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BearVault advice for hiking the AT


My boyfriend and I are section hiking the AT this summer. We hope to hike all of Virginia in 1.5 - 2 months. We are sharing a lot of our gear, like tent, stove, and cookware, water filtration system, etc. to cut down on cost and weight. We understand that most resupply opportunities are 3-5 days away. Would we be able to share a BV500 or should we each get a BV450 (or even BV500)? We've seen that most people (individually) can squeeze 4-5 days out of a BV450 and 7-8 days out of a BV500. It seems overkill to each get a BV500, but we are not sure if we would be able to share a BV500 especially in southern VA where the resupply opportunities are more stretched out. I am on the light side (being only 95 lbs) and know I will need to intake a lot of calories to keep up my weight. He is a 6ft, 23-old who eats a lot even when not walking 15 miles a day... all of our camping experience has been car camping so food and weight have never been a huge consideration before. We are on a tight budget and hope to cut weight as much as possible where we can, as not all of our gear is "ultralight."


3 Replies

@morganr6 - Some thoughts...

Don't know about the AT specifically but if you are smart about the food you take,  two people can definitely get by with one BV500 for 4-5 days.   The BV500 is nominally sized for 7 days of food.  You don't need the first day's food in the bear can at all so long as you are careful not to leave you pack unattended.   5 days is 4 nights so you only have to pack 3.5 days of food each... 2X(4 breakfasts 4 lunches and 3 dinners) plus all fragrant items.  You can also plan to bear hang extra food the first night out so I would get familiar with that process.  It can be a pain to do and is unreliable but it is much lighter to carry. 

Note: I know there are some areas that require or at least prefer the Garcia although I'm not sure if that is on the AT.  That might be a stretch for 2 people since it is sized for 6 days of food and slightly less easy to pack. 

That all said there is some wisdom in you each carrying your own food and stuff generally since it makes you self sufficient in case you get separated for whatever reason. The BV450 is good for 4 days of food.

An Ursack is anther way to go but personally I would always hang it since while they are mostly puncture proof that doesn't stop you food being ruined by chewing.  You could combine an Ursack and a bear can between you.

There is a rule of thumb that says 2 lbs a day which is based on 100 cal per oz giving in 3200 calories which is the requirement for an 18 to 35 active male.  100cal per oz is about average for foods typically taken backpacking.  Obviously your requirements may vary and it is a common experience that "hiker hunger" takes about two weeks to kick in so you may need less food to start.

Being smart with food means choosing foods with higher calories per oz.  and repackaging packaged foods so they take up less space. Nuts and oils are around 200 cal per oz so amending other food with oils and nuts can increase their calorie load and decrease the weight and volume you have to carry.

If you are unsure I would borrow a BV500 or maybe buy one from REI and try to pack it with the food you think you will need/use.  If it doesn't work for you return it an get two BV450s.


@morganr6 - I know the AT! Specifically in VA! You're going to be near/on skyline drive a few times in Shenandoah which is BEAUTIFUL!! If you get a chance, I know the AT itself is awesome but if you can try and get some hikes in at Stoney Man or little Stoney Man. They are great views and very easy to get to, meaning they won't be too far off the AT. 

In regards to bear vaults, I would do a "mock" hike and see how much you actually need to bring. You could hike at a local state park and simulate what you want to carry on the AT. You can also use them as camp stools and as a "washing machine." I would probably lean towards each getting a BV450. 

But best of luck! That's a great area to hike, but bears are numerous so stay safe! 

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@HoughtonLikeTheLake @OldGuyot Thanks so much for the advice and recommendations! We are especially excited for Shenandoah! I think we are leaning more towards each getting a bv450 based on safety (should we need to separate for any reason) and versatility (such as using as stools and dry containers). My pack is also only 44 L so it seems that a bv450 would fit much easier... it also seems that the bv450 is a better option if after hiking VA we want to go on a few 1-2 day weekend hikes where the bv500 would certainly be overkill (we could probably make it with one bv450). We like the idea of the light weight bear hang should we find ourselves needing more room occasionally. Thanks again for the great advice - enjoy the outdoors! (: