Backcountry Forum
Backpacking & Hiking Gear

Backcountry Forum
Our long-time Sponsor - the leading source for ultralite/lightweight outdoor gear
Backpacking Forums
backcountry gear

---- Our Gear Store ----
The Lightweight Gear Store

Bivy Bags
Sleeping Bags
Sleeping Pads
Snow Sports
Winter Kitchen


Avalanche Gear
Hats, Gloves, & Gaiters


Ultralight Backpacks
Ultralight Bivy Sacks
Ultralight Shelters
Ultralight Tarps
Ultralight Tents
Ultralight Raingear
Ultralight Stoves & Cookware
Ultralight Down Sleeping Bags
Ultralight Synthetic Sleep Bags
Ultralight Apparel

the Titanium Page
WM Extremelite Sleeping Bags


Sleeping Bags


Ropes & Cordage
Protection & Hardware
Carabiners & Quickdraws
Climbing Packs & Bags
Big Wall
Rescue & Industrial






Men's Footwear
Women's Footwear


Mens Apparel
Womens Apparel


Black Diamond
Granite Gear
La Sportiva


Top Brands
All Brands

 Backpacking Equipment 

Sleeping Bags
Water Treatment

 Backcountry Gear Clearance

Topic Options
Rate This Topic
#201544 - 08/17/18 08:10 AM First trip with Bear Vault 500..not enough space!
willie1280 Offline

Registered: 07/05/17
Posts: 37
So a week from today i head to the great land of Alaska for a week long solo hike in Lake Clark National Park. Last night i started doing the last pack up of everything to make sure i'm all set one last time.

This is the first time i've really packed my bear canister as i did not want to open and repack my mountain house meals to early. Keep in mind this is the first time i've ever used a bear canister vs. just hanging a bag. Anyways, i'm having a heck of a time getting a weeks worth of food into the canister. And the worse part is the food i am trying to get in there only makes up about 1500 calories a day. I'm 6'5" and 260lbs (fit no fat) and i don't think that's going to sustain me for a week long hike through the mountains.

I've got sufficient protein for each day, but the calories are really low. Here's what i've got for an average days food:


-Oatmeal/dried milk/nuts/brown sugar

-Instant coffee

-Kind Bar


-Beef jerkey

-Payday bar

-Snickers bar

-Slim Jim

-Wedge of Laughing Cow soft cheese

-Gatorade powder pack

-Small bag of tuna (hesitant to take this due to it's odor and the fact i'll be in bear country)


-Mountain house meal (2.5 serving size) or Korr's meal with added dehydrated Mountain House chicken

-2 dark chocolate Lindor candies

-Gatorade powder pack

I would like to add a couple Ramen meals and some additional bars at backup/suppliment snacks/meals.

So where am i off? What takes less space, has higher calories than what i have listed above and won't take away protein?


#201545 - 08/17/18 04:30 PM Re: First trip with Bear Vault 500..not enough space! [Re: willie1280]
OregonMouse Offline

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6644
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Some important principles:
--Eliminate all bulky packaging--replace those bulky Mountain House packages with freezer bags
--Flexible items--no vacuum sealing which creates a hard brick.
--Squash everything--take a hammer to bulky foods like noodles (doesn't alter flavor), or ditch the noodles and substitute couscous (a compact form of pasta). Rice and couscous take far less room!
--Concentrate on high fat foods, like olive oil, peanut butter. For example, add 2-3 Tb olive oil to your dinners when reconstituting for a calorie and flavor boost.

The first day's meals do not need to be in the canister, since they will be consumed before the first night. This helps a bit.

A few more ideas here:

How to pack a bear canister

"gottawalk's" version of packing a bear canister

BPL forum--page down to the post by Paul Wagner (our balzaccom)

Edited by OregonMouse (08/17/18 04:35 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

#201547 - 08/17/18 09:00 PM Re: First trip with Bear Vault 500..not enough space! [Re: willie1280]
Glenn Roberts Offline

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1703
Loc: Southwest Ohio
How necessary is the Gatorade? I found out, on a trip to Isle Royale, that coffee, tea, and cocoa was bulky and not very calorie-dense - and weighed about a pound for a week’s supply. I switched to water for beverage, with a few beef and chicken boullion (sp?) cubes in case I needed a hot drink. I’m wondering if the Gatorade is really necessary? (Seems like you have enough food variety for electrolyte replacement.)

Butter is pretty calorie-dense (if you don’t like olive oil) - you could carry a couple of sticks, and add a chunk to your breakfast oatmeal or your supper for calories. Bear Valley Pemmican bars (from REI) are like granola bars on steroids, with more calories than a Kind bar. Finally, what about a big bag of trail mix? (Whatever mix of dried fruit, nuts, and candy tickles your fancy - traditional is raisins, peanuts and M&Ms. A gallon freezer bag should last a week.) It’s also squishy (or you could pack it in quart-size freezer bags), and lets you use all the nooks and crannies of the bear vault.

Have a great trip!

#201549 - 08/18/18 09:12 PM Re: First trip with Bear Vault 500..not enough space! [Re: Glenn Roberts]
OregonMouse Offline

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6644
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Unfortunately butter melts and separates. Best to make ghee (clarified butter), removing the milk solids (which will also greatly increase the calorie count!). Carry it in a plastic jar and add to breakfast and dinner. It's easy to make, or evidently (per the second link below) you can buy it. It doesn't taste quite as buttery, but doesn't completely lose the butter flavor.

how to clarify butter

trail cooking with ghee

Sarbar's trail site is mostly down as it's being reconstructed. In the past she has recommended using ghee, which is why Glenn's post made me remember this item!

Glenn's mention of trail mix (with lotsa nuts, not just peanuts) is a great idea! Nuts contain protein and, especially, healthy fats. They are my protein choice for "lunch" (which for me is an all-day snack).

Edited by OregonMouse (08/18/18 09:20 PM)
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

#201550 - 08/19/18 06:33 PM Re: First trip with Bear Vault 500..not enough space! [Re: OregonMouse]
wgiles Offline

Registered: 05/19/14
Posts: 168
Loc: Central Illinois near Springfi...
I've recently seen ghee at Walmart. If you make your own, watch that it doesn't burn. The temperature goes up rapidly once the water boils off.

#201552 - 08/20/18 12:12 PM Re: First trip with Bear Vault 500..not enough space! [Re: willie1280]
BZH Offline

Registered: 01/26/11
Posts: 954
Loc: Torrance, CA
First: Packing a weeks worth of food into a BearVault is an art. You have to really learn to pack things into the container to minimize empty space.

Second, Mountain House meals are not very calorie dense. What about splitting them in half and supplementing with oil or ghee or oily meat? Things like Ramen are calorie dense per unit weight but not per unit volume.

#201555 - 08/20/18 05:09 PM Re: First trip with Bear Vault 500..not enough space! [Re: willie1280]
Pika Offline

Registered: 12/08/05
Posts: 1789
Loc: Rural Southeast Arizona
I packed nearly 12 days worth of food into a 650 cubic inch Bearikade Weekender for a recent trip I was forced to abort due to injury. I endorse all of the advice you have received here so far. In addition I would add a few recommendations:

First, when you repackage use sandwich bags or 1 mil plastic bags rather than the standard, thicker, heavier snack or freezer bag. they weigh less and, if you invest in a heat sealer (about $30), can be custom fitted to the contents.

Second, rather than rehydrating your meals in a freezer bag, get a three-cup, snap-top, dishwasher-safe leftover container and make a cozy for it. Mine is a Ziplock that weighs a bit over an ounce. This is less than the weight of three freezer bags. The one mil container bags are virtually weightless.

Third, when you pack, punch a pin hole in each bag to allow air to escape as you carefully place your food into the bear can in layers of food of a day per layer. The less unpacking and repacking you do the less frustration you will face. The pin hole lets any included air escape and doesn't seem to affect food quality over a week or two. Press down hard on the stuff you have previously put in the can to help push out the air.

Fourth, be aware that almost everyone packs too much food for a given trip. Most of us have a diminished appetite for the first few days. Acknowledge that when planning meals. And, it doesn't hurt to finish dinner a bit hungry. High calorie density stuff like nuts and sausage should be a big part of the day's eating; dinner should rehydrate and recharge you not provide the day's calories. Sugary drinks are compact and have about 100 calories per ounce but can raise cain with your blood sugar levels; just drink plain water.

Fifth, don't pack the first day's food in the canister.

Sixth. Unless you are unusually lean you are carrying some adipose tissue with you. This provides about 3500 calories per pound. Rely on using a bit of that. If you loose two pounds of fat weight on your trip you have provided 7000 calories (around two days worth) that don't have to be squeezed into your bear can.

Have a great trip.
May I walk in beauty.

#201557 - 08/20/18 06:51 PM Re: First trip with Bear Vault 500..not enough space! [Re: willie1280]
OregonMouse Offline

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6644
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
All good here, and Pika has given you some excellent advice that is far better than mine!

One thing to remember:

Carbohydrates and protein have approximately 6 calories per gram. while fats have approximately 9 calories per gram. To increase calorie density, increase the amount of fat. That's why several of us have urged you to add fat to your meals in the form of olive oil, clarified butter, nuts, nut butter.

Good luck, and have a great trip! I hope you'll give us a trip report when you get home!
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

#201559 - 08/20/18 08:42 PM Re: First trip with Bear Vault 500..not enough space! [Re: OregonMouse]
balzaccom Offline

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1868
Loc: Napa, CA
Here's a post from our blog from a few years ago that you might enjoy:

It's not a science, but more like an art.

Step One: First you have to get all of your food together: the freeze-dried dinners, the soup packets, the instant oatmeal and cocoa, the energy bars and the gorp, the dried fruit and salami, bread or crackers. It all has to go into that little plastic barrel.

Step Two: Take everything out of its pre-packaged wrapper. Pour the freeze-dried dinners into zip-lock bags, so they take up less room. Open the dried fruit packages, squeeze all the air our of them, then re-seal them with their finger seal. Remove all extraneous paper wrappings, cardboard, etc. If you are taking bread, squeeze it down into a much smaller dimension, and then put it in the freezer over night. It will take up less room, and stay fresher that way.

Step Three: take the first night's dinner and set it aside. It doesn't have to go in the can, nor does the first day's lunch or snack. Whew! That makes it a little easier.

Step Four: imagine all of this fitting into that little plastic can. And imagine how you are going to use this stuff. Start by putting a couple of days' breakfasts and dinner down into the bottom of the can. You won't need these for the first few days, and it's better to get them out of the way.

Step Five: Now stack all those energy bars around the side of the can. This is the most efficient use of space for these bars, and this way they are more or less easy to grab. As you stack them in there, use more breakfasts or dinners to hold them in place.

Step Six: now it's time for the stuff in the middle. Take your salami, cheese, and anything else you are going to eat for lunch and pack it in the middle of the can. You'll need to access this stuff every day, so there is no point putting it in the bottom.

Step Seven: Toss in the last breakfast--that's what you'll need first thing in the morning on the second day, and it makes sense to put this on top. Hooray! It all fits perfectly!

Step Eight: Inform your wife that the bear canister is now packed for the trail. She asks if you want to put the toiletries in there as well.

Step Nine: Take the sunscreen, moisturizer, insect repellent, toothpaste, and face cream from your wife. Go back to the bear can and start shoving it in. With a little bit of luck and some brute force, you'll be able to wedge this stuff in between the salami and the cheese, and maybe shove one down the side with the energy bars. That last tube of face cream is just going to get mashed on top...and let's hope it doesn't jam the lid when you try to unscrew everything.

Step Ten: Inform your wife that the bear canister is now packed for the trail. She asks if you remembered the bread.

Step Eleven: Take the bread out of the freezer. Unpack the entire can and start again, shoving things together even harder. Forget trying to keep the noodles in once piece. Sacrifice the crispy crackers and turn them into powder to gain more space. Mash the bread into a solid ball, then shove the final toiletries on top and jam the lid in place. Slowly screw the lid down, listening for structural failure in the bear can.

Step Twelve: Inform your wife that the bear canister is now packed for the trail. She asks if you remembered to put the soap in.

Step Thirteen: Put the soap in a side pocket of your pack, along with the last two energy bars, a tube of neosporin, and the raisins your wife just bought at the store.

Step Fourteen: Inform the ranger at the trailhead that all your food and odorized items are in the bear can.

Step Fifteen: Start hiking. Hope for the best. Inform your wife that next time, we'll have take less stuff.

check out our website and blog:


Shout Box

Highest Quality Lightweight Down Sleeping Bags
Western Mountaineering Sleeping Bags
Lite Gear Talk - Featured Topics
Anyone use a Zpacks Nero
by toddfw2003
10:15 PM
Wigwam Gobi liner socks.
by Wasatch
04/03/19 05:11 PM
Top flap backpack with zip?
by snapster
03/30/19 11:38 PM
Backcountry Discussion - Featured Topics
Palisade EST, Does anybody have or use one?
by Uyen Dong
04/18/19 03:29 AM
The 50 Mile Hike Phenomenon
by lacaca
04/13/19 04:05 AM
Couple Night Routine while Camping and Hiking
by walkingnatur
04/10/19 07:47 AM
Make Your Own Gear - Featured Topics
Reusing old Thermarest SOLite pad
by MaxB
06:26 PM
ideas for a dry bag for a small travel guitar
by MountainMinstrel
03/25/19 04:14 PM
Featured Photos
Breakneck Ridge, New York
May 2012 Eclipse, Lassen Park
New Years Eve 2011
Trip Report with Photos
Seven Devils, Idaho
Oat Hill Mine Trail 2012
Dark Canyon - Utah
Who's Online
0 registered (), 32 Guests and 0 Spiders online.
Key: Admin, Global Mod, Mod
Newest Members
MaxB, Molly Taylor, Sandres, Uyen Dong, Aubiegirl
12742 Registered Users
Forum Links
Site Links
Lightweight Gear Store
Backpacking Book Store
Lightweight Zone
Hiking Essentials

Our long-time Sponsor, - The leading source for ultralite/lightweight outdoor gear:

Backcountry Forum

Since 1996 - the Original Backcountry Forum
Copyright © The Lightweight Backpacker & BackcountryForum