Our Guide to Bearproof Storage Devices

Bear canister

Our mission is to get people outdoors. Since most people aren't enthusiasts who venture outside regularly, you can buy or rent bear canisters. Specifically, about our bear canister rentals:

  • We rent bear canisters that are higher end than those rented elsewhere, but still offer competitive pricing
  • We offer a rent-to-buy program so you don't have to worry about losing money from renting
  • Our self-service allows you to hire bear canisters whenever is convenient for you

Core function: Bearproof storage device keep your food safe not just from bears, but also small critters (racoons, squirrels, etc.). In turn, this prevents animals from becoming habituated to humans and increases safety for everyone. In some parks, bearproof storage devices may be mandated (you can be fined without one). In many car camp sites in parks where this is a requirement, a fixed "bear box" may provided; always double check (and check that the space is sufficient for you needs). When going backpacking, you will need your own bearproof storage device that's portable, and this is the scope of our guide. By the way, bears have an incredible sense of smell. Just because your food is in a can or sealed container (or even in a car), doesn't mean you're exempt from regulations on bear canisters--the law is there for a good reason! For more info on bear safety, check out our protip.

Do you really need it?

Check the park regulations for where you're going. In many parks in California, you will need a bearproof storage device. Which means if you're going backpacking, a portable bearproof storage device is essential. If you're just visiting from a place where bears aren't an issue, just rent a bear canister! Then you won't have to buy an expensive item that really only serves one main purpose! .

For more info, read our 'what you really need' protip

What we carry

Type or Style Bear canister
Model Bear canister
BearVault 500


MSRP with tax

Rent $6+
Capacity 11 Liters
Weight 41oz
General Notes
  • We choose what we carry based on extensive research on what's the best value to our customers (e.g., price given performance & durability features) across all the top brands. We specifically do not carry every brand & model; for details on why we do/don't carry certain items in the following What To Use & How To Choose section
  • Buy prices a grayed out box indicates we don't sell it (we may only rent bear canisters of this model)
  • Rent prices are the starting prices; enter trip dates on our Catalog to get exact prices (based on total trip length, not per day!). We also don't charge sales tax, an automatic savings of almost 10%!

When you hire bear canisters online, you can select from available options or we'll pick out something for you. You can also write-in any preferences on the last page of checkout. This section describes the majority of our models & options, but sometimes we carry others.

What to use & how to choose

Sometimes it's easy to get lost in all the hype of something new (over-spending often happens on features). Our guide focuses on the fundamental factors you should always keep in mind (thus, this short list is similar across all items). Then only at the end do we have some questions to get you thinking about other minor features. Also take advantage of renting bear canisters to try out what works for you!

We highly recommend reviewing Type or Style first, where we review what you can use to address the Core function--a regular item you have at home may work! The other factors are secondary & depend strongly on the Type or Style you've picked; in fact, for other factors data charts are generally only for a specific Type or Style that we carry (e.g., as a gear shop, would be outdoor-specific products).

We've organized the most commonly used items people use to address the Core function below, with example images, characteristics, features, etc.

Name Bear canister Bear bag
Example qualities & features Example images Bear canister Bear bag
Material Hard plastic Bulletproof fabric
Is it transparent
Can you easily see where things are inside?
Does it keep food from being squished? Only with aluminum liner (sold separately), but not a foolproof solution
Does it trap odors from attracting animals? Only with OpSaks (odor-proof sacks) sold separately
Is it approved for use by all parks?
Be sure to check with your park to avoid fines
Effect on other factors Weight 28-45oz
Size Like a small stool* Compacts down when empty
Rationale Hard plastic Soft fabric bag

Why we do/don't carry it

= we rent
= we sell

Standard for most outdoor uses

Not approved by all parks

*Though it's not very compact, some people take advantage of an empty bear canister as a water resistant case. A ~11 liter model can generally fit some sleeping bags really well, for example.

While capacity is of course a spectrum, most bearproof storage devices are sized at these "breakpoints". While we don't carry every size, if we have something different than what you've used, you can rent the bear canister to experiment with what capacity is best for you.

Liter capacity 5-7 liters
(300-450 cubic inches)
10-12 liters
(600-750 cubic inches)
15 liters
(900 cubic inches)
Good for 1 person for roughly...* 3-4 days 6-7 days 9+ days
Rule-of-thumb: you need 1.6 liters (100 cubic inches) of space in your bearproof storage container per person per day for food. Then adjust based on 1) actual headcount, and 2) personal care products (e.g., sunscreen, toothpaste, deodorant, bugspray, etc.) that also need to get stored
Fits most comfortably into a hiking backpack with capacity of at least... 50 Liters 60 Liters

Why we do/don't carry it

= we rent
= we sell
Having to put personal care products in a bear can often pushes it to the higher size anyway & not really worth it (it's not that much smaller or cheaper)

Standard for most outdoor uses

Only available as an ultralight, which we explictly don't carry (see Weight & Size section)

*If you're curious how people hike for months on end, the answer is: 1) they get care packages sent out with more food, 2) not every area they pass through will require a bear canister.

If you're thru-hiking 20+ miles (32+km) per day, every advantage counts! In this case, size refers to compactness. You can carry more gear in the same size backpack if all of it is very compact, or for more weight savings, you can get a smaller size pack.

Bear canister Regular Ultralight
11 Liter
Size (Capacity)
Weight 41-45oz
Effect on Price $80 $290
7 Liter
Size (Capacity)
Weight 33oz
Effect on Price $70 $255
Rationale for effect on Price Less technical material More technical material

Why we do/don't carry it

= we rent
= we sell

Standard for most outdoor uses
Much more expensive relative to the improvements on weight savings

Here, we give you a list of questions to start thinking about other features. We hope our approach of savings these features for last gets you to more critically think about what you need & not get caught up in the hype of what's cool and over-spend your budget. Remember, we allow you to hire a bear canister so feel free to try out various models with different features.

  • Does it require a coin or key to lock or open?
  • Can it be used as a seat? (even when empty)
  • Does it come with a carrying case (for when you're transporting it in the city to your adventure)?

Usage tips

All portable bearproof storage containers should be kept away from camp, though the distance appears to vary, some manufacturers will say at least 100ft (30.5m) away, some experts will say at least 15-20ft (5-6m) away is enough. In any case, definitely don't place it near a cliff as it could be knocked over! For bear bags, you need to tie off the bag so that no food is showing (otherwise it's too full), and then either tie it to a tree or hide under rocks (see full manufacturer's usage guide, including knots, here).

Maintenance tips


If the bear canister lid is missing or bear bag tie-cord is missing, these are often independently replaceable. Contact the manufacturer to find out.


It's important to clean between uses. No one wants food pieces to go bad inside! Thoroughly rinse with soap & water after use

Bear bags may be machine-washable, follow manufacturer's instructions


Don't put it away or close any lid(s) until it's fully dry

We have a general protip on how to store & maintain gear that we highly recommend reviewing as well. If you send us video or a good photo series, we may be able to help you evaluate your repair needs.

The exact numbers (e.g., weights, dimensions, prices, etc.) used were updated as of September 2019 .