Guest - Not logged in 

Reviews > Cook and Food Storage Gear > Bear Resistant Containers > BearVault BV400 > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

BearVault BV400 Bear Canister
By Raymond Estrella
October 13, 2006


NAME: Raymond Estrella
EMAIL: rayestrellaAThotmailDOTcom
AGE: 48
LOCATION: Orange County, California, USA
HEIGHT: 6' 3" (1.91 m)
WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.

The Product

Manufacturer: BearVault
Web site:
Product: BV400
Year manufactured: 2006
Size listed: 8.7 x 12.7 in (22 x 32 cm) Actual size 8.75 x 12.3 in (22 x 31 cm)
Capacity listed:700 cu in (11.5 L)
Weight listed: 2 lb 9 oz (1.16 kg) Weight measured 2 lb 10.3 oz (1.2 kg
Warranty: One year warranty for the unit, but defective lids are replaced free of charge even for older lids. (Per manufacturer email.)


Product Description

The BearVault BV400 is a polycarbonate bear canister for use in areas that require one or if bears are a concern. It has the approval of the Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group and the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. The body (seen above) is molded with ribs in the center section to add strength. Three rows of seven raised bumps above and below the ribs are to allow straps to hold it in place on a backpack without slipping off.

The very sturdy feeling black lid attaches to the body by way of the threads molded into both pieces. On the top of the lid is a bright red inset sticker with opening and closing instructions. Here is a picture of it.


Inside the lid are six ribs radiating out from the center to give added strength. (See below.) The threads on the lid and the body are very aggressive. More about them later.

The unit locks with the use of a tab protruding from both the lid at the bottom of the lip, and the body at the shoulder just below the threads. As the lid screws down the body to the shoulder the tab on it “clicks” past the tab on the body courtesy of the angled face the lid tab has. Once past they have opposing angle sides hitting each other making it near impossible to just unscrew the lid back off. To get it to unlock the lid must be pressed in at the small textured (knurled) area which will flex the lid enough to allow the tabs to clear each other. Here is a picture of it all.


The company claims that the BV400 can carry seven days worth of food. They also claim that it has a “rain-proof opening”. I do not understand what they refer to as if it is open, it is open. There is nothing to keep rain out!

Field Conditions

I have used the BV400 on two backpacking trips for a total of 9 days in the field. One trip was from Onion Valley to Horseshoe Meadows via Cottonwood Pass. This was a four day 58 mile (93 km) trip on the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The BV400 was carried in a Mountainsmith Auspex pack that weighed 32.5 lb (14.7 kg) at the start. Temperatures ranged from a low of 30 F (-1 C) to a high of 80 F (27 C). Low altitude was the start at 9200’ (2804 m) to a high of 13180’ (4017 m)

The second trip was an 88 mile (142 km) hike in the Sierra Nevada west side in October of 2006. I was in lows of 29 F (-2 C) at night. I camped at elevations of 8700’ to 10000’ (2652-3048 m) Again it was carried in the Auspex with a starting weight of 37.5 lb (17 kg). This trip was supposed to be an eight day hike, but was cut short due to weather. All locations are in the state of California.


I never used a bear canister until 2003. I have always hung my food and have never had a problem with any food being taken by anything larger than a mouse, kangaroo rat or blue jay. But with the new restrictions and the rangers starting to enforce it I had to join with the program. After a bit of research I decided on the BearVault BV200, I was happy with it and used it for one year but it was replaced with the improved BV300. As Dave and I were planning caches for an eleven day winter hike we decided to buy three of the BV300s so that we would have the best canister for after the winter trip. Unfortunately a bear (or bears) in the Raes Lake area of SEKI (Sequoia Kings Canyon National Parks) figured out how to pop them open. When I showed up in Lone Pine to pick up my permit for the first trip mentioned above the ranger asked what canister I had. I said, “a BV300” and was told sorry, go directly to jail, do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars. Actually I was told to bring it in and they would trade me for a new BV400. Of course it was on the bottom of my top-loading pack.

I immediately noticed how much beefier it is. It is 4.2 oz (119 g) heavier than the BV300, with 2.5 of those ounces (71 g) being in the lid alone. The threads as I mentioned earlier are much deeper on the newer BV400. Here is a picture of both of the lids and bodies showing the difference. The ribs may be seen on the BV400 lid on the left.



The company says that the BV400 can carry a seven day supply of food. I can attest to that. On the four day trip Dave and I shared one canister. And for the eight day trip I had the following items inside of the BV400.

7 freeze-dried dinners
15 1-quart/liter servings of GU2O in locking bags
15 Lara Bars
5 Pro Bars
4 2 oz (57 g) bags of hulled sunflower seeds
2.5 oz (71 g) dark chocolate covered coffee beans in a plastic bag
4 oz (113 g) assorted sugar-free hard candies
Seven locking bags of vitamins and wheat grass tablets.
Here is all of it spread out on my plan table.

Lots of food

And here it is packed in the BV400.


I should mention that I never actually carry my food inside the canister. To keep the weight placed the way that I want it I put my sleeping bag and fleece pillow case (and sometimes my Phantom down jacket) inside of the canister which goes in the bottom of my pack. The food is carried in a sack that I place as close to my shoulders in the pack as possible. Once in camp I pull everything out and put the food in the BearVault. When sharing with Dave we do the same thing. I carry the canister and my food, Dave carries his food and we put it in the BearVault once we get to camp. (I hope no rangers are reading this.)

The new lid is easier to open than the older styles, although it is still difficult when it is below freezing to get the lid to flex. Two frigid mornings I had a heck of a time getting it open.

As I have never had a bear in my camp in 30 years I can not attest to its usefulness in this regard. But maybe those sneaky bruins see it from afar and just decide to go steal from another hiker. It did thwart the attentions of the little rodents and birds that are always looking for a hand-out.

I will keep using the BV400 until such time as I am told that it is no longer acceptable for some reason. Hopefully a few years down the road this time.

This report was created with the Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

Read more reviews of BearVault gear
Read more gear reviews by Ray Estrella

Reviews > Cook and Food Storage Gear > Bear Resistant Containers > BearVault BV400 > Owner Review by Ray Estrella

Product tested and reviewed in each Formal Test Report has been provided free of charge by the manufacturer to Upon completion of the Test Series the writer is permitted to keep the product. Owner Reviews are based on product owned by the reviewer personally unless otherwise noted.

All material on this site is the exclusive property of
BackpackGearTest software copyright David Anderson