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Reviews > Cook and Food Storage Gear > Bear Resistant Containers > BearVault BV400 > Owner Review by Nancy Griffith

May 01, 2009


NAME: Nancy Griffith
EMAIL: bkpkrgirlATyahooDOTcom
AGE: 43
LOCATION: Northern California, USA
HEIGHT: 5' 6" (1.68 m)
WEIGHT: 130 lb (59.00 kg)

My outdoor experience began in high school with involvement in a local canoeing/camping group called Canoe Trails. The culmination was a 10-day canoe voyage through the Quebec wilds. I've been backpacking since my college days in Pennsylvania. I have completed all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. Now I usually hike in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Most of my trips are section hikes or loops from a few days to a week. I carry a light to mid-weight load, use a tent, stove and hiking poles.


Bear Vault
Photo Courtesy of Bear Vault website

Manufacturer: Bear Vault
Year of Manufacture: 2007
Manufacturer's Website:
MSRP: Not Available
Model: BV400
Listed Weight: 2 lb 9 oz (1.16 kg)
Measured Weight: 2 lb 10 oz (1.19 kg)
Capacity: 7 days
Volume: 700 cu in (11.5 L)
Dimensions: 8.7 in (22 cm) diameter x 12.7 in length (32 cm)
Other Model Available: BV350 Solo
Listed Weight: 2 lb 1 oz
Capacity: 4 days

The BV400 is made from thick-walled blue transparent polycarbonate and has a black plastic lid.

The BV350/400 are still available on the internet, but they are not currently made because they have been replaced with the BV450/500. These newer models are identical to the others except that the lid has an additional tab to increase the difficulty of opening the lid since some crafty bear(s) in the Adirondacks figured out how to open the single tab. The BV350/400 is still approved for use in areas outside of the Adirondacks.


I have used the BV400 for nine backpacking trips ranging from an overnighter to a full week trip. In total I used it for around 33 days of backpacking and a friend borrowed it for a week-long trip. I have also used it for car camping and boat camping trips. I originally purchased it for the trip to Kings Canyon National Park where bear canisters are required. Since I had rented a canister in Yosemite National Park previously and Kings Canyon had the same one for rent, I decided to buy the Bear Vault instead. The main reason that I wanted to buy my own canister was so that I could pack it ahead of time. That way I know exactly what would fit rather than trying to pack at the trailhead.

Some examples of my backpacking trips are as follows:
King's Canyon National Park (Southern Sierra Nevada, California): 7 days: 41 miles (66 km); 5,000 to 11,978' (1524 to 3651 m); 30's - 80's F (0 - 27 C); rocky terrain to packed dirt to sandy soil.

Reavis Ranch/Roger's Canyon (Superstition Wilderness, Arizona): 3 days: 33 miles (53 km): 3,620 to 5,360 ft (1,100 to 1,630 m); 32 to 85 F (0 to 29 C); sandy to rocky soil.

Mount Whitney (Southern Sierra Nevada, California): 3 days: 22 miles (35 km); 8,366 to 14,497 ft (2,550 to 4,419 m) elevation; packed dirt to rocky conditions.

Mount Rainer Northern Loop (Washington): 6 days: 50 miles (81 km); 1,700 to 6,740 ft (518 to 2054 m) elevation; packed dirt to rocky conditions.

La Verkin Creek Trail, Zion National Park (Utah): 3 days; 20 mi (32 km); 5,413 to 6,070 ft (1,650 to 1,850 m); 40 to 75 F (4 to 24 C); sandy conditions

At first, I was unhappy with adding weight to my pack just for carrying food, but I was willing to do it to keep the bears wild. However, I quickly became enamored with the canister and have used it on every trip whether it is required or not. Of the 9 backpacking trips that I've used the canister, it was only required on 2 of them. I even packed it with me in my airline luggage for two out-of-state backpacking trips where it was not required.

I really like the convenience of having all of my food in one location versus the individual bags that I used to carry (one for each day). I pack the canister in the top of my pack with the opening at the top so that it is easy to access during trail breaks. For these breaks, I just unbuckle my pack top, roll it down and unscrew the Bear Vault. When we get to camp, we just pull the canister out first and the food is always easy to find.

Example of food
food in canister
How it fits

The BV400 is advertised as being able to hold enough food for 7 days. I have found that I can fit 5 days' worth of food for two people in it or more like 10 days' worth in total. When I use it for shorter trips, I usually don't go to as much trouble to remove all of the packaging and to pack as efficiently. Here is an example of some food and how it fits in the canister. There still quite a bit of room left inside.

My favorite feature of the BV400 is the fact that I can see through the canister. This is incredibly useful when trying to locate a particular item. No matter how well I plan, what I'm looking for seems to end up at the bottom. When I used the other brand which is not transparent, I had to empty nearly the entire contents every time to find what I was looking for.

Peace of Mind:
While I haven't seen any evidence that a bear has ever tried to open my canister, it is nice to fall asleep or head off for a day hike with the bear canister unattended and know that when I return I will still have food. I have hiked in several locations where squirrels or marmots are prevalent and like knowing that those guys won't sneak off with my food. I had one occasion where the food was in the canister and my lip block and lighter were sitting nearby on a rock while we went off for a little fishing. When we returned the lip block and lighter were gone. We found the lighter stashed in a crack in the rock but couldn't find the lip block. My husband swore that I had just dropped it somewhere, but he later found it on the trail to the lake with little teeth marks all over it. I should have put it in the Bear Vault.

Wide Mouth:
The large lid and wide opening make access to items much easier. Again, the other brand that we rented has a narrower opening and tapered sides so that things tend to get stuck on the sides and are harder to pull out.

The BV400 can be used as a stool. The lid should be completely closed first so that weight is not applied to the threads alone. I find it to be a comfortable height and use it nearly every evening and morning on the trail.

On the trail, I store the BV400 in an area that seems safe from being rolled away like between rocks or in bushes. It has seen some abuse from dropping it or from sitting on it, but the canister shows no wear except for some scratches from rocks.

lid tab
Locking Lid Tab

No Tool Needed:
The canister that we rented required a coin or similar item to open the lid. I don't carry coins on the trail and found the need for a tool to open the lid every time to be annoying. The Bear Vault is opened by simply pressing in the tab on the lid while rotating the lid.

Bear Welfare:
Last but not least, bear canisters are good for bears. Heck, if we're going to invade their living rooms with our outdoor activity, the least we can do is protect them as much as possible. Eating human food is an eventual death sentence for many bears. Even the most diligent of us can easily lose some food to marauding bears. We once had our food in an open bear locker at a car campsite. We were sitting within 5 feet of the opening and as dark fell, a large bear sneaked up behind the locker and was reaching around the door as we sat there chatting. We were shocked when we saw it just a few feet from our backs. Fortunately it didn't get any food, but it was an eye-opener. It is amazing how quiet a large animal can be.


I find the Bear Vault to be a very useful piece of backpacking and camping equipment. For me the benefits outweigh (no pun intended) the additional weight of carrying it.


Large opening
No tool required to open it
Use as chair


Extra weight in my pack


Nancy Griffith

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.

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