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509 Bear Vault 2011-11-02

Bear Vaults

This last summer ('11) we planned on making several backcountry overnight trips while visiting Rocky Mountain National Park. When we called to make reservations at the Park's Backcountry Office, we were informed that we would have to use a bear proof storage container. We had not heard of many problems with bears at Rocky Mountain; but maybe they were just trying to be proactive with their food storage requirements. They did not have backcountry bear troubles and wanted to keep it that way.

Before we left Tennessee, we began shopping for bear proof containers. We purchased the Bear Vault BV500. Ordering it on line by clicking on one of the Affiliate ads in the Metro to Mountains sidebar, the Vault was delivered shortly. The packaging box was surprisingly large and the Vault was also big. We looked at it and wondered how in the world we were going to pack the Vault in our small packs.

We decided to also order the smaller Bear Vault BV450. The BV450 was advertised as a 'solo' cannister; but we thought it was just the size we needed for overnight trips.

The Vault worked great on the trip. We stored all of our food in the Vault and anything else that we thought might have an odor. The Vault made it through the night untouched and the next morning we had food for breakfast. Of course, I don't think any animals came near our campsite - the mosquitoes kept them away! It is also of note, that the blood thirsty mosquitoes were not able to penetrate the Bear Vault's defenses.

A few Bear Vault tips ...

The BV450 was the smallest and lightest bear proof canister we could find.

We liked the clear plastic container.

We practiced packing our canister before the trip; making sure everything would fit.

Hanging food from a tree can be challenging. The Bear Vault is a simple storage solution.

Some users have complained about the container being hard (or impossible) to open. I thought the opening was a fairly straight forward procedure. I did have better luck pressing directly on the tab rather than on the lid. A flat tool (spoon, screw driver, blunt knife, coin, etc) would help with the opening. I would be wary of using a sharp tool for fear that you might cut the tab. I want the container to be hard to open; because those bears are pretty tricky.

We saw varying recommendations for how far the Vault should be placed from the campsite. Check and follow the suggested rules for the area you are planning on visiting.

We placed our Vault on a small rock outcrop a couple hundred feet from the camping area.

If we were placing the Vault much further away from the campsite, we might have set a GPS waypoint to mark the location on the Vault.

We also used a counter balanced tree hang for our cookware and water bottles. Food was never stored or cooked in the cookware or bottles. We have had troubles with bears clawing our water containers, so we hung them as a cautionary measure. We stored our coffee cups, bowls and utensils in the Vault.

The limited size of the Vault requires some thought. Food items need to be compact. Some compact food items might need to be repackaged.

You can put a clean, empty pot on top of the Vault as a bear or critter alarm.

Store the container at a location where if an animal tries to tamper with the Vault, it will not roll away (over a cliff's edge, into a creek or lake, etc).

We stored the Vault in the very top of my Osprey Talon 44.

The BV450 is large enough for a weekend trip for two; but you will have to pack carefully. For longer trips or more people, you would have to use the BV500.

The link below is to the BV500. Links from that page lead to the BV450 or other canisters.

Happy bear-less trails


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