View Full Version : Best pack to carry bear canister?

11-05-2013, 18:06
Hi all,

Could use a bit of help with a purchase decision.

Some background: To date, most of my hiking has been in Canada, but friends want to plan a trip to California next summer; specific destination as yet undetermined. But I expect we'll be required to carry a bear container, which typically aren't required in Canada.

My base weight runs 10-12 pounds and I've been happy with an 35 litre Arcteryx Cierzo for trips up to 5 or 6 days. But I expect we'll need more volume if we carry bear containers. And it might be nice to have external pockets.

One option I like is the Osprey Hornet 46. All the design features I like, a bit more volume, plus a design that's closer to the conventional climbing packs I've been using for 30 years. But maybe I need to get used to the virtues of roll-tops.

That said, I'm leaning towards the Six Moons Designs Swift. A slight bump in usable volume if one includes external pockets. Reasonable price. Good reviews. Light weight. Rugged design. I like the large hip pockets. And the tall side pocket would be a good home for my TT Moment.

Not sure if I'll use my Exped Synmat UL for the pad pocket or cut up several widths of 5 mm Evazote foam. Suggestions?

And I'm really used to webbing compression straps, so I will have to adjust to the less robust looking cord compression system.

Anything I'm missing? Will this pack fit a bear container with my base weight? Anything else I should look at or think about?

Thanks for any/all comments!


P.S. As an afterthought, I do notice that, to me at least, modern UL gear is less visually appealing than its midweight mass-produced counterpart. Don't get me wrong: I can see the virtues of the Swift and I love my TT Moment and EE Revelation X quilt. They epitomise to me pretty close to the optimum in functionality and light weight. But I confess that I'm often seduced by the looks of heavier gear.

Which brings us to this paradox: often design elegance is achieved by the relentless removal of superfluous additions, and what is left is beautiful in its simplicity. See Chouinard's climbing gear and Jobs' electronics, e.g. But UL backpacking gear, no matter its practicality on the trail, often fails to sell itself visually.

11-05-2013, 22:22
Interesting that your choice of a new pack would be centered around the use of a bear canister. Unless you plan on using a bear canister for a LOT of future hikes, this should be a minimal decision point.

The primary decision for the pack, in regards to the canister, is that the pack be large enough to accomodate the canister and your normal gear. I am able to fit a canister and gear in a pack that is 3500cc. My tent straps on the outside of the pack, so I have internal room for all the other gear. Also note that canisters come in different sizes/types. When you know how many days you will be backpacking, and the amount of food you will be taking, you can determine the appropriate canister size for your trip. this will help identify overall pack size requirements.

Have a great hike.

11-05-2013, 22:28
The ULA Circuit worked well for me with a Bearikade canister on the JMT. It is also a good pack without a canister although it has more volume than I would ideally want for short trips with just a few days of food. I think that it is also a visually attractive pack. I mention that only because you seem concerned about UL gear being unattractive.

11-05-2013, 22:47
The swift, and the starlite, are surprisingly large packs. They are bigger than you think. Actually Id say huge.

11-05-2013, 23:41
It depends on the canister, I carried a BV450 & it fit okay in my Medium GoLite Jam? With that said it'll depend on how many miles you hike a day & your resupply points?

11-05-2013, 23:44
The Gossamer Gear Mariposa Plus holds a large bear canister pretty easily.

11-06-2013, 09:21
Gossamer Gear no longer sells the Mariposa Plus and only lists the Mariposa but I believe that it is basically the same as the previous plus while the Gorilla is the same size as the old Mariposa.

11-06-2013, 09:28
When i hiked the JMT I saw a lot of hikers carrying the bear canister strapped to the tops of their packs with the food inside the pack. I have a 70L GoLite Jam and my BV500 fits in there no problem.

11-06-2013, 11:25
I have been a supporter of canister use for a long time--it just makes sense to protect wildlife from becoming accustomed to eating human food and thus preventing problems, like the death of a habituated bear. I know, it is heavy and a packing hassel--but I don't worry about or hang my food at night so it's an even trade in my eyes.

Most packs will accomodate a canister. The problem is to get it placed in a way that it is then easy to carry your pack. The problem is that the canister is equally dense, whereas I like to pack in layers that keep heavy things closer to my back and lighter things further away from my center of gravity. Also there is the question of whether to place the canister on its side or top side up.

I have found that the most comfortable place for the canister to ride is to have it horizontally about waist level. The pack that carries it well has a divider over the 'sleeping bag' compartment on the bottom and keeps the canister from crushing the things below it and slipping lower as the day goes on. I have straped it on the outside of my external frame pack at top and bottom and it works ok depending on how heavy the canister is at the time. If you don't have room for all your gear and the canister in an internal frame pack, then you can strap an overflow stuff sack with clothes or such to the outside until you eat some food then store some gear in the canister as room allows. I like to have nothing on the outside of my pack to get lost or damaged.

I have tried to layer the contents of the canister to keep heavy things against my back but it ony works if the canister is carried upright--and in that case the best place for it is between my shoulder blades. My golite pack is best for this.

11-09-2013, 11:57
Thanks, for very useful suggestions!


B.j. Clark
11-09-2013, 14:10
You can"t go wrong with the SMD Swift or Starlite. Especially since they are currently on sale at 40% off. They are both large but both compress down easily as needed.