A fed bear is a dead bear. The BV500 protects you and our furry friends.

Head out for a trip into Yosemite or Denali National Park with your food safe and secure in the Bear Vault BV500 Bear Resistant Food Canister. This large-capacity container's 700 cubic inch interior stashes enough supplies for weeklong trips into bear country. An innovative tool-free top gives you quick access to your goodies, and the see-through polycarbonate housing and extra-wide lid make it easy to find what you're looking for. Slip this lightweight Bear Vault canister into your expedition pack or use the guides to strap it down.

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Here's what others have to say...

5 5

Worth the weight

  • Gender: Female
  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I have to admit, I wasn't thrilled with the prospect of additional 2 lb 9 oz of hard bulk in my backpack but ever since I carried the BV 500 along the 211 miles of the John Muir Trail I learned to really like it. It is built to provide a safe, hassle free food storage and that's exactly what it does. You put your food in, turn the lid to lock it, and you can rest assured that animals won't feast on your precious calories while you sleep or explore around camp. And it made a great camp chair where sitting logs/rocks were not available or were drenched after rain.

We found it easy to operate the lid even when raining or when our hands got cold but if you find it difficult to open the lid with your hands, which some people do, piece of sturdier plastic placed between the wall of the canister and the locking teeth does the trick. Credit card or driver's license work well for that purpose. You can also use a key or a stick to push the teeth in and slide the lid open.

At fullest we fit 7 days worth of food in. It was pushing it, toiletries spent the first night hanging off a tree.

I liked the fact I could fit the BV 500 to my backpack (Osprey Ariel 65) both vertically or horizontally without difficulties. Personally I preferred horizontal placement, my pack felt more balanced which helped greatly on uneven terrain or during rock hopping over creeks.

Nowadays I carry my BV on all backpacking trips and I no longer wake up in the middle of the night wondering whether the squirrel/deer I hear snooping outside the tent is out to munch on pine cone seeds/leaves like they sre supposed to or my breakfast burrito. To me that's worth the weight.

5 5

does the job!

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

There are still very few choices when it comes to bear canisters--and I think it's mostly because there's just not much to improve on with the existing models....?

The solid black ones that are opened with a quarter are good (though heavier), and as I understand are required in certain parts of the US, since bears have figured out how to open these clear ones here and there. Last I read, I believe it was in a few communities in the Northeast US.

That all being said, this is my favorite bear canister, and I've used them all. Why?:
-It's lighter
-It's clear--huuuuuge plus
-Still can use it as a chair
-Don't need a coin to open it
-85cubic inches larger volulme than the all-black "Garcia" model, and a much bigger opening than other models

I would say an experienced backpacker who knows how to pack well (no space-wasting items), and who is putting all scented non-food items and trash in it (as you should), will be able to pack 5-7 days worth of food in this for one person if needed. On my most-recent trip, I was able to put all necessary food (we ate well) for TWO people in this for 4 days/3nights. We had to use a secondary canister for toiletries and trash.

4 5

Better than the Garcia

  • Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

The Bear Vault BV500 is an upgrade from the Garcia -- that big black bear canister that seems to be the default canister. The BV500 is slightly lighter (only slightly, but every ounce helps) while having a larger volume. The larger size means that it doesn't really fit inside of my pack, but it does have little grippy bumps on the outside to aid in strapping the canister on the outside of the pack. In fact, it fits perfectly under the "cap" of my Osprey backpack. I also like the fact that it's transparent so you can immediately see what's inside and you can open it without a tool.

Still, it's heaver than I'd like.

5 5

Critter Keeper-Outer

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

This vault is totally bearable. Not too heavy, not too light - it's just right. My boyfriend and I took one to the Olympic Coast over the summer and though we had zero bear encounters, we were still glad to have it to keep our food safe from the ravenous raccoon population! Me for scale in the attached photo.

Critter Keeper-Outer
5 5

Good size

Might have been able to get away with the smaller one but the price was too good. This one fits in my pack ok. Guess I'll just bring more food. Weight not really a factor. Makes a great stool. Opens easy with a credit card. Hope the bears in my area don't have good enough credit for one.

5 5

Not well named!

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

So I bought this canister a couple weeks back and was way excited to use it on my next camping trip (I am a sucker for new outdoor gadgets). I have to admit it was a complete failure, and I blame the BV500 entirely.

First I tried just leaving the canister out on its side with the lid off and a Snickers bar inside, but I made the mistake of not watching very closely. In the morning the Snickers was gone and in its place a very kind note thanking me but expressing a preference for Toblerone.

Next I tried coating the inside with Skippy creamy peanut butter. In the middle of the night a bear did come and began licking the peanut butter out of the BV500, but with his nose crammed inside it really hit me that Bear Vault had totally screwed up in sizing these things. There was no way I was going to trap a bear in a canister that small. A cub maybe, but then you've got mamma bear coming after you!

When Yogi got done cleaning out my Skippy I retrieved the BV500 and decided I couldn't return this thing (PB+Bear Saliva = No Bueno!). I washed it out and ended up storing my food in there for the rest of the trip. Worked excellent as a "food vault" which makes me thing that BV is missing a big marketing opportunity here. After my first attempts with the BV500 I was ready to give a scathing review, but upon discovering this alternative use, I am awarding 5 stars.

Responded on

........I'm sorry, but ....."I" was the one who took your snickers and "yes" I would have preferred a toblerone.

Same place, same time in 2016; ok?

5 5

Worth the Weight

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

I bought a BV500 several years ago before my first trip to Kings Canyon. Since then, it has accompanied me on nearly every backpacking trip I've taken.

The Good:
--Protects your food from Yogi and friends, as well as smaller critters that have designs on your lunch.
--Can be used as a seat
--Does not require you to find the Mythical Perfect Tree from which to hang your bear bag. Just stash it downwind of your camp and you're good to go.
--Waterproof, or as close to it as I've seen in a bear can.
--Approved for use in the Sierra, so it keeps the rangers off your back.

The Bad:
--Heavier than a plain old bear bag.
--Bulkier, and isn't as compressible or tweakable as a soft storage bag inside your pack.

My BV500 is now with me almost every time I head into the backcountry with food. I cannot tell you how much I prefer carrying an extra two pounds to hunting for the perfect bear bag tree in fading light after putting in a twenty mile day. Add to that the fact that it's rodent-proof (I've had hung bags invaded by the Mouseketeers twice, including one in GSMNP on a shielded bear hang), and I'm a fan for life.

Easiest way to open a Bear Vault

This is the easiest way to open a Bear Vault I have seen. After seeing this video and trying it out I have been able to open it a lot more than with out a card.

Responded on

That kid is a genius! Thanks for sharing, this is great info!

Responded on

I have a feeling he will be inventing the next generation of Bear Vaults! Probably with a card included. Lexi is right... kid is a genius!

Responded on

Oh yeah! I have always had trouble opening Bear Vaults until I saw this kid do it.

1 5

The lid jammed, hiked out hungry.

On a backpacking trip in September 2013, the lid to my BearVault BV-500 inexplicably refused to budge in either direction. I simply could not open it. Despite its having some good design features, I will not be taking this product out again.

Responded on

Hey Katharine,
Check out the most recent video posted- really helpful tips for how to open it!

4 5


  • Familiarity: I've used it several times

Because I was backpacking in the bear country, I had to get a bear canister, and when it comes down to bear canisters, unfortunately we don't have many choices. Unless, of course, you customize one, which a friend hiker has done. Anyway, for me, this particular model works. No problem so far. Rather tricky to open it early in the morning when my hands are still cold. I used the end of a screw driver. It worked just fine. Perfect size for 2-3 day backpacking trips.

5 5

Real live no foolin' bear proof canister

  • Familiarity: I've put it through the wringer

The negative reviews should, for the most part, be ignored. One bear somewhere figured out how to get in? Ok...what about the hundreds of times they CAN"T get in? BV has been proactive about letting people know about the ONE bear. If you aren't going near that area, move on...nothing to see. Also, I've seen so many lazily hung bear sacks that I wish these were required more places. I won't go hiking with people that are dismissive of the need and just say they will hang their food. Most people don't have the patience and/or skill to hang their food properly, especially after a grueling hike or in the dark just before bed. I mean no offense to those seasoned backpackers who do know the proper ways to hang food. I readily admit that I have a lazy streak in me and throwing my food etc in the vault and running it out a ways from camp is much preferred to messing with ropes. Plus, I've been in many situations at or near the tree line where good trees are scarce.

For anyone criticizing the weight or price: cry me a river. This thing keeps out effing bears. BEARS! Yes there are lighter weight carbon fiber options, but they are very spendy. The value here is tremendous. Go build something that keeps a bear away from your food and let me know how it goes. I'm as happy as anyone when I can leave this thing behind, but when I need a bear can, this one rocks.

Ok, everyone knows this thing makes a great stool. I found another great use: washing machine/sink. Fill it with water and a little camp soap, put clothes in and agitate them as needed. You can really scrub when your suds stay put. A bandanna and a bear vault full of soapy water make a good hobo bath. Then use it as a bucket to rinse off or carry water to camp.

Finally, I like to put reflective tape on mine. Helps locate it in the dark. And it makes a good place to put all those stickers that come with your gear. Mine has a couple goats on it.

Real live no foolin' bear proof canister
Responded on

I love the reflective tape idea! What kind of tape did you use?

3 5

One Unfortunate Backcountry Necessity

  • Familiarity: I've used it several times

Not much to say about this thing except that it is a requirement for hiking in certain National Parks and such.
Quite awkward to wield and fill with food at times, but the lid mechanism is easy enough to operate even with cold fingers. It also can double as a stool, but with the weight that it possesses, I would rather go without a "backcountry stool" and just sit on the dirt.
Weighing in at almost 3 pounds, it is not exactly the lightest bear-resistant option for food and scented items that you can find, but on the other hand, it is one of the most affordable, if not the most, so at least BV has that going for it.
If you are looking for alternatives, I cannot speak for all of them, but a couple companies that I've encountered in my travels are Wild Ideas and Lighter1. Wild Ideas, although expensive, will do custom sizes for those who are looking for something a little more catered to their pack and/or needs, but you will be paying an arm and a leg for their products, so beware. Lighter1's canister seems to be a rather unpopular option, but that could just be an area-dependent bias, I don't know.
In any case, it works, but it's heavy an awkward; if you need to have it, then you need to have it though. C'est la vie.

4 5

Great Value

  • Familiarity: I've used it once or twice and have initial impressions

This bear canister is the best value on the market. The cost is reasonable and the features are solid. The lid is opened without any special tools and while its not the lightest canister on the market, it is still reasonable for backpacking trips. The translucent housing is nice for locating contents. We used this canister on the Lost Coast Trail in Northern California and had no bear encounters; therefore I am unsure how it will perform if a bear attempts to open the can. I would recommend this canister to others.

We also have a WildIdeas Bearikade and the lower weight is nice, but it is really expensive.

4 5

Makes for a good stool

  • 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...

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.

Responded on

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.

Responded on

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.

Responded on

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.

4 5

A slight edge over the Garcia

I’ll 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 I’m committed to not bothering to write a review until I feel like I’ve really gotten to know a product. I never thought I’d bother to write reviews, but I’ve recently decided that since I’ve 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!

Responded on

ha, I love that you mentioned the infamous "yellow yellow"...thats the bears name who can open these canisters, and its very very true that she can. i ran into a few guys on the trail who were victims of her intelligence the night before. she is right at home here in the ADKS, but (very sadly) she was actually shot this past year by a hunter. so that goes to show we need to be careful and responsible in the backcountry and not aid in leading these bears to their own demise because of our own laziness.