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

Bare-Boxer-Contender-Model-101 Bear Canister review

The Bare Boxer Contender (Model 101) is a small bear canister with a 2-to-3 day capacity, that’s perfect for overnight or weekend backpacking trips when you don’t want to lug around a much larger bear canister. I also own a larger Garcia Bear Canister which can hold 5-6 days of food but 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.

Volume

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.

Make / ModelWeight in oz.Cubic InDays Food
BearVault BV45033 oz4404
BearVault BV50041 oz7007
Garcia Backpackers Cache43.5 oz6146
Frontiersman Insider Bear Safe48 oz7357
Wild Ideas Scout28 oz5005
Wild Ideas Weekender31 oz6506-7
Wild Ideas Blazer33 oz7507-8
Wild Ideas Expedition36 oz9009
Bare Boxer26.3 oz2753
Lighter1 Big Daddy43 oz6503
Lighter1 Lil Sami28 oz3003
UDAP No-Fed Bear38.4 oz4554-5
Grubcan Bear Resistant Container43 oz5745-6
Counter Assault Bear Keg58 oz7167
Ursack Major Bear Bag (10L)7.6 oz6506-7
Ursack AllMitey Bear and Critter (10L)13 oz6506-7
Ursack Major XL (15L)8.8 oz9259
Ursack Major 2XL (10L)15.7 oz183018
Ursack AllMitey Grizzly Bear and Critter (20L)13.8 oz122112
Ursack AllMitey Kodiak Bear and Critter (20L)15.3 oz185018-19
Ursack AllMitey Bear and Critter (30L)15.3 oz185018-19

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 your 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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16 comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. The BV500 is the best value; weight, cost, ease of use, and capacity. You don’t have to fill it all the way up and you can see through it. Go to an REI or similar store and do a side by side comparison.

    • I will never use a bear vault bear canister,,,my experience was almost exactly like someone else’s on a backpacker blog. Went for a four night b/ p trip in Emmigrant Wilderness. First night packed up everything food/fragrance wise for the night but forgot to put lip balm in. I worked for an hour to try to get it open…then my friend tried her Bear Vault to get her heart mess out and hers wouldn’t budge either!!! I threw it against rocks, dunked it in hot water ( got wet inside)…and dint sleep a wink. The next morning we had to turn around and go back to the car…Ruined our whole trip…what trip??? Don’t buy it….you can’t trust it.

      • Sure can be difficult, especially when cold. But a thin piece of plastic (credit card for instance) or a thin knife blade (swiss army pocket knife for instance), inserted between the main nub and lid and Bob’s your uncle.

        I’ve also used a stick to get better pressure on the “push in” point. That isn’t as easy, but lacking something thin to insert, it works.

        BTW, you should be familiar with *all* your camping equipment prior to taking it on a multi-day trip.

  4. My UDAP canister has similar locks. I taped a washer about the size of a quarter on the top and bottom of the canister as emergency openers if nothing else was handy.

  5. Why would rangers in the White Mountains not accept the Ursack? The S29 AllWhite is IGBC certified (#3738). For those interested, the IGBC certification list is available here: https://igbconline.org/certified-products-list/

  6. I have owned and used extensively the Bare Boxer Contender with excellent results. It is outstanding for 2-3 day trips (or longer with mid-trip resupply) and fits easily into ultralight packs. I also have the Ursack, several Bear Vaults of both sizes and used to own the Bearikade but sold it ten years ago when SEKI decided to allow the Ursack (big mistake since that was very short lived).

  7. I use Ursack and like the compressibility and light weight. Won’t change unless required by law!

  8. John Hickinbotham

    I agree with Phil’s assessment of the Bare Boxer. It’s lightweight, easy to open/close, will store 3 days of food plus my TOAKS/Pocket Rocket cook system, no hanging, makes a nice footstool or level cook surface. Oh and it keeps all critters big and small out of my food. Get one while they are in stock, I had to wait for mine.

    • I decided on the blazer instead of the weekender bearikade for the couple extra oz but has a bit more height using it to replace the one pound chair And dido on no more Bear hangs. Especially above tree line.

  9. I love my Contender, I’ve had it for more than 10 years. I do go out in areas where there are bear but canisters are not required. I’ve had several encounters with rodents and other small animals, including skunk. Depending on my gear needs I take my Contender to avoid hanging, I hate trying to get a rope over a limb, if I’m in a group hang then I have to rely on other in the safety of my food. It’s so much easier to tuck the Contender behind a tree and have a restful night.

  10. Funny that everybody seems to forget that an Ursack doesn’t need a Bear Hang.
    So it really is down to a Bear Vault vs. Ursack tied to a tree. (use a OP sack inside your Ursack XL)

    Also- we are mindful of smelly stuff with a Ursack or Bear hang/ food sack, but the outside and Lid of a Bear Vault gathers all sorts of stink from hands: oils, PBJ, chocolate and bears don’t come running, why?

  11. Love the size of my Bare Boxer. I had a bear get my food a few years back in the Pemi Wilderness (my error) and decided to stop attempting bear hangs altogether. I stared carry the BV450 and loved it, but this is much better for short trips where I won’t be near an established camp with food lockers in the Whites.

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