Fourteen years ago, I completed my first backcountry trip in Algonquin Provincial Park. It was awesome and I was immediately hooked! Over the years, I have completed approximately 25 backcountry trips and have loved every single one of them. I have gear to both backpack into the backcountry, or paddle in to sites, however, I much prefer the latter as it is a lot less work! I love the solace of the backcountry but do not need to kill myself to get it! 🙂
Three years ago I purchased the love of my life, my Perception Kayak Tribute! It is a 12 foot kayak made of composite and it weighs a mere 32lbs empty. I love my boat and use it to paddle locally for day trips. In May of this year, I signed up for a Wilderness First Aid Course at Frontenac Provincial Park. The course would take place in the backcountry and you could either paddle to the site or hike into it. I obviously wanted to paddle in but didn’t want to rent a boat to do so when I had my own. I put my boat in my backyard, gathered all my gear for the 3 day weekend and attempted to get it all on/in my boat. It actually all fit, although I had no idea if it was balanced or would still float!! haha! Still, I was in awe of this little boat. Super cool! I could backcountry trip with it! Who knew?
Unfortunately, I had one huge issue with this. My bear barrel, which I purchased when I started backcountry camping was massive! A 30 litre barrel that was big enough for food for several people for 3 days or one person, possibly for a week or more! I did love it, it was safe. I could be at my site and have it closed up and do things, go swimming, to the privy, collect wood, and not worry about food being out, or accessible to animals, but the size, for me, alone, on my little boat, was just far too BIG!
I put it on my boat in Frontenac and was so scared I would roll it. With the slightest set of waves or one wrong move, the barrel would definitely flip my kayak with me and all my gear in it right over! I had put all my food in the barrel and then had filled it up with other gear as the food only took up a small bit of the barrel. The people that were on the boat ramp while I packed my boat watched in amazement commenting on how incredible it was that I was able to use such a small kayak with a big barrel and not roll it. I advised them it was the first time and I was also amazed and scared to death, but everything I had was in ziplocs and waterproofed, so what the heck? I gave it a go and it worked, but I didn’t feel entirely comfortable with it up there, and when I am in the backcountry, comfort where it can be, is a huge must for me!
I made it to the site and back without issue and using my kayak in the backcountry was a success! I went on a few backcountry trips this summer but rented a canoe for them as this was always the norm for me. Also, my travelling companions did not have boats, so we might as well share the cost, bring more stuff and rent a canoe. A few weekends ago however, I decided to do my first solo trip into the backcountry Click here to check it out!. I did not want to take my enormous bear barrel or flip my boat by myself with no help in sight if there was a problem. There must be a better option!
I tweeted to find out if someone had any suggestions and got some great responses.
With the expert advice I was given by my twitter friends and MEC I went online and purchased the BV500 Bearvault. The website was very easy to use and gave me all the information and details I still might have needed.
If you want to check it out you can find it here. The only thing I wasn’t crazy about, was the price. It was pretty expensive, I thought, for something that didn’t look that difficult to make, but for me, I couldn’t put a price on safety and comfort. For me it was a no brainer. This is something I needed to have in order to feel safe in the backcountry and on my little boat while travelling to and from my sites.
I placed my order on September 3rd and paid an extra bit for shipping in 3 days as I was leaving on Saturday the 12th for my trip and the 7th was labor day, making me loose a shipping day. I didn’t want to be cutting it too close.
The Bearvault arrived on September the 8th and I was a happy girl! It was a third of the size of my other barrel and when I got it home I tested it out. I found the tabs to open it a bit hard on my fingers, but it did have to keep a bear out, right? Otherwise, it was a pretty awesome creation. I tried to put it into my largest dry bag which could sit on top of my boat in the front comfortably, and then tried to fit it in one of my large backcountry backpacks….. it fit in both! Super awesome!
That week I packed it and unpacked it many times and figured out how much food I would/could bring and how much would fit? It turned out that everything I needed fit with lots of room to spare! Success!
I got my pack on my boat fairly easily. It fit perfectly and wasn’t tippy at all like the big barrel was before it, well, it still had to be balanced, but it was much easier, for sure! I portaged it when the time came, repacked it again easily back onto my boat, and upon arrival at my site, used the bearvault throughout the weekend.
The bearvault basically has a childproof tab, well, 2 tabs, similar to a pill bottle to keep it locked shut. To open it, you unscrew the lid until you get stuck on the tab, then press the tab in to get it past the lock, then again for the second tab, then you unscrew the lid the rest of the way and it is open. At first the pressing was very difficult for me, but after using it over and over, it did get easier and loosened up a bit, which was a good thing. When your hands are cold, it makes things more difficult for sure, so getting easier each use, was another big bonus!
I also used the bearvault this past weekend on my backcountry trip to Bon Echo. I was camping there with a friend, but would be alone the entire day Friday as my friend wasn’t coming until dinnertime. Therefore, I had to keep the gear and food items to a limited amount because I would be taking most of the gear in myself. (Another reason I wanted a smaller food canister).
The bearvault is see through, as you can see, which I found made a huge difference from the big blue 30L barrel I used previously. I could see inside it and see where items were, easily getting to them, and not having to remove all the contents of the canister every time something was required. This saved an enormous amount of frustration and time, which are both valuable things to me, especially when you are out enjoying nature. Time is precious! Besides the smaller size, this was my next favourite thing about this food canister over my last one.
Hmm, I want cashews, I easily see and get the cashews out! VOILA!
When we left Bon Echo and also when I left my site at The Massassauga, the bearvault was almost empty (a sign of successful packing!) and other things were able to be stored in the canister to condense space on the trip out. Due to it’s shape and size, so many things are able to fit into the bearvault, which I think is another big plus!
Investing in the BV500 was a very good choice for me, and I am happy I made it. It is a necessary and smart addition to my backcountry gear inventory and if you do a lot of short trips, or solo trips, or have a small boat like I do, it’s definitely a good buy. Eighty percent of the gear I purchased in 2001 is still currently in active use without issues, so I guess even though it is expensive, spread out over time, it is a good value. It seems to be built well and I believe it will join me on many many more trips in the backcountry!
Big thanks to @mec for tweeting me this suggestion to @some_eventful and to @taigaAdventures for your assistance and great advice, and to all of you, for following my blog and reading my posts! I really hope you enjoyed it and it helped you in some way. If you have any questions, comments or feedback, I hope you get in touch with me! I am always happy to hear from people!