BearVault Review

Losing your food to a bear when miles away from the trailhead would certainly ruin your backpacking trip, but it could also put you or your group in danger if you lacked proper nutrition to continue your hike safely. Additionally, it’s vitally important to keep the bears wild. A bear that gets conditioned to human food becomes a nuisance, and they often have to be put down if relocation fails. When you’re out visiting the wilderness, it’s your responsibility not to lose your food. It’s such an important issue, that many wilderness areas now require backpackers to have a bear proof canister, and will not issue you an overnight permit if you don’t have one.

20 Lakes Basin
BearVaults make it easy when camping above timberline

Why use a BearVault?

There are a few bear proof canisters on the market, but I’ve been using BearVaults for five seasons now. The larger BV500 comes along with us most often, since it easily holds the whole family’s food for an entire weekend. The BV500 has a seven day capacity for a single person. With its four day capacity, I also use the smaller BV450 for solo trips, or when we need additional storage on longer outings or with larger groups. There are no special keys or tools needed to open the BearVaults, and being see-thru, it’s easy to find what you’re looking for without unloading the whole thing. The BearVaults have held up well to continued use, and are easy to clean at home with soap and water.

  • Protect the bears: Bears that get conditioned to human food often have to be put down
  • Losing your food to a bear would ruin your backpacking trip or could put you in danger
  • Required in many wilderness areas
  • Easier to use than hanging a bear bag
  • Don’t have to worry about hanging a bag when above timberline
  • Contents easy to locate thanks to see-thru plastic
  • Easy to use in the dark
  • Rainproof
  • Can be used as a chair with the lid fully closed
  • Excess capacity can be used for other kitchen supplies

BearVault vs Hanging a bear bag

It’s not always easy to hang a bear bag from a tree (especially at night), and many people end up doing it wrong anyhow. Many times when I’ve walked my BearVault out away from camp to set it on the ground, I’ll look up and see 50 feet of utility cord hanging out of reach from a nearby tree. Sometimes one end will have a stick or even a carabiner tied to it, remnants of  failed bear bag hanging attempts. Bears are smart and are excellent climbers. Even if these throws had been successful, the simple line over a tree limb may have been easily accessible to a bear. If you look up the proper way to hang a bear bag, it is actually quite involved, and may be out of most people’s skill level if not practiced. There are also situations when you’re above timberline with nothing tall enough to hang a bear bag from. With the bear proof canister, you simply walk the container a safe distance from camp and set it down. Anyone can do it, and it’s fairly fool proof. When placing your BearVault, keep in mind what would happen to it if a bear gets a hold of it. Don’t leave it right next to a cliff, steep hill, or body of water, or not even you may be able to get to it.

Easy open tip!

The BearVaults generally aren’t too difficult to open, but sometimes they are stubborn on cold mountain mornings when the strong polycarbonate plastic isn’t as pliable. Here’s a tip my friend showed me recently that makes opening a BearVault a snap!

First…line up the tabs, leaving a small gap.

Backpacking to Dardanelles Lake
Line up the tabs, leaving a small gap

Insert an old credit card or similar piece of plastic between the tabs and turn the lid. The tab on the lid is forced behind the stopper tab on the vault. Repeat with the second tab. No digging your thumbs and fingers into the hard plastic trying to get at your morning coffee!

Backpacking to Dardanelles LakeInsert the credit card between the tabs and turn the lid

Backpacking to Dardanelles Lake
And it’s unlocked!

More Information:

  • Weights: BV450 2 lbs 1 oz. BV500 2 lbs 9 oz.
  • More info on the manufacturer’s website:
  • Ready to purchase a BearVault now? Buy the BV500 or the BV450 online from REI and help support this website!

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