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Bear canister vs bear proof bag?



Can you tell me which would be better for a backpacking or bikepacking trip, the bear canister or the bear proof bag?  I feel like the bag would be easier to carry on both back and bike but I'm not sure how smell proof it is.  


thanks so much 

7 Replies


Neither canisters nor bear proof bags are actually odor-proof, though there are some products, like LOKSAK OPSAK odor-proof bags which are not bear resistant, but can be a part of the solution to reduce/eliminate smells that attract them.

That said, the rules vary and in many parks bear-proof bags are not approved for use so you have to use a canister in those places.  Bags, if they are permitted, have an advantage in weight and packability, but you really need to check the rules and know what is allowed in the places you plan to visit most often.

Get outdoors, stay safe, and happy trails!
Todd the Hiker

I hike a lot in the Sierras. Most locations have become increasingly strict on canisters vs. bags. Obviously, the bag is much lighter, but that is really where its advantages end. I use a BV500 and to @Esther 's point, I generally put non-food items in it and as food depletes I can put more and more non-food items it it. When at elevation, there are occasionally no trees that are optimal for hanging a bag. Also, the bear can makes a nice camp chair.


I use a BearVault 450.  I thought it was a  nuisance and did not expect to like it.  However, the very first time I used it a bear actually did go into my camp and did not get the food, so I was sold. 

Now that I have one, I use the bear jar a lot, and not just because of bears.  The canister keeps food un-crushed and you can fill it up with other things as the food empties out.  I use it car camping and canoeing in order to  have an accessible supply of snacks and things to take on day hikes. Besides bears, it keeps out rodents, ravens and other critters.   At home I use it to store freeze dried backpacking meals so I can find them when I'm packing for a trip.     

I don't have a bag, but I think the drawbacks would be that your food would get crushed and a bear would steal it if it's not tied to something.  Also, the BearVault is see-though so you can tell what's inside. 


The bear can makes a workable stool, too.

I read that some REI stores rent out bear canisters.  How do I found out which ones?  I'm in Florida so I doubt our Florida stores do. 



Hi @landerson1955 - Thanks for reaching out! 

On our REI Rental Gear page, you can see the rental items carried by individual stores, listed by state. A store having bear canisters listed does not guarantee their current availability. If you are planning on renting one of these for an upcoming trip, we suggest contacting the store beforehand to check if any are available.

Hopefully this helps!

At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.

Many Ranger stations in bear country also rent them.