photo of Rae Lakes, Kings Canyon National Park, CA

  Bear Canister Reviews

Middle Rae Lake

Canister Sizes

Small Canisters (275 - 300 cubic inches) - adequate for weekend trip for 2 people, but will be too small for longer trips
Medium Canisters (440 - 650 cubic inches) - the most popular size because for only slightly more weight they are large enough for trips for 1 person up to 5 days, or even longer.
Large Canisters (700 - 900 cubic inches) - great for extended trips with only a small increase in weight.

Gsrcia Bear Canister

Garcia Bear Canister  

Bear Canisters have proved to be very successful in reducing the number of bear incidents, which is why they are mandatory for backpackers in most national parks and many wilderness areas and national forests in California. However, only canisters on the National Parks' list of approved canisters qualify.

While the Garcia and the Bear Vault are by far the most popular, other approved canisters are available and are shown on our comparison chart. In choosing a canister, consider the size that best meets your needs.

The types of food you bring and how you pack them can make a difference in choosing the canister size. Remember that at night you will need to store all scented items (toothpaste, sun screen, etc.) in the canister along with your food.

Canisters can quickly fill up the interior of a pack. Many manufacturers sell sacks for the canisters so that they can be strapped to the outside of a pack.

Bear Canister Comparison Chart
Product Diameter Height Weight Capacity1 Capacity per Ounce2 Price3
1 cubic inches     2 Capacity divided by the weight of the canister     3Prices may vary depending on vendors
Bare Boxer 7.4" 8" 29.6 oz. 275 9.3 $60
Lighter 1
7" 9" 21 oz. 300 14.3 $95
Bear Vault 450 8.7" 8.3" 33 oz. 440 13.3 $47
UDAP 8" 10" 39 oz. 455 11.7 $70
Garcia 812 8.8" 12" 44 oz 614 14 $70
9" 10.5" 31 oz. 650 21 $288
Lighter 1
Big Daddy
8.7" 13" 36 oz. 650 18 $100
Bear Vault 500 8.7" 12.7" 41 oz. 700 17.1 $80
Bear Keg 9" 14" 58 oz. 716 12.3 $80
9" 12" 33 oz. 750 22.7 $312
9" 14.5" 36 oz. 900 25 $349

Bear Canister Comments and Reviews

    There are really only 3 basic designs of canisters:

1. Garcia Style

Made with ABS plastic, usually black. Small opening (about 5½") and an inset lid with twists locks that require a coin or small knife blade to turn. The canisters can leak if left in the rain. Items can be hard to find in the dark interior.

  • Garcia Backpacker's Cache - Inset lid and 2 twist locks that require a coin or small knife blade to turn.
  • Bear Boxer - Inset lid and 3 twist locks that require a small knife blade or nail file to turn.
  • UDAP No-Fed_Bear - Inset lid and 2 twist locks that require a coin or small knife blade to turn. Heavy for its capacity.
  • Bear Keg - Bright yellow, inset lid and 3 twist locks that require a coin or small knife blade to turn. Heavy for its capacity.

2. Bear Vault Style

Bluish-tinted, but fairly clear, polycarb cylinder. Rain proof. Screw on lids for some canisters can be difficult to open in cold weather. Wider openings than the Garcia style make for easier rummaging.

  • Bear Vault 450 & 500 - Clear polycarb cylinder. Lid twists on threaded top of cylinder, passes 2 catches to secure it. Can by a challenge to open in cold weather. Rain proof.
  • Lighter1 Lil' Sam & Big Daddy - Light weight, with lid that doubles as a cooking pan. Buy both as set and use the same lid for either. Cooking with the lid while leaving the canister open may not be such a good idea around opportunistic bears. Rain proof.

3. Bearikade

Bearikade Weekender Bear Canister

Sleek carbon fiber composite cylinder with a wide opening and 3 easy-to-turn twist locks (use a coin). It is rain resistant. The main drawback is its price.