A fed bear is a dead bear. The BV500 protects you and our furry friends.
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Share your thoughts
- Gender: Female
- Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions
We went on a backpacking trip with 5 people for 4 days in Ansel Adams and we had both this canister and 2 Garcias. Both got the job done, but it was easier to pack the bear vault because of its shape, and it comes in handy to be able to see what's inside. It was primarily used as a stool around camp and then stashed away at night. It is difficult to get open, but they are supposed to be!
I am planning to thru hike the AT and have heard that some bears in that area have learned how to open these canisters. Now, I may seem a bit paranoid but I've had some VERY close encounters with bears in the past ( In Glacier and Denali). Once I was followed by a 500 pound grizzly only 30-50 feet behind me for almost 2 miles while on a day hike- I didn't even have ANY food or other scented items. So anyway that's a little background. I love to hike but have a somewhat irrational fear of bears. My question is: Would it be practical to use the canister AND also hang it from a tree? Would that be an added security measure or just a waste of time, space and weight? Thank you.
Practical? No. But, if it makes you feel better, the few ounces of extra weight for a sack and cord would be worth it.
It looks like there are only a couple of bears in one specific area that have figured out how to open the Bear Vault. While your previous encounters may have heightened your worries, the chances are slim you'll encounter those specific bears.
Besides - from the sound of it, the bears are more interested in you than you food.
Based on my last trek in Yosemite's bear country, I would not bother hanging the canister. Our 3 canisters and camp kitchen items were sitting on a rock in the open quite a distance from our camp and were not disturbed by bears. A group near us, however, weren't so lucky. What were the bears after? The nearby group put their camp kitchen items (stove, clean pots) in a bag which for some reason they hung. The only thing the bear went after was the hanging bag. Bottom line, at least in bear-rich Yosemite where they have experience with hanging food bags - bears see a hanging bag like a neon "EATS" sign so why hang something that will no doubt be an attractant? In my opinion, you're better off securing the food in a canister and placing it a good distance from your camp in a manner where it won't roll away if disturbed by a bear. If the bear wants it, he/she will get it, but will hopefully lose interest after not being able to open it.
Unfortunately, hanging it from a tree can be counterproductive and shouldn't be done. While a bear isn't getting into it, putting it in a bag does make it possible for the bear to get it down (some well-conditioned bears can get hanging bags down) and then carry the canister off in its mouth by holding onto the rope and/or bag. The bear won't be fed - but neither will you!
Leave it out of the bag, on the ground like it's meant. They're slippery - if you wedge it between some logs/rocks and keep it away from water or cliffs, the bear can't do anything but play with it for a while and then leave.
Ill preface this review with my cut and paste statement that I work as a backcountry backpacking guide in Yosemite National Park. Nearly all of the products I take the time to review have seen at least a half a season, if not more, of use... and Im committed to not bothering to write a review until I feel like Ive really gotten to know a product. I never thought Id bother to write reviews, but Ive recently decided that since Ive spent so much time over these last many years reading reviews, and finding a tremendous amount of value in articulate and well-informed opinions, that I wanted to give back to the community. So, with that being said, here we go...
When I'm spending time in the backcountry of Yosemite you can be sure that from one to eight of these cans is not far from our camp. We use a combination of these and the Garcia cans, so I'm quite familiar with both. (Just for reference, Garcia cans are the black cans that Yosemite, and other parks, rent out. They are also sold many places.) They each have their advantages and disadvantanges, but you really can't go wrong with either. There is a third option, which is a Bearikade, but they are quite expensive... and when comparing capacity to weight and size they are a bit better than the Bear Vault, but cost significantly more.
The BV 500 has significantly more capacity than a Garcia. Being clear is a nice feature as well, though if you're out solo, or managing your own food, then that advantage is irrelevant. When I'm not working with a group and I'm out with friends then we all generally take care of our own food... so the can being clear is not important to me. However, if you're with a group that is packing food together then being able to see what's in each can is nice. We usually label the lid of each can with some random picture so that we know what items are to be kept in each can (a picture of a tube of toothpaste for toiletries, etc).
There are two major advantages to the BV 500 that makes me lean a bit toward them over other options. The lid, though not watertight or waterproof, is rainproof. If you keep the can sitting right side up in the rain (or heavy overnight condensation) then the contents will remain dry. This is not the case with the Garcia. The lid on the Garcia is recessed, and it will take on rain, leaving the contents soggy and sad in the bottom of a very small and dark kiddy pool. The frequent solution is to simply turn the Garcia over when not accessing it, which works perfectly. However, if someone forgets, or isn't familiar with this weakness of the Garcia, then you're back to the food in the kiddy pool.
The other advantage is that you do not need a tool, blade, coin, or other item for leverage to open the BV. To open the can you push, quite firmly, into the outer edges of the lid to cause two tabs on each side of the can to pass over a little squared lip, allowing the lid to be unscrewed. The Garcia requires a coin, knife, or some other implement to open. Not a big deal, but it can get old sometimes. However, if its really chilly and your hands are cold, pushing the lid in on the BV can be an exercise in sadism. Having a tool to easily open the Garcia in those circumstances can be a bonus. With that being said, if you're going to be in *cold* bear country then I'd suggest going with the Garcia.
I won't go into the downsides of the Garcia, since Backcountry doesn't sell them and this isn't the place for it. However, let it be said that if you have a pack big enough (the BV500 can be a tight fit in some packs) and aren't going to be spending most of your time in below freezing temps... I'd go with the BV500.
One last note, though this is a bit esoteric... it is rumored (I have yet to verify this story) that either the park service or the makers of this can, or both in concert, have stumbled across a bear somewhere around the AT that they have trapped and are studying that figured out how to open these cans. Folks, if you are new to dealing with bears... they are intensely intelligent, and great at solving puzzles. I spend most of my time around very, very experienced backpackers and backcountry folk who have story after story of bears managing nearly Superbear type antics to get your food. Don't gamble with your food, or the life of a bear. All it takes is for a bear to successfully raid a single camp to start associating people with easy calories. Once that happens its a slippery slope, and the entire reason that bear is going to struggle with people (and vice versa), and very possibly see its eventual premature destruction, is because someone was lazy or irresponsible.
I don't mean to get preachy, but seeing a bear in the wild is absolute magic. Hearing story after story of them being put down is a crying shame, particularly when you realize that the only reason its happening is because we are lazy and stupid with our food and toiletries.
Also, a bear can is a great way to keep other critters (squirrels, chipmunks, marmots, etc) out of your grub. The most aggressive animal I've seen trying to raid my bag for my stash are squirrels.
PS. The BV500 makes the best stool of all the bear cans!
Living in California requires anyone who wants to be sleep outside and on the trails to have some approved bear canister. Reviewing and researching all the approved options led me to the Bear Vault. The can is sturdy, spacious, and makes a great camp stool. It is somewhat cumbersome, but that is to be expected. I have never really had a terrible time taking the lid off, but sometimes in big temperature swings, or if the threads are dirty, it can stick. You can use twigs, a lighter, titan spork, etc. to depress the lid lock so don't let that deter you.
This bear barrel has a lot more room then many of the others, It takes up more room as well though. It is lighter than some of the smaller models. The opening is nice and wide as well, making putting a cook set inside easier. I can fit 10 days of food in here with nothing else. As long as I make sure to bring some very lightweight items (couscous, oatmeal, clif bars, etc.). I also like the fact that you do not need any other tool besides your hands to open this barrel. I also use it as a seat in camp. Just be sure it's 100% closed.
I've searched high and low and found this to be the best, at least for my needs. It does the job and does it well. You don't need a tool to open it and while it can be hard to open in the cold, I would rather it be too hard than too easy to open if you know what I mean. Works great as a seat or a flat surface to cut/prep food on...just make sure to clean it a bit. I love that it is see through as well. It's bulky but so is every other brand. In this price point though, I do believe it is the lightest.
When the outing is done, it is also a great place to store some of my gear while it sits in the garage.
It's big! Very handy though. In my experience the lid was pretty easy to manage. I was even able to open it a couple of times while it was sitting in my backpack - just have to get the right angle with one or both of your thumbnails. I noticed a little difference at 75 vs 60 degrees on the amount of effort it took to bypass the snaps - not a big difference, but if it was super cold it may add up to something. If you are wearing gloves you would surely have to use some kind of pointy object to bypass the snaps anyway so maybe it's not a big deal. I'm happy with the product
Unfortunately I've had first hand experience finding out how well this works. I had my backpack ready and set for an 8-day backpacking trip for work, which included this bear canister filled with food. I left it in the back of a friend's truck with a camper shell for less than 1 hour to poach a shower at the hotel he worked at in Mammoth Lakes, CA. I returned to the truck to see that the camper shell door was ajar in a funny way with my backpack gone. Scoping out the nearby woods, I saw my pack with all my work gear splayed and shredded on the ground, but low and behold the bear canister was the only thing that wasn't destroyed. The bear definitely tried as there were plenty of teeth and scratch marks, but it just couldn't do it.
So with that being said, even if you are away from your car or whatever it is that could potentially attract a bear in known bear country, just take it with you even for those few minutes. Also, this canister for its size is better for week long trips. The one that is half the size is much better for weekenders. Although it may take up a bunch of space in your pack, you can easily fit other things in it if it isn't filled with food all the way. I'll usually stick whatever extra clothes, stove, first aid kit, etc. just to use up all the space in the canister. This model is also a little bigger than the standard black bear cans that the park service or forest service lets you rent out. I never usually tighten this all the way. Once the tabs pass the point on the lid where a bear essentially can't open it, I don't go any further.
I know lots of people complain on how big and bulky or heavy this is. Well, a bear is a pretty f-ing strong creature and if we want to play in their backyard than we just gotta deal with using these things because they work.
Bear canisters are a pain in the bearbehind but are the price to pay for years of us going into the backcountry and bears getting habituated to us as a source of food. So use one, it may save your food and it will keep Yogi from getting habituated, aggressive, and eventually having to be removed or killed.
If you have trouble opening it, there is a trick where you use a credit card, knife, spoon or other thin object to guide the tabs past the locking stop. This works even below freezing when the plastic is stiffer. Watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyEbLfL_lSU
Sometimes when the lid is difficult to turn, it's because you overpacked it and the ribs on the underside of the lid are catching on your food.
It's not as simple or foolproof as the Garcia but has some offsetting advantages.
One reason that all canisters are so big and bulky and have no attachment points for straps is so bears can't pick them up or get them in their mouths to carry off, or get leverage to bash them against rocks.
I got this for a trip to Yosemite earlier this summer. It's a little tricky to open but I suppose that is part of the idea. I've got plenty of space for food and I feel comfortable traveling with this. Fill it up, strap it to your pack and go!
Great seat and hungry bears.
Like everyone says this really solid and a little hard for even humans to open. I thought bigger would be better, but this is quite large. Probably would get the smaller one doing it again because we don't typically go out for more than an couple days at a time.
When we use the vaults in the rain, we find the lid very difficult to unscrew. It's as if the humidity creates a friction and resistance in the threads that makes it extremely difficult to turn the lid. This is before we push the tabs to open --- we're just trying to move the tabs into position to depress and open.
Any ideas? Might using some paraffin on the threads help counter the effect of humidity friction?
Hi Nancy, I have experienced the same situation but only during elevation changes, i.e. pressure changes... yeah I would try some sort of lubrication and see what that does... if that doesn't help, you might check that there isn't some binding or other build up that could be sanded off of the threads on both the canister and the lid...
My wife and I get that every so often also. We also get a vacuum effect, which is interesting. We counter this by not screwing the lid on much beyond the tabs and sometimes holding the bugger between our knees while unscrewing it.
We use these as standard issue with the Forest Service. Our cache is filled with these. It's a bear can...not much to say but the BV 500 isn't too heavy, and packs better than those black ones that require a coin or knife to open and have a lipped top.
Also, some of the lids make a perfect cutting board flipped upside down, though I've seen newer ones that have ridges that eliminate use.
Have used my BV500 on several trips, and while haven't seen Yellow Yellow yet I'm alway glad I have it. Can be tricky to open but a simple knife blade does the trick, no muss no fuss. Purchasing 4 more for my son's scout troop; tired of spending hours finding just the right tree for a bag, getting stuff stuck in the branches, and knowing it wouldn't do any good anyway.
I've tested this a few times and it is what it is ... I've never had any bears around it so I can't speak to it's ability to stop bears from getting your food. However, this canister is solid and isn't hard to use in normal conditions. It is large, too large for a solo trip, but perfect for 2 people's worth of food. Its true, you can use it as a seat which is actually nice but there are much lighter options for seats when you are backpacking. I would never use this unless actually required to by park rules. Normal bear bag techniques using a stuff sack and paracord works fine.
Used the Bear Vault on a 3 week trip in the Sierras. At first I was very happy with it, but eventually two serious problems emerged:
1. When it is really cold (high 20s), it is extremely difficult to open - the plastic becomes so hard you cannot press it it enough to get past the notches.
2. When it is really warm, the plastic lid becomes soft and I could open the canister by twisting it hard and fast - not very confidence inspiring. Mine may have been a defective model, but it was certainly not bear proof in warm weather.
I ended up returning it...looking for alternatives...
Why would you want a bear canister that a bear can open ?
There are well documented cases of these canisters being opened by a bear in the Adirondacks near Marcy Dam. The manufacturer discussed this at :
Especially bad is that this problem was identified in the 2007 hiking season and has not been fixed, nor retrofits made available to existing customers, so far (near the end of the 2010 season).
I purchased the BV500 and was pretty happy with it. One thing I would add or change is the lid and add more gripping or friction tape in order to grip the lid when pushing in to open it when raining. One more thing I added was reflective tape both red and white strips in order to locate my container at night or in the morning.
Overall great Bear Vault with lot's of room and ez to pack in my Gregory Palisades 80.