Rigorously ensuring your safety!

Bear Testing

Approval Status Prior Year Models:
Prior Year Models:
Current Models:
Current Models:
Black Bear Approved by SIBBG Yes Yes Yes N/A
Grizzly Bear Approved by IGBC No Yes Yes Yes

In October 2003, the BearVault® was Conditionally Certified by the SIBBG. Production began in November, and after a full year of field use by many backpackers, the Conditional Certification was changed to fully approved by the SIBBG.

Since 2004, we have made a few design changes and have also been grizzly bear approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. This involves a similar one-hour test in the hands of a mighty Grizzly.


Wild bear attacking a BearVault

Certifying Agency IGBC

In October 2003, the BearVault was Conditionally Certified by the SIBBG. Production began in November, and just one year later, after a full year of field use by many backpackers, the Conditional Certification was changed to fully approved by the SIBBG.

  • Does not claim products are “bear-proof”.
  • Does not claim containers will never be accessed by bears.
  • Does not claim small amounts of the contents of the containers won’t leak/spill out.

Since 2004, BearVault has been grizzly bear approved by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee. The IGBC certification test provides great insight into how seriously bear safety products and organizations take the efficacy of bear safety products. The IGBC program is the only bear-resistant product testing and certification program in the United States that is recognized and endorsed by bear experts.

The intent of IGBC testing program is to prevent ineffective products from being placed into use. If a product appears on the list of IGBC-approved bear-resistant products, it means that the commercially available product has met minimum standards related to the effort that must be expended by grizzly bears to access the container’s contents.

Visual Inspection of Product Components: Latches, hinges, lids, coverings, openings, etc. Anything that might allow a bear to gain entry by breaking, bending, tearing, biting, or pulling with its claws or teeth will be visually inspected.

Live Grizzly Bear Test: The live-bear test utilizes captive grizzly bears at an IGBC-approved facility. Currently, the Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana is the only facility approved for this purpose by the IGBC.

Test Conditions:

  • Tester places food inside container. Sometimes applying food (honey, peanut butter, fish oil, etc.) on the outside to simulate leaking.
  • Container is closed and placed in the bear enclosure undergoing contact by several bears of various sizes and with varying levels of experience with containers.
  • Tester monitors and videos all container testing. Photos and video footage is archived for five-years after testing.
  • Container remains in the bear enclosure and accessible to bears until broken into or until 60 minutes of “bear contact time” has been reached.
    • “Bear contact time” is defined as biting, clawing, pounding, rolling, compressing, chewing, or scratching by the captive test bear(s). Please note that licking does not count toward bear contact time.
    • A container will be considered to have been broken into if it is rendered non-functional, or if the hinges, seams, lids, or doors are torn, bent, or broken and the bear gains access at any of these points at any time during the test.
    • If a container is not broken into within the required 60 minutes of bear contact time, it will be considered to have “passed” the live-bear test.

Reproduced with the expressed permission of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee.

Camera in BearVault provides special view

Realtime Testing

During the autumn and winter of 2002/2003, BearVault made several prototypes which were impact-tested by the Sierra Interagency Black Bear Group (SIBBG). By May 2003, we had a canister that was ready for the ultimate test: a trial stint with Fisher, the 560 pound black bear at the Folsom Zoo. Fisher, with his massive bulk and powerful jaws, had sent many designers back to the drawing board. It turned out, that is exactly what he did to this early BearVault design as well. The SIBBG required the canister to last one full hour – but after just 8 minutes, Fisher had torn into the canister, and claimed his tasty reward of meat, peanut butter and jelly.

Undeterred, we revised and strengthened the canister design, and in July 2003 we re-tested the improved canister with Fisher. After 24 hours, he gave up. Wanting to see how much punishment the canister could endure, it was then immediately put into the cage of another large black bear named Sequoia. After an additional 24 hours the canister was removed from her enclosure, still intact. The BearVault lasted 48 hours of abuse by two very large black bears, vastly exceeding the one hour requirement for certification.

There are many variables that could be responsible for a bear canister’s failed performance in the wild:

  • Wildlife. Sometimes it is a relentless and creative bear that simply will not give up and finds a way to crack into the canister, even if he throws it off a cliff to smash on the rocks below.
  • User. Other times it is operator error, a decision made that compromised the canister’s functionality.
  • Product. Other times the product unit was weak or manufactured wrong and was not working correctly.

In an article about bear canister failure, based on real data collected from Yosemite National Park, it becomes clear that there are many different variables that contribute to canister success and failure. Andrew Skurka, in his article titled “Not Bear or Idiot Proof: Documented Canister Failures”, states the following:

“For every, one bear canister failure, there are several cases of bears obtaining food or scented items that were:

  • Kept inside of an unattended backpack or shelter;
  • Hung in tree;
  • Buried; or,
  • Left out overnight unprotected.”

Bears everywhere are creative, motivated, and super curious creatures. Perhaps you have heard of the “Cliff Bear” of Yosemite – a bear that learned by accident that if a canister rolled off a cliff it would shatter into pieces below leaving all the treats scattered about to be gobbled up. The canisters that took the tumble cracked open regardless of the brand. They were also entirely irretrievable.

The Sierra Wild page on “Bear Essentials” provided some amusing albeit sobering titles based on various bear provision thievery and break-ins that we published below. You may find yourself both chuckling and shuddering at the same time, but this gives you a glimpse into the kind of investigative work we at BearVault® do as we continue our research and development to provide the most effective and practically useful equipment we can provide.

  • Tarzan” – In the backcountry, bears climb to tree branches above a suspended food bag and jump onto the food bags, dislodging them on route to the ground. No really, they do. It is crazy.
  • Dinner Guest”- Now that steel bear lockers are common throughout the Sierra, some habituated bears resort to walking right into campsites during mealtime to grab food directly from picnic tables, open vehicles, and yes, open bear boxes!
  • Scissor Teeth” – In the backcountry, some bears gnaw through ropes or branches to drop food bags to the ground.
  • Oscar the Grouch” – Some bears learn to paw open trash cans or dumpsters to pull out trash or crawl inside. Bears sometimes get stuck inside dumpsters and are collected with the trash, either getting compacted and killed by trash truck machinery or injured when escaping the collection truck. Help prevent this by always latching the lid on dumpsters and trash cans.
  • Aqua Man” – At least one bear in the Sierra is known to swim to reach rafts where food is being stored.
  • Desperate Dirtbag” – Rock climbers suspending their food bags off the ground have lost their wall munchies to incredibly skilled free-climbing bear stone-masters. Food hung over the lip of cliffs has been pulled up and munched by bears on the summit.
  • Car Crunch” – Broken window glass, bent door frames, popped camper shells… all to reach that apple core you left under the passenger’s seat.
  • Trunk Trick” – An add-on to the basic “Car Crunch”. After breaking a window, the bear rips out your back seat to reach that toothpaste you left in the trunk.
  • Cat Burglar” – It is not just cars. Leave the door or window open at your cabin or hotel room and a bear will happily rip through the screen to find that granola bar in your luggage.