The BearVault Story
BearVault manufactures bear-resistant food canisters, primarily used by backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts who carry food into bear country. Approved bear canisters are recognized as the only effective portable means of food storage in many wild areas. Proper precautions with bears keep the bears wild and neither attracted to nor dependent upon people for food. This helps eliminate bear-human conflict and protect personal property, food, and the bears.
Designed by Backpackers
The concept for the BearVault was born during a 2002 Sierra backpacking trip with friends from the San Diego Hiking Club . Camped around a mountain lake, the group was lamenting the problems they had with bear canisters. Everybody agreed the available canisters were too heavy, held too little and had too small an opening.
Several hikers had external frame packs, and attaching the slippery, tapered canisters of the time to those packs was a problem. Why didn’t someone make a better canister? Thus began the story of Jamie Hogan’s invention…
With so many concerns, the design had to be radically different. First he began with a “child resistant” screw-on cap. This was a completely novel bear canister design that had a lot of unknowns, the biggest being whether the lid would pop off when a large bear pounded on the canister.
Tested by Bears
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.
Approved by Agencies
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.
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.
Bear In Mind
As a human, you will appreciate how your BearVault guards your food from animals and saves it for your own tummy. For bears, though, BearVault plays a critical role in their own protection. Hungry bears, under ever-mounting land and resource pressure, sometimes resort to scavenging human food. When bears are rewarded by getting bits of food, and develop a habit of seeking human food, confrontations are more likely, and they are labeled “problem bears”. This is handled differently in various areas, but rarely does it end well for the bear. Sometimes bears are given a second chance with expensive relocation programs, but even then, bears will often find their way back to targeting human food or garbage. In the end, sadly, most problem bears are killed as a last resort.
To the extent you can prevent bears from being rewarded with human food, you are doing your part to help keep bears wild. In fact, this goes for all animals – keeping your food and trash secured from animal consumption will keep animals from developing aggressive or problematic habits.