Pack designed to carry a bear canister

Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Home Forums Gear Forums Gear (General) Pack designed to carry a bear canister

Viewing 19 posts - 1 through 19 (of 19 total)
  • Author
  • #3794190
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    this topic came up (by me) in a recent thread about Durston’s new pack. It occurred to me to start a new thread about this topic.

    Bear canisters alter the way a pack carries.  We all know this; I won’t elaborate. And yet most packs are designed as if canisters weren’t in consideration.  I think this is especially true for light/UL packs, for good reason.

    But given the requirement, or in my case, the preference, for carrying a canister…are there pack designs that better accommodate having a bulky hard sided round object inside while also allowing for space for other necessary items as well, like a sleeping bag?  etc.

    I need to keep weight off my shoulders and transfer onto my hips; likewise, a canister can dig into my back if the design is off for my body type. I’ve long dreamt of a lightweight external frame pack to address these and other issues, as people are no doubt sick of hearing about.

    Other thoughts?


    Mark Verber
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    For external frame, there is the the luxurylite stack pack  which has been around for about 20 years.  Didn’t do it for me, but there were several people who seemed to like it back in the day.  Of course there is the nunatak bearears pack. Several of McHale’s packs were designed for bear cans.

    I found that when the bear can is carried vertically, more packs work, but as you said, many of the light /ultralight packs do deform with a bear can.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado

    I almost wept when my SMD Starlight died. It weighed 24 oz. and easily carried the big Bearvault horizontally with plenty of room to spare and was comfortable. Haven’t found a replacement for that situation yet>

    Fredrick B
    BPL Member


    While it might not be what you have in mind jscott, big fan of the Nunatek Bears Ears here. Love how the weight of a canister is centered just below the pack.

    BPL Member


    I carried my Bearikade Blazer vertically inside my ULA Circuit pack with 7 days food last year on my NPT thruhike. I removed the internal suspension hoop frpm the pack the day I got it. I just feel more comfortable without any frames or hoopla.  A big Rucksack if ya will. I was in the upper 20s lbs maybe very low 30s starting out with food and water in that picture at the trailhead. I dont remember exactly,  though maybe i mention it in my video or have it memoed down somewhere.  Anyway, the cannister fit perfect in there and then I packed under and around and on top of it.. all my gear and clothes fit with plenty of room to spare if needed. 68L is a LOT of pack to fill. Its rated at 35 lbs max and i have pushed that same pack to its limits in winter with full load out including spikes and snowshoes and true 4 season tent. It is comfortable pack. VERY comfortable.  To eaches own and comfort is something each individual has to find and identify for themselves, fortunately.  I never felt the cannister bulging on the my back after 1 full pack load. My first time ever packing and carrying a bear can, so my test pack i didn’t quite pack it right. Re-packed all my gear and I was set. Throughout the entire hike, it was a non issue, not even a thought that i was carrying a bear can with 7 days food in it. In fact,  multiple other hikers I chatted with could not believe how minimal my loaded pack was for 7 days out there.. including ALL my food!  Maybe not Ultralight pack? Define Ultralight? ULA? Lol. Cut your weight elsewhere and it doesn’t really matter much..  to me at lesst.

    Again, after my ramble.. I personally prefer framless packs.. for reasons including comfort and at the end of the day, my pack is empty and I stuff it into my bivy head end behind my pillow.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    I started this thread and then remembered, wait there’s the Bears Ears, which looks like a well designed pack for carrying a canister. I myself used a Luxury Lite frame without the stack packs. Instead I jsut strapped on an old frameless Mariposa. The LL carries a canister like a dream on the bottom ledge (inside the pack, horizontally) somewhat like the Bears Ears.

    I’m the opposite of Dirt Bag in that I like more frame for load transfer. He’s lucky in that a frameless is comfortable for him. I wish that worked for me.

    Terran Terran
    BPL Member


    I wonder if the Bears Ears framed packs will go back into production.

    Alex Wallace
    BPL Member


    Locale: Sierra Nevada North

    A few weeks ago I met a couple on trail that were wearing Seek Outside Divide packs, but with custom pack bags to accommodate a bear canister that was strapped externally to the frame. Similar to the Bears Ears concept, but with the ability to swap the position of the bear canister from the top or bottom of the frame. Or, I suppose, use the original pack bag. The husband had the canister up top and his wife had it strapped to the bottom. Looked good to me.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    UL packs prove that, except for a bear canister, one doesn’t need all that much space to carry essentials, especially those that are designed to carry some items (tent, rain jacket etc.) in pockets outside.

    Most larger UL packs are designed to carry a canister vertically. I wonder if a wider pack at the bottom designed to carry a canister horizontally on the inside of the pack, that may then taper towards the top…or again, an external frame pack built with lightweight materials, that could accommodate a horizontal canister without raising weight of the pack into unacceptable levels is accomplishable?  Or more importantly, is there a market for this? Probably not.

    It may well be that most other hikers don’t find carrying a bear canister upright to be an issue. I find it creates issues with packing and carry.

    Again, the Bears Ears solves all of this by simply carrying the canister outside. Then, all of the principles of an UL pack can adhere to the design of actual pack. Except, the pack still has to accommodate the weight of the canister and food in its support system.

    Mike In Socal
    BPL Member


    Locale: California

    I’m glad this topic has come up again because I also fall into the camp of needing a pack that can carry a bear canister.  I have been using a GG Mariposa for a while and a BV450 fits but I also keep the bulk down with other gear.  This means that it’s harder when trying to pack gear for colder weather – bulkier clothing, etc.  I’m not so concerned about ultralight and long distances as I am about finding the right pack size with a reasonable weight that can comfortably carry what I need without playing backpack tetris.  Is there a current list of maybe 5 packs in the 55L+ range that would give us some options?

    Rob Daly
    BPL Member


    Locale: outdoors amap

    The Osprey Exos58 fits the BV500 horizontally, no problem. Mine weighs 40oz. without the brain and carries weight very comfortably.

    But I agree, the new wave of UL packs seem to have a narrower width and not really considering canisters (other than Bears Ears). But I think as bears and people together on trail become more of a problem pack companies will design with the canister more in mind.

    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    Some of Dan McHale’s packs are designed for bear canisters. Straps under the top lid to secure a canister.

    Below are pictures of my McHale Little Big Pack (LBP)


    My McHale Bump is a small pack as you can see below using the 64 oz. Gatorade bottles as a reference. There is a BV500 inside the pack vertically. I could strap it to the bottom of the top lid and carry it horizontally like the pack above.


    My 1971 Kelty D4 pack weighs 3.6 lb., has an indestructible frame (I bought it new and have been using it for 53 years), and a newer wrap-around belt for carrying comfort.


    It carries a BV500 perfectly!


    Here it is with the top drawn closed. As you can see, I could add more stuff to the pack, and the top has plenty of room to close and hold it secure.

    I don’t keep up with the state of the market backpacks. My LBP is going on 14 years and the Bump is 12. Dan can custom make a pack for you and will last decades. He has a lot of experience with integrating bear canisters into his designs.

    Given their longevity, they are inexpensive from a “dollar cost average.”


    Adrian Griffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Sacramento

    I have a zPacks Arc Blast from four or five years ago. My 275 cu in BareBoxer fits in it fine horizontally.

    baja bob
    BPL Member


    Locale: West

    Zpacks Arc Haul 70L  will fit a BV500 horizontally.

    Mathew S
    BPL Member


    I sold my Kakwa 55 because of bear can issues. A BV500 will fit inside, but only vertically, and only at a particular height. Basically it required fussing about to get it just right, without any weight shifting. Packing a pack should not be that difficult. I find carry a big bear can to be much easier and much more comfortable  when it is horizontal.

    I now intentionally look for packs that can accommodate a bear can horizontally, preferably at different heights in the pack. I don’t want to have only one option for carrying a bear can. Much like adjustable straps or adjustable waist belts let you dial in your pack’s fit, having multiple options for bear can carrying, lets you dial in weight distribution to optimize pack comfort. These features are much more important to me than having a UL pack.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Northern California

    “…lets you dial in weight distribution to optimize pack comfort.”

    One of the advantages of the old external frame packs is that they could create a very small gap between the pack and one’s back. Bear canisters are hard and round, and there’s the rub, so to speak. Luxurylite has a perfect frame for carrying a canister and not have it impact one’s back. It also transfers load off the shoulders to hips almost luxuriously, because the hip belt is so beefy and padded.

    I don’t like carrying a canister up top because of balance issues. Or maybe having the canister down low and horizontal is just what I’m used to. to that end, the Nuntak design seems really good to me. As long as the straps hold the canister solidly and the design doesn’t introduce any bounce or shifting of position.

    still, the pictures of the old Kelty reminds me again of how great those packs were. I didn’t use a canister when I carried a Kelty. Good to see that I could have, and even up top, the way the whole thing’s set up, I imagine that balance wouldn’t been an issue.

    Darryl C
    BPL Member


    After a few trips with a BV500 in a ULA Catalyst I grabbed a Bears Ears Hybrid.  Thoughts:

    1. Carries better than the Catalyst.  I don’t remember the canister bouncing around but I did have to fuss a bit attaching it because it was the hybrid model. Overall very happy with the pack.

    2. Used it a few times without a canister and it worked great.  On one trip had it on for ~24 hours straight and although I was happy to take it off, it felt ok.  No canister on that trip but the pack was heavier than typical.

    Steve Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southwest

    Dan made a pack for me in 2005 that carries a bearikade weekender horizontally.  So, a testament to longevity of a McHale pack.  And with the horizontal carry there is no deformation to manage for a comfortable carry.

    Dan’s under the lid strap system effectively manages a deformation free carry for smaller volume packs.

    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    My Granite Gear Blaze 60 is very comfortable with a bear canister (Bearikade Weekender). It goes vertically on top of sleeping bag and clothes, and everything else goes around or on top of it. The pack is heavier than the ultralights, but the weight distribution on my body is great; I don’t really think about my pack that much while hiking. At least not until I have to carry 10 days of food or 6 liters of water!

Viewing 19 posts - 1 through 19 (of 19 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Get the Newsletter

Get our free Handbook and Receive our weekly newsletter to see what's new at Backpacking Light!

Gear Research & Discovery Tools