The BearVault BV500 is a 2 lb 9 oz bear canister capable of carrying about a week’s worth of food. It has an internal capacity of 700 cubic inches (11.5 liters). The canister is made of durable polycarbonate. Being transparent, it’s pretty easy to find what you’re looking for and to know how much food you have left. It has grooves and little nubs on the outside which help keep it in place if strapped to the top of a pack. This canister’s size, 8.7 in. (22.1 cm) x 12.7 in. (32.3 cm), which allows it to fit vertically in smaller packs and horizontally in larger packs. And at $80 it’s a pretty reasonably-priced option.
Specs at a Glance
- Volume: 700 cubic inches, 11.5 L, (7 days)
- Tool-Free Operation: Yes
- Material: Clear polycarbonate
- Weights: 2 lbs 9 oz
- Approvals: SIBBG, IGBC
The volume of the BearVault BV500 is 700 cubic inches or 11.5 liters. This is slightly larger than one of the other most common canisters, the Backpacker’s Cache Garcia, which is 614 cubic inches or about 10 liters. If you plan to rent, you might want to call ahead and see what kind of volume you’re going to be getting.
The next size down in the BearVault line is the BV450 which weighs 8 oz less but is 260 cubic inches smaller, which is significant. I personally chose the BV500 over the BV450 because it carries a week of food for one person and enough food for two people on a three or four-day trip. If I have to use it alone on a shorter trip, it doesn’t particularly bother me that I’m carrying an extra 8 oz. I’m personally not going to spend another $75 just to have a slightly lighter and smaller bear canister for solo weekend adventures.
With a weight of 2 lbs 9 oz, the BV500 is about average. The carbon fiber Wild Ideas Bearikade The Weekender weighs 10 oz less but costs $229 more. And the Counter Assault Bear Keg weighs 17 oz more and is the same price as the BV500.
I don’t like carrying 2 lbs 9 oz but sometimes I just have to. It’s like being stuck in traffic. There’s nothing you can do about it, so it’s absurd to get angry about it. Besides, bear canisters make pretty good camp seats.
The BearVault BV500 has a black screw-top lid. There are two little locking tabs on the lid which are sloping on one side so they can pass through the locking tab on the canister when screwing on the lid. They are blunt on the other side so they will not pass back through the locking tab until you forcibly depress them. To unlock the canister, push in the tabs on the lid until they clear the tabs on the canister and unscrew the lid in one motion. It takes a couple of tries, but you get used to it pretty quick.
The BV500 has an opening with a diameter of 7”. This large opening makes packing and organizing your food easy. This is slightly larger than the Lighter 1 Big Daddy which has an opening of 6.7”, and a little smaller than the Berikade The Weekender which has an opening of nearly 9”.
How to carry a bear canister
I almost always carry mine horizontally near the top of my pack. I have done this with the Seek Outside Divide, Seek Outside Flight One, Hyperlite Mountain Gear Porter 4400, and the Superior Wilderness Designs Big Wild 70. It feels balanced and rides well there.
If I’m using a frameless pack like the Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus I have to carry it vertically. I don’t own a frameless pack large enough to carry the BV500 horizontally. When carrying vertically in a frameless pack, I recommend putting soft things, and maybe even a foam pad between the canister and your back so you don’t feel it poking you through the back of the pack.
The BV500 has several grooves running around the middle of the canister which helps keep it in place if you strap it to your pack. There are also little bumps all over the canister which prevent slippage. If you know for certain that you will be carrying your canister outside your pack, you’ll be happy with the textured surface of the BV500.
Bear Canister Comparison
|Make / Model||Weight in oz.||Cubic In||Days Food|
|BearVault BV450||33 oz||440||4|
|BearVault BV500||41 oz||700||7|
|Garcia Backpackers Cache||43.5 oz||614||6|
|Frontiersman Insider Bear Safe||48 oz||735||7|
|Wild Ideas Scout||28 oz||500||5|
|Wild Ideas Weekender||31 oz||650||6-7|
|Wild Ideas Blazer||33 oz||750||7-8|
|Wild Ideas Expedition||36 oz||900||9|
|Bare Boxer||26.3 oz||275||3|
|Lighter1 Big Daddy||43 oz||650||3|
|Lighter1 Lil Sami||28 oz||300||3|
|UDAP No-Fed Bear||38.4 oz||455||4-5|
|Grubcan Bear Resistant Container||43 oz||574||5-6|
|Counter Assault Bear Keg||58 oz||716||7|
|Ursack Major Bear Bag (10L)||7.6 oz||650||6-7|
|Ursack AllMitey Bear and Critter (10L)||13 oz||650||6-7|
|Ursack Major XL (15L)||8.8 oz||925||9|
|Ursack Major 2XL (10L)||15.7 oz||1830||18|
|Ursack AllMitey Grizzly Bear and Critter (20L)||13.8 oz||1221||12|
|Ursack AllMitey Kodiak Bear and Critter (20L)||15.3 oz||1850||18-19|
|Ursack AllMitey Bear and Critter (30L)||15.3 oz||1850||18-19|
The BearVault BV500 is a great choice if you know you will be backpacking often in places where bear canisters are required. Let’s face it, no one wants to buy a bear canister. They’re the least exciting piece of backpacking gear imaginable. They’re so undesirable that once your friends find out you have one, they will refrain from buying their own because they can just borrow yours.
All that said, they are required in many national parks, and renting can be a hassle, so it may be in your best interest to just bite the bullet and purchase one. I personally like being able to pack my food at home instead of in the parking lot of a ranger station. If you do buy one I’d recommend the BV500 because it’s reasonably priced, durable, and versatile. The 700 cubic inch volume carries seven days of food for one person or enough food for two people on a long weekend trip.
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