BearVault Review

We tested and compared the BearVault bear canisters and this is our verdict.

August 16, 2022
If you purchase a product from one of our links below, we may earn a percentage from one of our affiliate partners. This does not impact how we review products. Read more about our review process and affiliate partners.

BearVault’s ubiquitous canisters are popular for a reason with their wide-mouth access, ease of use and affordable price range. They recently filled out their options with two new sized canisters, one mid-size and one small. There are only a few companies that offer bear cans that are lighter or offer a size not covered.

Model Weight Volume Volume-to-weight Volume-to-price Price Overall Score
BV500-Journey 2.5 lbs | 1.16 kg 11.5 L | 701 cu in 4.6 L per lb $7.64 per Liter $93 9/10
BV475-Trek - new! 2.2 lbs | 1.03 kg 9.3 L | 567 cu in 4.2 L per lb $8.92 per Liter $87 8/10
BV450-Jaunt 2.1 lbs | 940 g 7.2 L | 439 cu in 3.4 L per lb $10.69 per Liter $81 8/10
BV425-Sprint - new! 1.75 lbs | 800 g 5 L | 305 cu in 2.9 L per lb $13.99 per Liter $74 7/10

Product Overview

PROS:

Thru-hiker size

Great use as a chair

Packable outside of the bag

Wide mouth

CONS:

Too big for medium or short trips

KEY SPECS

  • Weight: 2.5 pounds | 1.16 kilograms
  • Price: $92.50
  • Volume: 11.5 Liters | 701 cubic inches
  • Height: 12.7 inches

This is a great option for the thru-hiker, longer trips or large groups, it also makes an excellent camp stool. Being able to load up for 7+ days is the name of the game for avoiding unnecessary resupply trips which makes this a great choice. If you need to carry as much food as humanly possible you will have to shell out the big bucks for the 14.7 Liter Bearikade Expedition.


PROS:

Versatile size

✅ Good for two people on a 2-3 day hike

✅ Wide mouth

CONS:

Does not attach well outside of pack

KEY SPECS

  • Weight: 2.2 pounds | 1.03 kilograms
  • Price: $86.95
  • Volume: 9.3 Liters | 567 cubic inches
  • Height: 10.5 inches

The 9.3 Liters of storage space is just enough for 3 days of food for two people making this a good option for couples looking to get away for a long weekend. This new canister size fills an important gap between only having 3-4 days (with the BV450) or 7+ days of food (with the BV500.) Still tall enough to make a good camp stool, but you and your sweetheart will have to do the cupid shuffle to see who gets the throne. My only complaint is the strap groove is located in the middle of the can, rather than near the ends, making it hard to secure outside the backpack.


PROS:

✅ Versatile size

✅ Packable

✅ Wide mouth

CONS:

❌ N/A

KEY SPECS

  • Weight: 2.1 pounds | 940 grams
  • Price: $80.95
  • Volume: 7.2 Liters | 439 cubic inches
  • Height: 8.3 inches

This very packable and versatile size is my bear can of choice for a longer solo trip. Being able to carry 3-4 days of food is more than enough for a long weekend plus space for toiletries. It fits well into almost any backpack and even though a bit small for sitting on for me, still doubles well as a cutting board for my cheese, salami, and cracker lunches.


PROS:

Good overnighter option

Packable

✅ Kids size

✅ Wide mouth

CONS:

❌ Not useful as a camp stool

❌ Low volume-to-weight ratio

KEY SPECS

  • Weight: 1.75 pounds | 800 grams
  • Price: $73.50
  • Volume: 5 Liters | 305 cubic inches
  • Height: 6 inches

This 5 Liter can is a good choice for a solo hiker getting out for an overnight or keeping your food safe from critters for an afternoon of fishing when your attention might be elsewhere. It’s also a good choice for a young backpacker that wants to carry their own sustenance, it’s small enough to fit in a children's backpack. If going tiny is your goal The BearBoxer Contender is the only bear can available that is smaller, coming in at 4.5 Liters.


Our Conclusion:

BearVault canisters are a classic and most popular canister found on the PCT for a reason. They are affordable, fairly lightweight, see-through, wide-mouthed and easy to open without needing an extra tool. There are a few companies that provide smaller or larger cans outside of the BearVault range. The two new additions to the BearVault lineup, the BV475 and BV425 do well to cover the entire range of sizes someone might need.


Performance Test Results

overall performance score

Weight

BearVault's bear canisters are above average for volume to weight ratio compared to other bear cans on the market made of similar material. Only the most expensive carbon fiber models are lighter. Compared among themselves, the largest BearVault, BV500, has the highest volume-to-weight ratio and it tapers off with the smaller containers.

bv bear canisters

There are lighter options available like the carbon fiber Bearikade, but you will have to pay to shave off that weight. The best volume to weight ratio is with soft-sided bear bags, but double-check they are approved where you intend to camp, and you know how to store them hanging from a tree.

bearvault

BV500: 9/10

The 11.5 Liter BV500 weighs 2.5 pounds (1.16kg | 40oz) providing 4.6 Liters per pound. This is a little better than other canisters of this size and material. For those wanting to shave off every ounce, you can compare it to one of the lightest available options, the 12.2 Liter Bearikade 750 which weighs only 2 pounds. This Bearikade comes to 5.9 Liters per pound, however, this carbon fiber model will set you back about $358.

bv500
BearVault's BV500 weighs 2.5 pounds or 1.16 kilograms.

BV475: 8/10

The 9.3 Liter BV475 weighs 2.2 pounds (1.03kg | 35.2oz) providing 4.2 Liters per pound. Again an average volume to weight ratio. Compared to the 8.2 Liter Bearikade 500 weighing 1.75lbs providing 4.6 Liters per pound, I'd rather save the $217 price difference for some.

bv475
BearVault's BV475 weighs 2.2 pounds or 1.03 kilograms.

BV450: 7/10

The 7.2 Liter BV450 weighs 2.1 pounds (940g | 33.6oz) providing 3.4 Liters per pound for an average vol/weight ratio. It has the same ratio when compared to the slightly larger 8.2 Liter UDAP No-Fed-Bear at 3.4 Liters per pound.

bv450
The BearVault BV450 weighs 2.1 pounds or 940 grams.

BV425: 7/10

The 5 Liter BV425 weighs 1.75 pounds (800g | 28oz) and provides 2.9 Liters per pound. This is the lightest BearVault model available. Not a great volume to weight ratio compared to larger bear containers. However it's not bad when compared to another of the smallest bear canisters, the 4.9 Liter "Lighter1 Lil' Sami" has a ratio of 2.8 Liters per pound.

bv425
The BearVault BV425 weighs 1.75 pounds or 800 grams.

Volume

BearVault's options range from 5 Liters to 11.5 Liters, or 1 day to 7+ days of food for one person. Other hard-sided bear canisters on the market range from 4.5L to 15L.

bv bear canisters

BV500: 9/10

This is the largest of the BearVaults at 11.5 Liters (3 gallons | 701 cu in.) This bear can is supposed to carry 7+ days worth of food for one person and I found that to be pretty accurate. If you pack some calorie-dense food you might even be able to squeeze another day or so out of it.

bv500
BearVault's BV500 can carry up to 11.5L or 7+ days worth of food.

BV475: 8/10

This new size fills the gap between the two original sizes at 9.3 Liters (2.5 gallons | 567 cu. in.) BearVault says this new size should carry between 5-6 days of food for one person and I find this just about accurate. I was easily able to carry enough for my girlfriend and myself for 3 days in this canister and have enough room for fragrant toiletries.

bv475
BearVault's BV475 can carry up to 9.3L or 5-6 days worth of food.

BV450: 8/10

The second to smallest BearVault is 7.2 Liters (1.9 gallons | 439 cu. in.) BearVault claims this container will carry 3-4 days of food for 1, which proved to be true for me too.

bv450
The BearVault BV450 can carry up to 7.2L of food that is good for 3-4 days.

BV425: 6/10

This new size is the smallest Bear Vault at 5 Liters (1.3 gallons | 305 cu. in.) BearVault claims this container can carry 1-2 days of food for 1 person, however, I found it might be a tight squeeze for 2 days worth.

bv425
The BearVault BV425 can carry up to 5L of food that is good for 1-2 days.

Price

BearVaults prices range from $70-$88. Bear canisters on the market range from around $65 to $395, making BearVault's options some of the most affordable.

bearvault bear canisters

BV500: 10/10

The largest BearVault (11.5L) comes in at $87.95 MSRP. When you compare the BV500's price per liter at $7.64 to a similar-sized bear can like the Big Daddy Lighter 1 (10.7L) which is $13.08 per liter, the BV500 is one of the most affordable bear canisters on the market for its size.

bv500

BV475: 8/10

This second largest BearVault (9.3L) on the market is $82.95 and is $8.92 per Liter. Another brand Garcia carries the Backpacker's Cache 812 (9.8L) is $6.63 per liter. It does feature a smaller opening than the BV475 but is quite an affordable option in this size.

bv475

BV450: 9/10

The BV450 (7.2L) costs $76.95 and is $10.69 per liter "UDAP No-Fed-Bear Bear-Resistant Canister" 7.5L is $12 per liter. The UDAP also has a small opening which can make putting large things like backpacker meals inside a bit difficult.

bv450

BV425: 7/10

The smallest option (5L) available is $69.95 and is BearVault's most expensive per volume, at $13.99/Liter. If compared to a similar-sized competitor, The Bare Box Contender (4.5L) is $16.66 per liter, and the BV425 has the most bang for the buck on the small end.

bv425

Ease of Opening: 9/10

All the BearVaults have the same opening mechanism. The lids are identical and interchangeable in fact. To open them you just unscrew the lid counter-clockwise until it stops, then press above or directly on each of the two small tabs until you can continue unscrewing. This can be a little tricky at first but with practice, it will get easier.

opening a bear canister

I find wrapping one arm around the canister and bringing your other arm over the top of the lid to both press the tab and rotate the lid to be the most effective method.

easy open

After a long day of hiking or rock scrambling my hands can be tender, or if it's cold the plastic can become rigid, so I'll often use a rock or a stick to depress the tabs. Some other brands of bear cans require a flat, curved piece of metal like a coin to unlock the canister. I don't like this idea, what if you lose your coin? What would be worse than being hungry and unable to open your bear can?

opening a bear canister

Because of the difficulty I've seen people have when opening these, I'm not giving the BearVaults a perfect score but they are much easier and more reliable to open than other comparable bear cans.

opening a bear canister

    Packability

    BV500: 7/10

    The largest BearVault container size is not surprisingly the hardest to pack. It only fits vertically inside a backpack, however, I gave it an additional point here since it is possible to attach the container to the bottom of the pack.

    bv500 packability
    The BearVault BV500 attached to the bottom of the pack.

    BV475: 6/10

    The second to largest BearVault I found almost harder to pack than the largest one. It also only fits vertically inside most backpacks, but it is a little too short to fit on the outside of a pack. It has built-in grooves designed to aid in attaching the can outside but are unfortunately in the middle of the bear can. Most backpacks have under-straps on the left and right sides of the bag so they don't line up with the BV475. I found it often falling out of the straps and gave up trying to store it outside.

    bv475

    BV450: 8/10

    The second to smallest of the BearVault containers is my favorite size. It is small enough to fit vertically or horizontally inside your pack and will carry enough food for 2-3 nights in the backcountry which is probably the average weekend warrior's typical overnight time.

    bv450 packability

    BV425: 9/10

    The smallest BearVault container is obviously the most packable. It fits in any orientation into an overnight bag and can even fit into a bigger day bag for someone interested in maybe going fishing for the day and might leave some food unattended for a while. It's also small enough to fit into a kid's bag for an independent young one who wants to carry their own food.

    bv425 packability
    The BearVault BV425 is the most packable among the other bear canisters in this list.

    Approval: 10/10

    All BearVault models are IGBC (Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee) approved. So they all score a 10 here.

    bearvault bear canisters

    Additional Uses:

    BV500: 8/10

    • Chair - The largest BearVault is the best at doubling doubles as a camp stool at 12.7 inches tall. As someone who is 6'2" the taller the better when it comes to finding somewhere to sit.
    • Water carrier - The BV500 can also be used to bring the most water to camp, carrying 3 Gallons. Especially useful if you want to filter a lot of water but the lake or creek is mosquito-infested.
    • Waterproofing - The BV500 is big enough that you could conceivably stuff your sleeping bag, electronics, and other things inside it in case of an unexpected downpour.
    • Cutting board - The lids of all BearVaults can be used as a cutting board, but remember it is plastic, and cutting on it will leave marks.
    • Speaker - Pop your phone inside an empty BearVault to help it resonate louder, just don't annoy your neighbors.
    hiker sitting on a bear canister

    BV475: 7/10

    • Chair - The BV475 is tall enough to make a decent seat. Again as someone who is 6'2" the taller the better when it comes to finding somewhere to sit, but maybe this would work better for you.
    • Water carrier - The BV475 can also be used to bring water to camp, carrying over 2 Gallons. Still beats going to the creek one or two water bottles at a time.
    • Waterproofing - The BV475 is also big enough that you could stuff your sleeping bag inside, but not much else, in case of unexpected rain.
    • Cutting board - The lids of all BearVaults can be used as a cutting board, but remember it is plastic, and cutting on it will leave marks.
    • Speaker - Pop your phone inside an empty BearVault to help it resonate louder, just don't annoy your neighbors.
    bv475

    BV450: 5/10

    • Chair - The BV450 could only make a decent seat if you're against just sitting on the ground. For a kid, this might be just the right size.
    • Water carrier - The BV450 can also be used to bring water to camp, carrying just under 2 Gallons.
    • Waterproofing - The BV450 is also big enough that you could stuff your sleeping bag inside only if it was on the lighter side, in case of unexpected rain.
    • Cutting board - The lids of all BearVaults can be used as a cutting board, but remember it is plastic, and cutting on it will leave marks.
    • Speaker - Pop your phone inside an empty BearVault to help it resonate louder, just don't annoy your neighbors.
    bv450

    BV425: 3/10

    • Chair - The BV425 isn't really big enough to be used as a seat. The only reason I can see wanting to use it as a seat is if the ground were particularly sandy or dirty, just to keep clean.
    • Water carrier - The BV425 can also be used to bring water to camp, carrying just over 1 Gallon.
    • Waterproofing - The BV425 isn't big enough to fit much inside that would need weatherproofing from the rain. You might be able to keep a pair of underwear dry if you're lucky.
    • Cutting board - The lids of all BearVaults can be used as a cutting board, but remember it is plastic, and cutting on it will leave marks.
    • Speaker - Pop your phone inside an empty BearVault to help it resonate louder, just don't annoy your neighbors.
    bv425

    Shop Here

    BV500

    BV475

    BV450

    BV425

    Dana Felthauser photo

    About Dana Felthauser

    Dana Felthauser is a climber who has thru-hiked the Annapurna Circuit Trek and Jiri-San mountains in Korea. He has climbed El Capitan over 4.5 days and summitted over 300 peaks.


    About Greenbelly

    After thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, Chris Cage created Greenbelly to provide fast, filling and balanced meals to backpackers. Chris also wrote How to Hike the Appalachian Trail.

    Stoveless Backpacking Meals
    • 650-Calorie Fuel
    • No Cooking
    • No Cleaning