The first time I ever had to use a Bear Canister was when I hiked The High Sierra Trail in California. Before that, I had never used one before and was not excited about trying to pack all my food into this heavy plastic container.
The idea behind a bear canister is that when you make camp for the night you place your canister with all the food inside a couple hundred meters from your camp. If a bear happens to find it, he can bite it and smash it all he wants but most likely will not get into your food. Most trails in bear country require them, and park rangers will not give you your permits unless you have one. I understand why a bear canister is required, but it's still a couple of extra pounds and very awkward to pack.
The High Sierra Trail is about a 6-day hike, so in this tutorial, I will be showing off the Bear Vault 500 .
On most of my backpacking trips, I tend to buy the dehydrated meals. As pointed out by a lot of people online, these are not the cheapest option but call me lazy, I find them easy and convenient. I have never had any issues with them on previous camping trips, but this was my first time using a bear canister, and the dehydrated meals do not exactly fit nicely into my Bear Vault 500. Here is a week worth of just dinners, stuffed into my Bear Vault 500:
As you can see from the above two pictures, that is just dinner! That is nowhere near enough calories to sustain me for a week! I was a bit nervous about the logistics of packing a week worth of calories in the Bear Vault 500. I had questions, that I took to Reddit for some answers!
A lot of user on Reddit suggested, empty the dehydrated dinners into Ziploc bags. There is a lot of excess in the packaging for the meals and by placing them into Ziploc bags, you can save a ton of space!
I purchased quart-sized Ziploc bags to transfer my dinners into. I also bought the bags with the white labels on them so I could write on them with a sharpie. Remember most dehydrated meals of the directions on the bag, so I used to white labels to write down what meal it was and how much water to boil etc.
After transferring all my meals into Ziploc bags, I was able to save a ton of space in my Bear Vault 500. It was a huge weight off my shoulders because now I could fit all the rest of my food in a Bear Vault too. Here is a picture comparing one dehydrated meal in its original package with one in the Ziploc bag:
Lastly, once all 6 dinners were in Ziploc bags they fit very nice! One last piece of advice was that I didn't like eating out of the Ziploc bags, so I brought along one of those collapsible bowls and it worked great.