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12 Backpacking Foods You Can Cram in a Bear Canister

We analyzed the calorie density of 12 different backpacking food items to illustrate the theoretical maximum number of calories that can be placed in a BearVault BV500 bear canister. Every food has a different calorie density and the way it is packaged also influences calorie density.

Paul Bodnar      Educational       10/16/2020
Paul Bodnar
Educational
10/16/2020

*The actual number of Snickers Bars and Ramen Noodles that we were able to fit in a BV500 was 143 and 24 respectively. The difference in the theoretical maximum and actual can be significant depending on spacing between packages. Surprisingly when packing a variety of Mountain House meals we were able to fit a total of 10 packages inside a BV500 with a total calories of 5,945. This matched closely with the theoretical numbers.

The purpose of the chart above is to illustrate the differences in different types of food and how it impacts the number of days of food in a bear canister. We do not suggest you will eat the exact same food every day or pack you bear can with olive oil to maximize your calories. We are just showing theoretical maximums in calories and estimated days of food to illustrate the differences in calorie density for different foods. If you want to maximize the number of calories or days of food in your bear canister it is best to select high calorie density food.


A BV500 bear canister full of snickers.

The BV500 used for this test has a measured (as opposed to published) volume of 10.8 liters or 10,800 cm3 . The equation above illustrates how the theoretical maximum number of calories inside a BV500 is calculated. You can use the same equation to calculate the calorie maximum for different sized bear canisters.

A healthy variety of food is important.

It is especially important to pack healthy food when packing your bear canister. Sometimes healthy food might not be as calorie rich as other high fat foods. This doesn’t not reduce the value of healthy food in your diet.

A BV500 bear canister next to a ruler.
A BV500 bear canister laying down on its side next to a ruler.

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Photo courtesy of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association

Trail guides that get you to places you’ve dreamed of.

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About the Author
A man wearing an Arizona Trail baseball cap stands in a field in front of a mountain.

Paul Bodnar

Paul has always liked hiking and thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 1997 after college. After years of working in chemistry, he wanted to create a career involving the outdoors, so he hiked the PCT again in 2010 to do research for his guide book, Pocket PCT. He realized that creating a smartphone app for navigating the outdoors would make it easier to keep the data current and provide a better way to navigate. While hiking with Ryan (aka Guthook) in 2010, they decided to work together to create the first comprehensive smartphone guide for the PCT.