A partnership of the National Park Service and the United States Forest Service.

How to get the Most Out of (and Into) Your Bear Canister


  1. Choose the right foods: Dense, high-calorie options are best: Tortillas instead of bagels; dried fruit instead of oranges. See sidebar for ideas.
  2. Plan every meal: Avoid bringing too much (or too little). Lay out each day, divide portions, and pre-measure mixed foods like rice and pasta.
  3. Repackage: Get rid of bulky boxes and inflated packaging. Put food and toiletries into re-sealable bags or small containers. This saves space and reduces garbage. Make sure to keep the instructions and label each item.
  4. Check that it fits!: Before you start your trip make sure ALL your food, trash, toiletries, and scented items will fit inside your canister on the first night. After dinner your first night in the backcountry is NOT the time to discover your food doesn’t fit.
  5. Carry the first day's food outside of the canister: Snacks, lunch, and dinner. Just be sure to keep that food with you at all times. Since it's not in a canister you can't leave it behind while you take that quick side-hike!
  6. Minimize your toiletries: Just like food, pack small and don’t bring more than you need. Put toothpaste, sunscreen, bug repellant, etc. into small reusable containers.
  7. Use your canister correctly: Establish your kitchen about 50 feet from your sleeping area. Make sure to properly close the lid securely at all times. Leave the canister on the ground in an open flat area away from cliffs or streams.
bear cans at night

ALL scented items - food, toiletries and garbage - MUST fit inside the canister whenever you leave it unattended, throughout your entire trip.