Towering peaks of the continental divide.

Thru-Hiking the CDT and Beyond with a Bear Canister

Do you remember the day when you first heard about thru-hiking? 

An epic multi-month adventure a few hikers are crazy enough to attempt, in which they live completely off the contents of their backpack, their resupplies, and a little trail magic?

As soon as Jason Brocar, or “MAV” (on the trail) learned about this wild feat, he was hooked. Now with three thru-hikes completed and more planned for the future, MAV is an adept long-distance hiker. He also carries a BV500.

The BearVault team sat down with MAV to learn more about his adventures, his obsession with thru-hiking, and his choice to bring a bear canister on 3,000+ mile hikes.

MAV on the marker for the end of the CDT with his BV500.

Falling in Love with Thru-Hiking

MAV (Marine Army Veteran) started thru-hiking in 2014 when he retired from the military. He immediately loved the lifestyle and the feeling thru-hiking gave him. That same year, MAV completed a SOBO (Southbound) trip on the Appalachian Trail (AT). The AT is 2,190+ miles of trail, spanning from Mount Katahdin in Maine to Springer Mountain in Georgia. After finishing the trail, MAV couldn’t imagine anything but beginning a thru-hiking career, and started planning his next trip to the Spanish Pyrenees in 2016. He would work for two years, then hike for a year, and repeat. Now that is commitment!

For his next thru-hike, MAV had his eyes set on the Continental Divide Trail (CDT).

MAV on the Continental Divide Trail carrying a BV500.

Attempting the Continental Divide Trail

The CDT is a collection of trails spanning 3,100 miles from Mexico to Canada, traveling through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. It is the longest and least traveled of the 3 long-distance trails in the US. Hikers travel through deserts, mountains, forests and plains, through every type of weather and conditions, in hopes of completing the trail and taking in every moment along the way.

When MAV began researching the CDT, he learned about the areas along the trail that are home to bears, and was immediately inspired to grab a BV500 for the trail. He read about people hanging food, but had never tried, and felt that the bear canister was the most logical decision to protect himself and his food along the trail. 

Black bears and grizzly bears both live along the Continental Divide Corridor. Black bears reside from New Mexico all the way to Montana, while grizzly bears are mainly located in the northern states on the trail. Although bear canisters are not required for the entire trail, numerous National Forests and National Parks along the trail do require them. MAV remembers watching many hikers every single night trying to find a tree, throw their rope over the branches, and hope to wake up to their food in the morning. He’d also see hikers in the morning accidentally pulling a tree limb off when they pulled down their food, leaving a lasting impact on the trees. 

MAV on the Continental Divide Trail carrying a BV500.

He heard stories of people waking up with their bear bags taken, and no food left for the trail, and was grateful this didn’t happen to any of his partners. Meanwhile, MAV was very happy to be able to easily set his canister 100 feet from camp, sleep well, and not worry about his food being taken through the night. Because of the ease, utility, and ability to help protect the animals in the area, MAV chose to bring the canister along the entire 3,100 miles of the CDT. His food remained protected, and easy to take care of throughout his trip, and he will continue to bring it on his future thru-hikes!

Bear Country And The CDT

BearVault collaborated with the CDTC to make sure you have the need to know information about bears and bear safety before hitting the trail.

Carrying a Bear Canister All The Time

Many people along the trail asked MAV, “Why wouldn’t you only carry a canister when it’s required?” 

MAV responded to us that it made life on the trail easy. He could camp above the tree-line, below the tree-line, and really wherever he wanted, because he wasn’t relying on finding the “right tree” in the area to hang food from. He also mentioned that many areas have been recently overtaken by forest fires, and no longer have suitable trees to hang from. He feels confident that he can go wherever he pleases and does not have to worry about his food protection. Another really great point MAV made was that having a bear canister allows him to travel to the less popular wilderness areas, which he prefers. He doesn’t need to rely on bear boxes or poles left by the Forest Service, as he has his own means of containing the food!

“I love to see people out there, and I love to be out there. But, the usage of these places causes erosion. It’s important that everyone packs everything they bring in back out with them, and leave it just as good as when you got there.” – MAV

Packing out everything we pack in is a really simple way to keep animals from congregating near the campsites, and more-so keeps them from relying on humans. We are in their home after all, and it is our job to “keep them wild” MAV states. The canister is an easy way to pack out trash, keep it from the animals, and do our part to Leave No Trace

The biggest reasons he loves his canister is that it protects his food from bears, mice, and other critters in the wilderness, that it keeps his food (and electronics) dry in the rain, AND that he can sit on top of the canister at camp and eat his potato chips (his must-have trail snack) while his partners are sitting on the ground.  

BearVault BV500 on MAV's Continental Divide Trail Thru-Hike

What is Next for MAV?

You can bet MAV isn’t going to stop thru-hiking anytime soon!

MAV is still working towards his triple crown after hiking a good portion of the PCT SOBO in 2022. He has about 1,200 miles left to complete his triple crown dreams. He is also an active trail runner, just having finished the Black Hills 30K. 

In between long distance trails and races, MAV likes to hit the woods in his backyard– the Black Hills of South Dakota.

You can follow MAV’s adventures on Instagram and as a blogger for The Trek

Guest Author:

Adventure Addicts

Hey! We are Kelby and Zoe: two adventure addicted, outdoor loving, adrenaline seeking, gear junkies. We are on a mission to inspire more people to get outside, provide them with quality gear reviews and recommendations, and show them why we have fallen in love with the outdoors!

We spend all of our free time backpacking, hiking, mountain biking, climbing, or trying to find ways to combine all of the above. We absolutely love BearVault and are excited to be helping with some informational content regarding bear canister use and conservation! You can follow along with our adventures on Instagram at @the_adventureaddicts and our blog!

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