Lightweight bear proof container review: BearVault BV350 Solo

Bears Kill the “Light” in Lightweight Backpacking

The requirement to carry bear-proof containers in most national parks and forests really makes an ultralight backpacker roar.

You cut off toothbrush handles, trim pack straps and remove tent labels to save a few ounces, only to add 2 ½ pounds of bear-proof container to your load.

Since most light packs (less than 3 pounds) are 3000 cc’s or less, a bear canister takes up a huge portion of the precious little space. Strapping it onto the outside of the pack is an awkward alternative. No straps are included with purchase.

Perhaps the best way to enjoy some canister-free hiking is to share carrying duties with trail pals.

My regular backpacking/camping companions, Wild Bill and The Duke, are quite accommodating when it comes to sharing.

The Duke frequently carries our evening wine in his 14-ounce GoLite Gust Pack. Wild Bill hauls blocks of cheese and quantities of anti-oxidants (large dark chocolate candy bars) as his contribution. As a result, I carry the community pot and more often than not, the group bear canister. In theory anyway, sharing could lighten your load. One canister will work for three people on a two to three-day trip, but not much more.

BearVault BV350 Solo Bear Resistant Food Canister

After renting a big Garcia Bear Canister at 2 pounds, 9 ounces, on several trips, I decided to search for a smaller, lighter solution. I found it in the BearVault BV350 Solo Bear Resistant Food Canister (pictured at left), a large see-through plastic jar with screw-on lid and child-proof lock.

The BV350 Solo (4 days capacity, according to the manufacturer) weighs 1 pound, 15 ounces (on my wife’s food scale), 10 precious ounces less than the standard Garcia and nearly half the bulk.

From the official BearVault web page:

  • Super rugged transparent polycarbonate housing resists impacts without shattering.
  • Innovative patent pending design so you can open and close the lid without tools! (Note: this is true, but the BV 350 is awkward to hold onto, while twisting and pushing in the child-proof lock. You need strong fingers.)
  • Extra wide, rain-proof opening provides full access for loading, unloading, and finding items. (Note: Not sure why they call this a rain-proof opening. When open, it’s open to the elements.)
  • Built-in guides keep tie down straps in place so extra carrying case is not needed to attach to backpack. (Note: I have never tried to strap it on the outside.)

A Good DesignBV350 Solo bear canister

The Solo clearly is a well-made product that has eliminated the need for opening tools, such as coins and screwdrivers, while allowing you to see the contents through the blue-tinted plastic.

I have some problems with its shape, however. At 8.5 inches wide by 8 inches high, it is kind of like a basketball. And, there is no way to fit this “ball” neatly into my sleek Osprey Atmos 35 Backpack. This is complicated by the Atmos 35’s concave space at my back, which intrudes into the pack and makes it that much less friendly for the BV Solo.

Compared with other similar products, the BV350 Solo is relatively light. But it is not what I would call ultralight friendly — just one of the better solutions currently on the market.

My Advice

Take your gear-filled pack to your local oudoor store and see how well the BV Solo fits inside the pack. Try to strap it onto the outside of the pack.

Here is a list of bear canisters approved by the Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group.

BV350 Pros: sturdy see-through plastic, no tool needed to open, and lightweight compared with similar products at a decent price.

BV350 Cons: awkward shape for small packs, tricky to open.

Bottom Line: a good choice until something truly ultralight comes along.

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7 thoughts on “Lightweight bear proof container review: BearVault BV350 Solo

  1. Pingback: LightBackpacking.com » Blog Archive » Ursack Bear Bag review

  2. Excellent detailed roundup. As the owner of the BV350 and an Osprey Atmos 50, I totally concur about the shape and size…not ideal, but frankly better than any SIBBG-approved container thus far for lightweight trekkers and short-duration trips. The best way I’ve found to pack one is to try to center heavier tools and items (tent, mostly) in the center of the pack, right between the framestays, and then tuck the canister on top, extending the top compression straps and allowing the black extension fabric to extend up to cover the container. It makes the Atmos packs taller than one might be used to, but if key weight is kept below it, it can still feel fairly balanced on-trail.

    Mileage may vary for those bushwhackers out there who need their center of gravity a bit lower…but personally I find the stumpy form factor poor for strapping externally, as it’s not really long enough to do so firmly.

    Great overview, and keep up the great work!

  3. Hi Nathan,

    I appreciate your positive feedback and advice on how to handle the BV350 in the smaller packs. Your solution is interesting. I’ll give it a try.

    Bruce

  4. thanks for your report, i found it while looking for lightweight bear canisters. if you have a lot of money and a high tolerance for flash-infested web sites, check out http://www.wild-ideas.net/, they sell carbon canisters which are really light, but also super-expensive.

  5. the screw on lid canisters were successfully broken open by a smart young bear on the Rae Lakes loop trail in Kings Cyn Natl Park last July when he wedged it between some rocks and forced the lid off, breaking the treads. We saw those canisters there but got word from rangers that the next generation of bears is smarter. the 43 mile loop was incredibly gorgeous and quite a butt kicker, especially doing it counter clockwise carrying heavy black canisters. the bear incident occurred on the west side of the loop in the popular camp site areas.

  6. I’m in NZ – I will be doing the John Muir this September 2011. I was thinking of renting the Bearikade weekender – any suggestions?
    Will I get 6/7 days of Dyh food in?

  7. Six days of food in a canister is a lot. However, if you are taking nothing too bulky I think you can manage. Good luck.

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