3 Safest Bear Canister Alternatives (Hiking and Camping)

Bears are magnificent animals and it is always an exciting experience to see them from an appropriate distance! When planning to adventure in a bear-infested area it’s important to know and understand all bear safety guidelines.

While these incredible creatures shouldn’t be feared, you need to know how to handle and interact with them, especially when you are in their territory.

In this article, I’ll be giving a detailed answer to the question, what are the best bear canister alternatives?

For places where bear canisters aren’t required, the best alternatives are Ursacks, hanging bear bags, or other hard-sided containers. Some campgrounds also provide lockers conveniently located near the campsites.

Now let’s take a closer look at the other options and how they compare to the popular and trusted bear canisters.

Bear Canister Options

Are Bear Canisters Really Needed?

Before you head into the backcountry, one of the most important things you want to into account is how you are going to store your food and other essential items. You must keep your food as well as scented items in a bear-safe manner to keep yourself and bears safe.

Bears boast arguably the best senses of smell on the planet! And some grizzlies have been documented tracking animal carcasses from nearly twenty miles away.

The last thing you want is to hike for many days into the wilderness and then come back to your camping spot and find all your essentials destroyed or eaten by a bear.

A great hiking experience could swiftly turn into survival mode! And this is why you must protect your food and other essentials from this hungry and destructive furry neighbor.

Best Alternatives to Bear Canisters


An Ursack is typically a bear bag made of spectra fabric that is tough and robust enough to prevent bears from either chewing or clawing through to access your food. Ursacks are revered not only for their ability to store food safely out of bears’ reach but because of their lightweight design as well.

These impressive bags feature puncture and tear-resistant fabrics that effectively protect your food from bears as well as critters. What’s more, these bags boast reflective characteristics to help make your food cache somewhat easier to spot when you require some midnight snack!

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Hanging Bear Bags:

The other viable option for bear canisters is to use hanging bear bags, where you hang your food together with any other scented items in a tree. As already explained above, a bear bag should be hung in a tree to make them effective. This ensures the bag is out of reach of any animals including bears that may be looking to steal your food supplies.

One notable advantage of bear bags is their highly lightweight design, which makes them suitable for backpacking or hiking trips. However, the downside of bear bags is that you do need a tree or something that is fairly taller that you can hang it on.

And this implies that without something to hang the bear bag on, it becomes almost useless. But one encouraging thing about bear countries is that there are always trees all around! Like other important outdoor skills, learning how to effectively hang a bear bag will need time and effort.

If you are looking to hang your food supplies in an area with bears, you must have already mastered this skill by perhaps practicing a couple of times in a bear-free area such as your backyard. However, it is worth noting that if you are camping in a location known to have intelligent, aggressive bear species, or are unsure about your bear bag hanging abilities, this may not be a great option for you!

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Tips For Keeping Your Food Safe From Bears

Don’t get food on the outside of the container

The biggest mistake anyone could make would be to get odors from food or drink on the outside of the bag or container. When this happens it increases the chances of a bear smelling it and coming to investigate. Be sure that any food is wrapped up tightly before transferring it into the container.

Use them a safe distance away from camp

Finding a nice location that isn’t too close to where you’re sleeping is the best way to go. If a bear does happen to smell the food and wander over, we want it to be far enough away that there aren’t any issues.

Try to limit the ropes attached

Bears are smart and can even use ropes or strings that are attached to drag or get the bear canister down. If it’s possible, only use one rope to raise and lower the canister, and keep it tied up high to the tree.

Where are Bear Canisters Required?

Most National Parks require that a bear canister be used to protect and prevent bears from smelling and finding our food on the trail. To correctly follow each trails regulations, contact their land management agency to find the approved list of canisters.

Over the years, bear canisters have proven to be the most popular and effective way to keep or store food and other backpacking materials. Bear canisters are not only the easiest to find, most effective, and widely accepted form of food storage in the backcountry.

Of course, they too, have their disadvantages. They can be bulky, heavy, and can also prove hard to fit in your backpack at times.

Why are Bear Canisters so Expensive?

Bear canisters have a relatively high cost because they’re designed and built to be long-lasting and durable. The canisters are effective at reducing odors which makes them the best option on the market against bears. There are a few options that are less expensive than the canisters including bear bags and Ursacks.

I’ve seen places before during some trips that will rent out canisters for the night, which is a nice option to have if you don’t want to spend the money on buying one. The most important thing is to follow the guidelines of whichever location you’re traveling in to be safe and protect yourself and the bear population.

Another thing to remember is that canisters have good resale value. If you spend the money on one now, you’ll most likely be able to recover much of it back if you ever sell the equipment.


There is no doubt that both hanging bear bags and Ursacks have their fair share of limitations. However, both are great bear canister alternatives that can offer reliable protection against animal invasion when used appropriately.

For some locations, it’s really important to use a proper bear canister with hard siding to prevent any dangerous situations. It’s best to always research before taking a camping or hiking trip and see what the local guidelines are for storing food in areas with bears.