Gear review:BearVault 450 bear canister

It was  4am and I was lying in my frosty tent in the Sierras, thinking how splendid a hot beverage would be right now.  I was hungry as I hadn’t eaten dinner the night before because I was low on food and one of the ways I ration my food is to skip dinner.

I was thinking: for the same weight as the bear canister I could have brought my stove, pot, fuel canister, and 5 snicker bars.   Right now, I could be drinking a hot beverage and eating a snicker bar.   That would be good, but instead I have a bear canister.

I reached out of my tent, grabbed my frosty bear canister, tried to open it—it didn’t budge.     I straddled it and tried to open it,  it wouldn’t turn a bit—it was completely locked up.   And that is when I renamed my BearVault 450 bear canister: my “Goddamn, Piece of Shit!” bear canister.

The next food was 50 miles a way and it wasn’t 50 easy miles.  It was 50 of the hardest miles on the PCT.    I angrily broke camp, stuffed my  icy tent into my pack, and stomped off into the darkness.

Although I was mad and hungry there was a little part of me excited about the challenge of hiking 50 miles without food.

About 10am  I met a couple that I had been seeing off and on since Ashland.   I told them my bear can story.   He tried to open it but couldn’t get it to budge.    He brought out a big pocket knife and tried to pry it open with the can opener.   He brought out a tent stake and picked up a big rock and tried to break open the lid.     Nothing.   Then his wife straddled it and he tried turning it with all his might.   It finally, to my great joy,  opened.

I never locked it again.  From then on I slept with my unlocked can next to me.

I told someone I met on the trail  my bear can story.  He told me he had to take a lighter to his lid to soften up the plastic.

I bought the bear canister in ’07.  When it arrived at Kennedy Meadows, I couldn’t open it.   Someone else wrestled it open for me.      A couple days later the same thing happened but again someone else was able to open it.   I thought then that this bear can could be trouble, but after that I didn’t have a problem with it.

I used it again in ’08 through the Sierra’s and didn’t have any problems with it but then I usually sleep with it and leave it unlocked.

Billy Goat carried a bear can for the first time this year.  The same one as mine but  his was the new one with 2 locks.  I warned him not to lock it but he accidentally locked the first lock and couldn’t get it opened.   I tried to open it but I accidentally locked the second lock.   Another hiker was able to open it using some tool.  He was mindful of never locking it again.

On the Bearvault website they say they will send you a free tube of lube for your canister.  Maybe that would help but I’m not sure I would risk being locked out of my food again.   And since I’m not going to lock it, why carry it.

BearVault 450 info: weighs 32.04 ounces (918 grams) I have fit 200 miles of food in it– 18,500 calories.

About crow

Hermit, long distance hiker, primitive cabin dweller, seeker.
This entry was posted in Adventure gear and techniques, Pacific Crest Trail. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Gear review:BearVault 450 bear canister

  1. David says:

    Great review – thanks for your honest take on it. Sounds infuriating.

  2. Donald says:

    When we hiked the Sierra’s we just bear bagged and hung our food. Same in the Rockies and Yellowstone. I’ve never bothered with the canister, and (knock on wood) so far have never had a problem. Bear canisters just always seemed to be another way for outdoor companies to separate cash from the hiker.

  3. Badtux says:

    I have this can. I had the same problem. I looked at what tools I had available and chose one: a quarter. Yes, the coin. Move lid to where its jutting-out part is almost touching the peg. Insert coin between lid and peg. Twist. Voila. The trick has worked every time since.

  4. crow says:

    Hey Badtux,

    Thanks for the tip. I think that is how the hiker got into BillyGoats can, but my lid wouldn’t move at all. You know how the lid moves even though it’s locked? Well, mine wouldn’t move any.

    I think I have decided to not carry a bear canister any more. It’s too big of a risk to take not be able to get to my food.

    I never carried it because I was afraid of bears, I carried it so the rangers wouldn’t bother me.

    I don’t sleep in established campsites, I don’t camp around water, I don’t camp within 20 miles of Tuolumne Meadows, and I sleep with my food stored in a odor proof bag.

    I have been in the Sierra’s 5 times now and have never been asked to show my bear canister. I don’t think they have the right to search your pack anyway. I saw people’s JMT’s permits—they only required a bear canister in Yosemite National Park. I did hear stories of people getting their packs whacked by a ranger to see if they had anything hard in it all through the Sierra’s.

    If you go to http://sierrawild.gov/bears/jmtpct to get info about carrying a bear canister it says “content pending”

    I also have never seen a bear on the PCT in the Sierras. I’m sure there out there and I’m sure if you fried up a bunch of bacon for dinner over a campfire near Tuolumne Meadows and hung your food, that you would have a good chance of having a bear encounter.

    Bear canisters are a good idea for people who cook where they camp, for people that camp in established campsites, for people who refuse to sleep with their food, and for people who lose sleep worrying about bears.

    Bears climb trees really well. I’ve seen shredded food bags flapping in the wind in a place where you think a bear couldn’t get to it. I’ve also seen so many bags hanging right next to trees that bears could have easily gotten to.

    I’ve had bears come to my tent, but never in the Sierras and always in an established campsite near civilization. If a bear visits me in the middle of the night, I pack up and move on.

  5. Phil says:

    Started backpacking in Yosemite as at age 15, the authorities/rangers work very hard to put the fear of bears into everyone. Sure there are lots of dumb ‘Merican tourists who think that precautions are for sissies and they ruin the entire Sierra experience for everyone..but I have never lost my food while hanging it in the backcountry.

    My bear canister is a pain in the ass, but rangers on the hunt for a victim are worse.
    I took a file to my canister locking “nubs” seems to open easily now while still being somewhat secure.

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