7 Best Lightweight Bear Canisters for Backpacking in 2021

7 Best Lightweight Bear Canisters for Backpacking in 2021

Table of Contents

    Bears get hungry. They’re just like any other mammal out there. When you’re backpacking, you’re probably bringing a decent amount of food with you. You’re spending a lot of time outdoors away from the world that can easily bless you with food and resources, you’re expending a lot of energy,  so you’re carrying a lot of tantalizing food. Getting a good canister or a bag you can hoist out of a bear’s reach is going to keep you safe, it’s going to keep the bears safe, and it’s going to keep you from going hungry.

    In a hurry? Here’s the test winner after 10 hours of research:

    Overview
    Frontiersman Bear Safe & Resistant 11.86 Liter Food Storage Container, Locking Lid, Water & Airtight, Keeps Food Fresh, Prevents Food Odors That Attract Bears, Family Size & Longer Hike Usage
    Title
    Frontiersman Bear Safe & Resistant 11.86 Liter Food Storage Container
    Price
    $69.24
    Rating
    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    Overview
    Frontiersman Bear Safe & Resistant 11.86 Liter Food Storage Container, Locking Lid, Water & Airtight, Keeps Food Fresh, Prevents Food Odors That Attract Bears, Family Size & Longer Hike Usage
    Title
    Frontiersman Bear Safe & Resistant 11.86 Liter Food Storage Container
    Price
    $69.24
    Rating
    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

    Best Lightweight Bear Canisters for Backpacking - Overview

    Here are the top 5 picks (keep scrolling for more details and picks 6-7).

    Overview
    Frontiersman Bear Safe & Resistant 11.86 Liter Food Storage Container, Locking Lid, Water & Airtight, Keeps Food Fresh, Prevents Food Odors That Attract Bears, Family Size & Longer Hike Usage
    Udap No Fed Bear Bear Resistant Canister with Backpack Carrying Case Included
    Recreational Barrel Works 60L Canoe Barrel
    BearVault BV450 Bear Resistant Food Canister, 440 Cubic Inch Capacity | for Weekend Hikers, Backpackers, and Campers
    Bear Outdoor Dry Sack/Waterproof Bag for Boating, Kayaking, Hiking, Snowboarding, Camping, Rafting, Fishing and Backpacking 30L Yellow
    Title
    Frontiersman Bear Safe & Resistant 11.86 Liter Food Storage Container
    Udap No Fed Bear
    Recreational Barrel Works 60L Canoe Barrel
    BearVault BV450
    Bear Outdoor Dry Sack/Floating Waterproof Bag
    Price
    $69.24
    $115.95
    $94.99
    $69.95
    $15.99
    Rating
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    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
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    Overview
    Frontiersman Bear Safe & Resistant 11.86 Liter Food Storage Container, Locking Lid, Water & Airtight, Keeps Food Fresh, Prevents Food Odors That Attract Bears, Family Size & Longer Hike Usage
    Title
    Frontiersman Bear Safe & Resistant 11.86 Liter Food Storage Container
    Price
    $69.24
    Rating
    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    Overview
    Udap No Fed Bear Bear Resistant Canister with Backpack Carrying Case Included
    Title
    Udap No Fed Bear
    Price
    $115.95
    Rating
    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    Overview
    Recreational Barrel Works 60L Canoe Barrel
    Title
    Recreational Barrel Works 60L Canoe Barrel
    Price
    $94.99
    Rating
    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    Overview
    BearVault BV450 Bear Resistant Food Canister, 440 Cubic Inch Capacity | for Weekend Hikers, Backpackers, and Campers
    Title
    BearVault BV450
    Price
    $69.95
    Rating
    ⭐⭐⭐⭐
    Overview
    Bear Outdoor Dry Sack/Waterproof Bag for Boating, Kayaking, Hiking, Snowboarding, Camping, Rafting, Fishing and Backpacking 30L Yellow
    Title
    Bear Outdoor Dry Sack/Floating Waterproof Bag
    Price
    $15.99
    Rating
    ⭐⭐⭐⭐

    1. Frontiersman Bear Safe & Resistant 11.86 Liter Food Storage Container

    Frontiersman Bear Safe & Resistant 11.86 Liter Food Storage Container, Locking Lid, Water & Airtight, Keeps Food Fresh, Prevents Food Odors That Attract Bears, Family Size & Longer Hike Usage
    • SLIM, LIGHTWEIGHT & EASY TO CARRY: This 3LB bear resistant food container's ergonomic tapered shape slides easily in and out of your backpack; Provides greater pack balance and equal load...

    A lot of bear canisters will create a logistical nightmare for any aspiring backpacker. If you’re gearing up to hit the trail for an afternoon picnic or a week-long trek, you’re going to have to figure out how to carry your food safely and efficiently. If you’re trying to get yourself fed without feeding the bears, and you’re trying to get your gear from point A to point B without over encumbering yourself.

    Often bear canisters or bags designed to keep your food safe and try neglect to take into account the real-life problems that come from having to bring these kegs along with you. This container from Frontiersman is an excellent answer to all of these issues. This container is quite large. It’s ready to accept several days’ worth of food, and it’s got a long life of standing up to rough weather and any kind of punishment you can throw at it.

    It’s a great canister to bring along with you for any kind of outdoor trip. It seals tightly enough to keep odors from escaping and attracting hungry wildlife. Its vibrant coloration is also great for tracking it down if it happens to get away from you during the night. The crown jewel of this bear canister is its shape. These canisters are built to fit into a 45-liter backpack, and they hold a good amount of food.

    This canister doesn’t need an additional carrying case, you’re not going to be expected to track down any secondary accessories to carry this canister with you. It’s not going to be an awkward mess to take down the trail, and you’re not going to have to perform a long irritating pre-trip ritual figuring out how you’re going to pack, travel with, and store your bear canister. Just fill it up, toss it in your backpack, and get a move on.

    Read more buyer reviews at Amazon.com.

    PROS

    • The airtight capabilities of this container keep odors from attracting curious furry friends and grants the additional benefit of keeping your contents fresh and delicious during multi-day trips
    • The weight distribution of this container will keep it from bouncing around and pummeling your back while you’re backpacking with it
    • Easy to spot in case it gets away from you

    CONS

    • Making it difficult for bears to open has also made this canister difficult to open for people

    2. Udap No Fed Bear

    The Udap No Fed Bear canister is a great little canister to bring along on a backpacking trek. Its squat little body is capable of holding a surprising amount of food, and it’s incredibly hard to break into. Things that are compact like this are capable of taking a lot more punishment than longer containers that have more points of failure spread out unevenly.

    This container comes with a carrying case, unlike a lot of other bear canisters. It’s a light canister that you can stuff to the brim, without adding a large amount of weight to your backpacking trips. The carrying case is a little awkward, however. You can find clever ways to strap it to your bags, or you can muscle through and carry this case in your hands. The shape of this canister makes it hard to fit into your own bags, so you’re going to want the carrying case if you’re backpacking.

    Read more buyer reviews at Amazon.com.

    PROS

    • The lid locks into place, making it essentially impossible for a bear to break into
    • Comes with a carrying case
    • An easy choice if you’re going to a National Park that requires you bring along a bear canister

    CONS

    • The locking lid requires a tool or something flat and sturdy like a quarter 

    3. Recreational Barrel Works 60L Canoe Barrel

    This barrel is designed primarily with canoeing in mind, but because of that, you’re going to be getting a lot of the functionality you’d be looking for in a bear canister. It’s a reasonably-sized barrel that is light and easy to carry. If you’re willing to go the extra mile, there are barrel harnesses on the market that are made specifically to carry this barrel, but there are a lot of harnesses out there that will fit this barrel just fine. 

    There’s a latch along the top of the barrel that keeps the lid on nice and tight, making it great when water enters the equation, which is probably obvious because this dry barrel is designed with canoers in mind. If you’re taking a trip outdoors, and you want to keep your food away from wildlife, this barrel is a nice choice. It’s not designed specifically to keep bears out, so you may have to hoist it up above the ground when you’re staying overnight. In this way, it’s a lot like a middle ground between a beat bag and a bear canister.

    Read more buyer reviews at Amazon.com.

    PROS

    • Sturdy and easy to transport
    • If you’re backpacking near an area you’d be able to rent a canoe, then you’re not going to have to resituate your goods

    CONS

    • A little luck could pop this latch and release the contents to a particularly tenacious bear 

    4. BearVault BV450

    BearVault BV450 Bear Resistant Food Canister, 440 Cubic Inch Capacity | for Weekend Hikers, Backpackers, and Campers
    • Lightweight Solo or Weekend Size: Lightest canister in this size category; Stores approximately 4 days of food; perfect for a couples weekend, or a 3 to 4 day solo trek

    The containers BearVault has available are incredibly portable. If you’re sick of containers that are like carrying a bank vault on your back, then try out one of these BearVaults. They’re transparent, making it easy to get in and out of your containers without having to dump out all of your contents. They’re incredibly sturdy, you can use them as a seat, saving you space in your backpack, and proving their worth.

    You’re going to get a lot of mileage out of this container. The material is durable and defends according to BearVault, they claim to have tested their BearVaults by leaving them to the whims of two “hungry black bears.” We’ll take that with a grain of salt, but the approval from the National Park Service for use in all of their national parks speaks volumes about its longevity and durability.

    The lid is much easier to open than a lot of other bear vaults, banking on using a screw-top lid. This container is a durable little tool, it’s easy to carry, it’s much stronger than it looks, it’s a great bear deterrent, and it makes your camping and backpacking a breeze.

    Read more buyer reviews at Amazon.com.

    PROS

    • The transparent body makes it easy to access the contents of your container
    • Approved by the NPS for use in all of their major National Parks
    • Much more easy to open than other bear canisters, no tools required
    • Easy to carry, not very bulky

    CONS

    • It’s water-resistant, but no quite waterproof, so be careful

    5. Bear Outdoor Dry Sack/Floating Waterproof Bag

    Bear Outdoor Dry Sack/Waterproof Bag for Boating, Kayaking, Hiking, Snowboarding, Camping, Rafting, Fishing and Backpacking 30L Yellow
    • Ultimate durable:dry bag is made with quality 500D PVC fabric ensure that your bag will not rip, crack, and leave your items damaged;

    These outdoor dry sacks from Bear Outdoor are a great option if you’re wanting to outfit the entire crew with a bag of their own. These dry sacks come in several sizes, but they all have the same basic functionality. These bags are all nice, comfortable bags that are going to keep your provisions safe and dry while you and your crew are out on the trail. These bags are all simple and focus primarily focused on functionality.

    They’re going to utilize a roll-top to keep your contents dry. A roll-top bag is going to use the waterproof material in a clever fashion to keep the inside of your bag clean and dry without having to use any zippers or drawstrings. These bags from Bear Outdoor are made from a light and durable 250D PVC cloth, and they weigh in under 5 ounces.

    These are great for lightweight backpacking. You’re going to be able to save a lot on the overall weight of your backpacks by being such a versatile and durable part of your inventory. It’s hard to want to reach for any other option when this bag from Bear Outdoor is staring you down. They fall a little flat when it comes to their performance in the face of the rugged outdoors.

    When you’re making your way through dense areas of trees with branches reaching their gnarled talons towards your precious cargo, you don’t want to be worrying about whether or not your bag is going to survive the trek. Bear Outdoor’s decision to go with 250D PVC is going to produce bags that are much more affordable than bags made from denser materials, but when it comes down to brass tacks, you’re trading durability for a lower price point.

    This isn’t a problem if your backpacking isn’t going to be taking you through the more rugged areas of your local outdoor community, then you’re going to be fine, but if you need something that’s going to last you years after taking a lot of punishment, then this bag isn’t going to cut it.

    Read more buyer reviews at Amazon.com.

    PROS

    • Great for a wide array of needs
    • Great for keeping your provisions dry
    • Easy to use roll-top design

    CONS

    • Less durable than more expensive competitors
    • Not very powerful in the face of a lucky bear

    6. Earth Pak- Waterproof Dry Bag

    Earth Pak- Waterproof Dry Bag with Front Zippered Pocket Keeps Gear Dry for Kayaking, Beach, Rafting, Boating, Hiking, Camping and Fishing with Waterproof Phone Case
    • PROTECT YOUR GEAR: Constructed from commercial-grade 500D PVC for high performance, durability, and protection. All seams are thermowelded shut to provide the ultimate waterproof protection for your...

    This dry bag from Earth Pak is a great bag to have along for the ride when you’re looking for lightweight backpacking options. It’s perfect for a day trip with family and friends, allowing you to carry an impressive amount of provisions for a decent number of people, and it’s also great for someone looking for a bag they can carry and suspend with no problems at all.

    This dry bag is a sturdy waterproof affair. It takes advantage of the ease and security of a roll-top bag. By getting rid of zippers and drawstrings, this bag gets to hold any amount of provisions tightly, so you’re never wasting space or carrying an awkward bag that extends way beyond your content’s center of gravity.

    It’s a bag that’s built for extreme conditions that’s ready to perform under pressure. It’s made from an ultra-durable 500D PVC, and instead of allowing the seams to become an easy point of failure that allows moisture in, these seams are thermo-welded shut. That process gives your bag an increased level of durability, it imparts buoyancy because the bag will hold onto air much more easily, and it keeps water out, so the only moisture in your food is the moisture you wanted in there when you cooked it.

    Read more buyer reviews at Amazon.com.

    PROS

    • This bag comes with a waterproof pouch for your phones, so they can enjoy the same level of comfort and dryness as your provisions
    • Buoyant and water-resistant construction makes the bag a tough contender when it comes to combatting the elements
    • The roll-top design is always a fantastic addition to a dry bag

    CONS

    • Not nearly as sturdy as a proper bear keg

    7. Skog Å Kust DrySåk Waterproof Floating Dry Bag

    Skog Å Kust DrySak Waterproof Dry Bag | 20L Palm
    • RUGGED ALL-WEATHER PROTECTION: DrySak is made from heavy duty 500-D PVC to seal out the elements. The watertight, welded seams and roll-down top provide IPX-6 protection for your gear in a variety of...

    Keeping your food safe doesn’t have to be a drab affair. When you’re out on the trails, sometimes what you need is a good bag with a pop of color. If you’re going on a family trip and hitting the rivers, then you’re going to love having this bag along for the ride. These bags are beautiful and functional, and their visibility is amazing without becoming a nylon safety cone eyesore.

    These bags are also great for backpacking. They’re incredibly light without sacrificing durability. They’re made from 500D waterproof PVC, it’s hard to overstate the abilities of this PVC material. It makes the bag buoyant, waterproof and gives them a lot of life. These bags a perfect for a day out, and if you have kids with you that are prone to wandering off, you can saddle them with this bag to keep an eye on them while transporting your food down the trail. 

    If you’re looking for something to supplement your backpacking loadouts, then this bag is a delight. It’s bright and nice to look at, it’s sturdy and capable, the strap is adjustable and comfortable, and it’s the perfect addition to your backpacking trips.

    Read more buyer reviews at Amazon.com.

    PROS

    • The construction and color of this bag is exceptional
    • The bags aren’t going to get lost to the depths of a river if your backpacking trips detour near a body of water
    • The front pocket of this bag keeps your key items like your ID and lighters easily accessible while keeping your food tucked away in the main body of the bag

    CONS

    • If you’re going to be making a trip overnight, then you’re going to have to hang this bag. It’s durable, but it’s not “the full weight of a hungry bear” durable

    Winner

    Overview
    Frontiersman Bear Safe & Resistant 11.86 Liter Food Storage Container, Locking Lid, Water & Airtight, Keeps Food Fresh, Prevents Food Odors That Attract Bears, Family Size & Longer Hike Usage
    Title
    Frontiersman Bear Safe & Resistant 11.86 Liter Food Storage Container
    Price
    $69.24
    Rating
    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
    Overview
    Frontiersman Bear Safe & Resistant 11.86 Liter Food Storage Container, Locking Lid, Water & Airtight, Keeps Food Fresh, Prevents Food Odors That Attract Bears, Family Size & Longer Hike Usage
    Title
    Frontiersman Bear Safe & Resistant 11.86 Liter Food Storage Container
    Price
    $69.24
    Rating
    ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

    This bear canister is great for working your way through logistical nightmares. It’s designed to fit comfortably into your backpacks without becoming a nightmare to carry. It holds a great deal of food, allowing you to stay out on the trails for a good while, and it’s vibrant enough to spot when you’re in a pickle. If a bear does manage to get a hold of your canister, it’s not going to buckle under the pressure of the attack, deterring an ornery bear from trying to steal your carefully considered contents. 

    This container is one of the best options on the market if you’re looking for something simple that will allow you to make your way through your backpacking trips in a quick and painless manner. It serves all of the purposes you want a canister to serve. It’s a no-fuss container that keeps your food fresh, it keeps odors from attracting bears, and if one does get a little curious, it’s going to have a heck of a time breaking in.

    You’re not going to have to spend a lot of time setting this container up in a tree, but it wouldn’t hurt. Because you can stuff this into your backpack pretty easily, you can just as easily hoist it into the air. If you choose not to, however, you can rest assured that you’re not going to just lose this container to the elements. The purpose of a dependable bear canister like this one is to get your unwanted guests to give up quickly

    If you’re looking for a reliable piece of equipment that’s going to protect your goods and grant you peace of mind, then this bear canister from Frontiersman is an excellent choice.

    Bonus tip: If you’re backpacking through bear country, you’re going to need to take some precautions. This video will outfit you with a lot of good knowledge.

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    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.

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