In the BearVault lineup, model BV450 and BV500 serve as the best options for food storage in the backcountry. The smaller BV450 is good for shorter treks, whereas the BV500 is best for thru-hiking.
In summary, the rugged BV450 and BV500 can take some serious abuse from a hungry grizzly. While both are exceptional, the 7.2 liter capacity of the BV500 offers 7 days worth of meal storage, making it the better value.
Let’s take a look at the differences between the BV450 and BV500 so you can decide which is best for your outdoor adventure.
How long are you heading out for a trek? Are you doing an overnighter or tackling a thru-hike on the PCT?
I ask because your supply and resupply situation is the single most important factor when it comes to choosing a BearVault model.
The stout BV450 has a capacity of 440 cubic inches. That’s roughly 7.2 liters of food. For most hikers, this is enough space to hold 4 days’ worth of food.
That is if you’re carrying typical hiker food. We’re talking dehydrated meals, trail mix, peanut butter, jerky, and of course, some candy.
For thru-hikes, the BV500 is better. This bigger bear canister offers 700 cubic inches, which round out to about 11.5 liters.
That’s enough space to last a thru-hiker 7 days between resupply. Or you could use it on a 2 to 3-night journey to feed you and a hiking buddy.
What I don’t recommend doing is opting for the BV450 if you’re simply trying to pack light for a long journey.
Every backpacker knows things happen out on the trail. Injuries, weather, and other factors are constantly coming your way. That extra day's worth of food may be your saving grace on trail.
Overnighter or thru-hiker, the weight of your pack, is everything.
Every ounce you haul needs to be meticulously calculated to avoid injury. Or at the very least, to avoid overburdening you with a heavy pack.
Empty, the BV500 weighs 2 pounds and 9 ounces. At 2 pounds and 1 ounce, the BV450 will save you 8 ounces.
Obviously, once you load up both these suckers, you're looking at a heavier weight.
That said, you still need to make sure you're properly fueled for your journey. So keep that in mind when choosing which BearVault model is best for your backpacking trip.
What I love about the BV450 is the size. This bear canister is about as wide as it is tall. Specifically, 8.7 inches x 8.3 inches.
The BV500 adds a noticeable amount of bulk. At 8.7 inches x 12.7 inches, the BV500 takes some meticulous packing to get all your gear stored just right.
I find trying to stash it in my pack horizontally is a bit of a stretch. And yet, vertically, it takes up a lot of precious cargo space.
That’s why most hikers, myself included, strap the BV500 horizontally on the top of a pack.
The benefit is this provides easy access for snacking. The downside is it makes the pack top heavy when fully loaded.
Horizontal or vertical, the BV450 simply fits better in a pack than the BV500.
As a backpacker, I find bear canisters to be far superior to the old-school method of slinging a bear bag up in a tree.
You'll also be hard-pressed to find a tree if you’re backpacking through the desert or setting up camp above the treeline.
The BV450 and BV500 are honestly the best bear canisters for stashing your food in bear country. Even my US Forest Service friend confirmed nothing beats these canisters when it comes to proper storage in the backcountry.
Both these models are Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee approved. That means they’re resistant against grizzlies and black bears.
So yeah, they’re seriously tough as nails. Or, I guess in this case, murder paws.
This is a feature I highly appreciate on a recent camping trip in the heart of Montana. Which, if you aren’t aware, is prime grizzly country.
Needless to say, both are valuable buys.
Yet while I dig the size and weight of the BV450, there’s no arguing the BV500 is the overall better value. It stores more food and barely costs more money.
If you’re going backpacking for more than a couple of days, go with the BV500. You could even stash enough food for you and your backpacking buddy on a 2-night journey.
If you plan on snoozing under the stars in bear country, you need a proper way to store your food. The BV450 and BV500 are the best options.