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Best Bear Canisters

Best Bear Canister

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This is a gear review about the best Bear Canisters on the market in 2021.

Storing your backpacking food in a Bear Canister is one of the only ways to ensure your food will be safe from bears. These are canisters which have been specially designed to be resistant to tampering from bears.

Bears have a notoriously powerful sense of smell, and can even track down carcasses from over 20 miles away. So the last thing you want to be worrying about on your hiking trip is a bear tracking down your food and eating it before you get a chance to tuck into your rations.

All the best bear canisters for backpacking can keep your food protected so that the bears can’t get into your scented items and foods. But with so many different products on the market, how can you be sure that you’ve found a bear proof canister for your needs? Take a look below at the best bear canisters review.

Best Bear Canisters for Backpacking 2021

The Best Bear Canisters for Backpacking in 2021 are:

Best Bear Canisters – Overall 2021

Bear Vault BV500

> Lightweight – won’t weigh your backpack down
> Easy to use – don’t need any special tools to open and close the canister
> Approved Bear Canister – is an approved bear canister for the Jon Muir Trail and PCT
> Odor proof – bear canister isn’t odor proof so will need to be combined with an odor proof bag inside

The Bear Vault BV500 easily earns the spot of top pick. This particular bear canister comes with a range of features that will make it the versatile addition you need on your trip. It is lightweight, easy to use, highly durable, and has a large capacity.

This bear canister can hold up to 7 days’ worth of food, making it ideal for longer trips. You also don’t need to use any tools to open it.

What’s great about this bear canister is that it has been proven to protect food from bears. It has been tested and approved by all national parks and national forests including for use on the Jon Muir Trail and PCT. 

Overall, this is the best Bear Canister for Backpacking and Thru-Hiking on the market in 2021.

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Bear Vault BV450

> Smaller size – ideal for weekend or solo trips
> Clear canister – easily find the food items you’re looking for
> Easy to use – no need to use tools to get into the bear canister
> Cold weather – can be tricky to open if you have cold hands

Looking for a smaller, budget friendly bear canister to bring with you on your travels? Then the Bear Vault BV450is the ideal choice for your needs. This particular bear canister comes with all of the same great features of our top pick, but in a much more compact size.

The compact size of this bear canister means it won’t take up as much space in your backpack as the Bear Vault BV500. It can hold up to 4 days’ worth of food.

This particular bear canister has been tested and proven to withstand up to 48 hours when locked in a cage with two hungry bears. It is approved by all national parks, all national forests, the IGBC, and the SIBBG.

Overall, this is a one of the best bear canisters for weekend backpacking trips due to the smaller size and lighter weight.

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Lighter1 Big Daddy Bear Canister

> Lightweight – only weighs 2 pounds 11 ounces
> Large capacity – gives you 650 cubic inches worth of food storage space
> Versatile – aluminum lid can double as a cooking pan
> Odor proof – need to combine with an odor barrier bag to prevent bears from sniffing out your food

The Lighter1 Big Daddy Bear Canister is another great choice if you want a clear bear canister. You can easily locate the food item or scented item you’re after without having to empty the canister first.

A great feature of this bear canister is its aluminum lid. This can double as a cooking pan if you want to save more space in your pack.

You’ll get an impressive amount of storage with this bear canister. It gives you 650 cubic inches of storage to play with. It is also super lightweight so won’t add too much additional weight to your backpack.

Overall, this is an interesting combination of a bear proof container and cooking pot that is large enough for most backpacking trips.

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> Smaller size – easier to pack away in your backpack
> Weekend trips – can hold up to 4 days’ worth of food
> Durable – constructed using a bear proof polymer blend
> Tools – need to use a screwdriver or coin to open the canister

The UDAP NO-FED-BEAR is the perfect choice for keeping bears away from your food. UDAP has designed a bear canister under the adage that “a fed bear is a dead bear”. 

This bear canister is lightweight and constructed using a durable bear proof polymer blend. It can store up to 4 days’ worth of food, so will be ideal for weekend trips. 

It also won’t take up too much room in your pack, and can be attached to the outside of your backpack for ease. 

Your food will be secure in this bear canister as you will need to open it using a coin or a screwdriver.

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Ursac Major

> Large capacity – features an impressive 10.65 liter capacity
> Durable – bulletproof fabric will easily keep your food safe from bears
> Easy to use – simply tie a knot in the cord, then secure to a sturdy fixed object away from your camp
> Odor proof – not designed to be odor proof so will need to be paired with an odor barrier bag

> Lacking Approval – Not approved in all National Parks

Not sold on the plastic bear canisters? Then the Ursac S29 is the ideal alternative. This is a bear proof food sack that you can use to keep your food away from any hungry bears.

All you need to do is tie a knot in the cord, then attach it to a fixed item away from your camp, such as a sturdy tree branch.

This bear canister is lightweight. It weighs a maximum of 7.6 ounces, so won’t weigh you down. It gives you a large 10.65 liter capacity for around 5 days’ worth of food for a single person.

While this is a great option, not all National Parks have approved this bear bag for use.

It is also super durable. The material is bulletproof, so will be just the thing to keep pesky bears out of your food.

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Bearikade Expedition

Bearikade Expedition

Bearikade Expedition

> Super large capacity – gives you 900 cubic inch volume to play with
> Lightweight – only weighs roughly 36 ounces
> Longer trips – suitable for longer camping trips
> Expensive – one of the more expensive models on the market

Serious about your camping and hiking expeditions? Then the Bearikade Expedition is just the thing you need for your trips. This bear canister is constructed using a durable carbon fiber material for heavy duty use.

Another great feature of this canister is that it is super lightweight. It only weighs 36 ounces, so you won’t have to worry about it weighing you down.

The Bearikade Expedition gives you a whopping 900 cubic inch volume to play with. This gives you a super large capacity in terms of storage capacity.

Overall, this is the best lightweight bear canister but it is also the most expensive and hard to justify such a huge cost.

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Bearikade Weekender

Bearikade Weekender

Bearikade Weekender

> Large capacity – gives you 650 cubic inch volume worth of storage
> Smaller trips – ideal for weekend trips for 2 people, or for up to 6 days for a single person
> Lightweight – only weighs around 31 ounces
> Pricey – one of the more expensive models on the market

Want a sturdy bear canister but without the large capacity that takes up lots of space in your backpack? Then the Bearikade Weekender is the ideal alternative. 

This bear canister packs in an impressive storage capacity of 650 cubic inches, which will be perfect for 2 people over a single weekend. Or if you’re just using this for yourself, this will give you up to 6 days’ worth of food.

The Bearikade Weekender is lightweight at 31 ounces. It has also been constructed using a durable carbon fiber to stay bear proof. Like the other Bearikade container it is super expensive and hard to justify the cost.

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Garcia Bear-Resistant Container

> Durable – constructed using a sturdy ABS polymer and stainless steel locks
> Large capacity – has a capacity of up to 614 cubic inches for storing your food and scented items
> Lightweight – only weighs 2 pounds and 12 ounces
> Bulky – some customers found the canister could be tricky to pack

Last but not least is the Garcia Bear-Resistant Container. This particular bear canister is a solid choice if you want a durable bear canister that won’t let you down. It has been constructed using a bear proof, tough ABS polymer.

This design has been designed with rounded edges as well as smooth sides. This prevents bears from gripping onto the canister and carrying it away.

You’ll be able to store plenty of food in the Garcia Bear-Resistant Container. It comes with a large capacity of 614 cubic inches.

Overall, this is a solid bear proof canister for backpacking.

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Gear testing Bear Canisters while backpacking in the Sierra on the PCT
Gear Testing Bear Canisters on the Sierra while thru hiking the PCT

Buyer’s Guide

Trying to find the best bear canister can be a tricky challenge. If you’ve never used a bear canister before it can be difficult knowing where to even get started.

If you want to go hiking in a number of different national parks, you will have to have a bear canister with you to protect both yourself and potential nearby bears. But how are you meant to know what to look for in a bear canister?

That’s why we’ve put together this helpful buyer’s guide. We’ve included all of the key information we used to choose our best bear canisters that we’ve reviewed in more detail above.

So as long as your chosen bear canister bears these below factors in mind, you can rest assured that it will be perfect for your needs.

Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about bear canisters down below, or skip ahead to the frequently asked questions.

Easy to use

You will of course want to select a bear canister that will be easy for you to use. How easy is the bear canister to open?

Do you need any additional tools such as a screwdriver to help you prize open the lid, or can you simply twist the lid open? This will help factor in how easy the bear canister is to use while you’re out on the trail.

Another thing to consider is whether the canister is constructed using a clear plastic or other material so that you can see exactly where everything is.

Bear canisters made using non-clear materials may make things trickier when you’re trying to find a particular item. A clear canister can help you to locate what you need without having to empty the canister first.

It’s best to remember that the majority of bear canisters aren’t scent proof. So you will need to combine them with an odor proof bag, which will go inside the canister and around your food items to keep the bears off the scent.


If you plan to be out on the trail for a while, you will need to consider the weight in your backpack. Chances are that you’ve opted for other lightweight equipment, such as the best ultralight tent.

As we’re sure you know, every ounce counts when you’re out on the trail. So you will need to look for a bear canister that will be super lightweight so that it won’t weigh you down.


Another factor you will need to consider is the capacity of your chosen bear canister. Think about how long you’re going to be out camping or hiking for. Is it just a short weekend trip?

Or will you be out for a week or more? This will determine how much capacity you will need from your bear canister.

If you’re likely to only use it for weekend trips of no more than 2 or 3 days, then you can opt for a smaller bear canister. If you’re going to be out on the trail or camping for more than 7 days, you will need a larger bear canister to hold more food. 


When it comes to bears, durability will matter. It will be important to opt for a highly durable bear canister that has been made using sturdy materials. You will need to ensure that it will be bear proof, so that a bear can’t easily smash open the canister to get to your goodies. 

It will be worth looking for a bear canister that also features a bear proof design. This will include smooth sides, and making sure that there is nothing for the bear to grip onto.


A factor that may dictate which bear canister you opt for will be your budget. Some of the higher end models will cost several hundred dollars, which could be out of your price range. It will be best to take a look at the features of each model and see which will best fit your needs.

It could be worth saving that little bit extra and putting it towards a high quality bear canister to ensure that your food will be safely protected from any bears.

Easy to pack

It will also be worth considering how easy your chosen bear canister is to pack. Take a look at the dimensions of your preferred product. Can this easily fit into your backpack?

You may have made sure that the bear canister is lightweight, but will it take up a lot of space in your pack? You may need to look for a canister that can be attached to the outside of your pack if it’s too bulky to fit inside.

Frequently asked questions

Do bear vaults work?

When they are used properly, yes, bear vaults or bear canisters do work. They will need to be closed and locked so that the seal is correctly in place, which will prevent any bears from getting to your food or scented items. 
It is worth bearing in mind that bear canisters aren’t 100% smell proof, so it will still be important to store them at least 200 to 100 feet away from your campsite to keep you and your fellow campers safe from bears.
You may wish to purchase odor barrier bags as well to prevent bears from scenting out your food. 
It will also be important not to attach anything like ropes to your bear canister as these will make it easier for a bear to carry your canister away from the camp.

Do I really need a bear canister?

Depending on where exactly you’re planning on camping or hiking, you may very well need a bear canister, yes. This is because certain national parks, national forests, and wilderness areas will legally require you to have a bear canister with you to store away your scented foods. 
The only exception to this rule is if your campsite has permanent bear boxes in place where you can store your food. However, it will always be a good idea to invest in a good quality bear canister if you regularly go camping or hiking in areas where there are bears.
It will be much easier for you to store your food and scented items away in this than it will be to constantly have to hang your food from trees in the correct manner.


Overall, the best bear canister for backpacking is the Bear Vault BV500. It ticks all the boxes of great quality, good value, lightweight, great size and approved for use in all area.

Check out the video below and check out some my other reviews of all the best outdoor gear in the world that you will need for your next outdoor adventure.

Another one of the Best Hiking Gear Reviews from BikeHikeSafari.

Best Bear Canisters for Backpacking

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About the Author:
Brad is an Australian who has completed the hiking Triple Crown after he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail and Appalachian Trail. He has hiked on every continent (except Antarctica) and has cycled from Alaska to Ecuador. He is an expert on outdoor gear currently living in Sydney, Australia.

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