Saturday, March 7, 2015

BearVault BV450 Food Canister - Review

Packing food for backpacking can sometimes be an issue.  If you are partial to zip-locks or stuff sacks, then your food can get crushed - particularly if stored in the bottom of your pack.  If you backpack in bear country, or somewhere with other large scavengers, then you need some means to protect your food at night.  Bear bags are often the first consideration of campers; but they are outlawed in several State and National Parks because bears have learned how to knock them down; plus, you still have the potential of crushed food in your pack.  I used to lash my food bag to the outside of my pack, but that threw off the center of weight and always seemed to shift around.

I was resistant at first to trying a bear canister - mostly because they seemed heavy and bulky.  Now, I have changed my tune, and I use my canister even when not in bear habitats.  I chose the BearVault BV450 Solo Food Canister.  It is a 2lb 1 oz, translucent (see-through), polycarbonate cylinder - 8.7 inches dia. and 8.3 inches tall.  It holds 7.2 liters, which is supposed to be 4-days worth of food for one backpacker - in use, I’ve found that it holds 3-5 days worth of food for one, depending on my planned recipes; or it can handle the larder for 2 campers for 2 days.

I’ve found that the fat, squat, canister fits neatly in the bottom of my backpack (Osprey Talon 44), with room alongside it to stuff my tent vertically, or my emergency/survival pack; and there is still plenty of room above it in my pack to provision for a 4-5 day outing.  That keeps the weight down low in my pack, and the canister prevents crushing.  I usually pull out my lunch and snacks for the day in the morning and store them in a separate pouch for easy retrieval; but if I forget, luckily the Talon 44 has a bottom zipper to allow me easy access to the canister.

In camp, the canister also makes for a handy stool when the lid is on it.  The top lid screws on and off, and has a simple depression notch (like a child safety top) to secure it and prevent animal access.  In cold weather the lid is less flexible and can be tough on your fingers to depress the notch; but you can use any improvised tool for assistance (i.e., a stone, pocket knife, spork, etc).

At night, it’s nice to know that your food is secure, and not have to mess around with trying to hang it appropriately in a tree (there never seems to be a good branch at the right height anyway).  The canister can just be placed on the ground about 210-ft downwind of your camp, and even if a bear wanders by it won’t be able to open the canister - it might kick it around a little, but hopefully you’ll find it.  The canister also deters mice and other rodents, which are probably more likely to get your food than a bear.

There are several different makes and manufactures of bear canisters to choose from.  Not all canisters are approved in all areas, though - the BearVault is generally approved everywhere except for the Mt. Marcy dam area of the Adirondacks (where a particular bear has figured out how to open them).  I like the BearVaults for their see through exterior, which helps to find what you are looking for; but you might want to consider what shape of canister may fit best in your pack (or lash easily to the outside).  

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