesn’t have a large capacity like some models in its category, it’s still worth every penny. The fact that it comes with an integrated cooking pot is even an added advantage over the competitors.
What are its best features?
Comes with a cooking pot
Made with durable materials
Easy to detach
Fits easily in your gear
What could be improved?
Has a relatively small capacity
Things to Consider
Bear canisters are hardly items you buy every day, which means you may need help each time you try to buy one. We recognize that you need help, and that’s why we have created this detailed guide to walk you through.
Why are bear canisters mandatory in many US and Canada National Parks?
Many National Parks in the United States and Canada have mandated the use of bear canisters while camping. If you are out camping in the Grizzly region or any region where humans and bears come into contact, having a bear canister is a very crucial factor for safety.
In State or National parks where there’re bear habitats, proper food storage is required by federal laws by using a bear canister that is approved by the Park. In some other cases, there’re bear-resistant food storage lockers in which campers need to leave their edibles overnight. Bear canisters are mandatory in many US and Canada National parks due to the following reasons:
Wild animals are capable of becoming dangerously dependent on human food as soon as they are used to their existence. Of course, this can lead to recurring behavior issues with bears.
You can be left stranded in the wilderness with insufficient food to get you out safely when wild animals destroy or eat your food.
If you’re located close to your food then you, your group, and other backpackers could be in danger by attracting super-hungry bears or even other dangerous wildlife.
Your failure to utilize appropriate bear-proof canisters to protect your food won’t only create issues for you but can cause problems for even future hikers or campers when that same animal returns with the expectation to find even more food.
Features to consider while choosing a bear canister
What’s the point of buying a bear canister that really can’t withstand a bear attack? Well, if you want to avoid buying such products, then there are some important factors you must keep in mind.
The canister’s capacity is a vital point of consideration because you need to ensure it can contain all your food and smelling items in it. According to the hiking rules in a bear country, everything that is either taken orally or put on your skin must be kept in the canister.
Therefore, you can’t pack only food inside a bear canister, but also personal items like mosquito repellent, medications, soap, deodorant, sun cream, lip balm, and more.
As you eliminate empty garbage and packs during your journey, your 600-700 cubic inch bear container will have more space, but when it’s packed for the first time, it’s expected to be spacious enough to hold five to six days’ worth of food at least.
The weight is probably the first consideration to make when buying a bear-proof canister. Bear cans are usually heavy, so it’s often a bit hard to carry or transport them. They often weigh between two and three pounds, and the size usually determines the precise weight. If you’re backpacking, we advise you to consider a more lightweight model like the Lighter1 Lil’ Sami Bear Canister. If you intend to go camping by car, however, then you need to buy a heavier model like the Counter Assault Bear Resistant Food Keg.
The best materials are the ones that are eco-friendly, easy to clean and maintain, and hardly get affected by changes in temperature. You should, however, know that the majority of bear-proof canisters are not specifically engineered to keep delicate foods fresh all the time.
In fact, dehydrated or dried food is the most recommended food item that can be effectively packed in these canisters. Choose a heavy-duty plastic material that has a smooth finish, like polycarbonate or polymer material.
You can also choose stainless steel material for its high durability and its ability to keep cold fillings cold and hot fillings warm. In general, material selection always boils down to personal preference.
Black sides or translucent
Transparent canisters like the BearVault BV500 are somewhat handy as the fact that you can see their bottoms make it easy to grab stuff. Black sides, on the other hand, make it extremely hard to see what’s inside as your only view is through a really small opening. Besides, much light doesn’t get into the can once you’ve put your hand in the opening.
However, non-translucent canisters don’t allow direct sunlight to affect the items put in it. It means no melted chocolate bars, exploded mosquito sprays, or rotten eggs.
While it’s true that transparent cans can easily heat up when put under the sun, it doesn’t mean you can store all-black canisters in the direct sunlight all day long. Regardless of which canister you have, just keep it out of reach of the sun to keep your food items nice and fresh.
You also need to check some other features like color and the IGBC certification. A colorful can confuses the bear from knowing its content. Besides, the can will be easy to spot if it’s dragged to the wild by the animal.
On the other hand, the IGBC certification means a bear canister has passed every test it’s been put through and can really withstand bear attacks, regardless of the amount of biting, punching or clawing at, or beating it’s exposed to by the bear.
How to pack your bear canister
Plan your meals
While knowing what exactly to eat after an exhausting hiking day can be difficult, it’s very important to make this decision before going, especially when space isn’t a luxury. To simplify the entire cooking process, plan your meals by packing your food in the consumption order. Ensure you include high-calorie foods like nuts, cured meats, hard cheese, powdered milk, oatmeal, and dried apples. Portion early to ensure each day’s meals are kept separate.
Of course, you don’t want excess packaging to be consuming valuable space in your bear-proof container. Eliminate everything you can, make holes in bags that may expand as a result of elevation changes, and repackage your food into smaller containers and re-sealable bags. A re-sealable bag can be reused for trash collection once it is empty.
Practice packing before time
You need to practice packing food and personal items while keeping room for trash in mind before getting to the trailhead at all. Ensure everything fits in your bear-proof can and your backpack properly. Of course, you need to make those adjustments before getting to the trailhead at all.
A plastic bear canister is usually designed to be both large and smooth so those wild animals will find it hard to wrap their paws or mouths around it. The materials utilized in plastic models are very sturdy and are often designed to near-zero edges so that gripping the can will be difficult for bears.
The Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee is an organization that carries out testing for different products at the manufacturer’s request. Testing a bear-proof canister involves putting the can in sealed off bear territory for a long period of time. The bear container usually contains a bear favorite so that the bear will be enticed and interested in gaining entry into the can.
Generally, bears are known to beat, scratch, pound claw at, turn around, and jump on the containers in order to be able to access their treat. In the event that the animal fails to gain entry, then the container gains IGBC approval or certification.
Mid-sized containers are the most popular ones as they are sufficiently large to last one person for up to five days. With a capacity of 500 cubic inches, the UDAP NO-FED-BEAR Bear Resistant Canister is an excellent example of a great mid-sized bear canister.
Durable, large, and multifunctional, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any bear canister that is better than our top pick, the Backpacker’s Cache Bear Proof Container. You can easily turn this canister into either a small table or a camping stool, thereby shifting the attention of the bears away from it. It’s the best bear canister by a country mile.
Running our top pick close is the BearVault BV500, which with its 11.5-liter capacity has the second largest capacity on our list. Not only that, but the bear canister also has a super-durable construction, which allows it to stand up to any kind of bear attack without being damaged.
While the Counter Assault Bear Resistant Food Keg is comfortably the third best option on this list. Its 11.7 liter-capacity is the largest on this list, which shows why it’s valued so highly. Apart from that, however, it’s also certified by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee to ascertain its optimum durability.