Packing your first Bear Canister

With my High Sierra to Mt Whitney trip less than a week away I have been finalizing my packing. This trip will be my first in bear country, and thus the first time I am required to backpack with a bear canister.

At first, I was a bit frustrated that I had to pack all my food in a bear canister, if you haven’t seen or heard of one before its basically a big container to pack all your food in to protect it from bears. The idea behind a bear canister is that when you make camp for the night you place your canister with all the food in side a couple hundred meters from your camp. If a bear happens to find it,he can bite it and smash it all he wants but most likely will not get into your food. Most trails in bear country require them, and park rangers will not give you your permits unless you have one. I understand why a bear canister is required, but its still a couple of extra pounds and very awkward to pack.

My trip should take about 6 days, therefore I needed a big bear canister. I ended up purchasing a Bear Vault 500.

On most of my backpacking trips I tend to buy the dehydrated meals. As pointed out be a lot of people online these are not the cheapest option, but call my lazy I find them easy and convenient. I have never had any issues with them on previous camping trips, but this was my first time using a bear canister, and the dehydrated meals do not exactly fit nicely into my Bear Vault 500. Here is a week worth of just dinners, stuffed into my Bear Vault 500:

6 Days of Dinner, no snacks....

6 Days of Dinner, no snacks….


Side view of 6 days of dinner

Side view of 6 days of dinner

As you can see from the above two pictures, that is just dinner! That is no where near enough calories to sustain me for a week! I was a bit nervous on the logistics of packing a week worth of calories in the Bear Vault 500. I had questions, that I took to Reddit for some answers!

A lot of user on Reddit suggested, empty the dehydrated dinners into ziploc bags. There is a lot of excess in the packaging for the meals and by placing them into ziploc bags, you can save a ton of space!

I purchased quart sized ziploc bags to transfer my dinners into. I also bought the bags with the white labels on them so I could write on them with a sharpie. Remember most dehydrated meals of the directions on the bag, so I used to white labels to write down what meal it was and how much water to boil etc.


After transferring all my meals into ziploc bags, I was able to save a ton of space in my Bear Vault 500! It was a huge weight off my shoulders because now I could fit all the rest of my food in a Bear Vault too. Once fully packed I will share my food plan and pictures of my Bear Vault with a week of food packed into it. The one plus size of having to store all my food in a bear canister, is that I at least will not have mostly crushed food!

Comparing the size of 1 dinner

Comparing the size of 1 dinner


All six dinner sin ziploc bags in my Bear Vault 500

All six dinner sin ziploc bags in my Bear Vault 500


First Impression: Grayl Ultralight Purification


High Sierra Trail to Mt Whitney Introduction


  1. Jeremiah

    Thanks for posting all this. Definitely staying tuned as I get towards my trip on the HST next year. Totally jealous you are going soon!

    • Mike

      Glad to hear you enjoyed the post! I hope my posts can help you on your trip next year! I am stoked for mine, I am just hoping the snow and ice is not to bad at the tunnel.

      • Jeremiah

        Yeah seems like there’s a lot of snow still hanging around but the heat this weekend might clear a lot out…. Looking forward to hearing how it goes!

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