As we are all well aware, bears are the greatest threat to hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail and around the world (yes, the world).
The world's top bear experts have long maintained that after human flesh, human food (that's food that humans consume) is the number one attractor of bears in the wild.
Unfortunately for me, I will be carrying anywhere from three days to almost two weeks worth of food with me at any given time along the PCT. How I will keep the bears at bay, I do not know.
BUT WAIT! Fortunately, after countless hikers lost their lives (and food) to the bears, some good-doing capitalist realized that there was money to be exploited from the surviving hiker population and so the bear canister was born. Does the bear canister revolutionize the way hikers interact with native bear populations? Preliminary research points to yes.
THE BEAR CANISTER
So what exactly is a bear canister?
Quite simply: a large, heavy, hollow piece of plastic used to store food that can be opened and closed (but not by bears).
The aptly named BearVault manufactures the bear canister I have elected to protect my food with. Since I plan on making as few stops along the PCT as possible, I will use the 2.5 pound BV500 model with 700 cubic inches (11.5 liters) of food-storing space inside (instead of the smaller BV450 with only 440 cubic inches (7.2 liters) of space).
Yet our friends at BearVault are not without competitors. A company by the name of Wild Ideas produces a bear canister, the Bearikade Expedition, with a larger capacity (900 cubic inches), that weighs less, but with a price-tag of over $200 more than the BV500, it makes no sense to invest in the extra space and weight savings.
WHAT'S THE SECRET?
It would seem that us humans have discovered a weakness of the bears: they cannot open lids with locking tabs (that need to be pressed in to unscrew).
Previous attempts at creating a bear proof food canister employed the use of a single locking tab, but according to BearVault's website, “bears…learned how to open BearVault…by pressing in the snap on the lid with its canine tooth, unscrewing the lid past the housing lock and then opening the unit.”
The solution? The BV500 now features not one, but two locking tabs!
This upgrade appears to confuse and disorient the bears into surrendering their pursuit of hiker food, but with the increased number of tabs, some hikers report trouble opening the lid after cold nights and the canister becoming near frozen. Hopefully I will be able to get to my Cheerios (honey nut, of course) regardless of temperature.
BUT DOES IT WORK?
Many have speculated as the validity of BearVault's claims (myself included).
The BV500 bears the stamp of approval from both the Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group (SIBBG) and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) (great acronyms, guys) who have independently confirmed that the bear canister's design is in fact clever enough to outsmart both black bears and grizzly bears.
Sure, anyone can say that some supposed “bear canister” can protect your food against bears, but few people ever get to actually put those claims to the test. However, one brave soul found his BearVault in the hands of a hungry bear and instead of fleeing into the hills (best option when encountering a hungry bear), he chose to film the animal's futile attempts to break the Vault's code.
Watch at your own risk (and no, the bear is NOT cute):