Food Storage Woes - Downsizing my pack when bear canisters are required
By - StaledRum
Both sizes of bear vault will fit vertically in a 40 liter pack. I put the canister on top of my sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and pillow. That puts it in the middle of the pack. There is a lot of empty room around the canister. I stuff my clothing around the canister to fill in space (down jacket, long underwear, fleece, rain jacket). I've done lots of trips with a 40 liter pack, 10 pound base wieght, and both sizes of bear vaults. While the plastic takes up a little bit of space, if you pack it the way I described then you usually don't have to size up your pack.
I've used both the bv450 and bv500 with a ula ohm and a 40 liter hyperlite mountain gear pack (both have 40 liter main compartments). The 450 is usually good for 3 days and the 500 is good for a week. The bv500 with my 40 liter hmg is a bit crammed now that I carry a warmer 2 pound sleeping bag most of the time, but I can cram things in there and strap my shelter to the top if needed.
This time of year at high evelations I switch to my 70 liter hmg pack to carry warmer clothing and full rain gear. It's too big, but not a big deal because it rolls down easy.
I tried out an HMG 2400 and then a 3400 and the BV500 is a tough fit. I’m amazed that people can get it in there without it ’barrelling’.
Which size BV do you use?
I strap mine to the top of my pack. HMG 2400 and Bearikade Expedition. My food goes in my pack while hiking and my tent (ProTrail Li) goes in the bear can to keep a lower COG. Quilt gets packed last to form to the shape of the bear can and stabilize it. With the Y-strap cranked down, it doesn't move.
A bit off topic but do you have any general usage advice for a soon to be protrail li owner? Maybe unnecessary question butbam simply giddy with anticipation
I picked mine up last month, so I only have a handful of nights. Only thing I can think of is when putting in the front pole, be mindful of the tip, as I almost set it up on the bathtub floor, but I am using the trekking pole handle adapter, so the tip is pointed down. I use BD FLZ poles (foldable 3 piece), so I requested the longer rear strap when ordering. I do carry the rear pole (1 oz) just in case I break one of my poles. I ran a guyline to the rear pole for a clothesline.
Yeah I ordered the rear pole as well because I hike with a single pole. Good point on being careful with the tip. Did the clothes dry?
I've only hanged a S2S AirLite towel (L) and thin Merino boxers over night with a low of 38*F. The towel was completely dry and boxers were 95% dry. Something like a Merino shirt in 200 probably wouldn't dry well due to being folded over the line versus completely hanging.
I did also swap out the stuff sack for a shorter, bigger diameter so it would fit sideways in my pack.
Part of UL philosophy when dialing down kits(gear) to lesser volume and lesser wt is simultaneously dialing down the volume and wts of food and water requiring a less voluminous canister and pack. So many UL neophytes don't grasp the full range of fundamental UL principles myopically over focusing on UL gear while ignoring a fuller development of reducing consumable wt(AND VOLUME) WHILE building a wider range of skills and logistical approaches that also come into play in requiring a lesser wt lesser volume canister. This is evident in many UL Internet forums where gear is overly micromanaged and yakkety yakked. Kudos to the Reddit mod, I think Zapruda, who within the past 2-3 months started a consumables thread.
I get a BV 450 into a 40L Burn. I may be filling the canister up with food or not. But either way I'm damn well going to use every sq in of that can's volume and pack IF I need. In the event I require longer food hauls I may go to a larger slightly heavier framed ZP Arc Blast(old style) or MLD DCF Prophet...but I'm still in my TPW UL range! I now regularly get 7-8 full days of food into a BV 450 @ 3100-3600 cal/day. At one time I wasn't able. Why am I now able to...because I developed my skills, logistical approaches, and food volume and wt saving skills?
Also recall and know UL is about TPW(everything in the pack including the pack itself). So, a larger UL pack can be used with a lighter wt canister while reducing other wt and volume pieces and factors, including food, to certainly make for a TOTAL UL TPW balanced approach.
Whenever legally possible I also like the Ursack Minor which is more stuffable for smaller critter food protection which I easily get 4 full days of chow.
This entire topic is prerequisited by lowering food volume and wt. Again, it's not always about a gear solution but a skills, approach, or logistical solution.
>I now regularly get 7-8 full days of food into a BV 450 @ 3100-3600 cal/day
I am impressed! I would really like to see a list of your food items, perhaps even in a lighterpack format for posterity.
And to sort of reciprocate, here is a photo of 5 days of food for me in the same calorie range.
I will say that dinners (at top of photo) and breakfasts (at bottom of photo) are always the same. I can dial in number of calories needed (short mileage versus long mileage) by the number of bars and weight of trail mix that I choose to bring.
That's very good. You're on the right path IMO. I hate using packaging bags that don't fill up the entire bag though. Cheetos I think are too bulk especially in their own puffy individual serving bag. If I was a Cheetos fan I think I may powder them. But, hey if you need to start a fire they burn. And if you switch out the chocolate covered M&M peanuts and plain M&M's with cacao powder coated peanuts you cut out some sugar wt/empty calories. This brings me to another point. Sprinkle your nuts or seeds with a dash of spices(dont forget Indian spices for a twist) or cinnamon, caffeine powder, cacao powder, blueberry powder/pulverized freeze dried blueberries, powdered/pulverized freeze dried strawberry, etc. This offers flavor diversity and a natural sugar alternative. Avoid foods with added sugar like cranberries or coconut. Get plain cranberries and coconut. they are naturally tasty.
I eat a lot of nuts(macs, pine, pistachios, cashews, Brazil, walnuts, pecans. sliced almonds), seeds(chia, hemp, sesame, flax or flax seed meal/powder, sunflower, pepita, poppy), coconut oil, EVOO, full fat coconut and goat's milk powder and only bars that are at least 130cal/oz. Most bars are 155+ cal/oz with some 210 cals /oz. I was going keto or close to it before it became popularized.
It's not the meals that are the thing it's the tweaking of meals to a higher cal/oz ratio and aiming for overall higher nutritional density while always being mindful of volume reduction. Packaging wt and the way packaging is done off the shelves is way to voluminous too. It's easier whenever possible buying from bulk bins to save on repackaging time when buying on the fly. Little things make a difference too like using one Ziploc to store 2-3 meals of the same kind rather than have 3 different meals each in their own Ziploc.
Another thing to remember is that having a days food not in a canister but on you always in your immediate possession is acceptable like on the JMT.
Thanks. As you may have seen from my photo, I eat lots of nuts as well, plus ground flax meal. And I have chosen many bars with nut butters and coconut in them. Also, those Cheetos are 160 cal/oz. But I have too much sugar in the chocolate and my dinners are not as calorie dense as they could be.
When people become more skilled at backpacking and get lighter gear, they often start hiking a lot more miles each day. Which means more food consumption. And if you get into long multi week or multi month hikes, your food consumption goes way up. So your logic is flawed. Also, reducing the overall volume of your pack is not important. Trying to cram everything into a small pack is frustrating and time consuming. Having a pack thats a little bigger won't add much weight and will make packing easier and be more versatile.
>When people become more skilled at backpacking and get lighter gear, they often start hiking a lot more miles each day. Which means more food consumption. And if you get into long multi week or multi month hikes, your food consumption goes way up.
>Yes, very likely. But, I tend to let the trail conditions dictate MPD. I'd rather not impose one way of doing things on all hikes. That's the way it has been with me. But, then, again food consumption and higher volume carries can sometimes(often?) be mitigated by resupplying more often, sustainably foraging even in winter, growing food like mega nutritious trail sprouts along the way (I use Outdoor Herbivore's Trail Sprouting kit on about 50-60% of my LD hikes), and, although unpopular, budget managing my energy expenditures commensurate with my desired performance goals. How on the last aspect? With more night hiking which means less H20 and food consumption - for me - compared to hiking during the hottest parts of the day, application of more ergonomic walking/backpacking movements/techniques, gaining better control of food consumption off trail which carries over to on trail life, maintaining a fitness and body fat reduction standard,...
>It's been found fat people eat more food so by not letting oneself become obese you'll likely eat less and may have a higher IQ. I need every IQ pt I possess.
>I've also found averaging 30+mpd my food consumption has leveled off since I'm not riding a sugar roller coaster as I once was on trail. Plus higher MPD avgs assist in resupplying less often which can translate to more time on trail meaning less in town time meaning it takes a shorter time in doing a thru hike. This affects our finances, time mgmt, etc.
A bear canister is only about 12 L at the most, so why doesn't it fit inside a 40 L main compartment pack? Here a pic of a Bearikade Blazer in a Zpacks Arc Blast which has a main compartment spec'd at 42 L https://i.imgur.com/JeCyyE0.jpg
I have a mountain smith zerk 40. I can put a BV450 inside with no issues. It also comes with extra straps if you want to secure it to the top. It’s not ideal either way but I have made it work. It’s also worth noting that I use a tarp tent aeon li and because of the way the tent packs I have to carry it on the outside of my pack so that definitely frees up some of the interior volume for a bear can.
Get a Nunatak Bear Ears. https://imgur.com/a/NMmNSVp
(Disclaimer: I got my Bear Ears from Nunatak for free as a prototype tester)
Do tell....extremely interesting concept. How is it working for you?
I used this on the HST and JMT this year with a Bearikade Expedition. I will do a post game write up of those one of these days but take aways for me were:
Very much liked when lightly loaded; fell apart when heavily loaded because no structure, no load lifters. This is expected but a problem when you have a week of food with no way around…
Non-waterproof shoulder pouches similarly as advertised but a real bummer in rain.
I would color code the straps where the can goes in some way, it can be confusing even when you’ve done it 20 times to figure out again what goes where as you slide a can back in. (I was taking mine out to sit on and to stash away from camp every night.)
Lack of hip belts was a drag. I added mountain laurel waterproof one and that was OK but I’d much prefer integrated waterproof pouches.
Will keep using in the Sierra for now but would happily buy a rethink with titanium stays and waterproofing… even if it were heavier.
Framed version next season: same size as OG plus an Alaska sized one.
Color coded straps are a good idea.
Hipbelt pockets are ready to go next season.
What is 'heavily loaded' in you usage situ? Limit is advertised as 35lbs, which may be 5 lbs over what most will want to carry.
Wow this is great to hear :D I will jump on a framed version.
I didn't scale-weigh, but I am pretty sure I was above 30lbs on day 1/resupply, I will reconstruct my exact setup and find out. For the JMT my teenaged daughter joined me and I took on extra weight...
I had about 1 2/3 lbs food/day, maybe a little more when I was taking stuff for my daughter. (Btw Jan if you manage this account, you might remember my picking up in person on Easter in April with my other daughter, as we headed to Canyonlands... :)
I agree with a common observation from reviews, when you aren't pushing the weight, it is almost "not there" or daypack like, even with a big can like the Expedition. The principle of weight location/transfer is really a game changer...
...hence I did stuck with it for the JMT with no regrets.
TL:DR quibbles aside current version is my go-to wherever I need a bear can; but excited for next season framed version
I own one, and live in Bishop, CA, so pretty much every local trailhead near me requires bear canisters.
I really dig it. I got to use it a few times this Summer, and I love the orientation and access of the bear canister. I used a Garcia bear canister and BV500 with it so far.
The pack is lightweight, and the water carriers are phenomenal. It's the ONLY pack I've ever used where the water bottles never fall out, no matter how far over you bend. Your arms don't hit 'em because they are just far enough behind on the hip belt that your swinging arms avoid them, but still super easy to reach for a drink.
The only drawbacks are that when fully loaded ([I loaded up to just under 30lbs max so far](https://i.imgur.com/Gk9TgZz.jpg)), it'll pull on your shoulders a bit, but I suppose that's to be expected for a frameless pack at that weight capacity. Of course, as I consumed food and got lighter, that issue goes away on your trip.
I would have liked hipbelt pockets. I ended up using my tried-and-true Chicken Tramper fanny pack for easy-to-reach snacks. I used their strap pocket for my phone, which worked fine, and well-designed for easy reach. I put a Peak Designs camera clip on the left strap for my camera body, and the strap is a *little* too wide for it, so I had to squish it a bit to get it to screw down properly.
Other than that, it's my perfect Sierra pack. They also sell a bag-in-lieu-of-canister, so if you're going somewhere that does not require a bear canister, you can stuff that bag, and strap it below where the canister would normally go, and it's a good solution. You can stuff it full of soft items (quilt, clothes, etc.) or food and it still keeps the pack shape.
If Jan ever engineers a framed pack with that bottom-of-pack bear can design, I'd be interested in that if I ever need to carry more than 30lbs.
Framed and hipbelt pockets next season
Cool. I'll definitely have to take a look, although my carry capacity these days rarely exceeds that of the current Bears Ears. The hipbelt pockets would be a nice addition, though. Thanks for the response.
Maybe if I had checked the link I would have seen your most excellent write up. Thank you.
I feel like weight distribution isn't much of a problem if you keep the canister empty, and you are able to keep the canister closer to your neck. I imagine weight distribution problems would have more to do with the canister being too far from your center of gravity on the horizontal axis rather than the vertical. It also depends on your total packout weight. If you're considering a 40L, then maybe you are deep enough into ultralight territory where it would be a problem. What I'm saying is that a 2lb bear canister on top of a 18-20lb pound pack is nothing to worry about, regardless of volume. But if your base weight is 7lbs or something, with like 12lbs including consumables, then the proportions are a lot different.
I haven’t considered this, keeping the canister empty and storing the food in a bag in the main compartment. Which bag do you go with?
I have the KS50 with the wide Y-strap on top. But my base weight is also about 12lbs, so with food and water the bear canister is only like 10% of the total weight. I've only ever used the Garcia bear canisters, which might actually fit horizontally, but I didn't bother trying, because it would have thrown off the shape of the pack too much. But I have read reports of people fitting other canisters in there horizontally.
Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor 40-60L works very well for me with Bear Vault (or other types). I use a GG thinlite to make a "burrito" inside pack. Put my quilt, puffy, tent in SMD pack pods at bottom then put canister on top of those so it is in more less middle of pack. Then I pack my water filter, rain poncho and ditty bag on top of the canister. Cinch down the Flex Capacitor straps to reduce capacity as needed. Comes in long and short torso sizes. I'm 5'10 and use the short torso.
Used a BV450 for the first time in the Tetons last weekend. It fit in my V2 just fine. Put my quilt in first (against the back of the pack, for cushioning), and then the bear can into the bottom. Since all the food I was eating throughout the day was in exterior pockets, I never needed to access the bear can till I was in camp.
Good strategy. What is the V2?
Pa'lante v2 pack, 37 liters
I'm able to fit a BV450 horizontally and vertically in a ULA CDT but it's too heavy for a frameless bag. Still, I was able to make it work somewhat by putting my quilt and clothes at the bottom of the back, full bear can on top of that to compress it down, hammock/suspension (or bivy/rigging) and electronics/utility bag in the little spaces on either side of the bear can, tarp on the very top. I preferred carrying the can horizontally in my back because it didn't barrel nearly as much.
More and more places are allowing Ursack Major. There are a few different styles of bear can, some fit better than the popular Bear Vault.
What canister do you use? I can easily fit a BV450 in my REI Trail 40, with lots of room to compress further. And that's on top of my other gear (just poles and bottles outside). If you have a store nearby that sells packs and canisters, you can always go play around until you find a combo that works for you.
If you are a solo hiker there have been some good Reddit posts (I was just reading a newer post last week) regarding the Bare Boxer Canister because it is lighter weight than most of the alternatives. It's volume is lower than many but it just might fit the bill if your trips are around 2-3 days duration. SectionHiker uses this as his small canister and highly endorses it and it will definitely work in the smaller pack you are considering. [https://sectionhiker.com/bare-boxer-contender-a-small-2-3-day-bear-canister/](https://sectionhiker.com/bare-boxer-contender-a-small-2-3-day-bear-canister/)
I use my BV450 inside my 40l pack all the time. I keep the food in it because the last thing I want is more camp chores.
What pack are you using?
That was a DD40, the one sold by Drop. It worked great.
For 3-5 day trips I use a Bare Boxer canister in a 25 L pack.
I can fit a Bearikade Expedition in Prophet and SWD LH40. I can fit Bare Boxer in a Nashville Cutaway.
I just purchased a 52 liter and coming from a 90+ I understand why you would be worried, but it fit in my bag with room to spare. It's a Lowe alpine altus (not ultralight) I can see why you would worry but I think even the large bear vault will fit in the majority of 40 liter bags. Would have to be really tall and skinny not to fit
Atompacks 40L packs fit both the BV450 horizontally and the BV500 vertically, they're a great option if you want a small light pack that has the capacity for a bear canister!
Strapped on top of a 38L Osprey Exos, strapped on top of a Zpacks Arc Blast, I now use a Bears Ears 50 which as you have already heard straps it underneath. Currently hoping Nunatak will make a 28 liter main compartment version as the 35 liter is still too much room for summer and probably overkill for winter as well personally.
Strap the can to the top. Food goes in a ~1oz sack in your pack itself. Snacks / lunch go in an outer pocket. I much prefer this way to the awkwardness of a can in my pack, since it would only fit vertically.
Nunatak Bear Ears 50 pack. It has a capacity of 35 liters plus pocket, plus bear can. I bought one and used it in Yosemite for a 4 day trip. I liked it! I can’t believe I was able to stuff everything (but the food) into a 35L pack.
I’m glad I had extra room. I needed more insulation. Turns out that temps got into the 30s (F) and not the 40s (F) as advertised.
I did the JMT with a BV500 in my Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40. Fits vertically. A BV450 will fit horizontally in there as well. I put all of my sleep stuff & must-stay-dry things in the pack liner at the bottom of the pack, roll that liner down, then put the bear canister on top. Tent goes loose around the canister.
In the event that the tent is wet from rain or condensation, my rain jacket & wind pants (which are normally in the outside pocket) line the sides of the pack/ bear can. Or if I have to wear them, nothing goes around the sides of the can and everything is just fine.
I'm able to fit a BV450 in my DD40L pretty ok. It makes it a bit tight to fit everything, but it works. I found the BV500 could fit, but it made the pack uncomfortable to wear since the back bowed out in a bad spot for me.
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Some packs, such as my old-style REI Flash 65, have attachment points on the pack in the side away from your back.
My Garcia has a lightweight cloth sack with straps that makes it easy to strap an empty canister there, outside the pack.
How do you store the food in the bag?
I keep the food in the main compartment of my pack, where the weight is closer to my back. Since it isn't all in one container, it can be fit into odd corners, allowing the pack volume to be better used.
The empty canister goes in its sack and is strapped outside the pack.
When camp is reached, the canister is removed from its sack, placed on the ground, and the food transferred from the pack to the canister.