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Gear Review: BearVault Solo

For many years I’ve been annoyed at having to carry a full-size Garcia bear canister, even when traveling by myself and on short trips. The Garcia models are just fine functionally and they certainly work effectively (and make great camp stools, as well) but they are bulky in my smaller packs.

Earlier this year I picked up the small model of the BearVault canister, called the BearVault Solo. Its diameter is about the same as the Garcia, but at 8″ high it is only 2/3 as tall. This makes a big difference in the pack. It is also nearly a full pound lighter; 1 pound, 14 ounces vs. 2 pounds, 12 ounces.

Other differences range from cosmetic to functional. At the cosmetic end of the spectrum, the BearVault is made of bluish nearly transparent material. A more functional consideration is the design of the lid. The very secure Garcia lid attaches by 3 small locks that must be twisted with a coin or similar. The BearVault lid screws on. Just before it is screwed on all the way, a small tab on the lid must pass by a small tab on the body of the canister. This blocks the lid from unscrewing unless you press in the edge of the lid to deform it enough to let the two tabs pass by one another, a feat that no bear (not even a Yosemite bear!) is likely to be able to perform.

The lid works well for the most part, though I did notice two minor issues – neither of which would keep me from using the BearVault. First, it can be difficult to press in the tab on the lid when it comes time to open up the canister, especially if your hands are cold. Secondly, the threads on the canister seem to be subject to friction on occasion, perhaps due to dust or other material getting on the threads. When this happens it can be difficult to get the lid closed all the way and, I assume, it would be quite difficult to remove it. When this happened to me I resisted the temptation to force the lid on; instead I unscrewed it, wiped the threads a bit, and tried again. It worked fine. It might be possible to somehow lubricate the threads a bit, but I haven’t experimented with that yet.

(Update: BearVault tell me that they do ship a thread lubricant, but that it isn’t really designed for the newer model that I own. They also suggest wiping the threads with a bandana every day or so, which seems like a simple and effective solution to me.)

Another experiment that I forgot to try on the two trips on which I used the BearVault was to see how well it works as a stool. This is not unimportant! As I mentioned above, the Garcia makes a pretty nice, if somewhat heavy, camp stool. The BearVault Solo might be a bit too short for this but I’m not certain. I might be a bit concerned about the effect on the threads since they already have a tendency to bind a bit.

***Bottom line:
Despite some minor issues, I like the BearVault a lot. I’m very happy to reduce the size of my canister by 1/3 and save a pound of weight. Despite its smaller size (433 cubic inches* vs. 615 cubic inches for the Garcia) I’m confident that I could easily get 4-5 days of carefully selected food into the BearVault. It is a great solution for short trips and/or for those who travel solo – and is my first choice now unless a longer trip requires me to use my larger Garcia.

*A larger BearVault that is comparable in size to the Garcia unit is also available. It weights 2 pounds 6 ounces, carries 693 cubic inches of food, and has dimensions that are very slightly larger than the Garcia.

September 3, 2005 - Posted by | Gear Reviews

2 Comments

  1. Dan, we sell the Bear Vault at Sunrise and it has been well-received! I bought one last year and I too thought it was about time we got a baby bear model. Re: the lid, call or email Bear Vault and they will be happy to send you a tube of food-grade silicon to grease the skids. Or, like us, your dealer may keep an extra tube on hand. They also want users to realize the need to carefully secure the lid as it can overlap the locking tab, making it vulnerable to failure. Cheers, Martha

    Comment by Martha Claassen | September 5, 2005

  2. Hi Martha:

    Thanks for the update. Is “Sunrise” Sunrise Mountaineering?

    Now that you mention it, I do recall hearing something abaout a silicon lubricant for the threads. I’ll have to contact BearVault and get some.

    I also noticed the “overlapping tabs” issue, in which the lid rides up and over the inner tab rather than passing by it and locking.

    Take care,

    Dan

    Comment by Dan Mitchell | September 5, 2005


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