How many bear canisters for five 2 nights?

9:06 p.m. on April 29, 2011 (EDT)
0 reviewer rep
28 forum posts


I'm thinking of renting the Bear Vault canisters for a backpack end of June, either the smaller BV450 and/or the 500.

We will be 2 adults and 3 teens (13, 15 and 17) and will go for 2 nights (2 breakfast, 3 lunchs, 2 suppers)...  How many (of which one) do you think we should have...?



9:31 p.m. on April 29, 2011 (EDT)
102 reviewer rep
2,979 forum posts

Some friends can get ten man days food into the large cannister, but since they reant cheap get two so one person isn't carrying all that food.


7:10 p.m. on May 1, 2011 (EDT)
280 reviewer rep
1,469 forum posts

How long is  piece of string ?


How much food are you taking ?  As there is sometimes a large difference on volume from one camper or camp trip to another and the food of choice.

I suggest make a list, get the food and test it, in a box to find your volume.

This early checking can be very helping for all items carried on the trip and then you will be refined nicely and actually have everything you only need for the beginning to a great trip.

9:37 a.m. on May 2, 2011 (EDT)
30 reviewer rep
560 forum posts

If you are planning to be on a trail in the California Sierra National Parks, will there be bear boxes on your route?  The regulations insist that you store your food safely at night.  If it does not all fit in the personal canisters during the day time and the excess is carried by you, it must be secured in a bear barrier locker at night or when you are away from camp.   The only fly in the ointment is that if on popular trails, you will want to plan your end of days so that you don't bump up against a full locker.  I think all consider that long haul through hikers have the priority for over night storage.  It is usually the shorter term backpackers that carry the excess they have to put in the lockers. But on the upside, once you get a day past the trail head, you won't find a full locker.  Just remember you can't leave excess food for the next person - even with a note.  The rangers get really pissy about having to carry out others food.

If you do take advantage of the bear boxes en route, be sure you have a distinctive food bag (color/reflective tape) so that it is not confused with others that will be in there. Also date your bag and put some identification on it.

You don't have to worry about securing your first and last days food, if you don't mind being temporarily hungry the last day.  If you are going to be gorging on pizza or a buffet on the way home anyway, you might as well REALLY appreciate it.

Then, unfortunately, there are the sporatic trail bums who use the food locker as their own supply store taking a bit here and another bit there.  Not many of them, but bears are not the only opportunist out there. Rarely, however, does anybody have equipment stolen. 

It is quite amazing how justifiably comfortable we feel on the trail with no locked doors to feel safe behind.  It really is a nice place to be.

1:18 p.m. on May 2, 2011 (EDT)
244 reviewer rep
5,245 forum posts


If you repackage the food from its original store packaging to Ziploc bags and squeeze out the air before sealing the ziploc's it will fit more in each canister.

1:47 p.m. on May 2, 2011 (EDT)
1,663 reviewer rep
3,956 forum posts

I'm reading along here to learn, I am not required to use canisters or food lockers where I go, although food lockers are in some locations along with bear cables or hanging poles.

It sounds like the bear lockers are used by multiple people on a first come basis?

I'm also guessing there is no way to pad lock them if they are shared?

Years ago I used to pre-position food caches in the large, steel, ammo boxes you can buy from the army surplus stores. We would cable then to a tree, padlock them, and cover them with debris.

That was the only way I knew of to keep the critters out of my food cache.

A steel food locker would have been great, but you guys are saying they don't let you pre-position or leave food behind in them right?


3:01 p.m. on May 2, 2011 (EDT)
244 reviewer rep
5,245 forum posts


In non-bear country I use plastic pails that used to have mayonaise in them from Restuarants. I find they work very well for mice and rodents can't smell anything thru the plastic so they don't try to get into the pails.  Each pail whether round or square are very good food caches for the backcountry.

I use the pails also for bike touring.

Most hold about 2-5 gallons each and are also handy for carrying water to camp,use as seats and tables, ice chests,etc...


Square buckets come in different sizes


Round ones too in different sizes and colors

6:06 p.m. on May 2, 2011 (EDT)
30 reviewer rep
560 forum posts

Sierra black bears have long been able to snag almost any food hang devised.   The park service needed a more realistic means to protect visitor's food.  Now there are restrictions on hangs and where you are allowed only bear canisters and bear boxes.

Bear boxes (food lockers) are the Sierra National Parks current method of winning the food wars in the Sierra (and other places).  The boxes are made of  3/8" welded 24x36-48" boxes with a hinged front door.  I've seen bigger and smaller ones.  They used to cost $300 delivered.  Some have shelves in them. The boxes are chained to large trees or poured concrete piers to keep them from being moved around by the bears.

I've never seen one so full that I couldn't rearrange the contents a bit and stuff mine in.  It is y'all come. The contents of the box are obviously inspected at times.  Once I retrieved my food bag the next day and it had been tagged over night.  I'm guessing if that blue tag was still on there three days later, the food would have been removed. Each year the rangers say they pack out a ton of food left behind.  Lots of used stuff sacks have to be available someplace.

The first time most get to use a bear box is when they are tired and it is dark and it might take some fumbling to figure it out.  The door can be opened by the dexterity of a human's hand.  The opposable thumb being the key ingredient.  My canister requires a quarter to open it.  Bears don't have pockets to keep the quarters in -- so....

The boxes are spotted around popular trails and obvious camping areas as well as in parking lots or trail heads. They are, at times, moved to a less beaten up location. So for the savvy hiker it is best to check where they are ahead of time:

The idea is to discourage habituated bears and break a dependent food cycle based on humans with extremely tasty food.  If a bear gets too friendly with our trail buddies they are destroyed off trail and left for scavengers.

The large bear boxes are for over night storage only while you are in the vicinity.  Caching food for future use is disallowed even if in approved bear canisters. The ammo boxes are easier to get into for a determined black bear than are pickup trucks camper bodies.  I had a friend who was napping behind the steering wheel of an enclosed, locked camper back, when he heard a slight noise (a long mom bear claw flicking the lock) and then a few hundred pounds climb in the little Toyota's back end satisfying her curiosity of the contents and smells.  He figured that once she started she was inside within 10 seconds.

The personal bear canister is the first line of defense to deprive wild animals a meal. These are shaped and constructed such that they are just a bit too big around to get good jaw leverage to chew a hole in it.  Some of the canisters on the market are approved and are usually listed someplace on the parks web sites.  The most popular and rented by the National Parks in the Sierra is the Garcia.  Primarly because the size allows it almost fit in any pack. Whitney Portal store sells them at cost (around $49)

and prices go up with size and weight reduction.  The Berikake people who make the biggest (and by far the most expensive) at 9x18" and around 3 pounds, rent their product for a reasonable price.

The 9x14 is good for 7-9 days for two.

The suggested use is to toss it into willows so as to make it difficult for the bear to move around or play with it. Or at least into a depression so it will roll back instead of into a stream or lake if moved.   I've found mine moved a considerable distance a few times and have reflective tape on it to find it in the early morning. The makers of the canisters discourage attaching it to a tree as it then provides better leverage to get into it.

It seems to have discourage a few random bear advances into the camp by simply displaying it.  Smart fellers them.

6:25 p.m. on May 2, 2011 (EDT)
1,663 reviewer rep
3,956 forum posts

Gary, some of the places I go to here along the Coastal Plain of SC do not have bears (we do have the occasional coastal bear) and the plastic pails would be good for storage.

Speacock, thanks for the info.

Here in the East we have basically the same concerns regarding habituation, relocation of problem bears has not been as effective as hoped and many bears have homed back (according to what I read) plus we have small populated areas (towns, resorts) throughout a lot of our wilderness where bears can feed out of dumpsters, etc.

The ammo boxes we used to use were modified with a padlock so that they could not be opened in the usual manner, that was done as much for humans as for bears though.

Thanks for the links.

6:54 p.m. on May 2, 2011 (EDT)
30 reviewer rep
560 forum posts

I was hiking between Forester and Kersarge Passes (south east Kings Canyon NP) west of Independence CA, and met a couple in ranger's outfits. Big guy over 6ft, good looking president of class and captain of the baseball team looks.  She was beautiful, petite-ish next door neighbor, lots of personality, big smile, maybe cheerleader in college type.

I asked what they did and she responded they were painting bears. (??) Turns out  were part of a federal bear tag and destroy program.  They would paint ball a bear and if it showed up too many times in the wrong places it was destroyed.  I asked who was the shooter knowing full well it had to be the guy.  Nope, he packed it, he said, and she did the take downs.   They shoot it off trail and leave it.  They said that the relocation efforts were a disaster for the bears.  They would have been dropped off in a territory that was not their's, an intruder, and would have to fight for its use and normally would starve...or find their way back.

Most of their 'spare' time they went from camp to camp seeing how people were protecting food and giving chats around back pack campfires about who was responsible for the bear's death when they got the awwww look in the eyes.

The next morning still dark early we were awakened by hikers coming from the upper meadows scared out of their camp site by a bear playing with a chained bear box like it was tether ball.  They had a very quizzical look on their faces when they were asked what color the paint spot was.

So off went the intrepid duo to go hunting back where we had come from the evening before, without breakfast.

12:41 p.m. on May 3, 2011 (EDT)
2 reviewer rep
21 forum posts

I have a BV450 and have packed for 2 adults and 1 teenage boy for three days.  Not all of the food fit though.  For day one, I just put all the food in a dry sack and carried it that way, since all of it was to be eaten on the first day there was no need to but it in a canister.  The remainder of the food for the next two days went into the canister and it was a tight fit.

It will really depend on what you bring.  I had instant oatmeal for breakfast's, ramen noodles, a couple of mountainhouse entrees and miscelaneous snacks and such.  Nothing fancy and nothing that was not small or dehydrated except the peanut butter.

I would say you will most likely need another container.  Two 450's should probably cover it, depending on what you are bringing.  I would strongly recommend following Callahans advice and measure before committing one way or the other.  I did the same and saved a few cubes of canister space in my pack.

1:21 p.m. on May 4, 2011 (EDT)
280 reviewer rep
1,469 forum posts

I would take one six pack beer canister for yourself per night.

3:26 p.m. on May 4, 2011 (EDT)
280 reviewer rep
1,469 forum posts

OR buy one and get one free, It's bear proof there is proof.

May 24, 2018
Quick Reply

Please sign in to reply

More Topics
This forum: Older: Newbie! Newer: Sizing for sleeping bags
All forums: Older: Tourists walk on Yellowstone's Old Faithful geyser Newer: Skecher Sandals, Mens