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BearVault Bear Resistant Container Review
Submitted by Forest_Crawler on Fri, 08/26/2011 - 22:31
Product Type:Food Storage
Picnic baskets. Coolers. Tents. Bears love to get into each and every one of them. Whether out of curiosity or in their search for food, they tear them open and usually destroy them to get at the contents. If you are going to be hiking or hunting in the back country and it's known to have bears, you'll need to protect your food. That's where the BearVault BV500 comes in.
The BearVault BV500 weighs 2 lbs. 9 oz. (empty), is 700 cubic inches (11.5 ltr), and is made of polycarbonate housing. The dimensions are 8.7 inches in dia. x 12.7 inches.
From the BearVault website:
BearVault sent me the BV500 to review, and because we can't bait or even put food in anything for the bears, I couldn't test it out on them. So, I did the next best thing. I put my snacks in it, went to bed feeling hungry and then set my alarm for 4am. At 4am, I tried opening the BearVault right away and it took me a while. Boy, when you are sleepy and try to get at your tasty treats out of a BearVault, well, it can be frustrating to say the least.
The reason that the BearVault works is there are two tabs, one on either side, that 'lock' when you close the lid. You have to press in on them to open the unit back up. This works extremely well. I even had a hard time opening it once or twice.
Then, I decided to put food in it and have a buddy try to open it. It took him a few painstaking minutes, but eventually he was able to get it open. When he replaced the lid, he then proceeded to throw it at me! The structural integrity was tested when it rolled down the stairs full of food! It didn't open, crack or even cave in. The construction is very solid and durable! It acquired a few surface blemishes, but that wasn't a big deal. I wasn't testing it for looks!
To further test the structural integrity, I stood on top of it while it was vertical (220 lbs at the time of testing). I then laid it horizontal and stood on it (while holding onto a chair for balance). I jumped up and down, thinking for sure that it would crack, but it only flexed a bit on the side. It stood up to plenty of weight and pressure. Good to know in case a bear pushes down on it and jumps on it trying to get it open.
I also made a plan to attach this to my pack and take it on an afternoon jaunt through the forest. First, I filled it with food, weighing it down and then proceeded to attach it to my pack. This is where I had some issues. Strapping in onto my pack wasn't the easiest procedure. For one, there aren't any tabs or areas where you can clip something to the BearVault or ever run a strap through. I know there are slight grooves in the center, but they leave very little room for error if your pack straps don't normally go that way. Tie-down can be difficult. There are small, protrusions (extruding plastic dots) coming out from all around the unit. (I am guessing these are supposed to help with the grip and with opening, but they didn't help much).
Eventually, I did find a way to anchor it onto my pack. Actually, I did it a few different ways by adding some straps. Most times my locking it down held up, but twice (two different methods of crossing only the straps that came with my pack and cinching them down) I decided to run with it attached to the pack. When I jumped down from a ledge or a boulder it came loose. I realize that the cinch job is my issue, but without having an easy area to PUT a strap and lock the Vault into place made it difficult. One time it slipped out and tumbled down a hill. It's a good thing I wasn't above a canyon with no access! Remember, this isn't a fault of the BearVault. I wish my pack had different straps to tie something like that down, but it did not so I recommend testing this on your pack before the day of your trip.
Opening the Vault is pretty difficult the first few times because the material isn't very pliable. In fact, the plastic is so tough my thumbs got a bit raw trying to open it. You really have to push hard with your thumb or in my case, a key on my key chain to get the tab in far enough to unscrew the lid. The first few times I had to be sure to use another tool to open it. I recommend keeping a Leatherman or some other tool on your person if you are using this in the back country just so you have a tool to open it. The only issue i see with using a tool to open it is that you can damage the tabs themselves. You must take care not to slip and hurt yourself and also not to damage the unit.
Two tests I tried that are a bit unorthodox were putting it in the freezer to get a frosty build-up on the outside and putting on cold, wet gloves to try to open it in the event that the weather was cold and I needed to open it that way. Both times proved to be very difficult! Please keep in mind, this is extreme, but there are some of us who hunt the higher elevations, where the cold, wet weather can creep into your bones. Even still, you need to have something to store and protect your food and other items (i.e Chapstick or a sunscreen stick).
Now, there are documented cases where bears in the Adirondack Mtns. have figured out how to open this storage unit, so you may want to avoid those areas.
Here are my recommendations to BearVault. Add a small eyelet of sorts so you can attach a small bell. That way, if a bear decides to test the functionality of the BV500, you'll be warned! Second, put a rubber, removable tab in the center, or both sides, with an opening (rectangular eyelet). This will function two ways; as something to grip slightly when opening or closing and something to loop a pack strap through to keep it cinched to your pack. I say 'removable' because in the event a bear decides to try to open this, he is more that likely going to bite that to try to open the Vault. If it pops out, then him opening it that way can be averted.
This unit costs around $80 in most stores. I want to protect my food and I want something that will do it efficiently. The price point seems very fair for this unit. You need your food and you need to protect it. Do it with a BearVault!
Disclaimer: The reviews are solely my honest opinions. These products were either provided to me for the purpose of review or I purchased them myself. I receive no monetary compensation in exchange for these reviews.