Are Bear Canisters Smell Proof? You’ll Be Surprised


We all know how great bear canisters are at protecting our food. Used by a countless number of hikers across the planet, bear canisters are easily the most effective food storage method when hiking and camping.

They might be great at keeping bears out of your food, but are you luring them into camp with the sweet smeels of human food? Are bear canisters smellproof and how can I minimize the risk of bears invading my camp?

Can Bear Smell Food in a Bear Canister?

Unfortunately, bear canisters are not smell-proof, but you can pack your food to minimize the smell. When used with special odor barrier bags you won’t have to worry about luring in wildlife. Since bears have an amazing sense of smell you definitely want to consider hiding the odor.

A Few of The Best Bear Canisters

ModelWeightCubic InDays Food
Bear Vault BV450
(Favorite Weekend Canister)
33 oz4404
Bear Vault BV500
(Favorite Extended Trip)
41 oz7007
Backpackers Cache43 oz6146
Frontiersman Canister56 oz7347
No-Fed Bear Canister
(Budget Pick)
38 oz5005
Counter Assault Bear Keg
(Premium Build)
56 oz7169
Bare Boxer
(Lightweight)
25 oz2753
Lil Sami21 oz3003
Big Daddy36 oz6506

Can Bears Smell

Bears are territorial that cover a lot of ground constantly searching for food. Experts think that bears have one of the best senses of smell out of all the animals on earth.

They can smell 2100 times better than a human for a total distance of about 20 miles. To put that into perspective, depending on the breed, dogs can only smell 100-300 times better than humans.

When your entire survival relies on your sense of smell you start getting good at finding food. They’ll go to great lengths trying to get into your bear bag/canister. Watch the video below of a bear dangling from a rope trying to get food.

Don’t Give Bears a Reason to Investigate Your Camp

Keeping bears out of camp is easier said than done. Throughout the years they’ve learned to associate humans with tasty food that’s high in sugar and fat.

There’s really no way to mask your scent, but you can reduce the chance of him finding your food stash. Just make sure you keep all the food and smelly items away from your campsite.

Bears aren’t the mindless killing machines that they’re made out to be. They’re just looking for a quick snack and rarely willing to start a fight(good luck).

How to Reduce The Smell of Your Bear Canister

Since bears have a really good sense of smell you’ll need to odor proof your food and smellable items. There are a bunch of cheap smell proof bags available currently, but OPSAK bags(On Amazon) are the only ones that actually work.

OPSAK bags are almost completely odor-proof and airtight. They keep your food fresh longer protect it from bears, rodents, racoons, etc.

What Foods Need to Go In My Bear Canister?

It’s hard to list all the foods that need to go in your bear canister. Just remember that anything that has even the smallest scent needs to go into your bear canister. You don’t want to attract wildlife into your tent at night putting you in danger.

  • Put all purchased food in the bear canister with commercial packaging removed. Repack everything in OPSAK Smellproof bags.
  • Place all scented toiletries in the canister. Soaps, lotions, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.
  • Used tampons, menstrual cups, toilet paper and so forth don’t need to go into the canister. Bears don’t want to munch on that nasty stuff.

Keep Your Bear Canister Away From Camp to Avoid Smells

Never bring your bear canisters and food into camp. You’re much better off preparing food, eating and storing the canister at least 100 yards downwind from your tent.

Store the canister on the ground hidden behind bushes/rocks. Anywhere that isn’t going to be easily found. It shouldn’t be anywhere that it can get knocked off a ledge or into water. Bears are going to roll it around and try to smash it open so you might want to add some reflective tape.

You should always keep the bear canister closed and locked even when you’re standing right next to it. Do you really plan on taking the time to lock the canister when your staring down a grizzly(I doubt it)?

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