Home / Gear Reviews / Bare Boxer Contender: A Small 2-3 Day Bear Canister

Bare Boxer Contender: A Small 2-3 Day Bear Canister

manufactured by:
Philip Werner

Reviewed by:
On May 16, 2015
Last modified:November 10, 2016


While small, the Bare Boxer Contender is more than adequate for a weekend trip, easy to pack, and barely larger than a large stuff sack. It can also be stored inside or outside you pack easily, provided you have some kind of top pocket that can hold it to the top of your backpack.

Bare Boxer Contender Model 101
Bare Boxer Contender Model 101

I bought myself a small bear canister last year called the Bare Boxer Contender (Model 101). It has about a two-day capacity (three if you are really careful about what you pack), perfect for the short weekend backpacking trips I take year round. I also own a larger Garcia Bear Canister but it can hold 5-6 days of food and has far more capacity than I need. It’s also an ungainly thing to pack in a smaller volume ultralight backpack and I’d rather not bother with it on shorter trips. Both of these canisters are approved by the IGBC and SIBBG for use in Grizzly and black bear country.

While I am still not required by law to carry a bear canister on weekend trips in New Hampshire, there are some advantages to carrying the smaller sized canister over a normal bear bag or a Ursack.

  1. The Bare Boxer Contender can’t be compromised by a bear or smaller animals like mice. Ever.
  2. Requires no skill to hang or tie knots.
  3. Can be stored on the ground.
  4. More time for hiking. Easy to stash, even after dark.
  5. Fits inside small ultralight backpacks easily.
  6. Easy to clean.


At 275 cubic inches / 4.5 liters, the Bare Boxer Contender (Model 101) is the smallest volume and lightest weight bear canister available today. 275 cubic inches will fit 2 days of food or even 3, if you pack very carefully with as little packaging as possible.

Mfg.ModelWeight in oz.Cubic In.Liters
UrsackS29 AllWhite7.865010.7
Bare BoxerContender Model 10126.32754.5
Wild IdeasThe Scout275008.2
Lighter1Lil Sami283004.9
Wild IdeasThe Weekender3164010.5
Wild IdeasThe Expedition3690014.75
Backpacker's CacheGarcia Container43.561410
Lighter1Big Daddy4365010.7
Counter AssaultBear Keg5871611.7

While small, the Bare Boxer Contender is more than adequate for a weekend trip, easy to pack, and barely larger than a large stuff sack. It can also be stored inside or outside you pack easily, provided you have some kind of top pocket that can hold it to the top of your backpack.

Bare Boxer Contender Snugged under Bear Canister Gossamer Gear Mariposa Over-The-Top Lid
Bare Boxer Contender held under a Gossamer Gear Mariposa Over-The-Top Lid

Locking Mechanism

The locking mechanism on the Contender is very simple, just three rotating locks with a pin that must be depressed while turning the lock. This is easily done with a small knife or the nail file on a tiny Swiss Army Classic knife. I doubt a bear could get his claw into the narrow slit provided. That’s all there is to it really.

Locking Mechanism requires a flat blade or screwdriver to open
Locking Mechanism requires a narrow blade or screwdriver to open

You’re probably wondering why I would consider carrying a bear canister instead of the Ursack (a soft bear resistant Kevlar bag) that I’ve been using for the past 6-7 years. There are a couple of reasons. First, my local US Forest Service Conservation Officers are becoming increasingly vigilant about enforcing backcountry bear storage regulations in the parts of New Hampshire where I do most of my hiking and backpacking. I talk to the rangers regularly, including the rangers in charge of bear enforcement, and none of them have ever heard of a Ursack (nor will they want to be educated when writing a $125 ticket.)

Hopefully, that time won’t come, but the increase in food related bear incidents in New Hampshire suggests otherwise. Regardless, the length and frequency of my overnight trips will not change, hence the need for a lightweight bear resistant canister capable of carrying 2-3 days of food like the Bare Boxer Contender.

Disclosure: Philip Werner bought the Bare Boxer Contender Model 101 reviewed here with his own funds. 

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  1. Thought I’d let you know, your comparison chart has the Garcia weight listed incorrectly at 36oz. It’s 44oz.

  2. They also double as a seat too!

    When you mention rangers writing a ticket – what would prompt that? As you said there is no current regulations enforcing these, correct?

    The best tool I have found to open one of those is a binder clip – those black pieces with two metal arms (google it) – they come in varying sizes and can be clipped to anything or easily tied. Works perfect!

    • Correct. You don’t need a canister today in the whites but you do need to hang or store in a bear proof box at a campsite. The rangers will try to educate people but they do write tickets as well.

  3. How far from your tent are you placing the canister?

    • Standard 80 paces/200 feet.

      • Thanks — I’ve been considering a small bear canister instead of hanging after a recent experience trying to hang a bear bag late at night with less than optimal tree branches available (and a lot of undergrowth that kept snagging my line during toss attempts). I’ve been on the fence about the canister, but your post is making me think it may be a great way to go, despite the weight penalty. I think I’d rather carry a little extra weight, get a few more miles in, and save potential time & frustration at the end a long day. :-)

      • Exactly. If you’re not obsessed by the weight penalty, it’s a rather convenient alternative and you can spend more time hiking and less time hanging. I’m carrying a heavier pack this year for various reasons, and I hardly notice the difference.

  4. I think that were bear canisters are mandatory it is often because neglectful backpackers, yes they do exist, were doing a poor job at hanging their food hence providing easy food supply to bears that with time would get bolder and bolder, which would lead to the authorities having to kill the bears that raided back country campsites.
    So imposing the use of bear canisters is often used by authorities has a mean to protect bears against neglectful backpackers.

    • I’m surprised that more AT thru-hikers don’t just carry bear canisters. They’re not that heavy and it means zero concern about having your food tampered with in a shelter or camping. Seems like a worthwhile trade-off, actually. Especially since resupplies are only 5-6 days apart.

      • I’ve been using my Garcia fairly regularly, for exactly those reasons. But what about longer trips? We’re doing a 10-day trip this summer, and want to carry all our food so as not to lose any time or energy doing resupply. Tentative plan is to hang whatever doesn’t fit in the can, and eat the hanging food first. What do you intend to do on your White Mountain Challenge?

      • Hanging the extra and eating it first is the way to go.

        I am probably going to hang it and use bear boxes at established campsites along the way (first couple of nights at least). I’ve got 18 days of food. Trying to get it into one food bag by eating calorically dense and compact food. Finalizing my food list is today’s task. Suprisingly the food load is coming out under 25 pounds, maybe even less. I also plan to lose some weight.

      • Would love to see the food list if you feel like publishing it.

      • Worked on it all yesterday, including packing it, so yes. It’s forthcoming. Got it down to just over 24 pounds.

  5. Philip,
    Is the canister waterproof in the upright position? I was wondering if the top is recessed and was upright on a rainy day, could water seep into the container?
    Thanks Philip

    • The top is recessed and water tight enough if you don’t subject it to full submersion…just like a Garcia. On my last backpacking trip it sat out in the pouring rain all night without leaking and I carried it the next day in the rain without any leaks attached to the pack above. There’s no gasket on the recessed lid but I bet you could paint a thin coating of seam sealer to give it a waterproof closure. Easy enough to undo if it doesn’t work.

    • Philip – actually got a question: When you pack up a bear can, do you still use opsacks?

      • You can. I only have big opsacks, so I just use a quart freezer bag for the bare boxer. it doesn’t really matter if the bear finds it in some ways. He knows you’re there regardless of the opsack or not. Plus, he can smell your AXE from 20 miles away. LOL!

  6. I have owned the Contender for three years now and used it in the Sierra on numerous occasions. I can get four days of food into the canister; it depends on your menu and your skill in packing the canister. I’ve also owned the Ursack with the aluminum liner and the Wild Ideas Expedition. The Ursack is allowed in some areas of the Sierra and in other areas of the Northwest where I backpack. I used the Expedition on a JMT thru-hike and it is a first class canister that I would recommend to anyone needing additional space and not wanting to carry the extra weight of the other models.

  7. I decided to carry bear cans after almost braining myself with the weight on my throw ine. I had the contender which was great, but wanted something with a little more capacity. I saved up my pennies and tips from work and splurged on a Wild Ideas Bearikade Scout. For the same weight I got double the space. If I only go out for 2 nights I can just throw extra clothes or even my Neoair xlite in the can to take up the extra space and open up the room for the can in my pack. I’ve spent the last couple years getting light enough that even with the Bear can my 3 day pack weight with can is around 20-23lbs with food and water, so I wont fret over the weight. Also for me the bear can is just so darn convenient and helps keep me organized. As Phillip said no need to worry about critters at all. There’s something to be said for peace of mind.

    • So I’m not crazy. :-)
      Food for thought Dan. It’s definitely a good option to consider.

    • Dan, I question your practice of filling the slack space in your bear can with clothes or a sleeping pad. Marinate them in your food smells all day, then bring them into your tent for the night? Kind of defeats the purpose of the bear can, no?

      • If I know I’m going that route I typically put them in a quart ziplock bag or cuben dry sack then put ‘me in the bear can just for that reason.

    • Hey Dan, are you still using the contender or have you moved completely to the bearikade?

  8. And for what it’s worth, I forgot to add that I use a Jam 50 or a ULA Circuit. The can fits horizontally or vertical in both packs with no issues.

  9. Not crazy at all :) Just the other day, me and a coworker that hikes a lot were chatting . He went up camels hump the other day via the LT from the Jonesville side and spotted a black bear on the way up. You just never know. I tend to always err on the side of caution

    • In New Hampshire, just a stone throws away from Cermont’s Long Trail (for the rest of our readers), the bear population is estimated at 1 bear per every 2 square miles.

  10. Just came off a 75 mile AT section hike in the Cherokee NF and talked with a thru-hiker who’d had the unfortunate luck of having 2 bears get most of his food the night before. He’d hung it “20 feet up” but apparently not far enough out on a limb to be out of their reach. They then came sniffing around his tent. To be honest I had a heck of a time finding suitable hanging trees for my own food, and worked even harder after hearing his story. I’m liking the idea of a lightweight canister. The tradeoff in weight sounds worthwhile.

  11. My Bearicade weekender has over 1350 miles on the AT, I suck at throwing rocks!

  12. I have a BV500. I holds all my food, stove, toothpaste, first aid items, etc. For only 12.7 oz more weight I get 425 cubic inches more capacity than the Bear Boxer mentioned and a secure place for all my items with bear attracting odors. I have used the smaller BV but found the bigger can offered more options and made packing much easier.

  13. Wondering if there’s a way to get this product in Canada? Checking the suppliers’ website, they don’t accept payment from non-US paypal accounts… Any suggestions?

    Love the blog by the way… Always a great read when I’m too lazy to be out doing something fun!

  14. Just ordered one.

  15. Been using the Contender for four years. Agree with Philip’s assessment. Yes it is heavier than bear bagging, but so much easier to use. The locking mechanism is bombproof and easy to use and I can easily fit enough food and toiletries for one person for three days. We have black bears (and Bigfoots) everywhere in Northern California where I backpack. Problem is my hiking companions insist on bear bagging and I have to spend time helping them anyway, but at least it isn’t my food we’re playing with. One time my friend almost killed himself in Lassen Park climbing up into a tree in which the bear bag had snagged. Jaysus, Mary and Joseph!

  16. Does anyone living in/near the Midwest (or San Francisco where I’ll be flying into for a yosemite trip) have a contender 101 I could use for a couple days around July 19-23? They’re pretty hard to find for purchase. I’ll cover shipping costs. It would be greatly appreciated! Thanks

  17. Excellent table of the options. I almost never hike solo, so I’d probably go for the BV450 to handle a night or two with my wife. But yeah, bear bagging is a huge hassle and not as easy as it looks.

    On our Boy Scout Sierra 50 Miler, we had one unrecoverable bear rope left in a tree for the first three nights. So much for Leave No Trace. Later in the trip, a crew member got whacked in the neck while dislodging a stuck rope with a rock tied to the end. He was shocky all evening and couldn’t turn his head for a couple of days. And that was a very good outcome.

    So yeah, pack a bear canister.

  18. Thanks for the review. Any idea if this will fit inside of an Osprey Kestral 38? I have larger 50 and 85L packs but my 38 is my go-to weekend pack.

  19. Three extra pounds? You gotta be kidding! Hanging is only a little hassle, compared to lugging 3 extra pounds around all day. If they can get the weight down to 1 pound, I will consider it.

    • Depends on which one you get. I started with the BearVault 450 years ago, then moved to the Bare Boxer Contender. Mine’s 26.7 ounces, so basically 1 2/3 lbs (heavy, but not nearly 3 lbs.).

      I HATED hanging food, it was so tedious and drained energy after a long hike. A lot of times I’m above tree line anyway (first Sierra Nevada, now Rockies). It is SO EASY to use the Contender, it’s so worth the extra weight for me. If I forget something in my food stash, I can get to it in a few steps! No bringing the food down, re-hanging, re-tying, etc. I’ve had to pitch camp in the dark above tree line in marmot and porcupine country; good luck protecting food in that scenario! And, the thing is pretty much waterproof (just set it upside-down, and it will take on hailstorms and snow without getting any water in it at all). Food is much less likely to get crushed, too, because of the hard sides.

      I wish Wild Ideas wasn’t so expensive. Their weight-to-volume ratio is tempting. I might try renting one for a week-long solo trek I’m doing this summer, but to be honest I can fit several days of food into the Contender, so I might not bother. But for me, hands down a canister has made life MUCH easier on the trail.

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