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How Big Of a Bear Canister Do I Need? We Found Out!

You shouldn’t need to be a scientist to figure out how much food can go into a bear canister. Trying to figure out how much food will fit inside so many cubic inches is ridiculous. Luckily there’s an easy way to figure out just how much food will fit inside any container.

Determining how big of a bear canister you need all boils down to how many days of food you need. You can comfortably fit 1 days food in 100 Cubic Inches of space. So a 400 Cubic inch bear canister is going to hold 4 days worth of food. Or you could divide the total cubic inches of your container by 100 to get your total number of days.

How Much Food Fits Inside a Bear Canister?

For your convenience I’ve put a few of the most popular bear canisters into a table below. You might want to also check out a few of the Wild Ideas Bear Canisters, but they’re a bit pricey.

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
25 oz2753
Lil Sami21 oz3003
Big Daddy36 oz6506

You Don’t Just Store Food Inside Bear Canisters

Just remember that you don’t just store food inside your bear canister. You need to save room for all your tooth brush/paste, deodorant, spices and all those other smelly items.

That’s why I typically carry a container that’s a little bit larger than I actually need. Plus it’s never a bad thing to carry a little extra food. Nobody complains about having too many granola bars.

Personally I would go with either the BearVault BV450 or BV500. The BV450 is designed for solo hikers and the BV500 is perfect for a couple or extended trip. BearVault canisters are lightweight, moderately priced and hold a ton of food.

Get The Most Out of Your Bear Canister

Filling up your bear canister is easier said than done. Packing your food into a bear canister is all about filling up every little nook and cranny. Your goal is to eliminate all that gaps between items.

You need to eliminate all your hard sided containers for ziploc sandwich bags that will pack flat and mold around other items. On shorter trips I stick to the basics that pack well(oatmeal, rice, nuts, beans ETC).

Leave Room For Smellables

Remember that you need to leave enough room at the top of your canister for smell-ables. All your lotions, toothpaste, soap, deodorant that could possibly attract wildlife.

Basically anything that goes on your body or in your mouth needs to be packed away.

Don’t Pack Your First Days Food

Your first days food doesn’t need to go inside your bear container. Instead store the food in a gallon ziploc at the top of your pack. Since you should be eating the food before it goes into storage theres no reason to put it inside your bear canister.

What About Pots and Eating Utensils?

So should you put your trail-cleaned pots and cooking/eating utensils in a bear canister? Personally I do all my cooking away from camp and make sure everything is cleaned out well.

Cooking gear can definitely attract wildlife so store it away from your campsite. Whether or not I store cooking gear in a bear bag depends on where I’m staying and how much risk I’m willing to tolerate.

Camping in areas with a lot of bears do the safe thing and store your gear. In less risky areas I typically clean and store gear away from camp.