The BearVault BV500 (41 oz / 1.16 kg, MSRP $87.95) is an Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC)-certified and Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group-approved bear canister meant for long-distance adventures. It fits up to 7 days of food for a single person (capacity 11.5 L / 700 cubic inches).
The BearVault BV500, known as the Journey model, is the largest bear canister made by BearVault:
- BearVault BV500 (Journey) – 11.5 L (700 cubic inches)
- BearVault BV475 (Trek) – 9.3 L (565 cubic inches)
- BearVault BV450 (Jaunt) – 7.2 L (440 cubic inches)
- BearVault BV425 (Sprint) – 5.0 L (305 cubic inches)
It’s also one of the largest on the market in terms of volume and capacity, and one of the few clear bear canisters on the market.
Where to Buy the BearVault BV500
- REI Members: Purchase the BearVault BV500 here.
- Everyone else: Buy direct from BearVault here.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents • Note: some sections may only be available to Premium or Unlimited Members.
- Table of Contents
- About this review
- Features and specifications
- Performance analysis
- Interview with Grant Breidenbach, Marketing Manager for BearVault
- Learn More
- Related Content
- Where to Buy
About this review
I have extensive experience with the BearVault BV450. My friend Chris gifted me the BV450 when he moved back to Hawaii and I used it for several years. A smaller, shorter model, the BV450 has approximately 60% of the capacity of the BV500. I often found that for two people, cramming food and scented items into the BV450 was doable, but sometimes challenging even on short trips (its claimed capacity is 3 to 4 days of food for one person).
So when I was asked to review the BV500 I was curious to see how it compared to the BV450 in terms of both storage capacity and the loss of pack volume. As such, this is a Limited Review of the BV500 during one two-night backpacking trip but a review that builds on my previous experience with the BV450.
The trip described in this review is a traverse of the High Divide – Seven Lakes Basin Loop (an area well-known for bear activity) in the Washington Olympics in the summer of 2022.
Features and specifications
- polycarbonate construction
- wide opening
- screw-on lid
- strap guides
- rounded corners allow for smooth packing and removal
- can function as a camp seat
- approval from both the Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group and Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee
- fits about 7 days of food for one person
- manufacturer claimed weight: 2 pounds 9 ounces (1.16 kg)
- measured weight: 2 pounds 12.8 ounces (1.27 kg) (averaged using three scales)
- interior volume (usable space): 11.5 L (700 cubic inches)
- material: polycarbonate and other resins
- diameter: 8.7 inches (22.1 cm)
- height: 12.7 inches (32.3 cm)
- Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC) Certification: #5339
I evaluated the BV500-Journey on the following criteria.
- construction quality and durability
- ease of use
Construction quality and durability
The BV500-Journey is a sturdy and solid piece of equipment made from only two pieces. The polycarbonate body is relatively thinner than competitor products made of ABS plastic. The nylon lid is somewhat less rigid, but still of solid construction. When assembled, the BV500-Journey is tall enough and sturdy enough to function as a chair.
To qualify “sturdy” – remember that these products have to keep your food safe from hungry bears with strong jaws. The National Wildlife Federation notes that grizzlies can weigh more than 700 pounds. Additionally, as an Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee-certified product, the BV500-Journey has undergone rigorous testing with actual bears – we’ll get into this later in the article.
At 2 pounds 9 ounces (1.16 kg), the BearVault BV500 is not exactly an ultralight piece of equipment, but relative to the volume that it contains, it’s competitive with other products on the market. Carbon fiber canisters will be somewhat lighter, but more expensive.
All in all – a bear canister is a necessary item and given the fairly narrow range of volume-to-weight ratios seen on the market, the BV500 is no more egregiously heavy than any other bear canister. The simple reality of hiking in bear territory is that a bear canister is an important and necessary piece of equipment, and there are limitations to the amount of weight that can be sacrificed while maintaining the structural integrity of the device.
Ease of use
My experience with BearVault canisters is that they tend to have wider mouths when compared to the ABS products such as the Garcia bear canister or the Counter Assault Bear Keg, and the tabbed lid screws on easily. (For those who haven’t had a lot of experience with bear canisters, the ones made from ABS often have narrower mouths and use a coin-operated screw locking mechanism – we’ll get to this in greater detail in a bit!)
My only comment here is that because there’s only one opening, it’s important to be strategic in which items you place at the bottom, lest you find yourself unpacking the entire canister to get to something at the very bottom. More details can be found further down in the review.
Compared to my BV450, the BV500 is huge! Recall that it is 8.7 inches (22.1 cm) in diameter and 12.7 inches (32.3 cm) tall. It’ll take up a large portion of your pack if you choose to put it inside the pack. Due to its rigid construction, this will require some creative packing. Remember, the 11.5 L (700 cubic inches) volume will seem like it is taking up FAR more space in your pack due to the fact that everything else has to be packed around it. Alternatively, you could attach it to the outside of the pack, although this will distribute the weight differently. BearVault designed the canister to have dimples that serve as strap guides, but they comment that “if at all possible, it is better to place the weight mid-back inside your pack”.
For those curious about my pack, I was able to fit the BV500-Journey and the rest of my gear into my Gregory Z55 (55 L, 3350 cubic inches) backpack. In addition to the BV500-Journey, my pack also had a tent, lightweight chair, clothing, water filter, camera tripod, camera, and two lenses. Just for good measure, I spent some time at REI putting the BV500-Journey into various other packs, and my informal experimentation indicates that it seems likely that it could reasonably fit into most packs that are at least 45-50 L. The five packs I tried were the Arcteryx Aerios 45 L women’s pack, the Granite Gear Blaze 60 L, Osprey Atmos AG 50 L, and the REI Traverse 60 L. Each of these had ample room for the BV500-Journey, comparable in my opinion to the Gregory Z55 pack that I typically use.
BearVault estimates this canister can hold up to seven days of food for one person. However, if going on a shorter trip with multiple people, the food could be placed into the BV500-Journey and other items redistributed among the other backpackers.
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