We apologize for stating the obvious, but this reminder to keep bears out of your food isn’t just a practical one, but it’s essential for the wellbeing of those giant prowlers, too.
Bears aren’t big fans of people, say forestry experts at the National Park Service ( read more ), but once they get a taste of human food, they’re not stupid.
Garbage consumption can turn people-averse bears into “aggressive, unpredictable and dangerous” creatures so why not become a bear advocate and bring either a bear bag or bear canister on your camping trips?
We’ve got suggestions. We didn’t check with the bears, but we’re pretty sure they would approve of our selections since these products are in their best interests, too!
Ursack Major Bear Bag – Our Pick!
If the pun “Support the right to arm bears” gave you a laugh years ago, this 7.6-ounce bulletproof Spectra fabric bear bag, designed to prevent bears from getting your food while you’re backpacking and camping, is likely to get your attention.
Appropriately packed, this sack can hold about 5 days’ worth of food per camper, measuring about 8(D)-x 14(H)-inches when cinched closed, this product will keep everything safe.
No worries that a super bear can get hold of this gem: The integrated 6-foot length of 2,500-pound tensile-strength cord will make sure your food stays put.
Add an OPSak odor barrier bag or aluminum liner (both sold separately) to double your chances of keeping your food safe.
We’re not sure who serves on Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC), but they’ve tested this product and found it to be a solid bag offering a tighter weave offering you more than double the tear strength of previous models.
Osprey UltraLight 12 Dry Sack – Also Great!
If the rather pricey Ursack profiled above is out of your price range, spend about 75-percent less on this highly-rated Osprey Dry Sack, available in colors bright enough to stand out against a forest landscape (electric lime; poppy orange; shadow grey and tropic teal).
For some reason, the teal version costs 5-cents less, but all of these bags are made from tough, imported, 40D Rip-stop nylon.
The roll-top enclosure not only helps to tamp down the food in the sack, so it’s not as available to inquisitive claws, but that closure feature is waterproof and helps compress the contents, too.
The rectangular shape of this dry sack allows you to pack food more efficiently into the interior, and whether you’re likely to run into a Polar bear in the Antarctic or a forest scavenger with a taste for human food in temperate climates, since this bag’s dry weight is when empty is only 1.5-ounces, it won’t overly-burden your gear bag either.
Sea to Summit eVAC Dry Sack
This unique Dry Sack comes in so many sizes, you never have to worry about a good option for the food you’d like to keep safe from marauding bears, yet each version of this handy product is light and slim.
Manufactured with a waterproof, air-permeable eVENT® laminate base, this bag has the ability to allow air to circulate within the bag while still making sure that neither water nor critters can get inside.
The reinforced stitching on this polyurethane-coated nylon product doubles down on strength, and the non-wicking Hypalon roll-top closure locks in place with a buckle so there is no need for compression straps to keep it closed tightly.
Lie this sack on its side, and it won’t roll anywhere, and the buckle can be replaced with just a screwdriver should you need to make repairs.
Choose from bags with gear capacity of 8 liters (17- x 8- x 5-inches), 13 liters (20- x 9- x 6-inches), 20 liters (24- x 11- x 7-inches) or 35 liters (28- x 13- x 8-inches). Every one will frustrate and confound the furry foragers roaming around your campsite.
Garcia Bear-Resistant Container
Perhaps you should ask the next bear you encounter to recommend a retailer so you can buy this container since it sells out everywhere and there’s good reason to believe that bears everywhere are stockpiling them so they can get their paws on human food.
Get 614 cubit inches of food storage within this ABS polymer container designed with smooth sides and rounded edges so getting a grip on these canisters is likely to dissuade any bear from trying to retrieve the goodies inside.
Use the stainless steel locks to gain access to the compartment within using a coin or screwdriver and then pack your food into the food-grade plastic bags including with this unit.
At 12- x 8.8-inches, this isn’t the biggest container on the planet but at just 2 pounds; 12 ounces, you can stow 10 liters of sustenance inside, so make sure you include dessert when you pack it. Can’t find this Garcia anywhere despite your best efforts?
Check out this similar alternative.
Liberty Mountain Stuff Sack
If you’re in dire financial straits and need to improvise by purchasing a basic stuff sack that can be used to safeguard your snacks from bears, this bright green product could suffice if you secure it properly so it is out of reach to inquisitive and hungry bears.
Crafted of 210D coated oxford cloth, these Liberty Mountain stuff sacks feature drawstrings and cord-lock closures, and the rounded bottom gives you access to a grab handle that helps you tote this bag around.
Weighing just 1.76-ounces and measuring 8.6- x 9.5- x 1.1-inches, you can probably afford to purchase more than one of these stuff sacks.
Since the smallest of the bunch in this collection of bear safeguards costs about the same as a burger and fries — and you’re certainly more deserving of the food that you are trying to protect from bears, right?
Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack
Welcome to the mother lode of dry sacks; in fact, this library of 6 sacks covers your need for precisely the amount of space you require to do everything from keeping food safe from bears to keeping camping items bears may covet secure in one place.
What size do you require? Choose from a sack that’s as small as 2 liters and as large as 35-liter capacity. If that’s not enough, you get a choice of 5 colors, though if you read the fine print, you’ll discover that “specific color requests cannot be accommodated.”
Affordable pricing makes up in quality what you lose in color choices and you can’t beat the tough, siliconized Cordura® nylon fabric used to craft these bags for tenacity.
Each one is weatherproof, lightweight and durable. Waterproof seams are double-stitched and factory-taped for added weather protection and Hypalon watertight roll-top closures keeps contents secure and protected.
While not made to be submerged in water, these bags feature with the brand’s signature Field Repair Buckle that can be replaced with just a screwdriver in the event you need to make repairs.
BearVault BV500 Food Container
When a sack won’t do it and only a tough, sturdy canister is good enough for leftovers of the cowboy stew you cooked over last night’s campfire, get your hands on The BearVault BV500, a container that is so tough and solid, roaming bears don’t get their paws on your food if they tried.
Durable polycarbonate construction is lightweight and the large rainproof lid with bump/tab locking mechanism screws on and off easily.
The cleverly designed dimpled exterior keeps tie-down straps from roaming and according to the BearVault folks, the plastic from which this container is made “helps suppress strong odors from food, sunscreen, insect repellent, biodegradable soap and toothpaste, lessening the chance of bear vs. human conflict.”
All it takes is a mild dishwashing soap to clean out this translucent vessel. Approved by both the Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group and Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, this isn’t the least expensive bear deterrent on the list but if the safety of your food is essential, why worry about price?
KastKing Dry Bag Waterproof Roll Top Sack
This handy roll-top sack offers you so many features and colors, even smart bears won’t be able to overcome the challenges it takes to penetrate these bags.
You have three size choices (10, 20, and 30 liters) and a rainbow of color choices and model types. What is likely to get your attention first? The clear see-through window panel allows you to see what’s inside the sack without having to unpack a thing.
Tough, durable 100-percent waterproof 500D PVC material, fusion welded seams, and a removable, adjustable shoulder carry strap all add to the value of this affordable product.
You can drop this bag in the water because the sack’s watertight double overlap roll top keeps contents dry, and this bag is so versatile, it meets waterproof, snowproof, sand proof, and dustproof standards.
Check out all of the sizes and colors. KastKing will even let you choose the color you prefer!
Counter Assault Bear Keg
This highly popular yellow keg means business, say shoppers who search for this product and come up empty, but you can probably find one at Cabela’s if you luck out elsewhere.
Talk about simplicity. This 716-cubic inch receptacle is impenetrable, even for bears with highly-refined tactile skills and it meets or exceeds all of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee Recommendations for Bear Deterrents.
In fact, the many U.S. and Canada National Park Systems mandate these kegs so you won’t find yourself considering bearicide should a lumbering giant take aim at your food and succeed.
Measuring 9- x 14-inches, this bright yellow polymer blend keg can safeguard between 6- and 8-days’ worth of food from all kinds of creatures and at just 3.5 pounds, it won’t weigh down your gear either.
Need a testimonial you can take to the woods? According to Mike, who favors this keg, “I’ve tried other products but the bears learned how to open them!”
Bearikade Expedition Canister
If you’ve been put in charge of securing the food, you’ll need for longer trips or larger groups, seek no more. Acquire one of these storage products, and if you’re on your own, you can stow food for up to 12 days or safeguard 3-days’ worth of food for three people.
How pricey is this 14.5-inches long 36-ounce container that offers you 900 cubic inches of capacity? You could buy almost all of the other products featured on our list for a few more bucks, but can you put a price on a canister that safeguards food for nearly two weeks? Probably not.
In terms of a quality product, you won’t find better. Preferred by National Park Service Rangers, Wildfire Fighters, Search & Rescue, U.S. State Department, Boy Scouts of America, and Alaskan Hunting Guides, Bearikade food canisters could outlive you, since the first 300 Bearikades issued to the NPS in 2000 remain serviceable today.
Availability could be sketchy because demand has been huge, but if you put in your order, it will be filled just as soon as possible.
How to Keep Bears Out of Your Food
Even though bear attacks are rare – “you’re twenty times more likely to be killed by a cow than a bear in any given year,” say wildlife experts writing for ReadyWise.com.
But keep in mind the fact that bears’ sense of smell is around 600 times better than that of humans, so you’ve got a worthy adversary in your battle to keep all of your food for your own consumption.
Even sleeping in the clothing you wore to cook can impel a bear to check out the occupants in your tent.
What exactly are bears attracted to?
They don’t have discriminating palates. They’ll happily tackle human food, pet food, garbage, pots and utensils that haven’t been cleaned properly and items that sound extremely unappetizing like the stove and lantern fuel, insect repellants, cosmetics, and lotions.
Employing bear bags and canisters is your solution to discouraging bears, and one of the ways to do that is to put foods contained in either type of product at locations that can’t be reached and at least 100 yards away from your tent.
Avoid pitching your tent in areas near berry patches and other tempting vegetation and safeguard garbage, too.
Bear Canister vs Bear Bag
According to camping pros writing for the website TheHikingAdvenure.com, while a choice between the two often depends upon personal preferences, as a general rule, bags are almost always lighter and less bulky than stiffer canisters.
But bags are less likely to survive attacks from powerful paws and claws, despite the promises made by manufacturers that their bags can’t be penetrated by these foragers.
Of course, if the bear can’t find a way to get his or her paws on your food bag, even the lightest stuff sack could do an adequate job of keeping bears at bay, though if the fragrances emitted by the bag are so compelling, a creature could resort to creative means to reach the sack, so you’re pretty much screwed.
Canisters can be a pain in the neck to drag around despite the fact that they are most likely to safeguard anything you stow in one of these plastic vaults, but keep in mind the fact that stuff sacks are so much more versatile than kegs because you can use them to transport a wide variety of camping essentials.
That stated some national parks require the use of a canister to protect food stores, so always check if you’re going to a campground known for its bear population.
How much capacity will you need?
Comparing bag capacity to canister capacity isn’t easy because stuff bags, mainly, are made from textiles designed to stretch out in direct proportion to the number of items you pack inside.
Size usually determines whether or not a product is likely to serve your needs. Finding the right size is no big deal.
Items on this list range from 2 liters to 35-liter capacity so you’re only constrained by the amount of stuff you intend to haul that will require safeguarding from all manner of interlopers that run the gamut from bears and other critters to the occasional hiker who somehow managed to set off without a proper amount of food in their rucksack.
Where and how to hang a bear bag
- Choose a location that is at least 200 feet from your camp that is downwind
- Locate a tree with a strong branch that is situated at least 20-feet off the ground and 6-feet from the trunk
- Tie the bag to a thick, sturdy rope using a carabiner to secure it
- Toss the other end of the rope over the branch and pull on the rope until the bag is aloft
- Tether the rope to the trunk of the tree so you can retrieve your bag relatively easily.
Where and how to position a bear canister
Some of the best advice you’ll ever get about how to position a canister that contains items you don’t want bears to get their paws on can be found here.
Use your common sense to make sure that you don’t inadvertently put your container at risk by perching it atop a rock, too close to the edge of a cliff or adjacent to a body of water that ebbs and flows or Mother Nature could snag it during the night when the tide goes out, beating the bears to your stash.
Check the requirements in your area
According to Andrew Skurka, whose website is devoted to all things camping related, “Hard-sided canisters are increasingly the go-to solution for land managers who want to reduce wildlife/food conflicts.”
These hard-sided containers are now required at these popular destinations:
- Adirondack High Peaks
- Canyonlands National Park
- John Muir Trail
- Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness in Colorado
- North Cascades National Park
- Olympic National Park
- Pisgah National Forest
- Rocky Mountain National Park
- Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park
- Sierra National Forest
- Yosemite National Park
This is by no means a comprehensive list of destinations, so always check with the park you intend to visit to find out whether you need to bring one of these deterrents.