Bearikade Expedition Bear Canister: Long-Term Review

By Alissa Bell: lover of long trails, big views, and light gear

Updated:

If you’re looking for the lightest and largest bear canister for an epic backcountry trip, you’re surely considering the largest of Wild Ideas’ four carbon fiber bear canisters: the Bearikade Expedition. The Expedition’s whopping 900 cubic inches of volume make it the biggest of all the bear canisters on the market today. Yet at 36 ounces it weighs less than alternatives that hold only 2/3 as much food.

Of course, like all the Wild Ideas carbon fiber bear cans, the Bearikade Expedition’s impressive volume-to-weight ratio comes at a hefty price. When first shopping for bear canisters in preparation for the John Muir Trail, I read a review that quipped “Wild Ideas Bearikade is the Cadillac of bear canisters.” If that’s true, then the Expedition model is the Escalade: oversized, shiny, and expensive.

Bearikade Expedition bear canister next to cooking setup on the John Muir Trail

So is the Bearikade Expedition worth it, and is it the best bear canister for your next backpacking trip and beyond? To help you decide, I grabbed mine out of the garage to take some pictures and relive memories of past backpacking trips, including my thru hikes of the John Muir Trail and Colorado Trail. In this Bearikade Expedition review I’ll tell you how I’ve used it, what I like and don’t like about it, and how you can go about deciding whether it’s worth the cost.

Is cost prohibitive? You can save money by renting a Bearikade, or buying and selling used. Keep reading for details.

Related: 6 Bear Hang Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

When you buy through affiliate links in this post, I may earn a small commission. Thanks for your support! I always offer unbiased opinions based on real experience from the road and trail. Learn more.

Bearikade Expedition Overview

Price: $424

Weight: 36 ounces

Volume: 900 cubic inches

Dimensions: 9″ diameter base by 14.5″ height

My Rating: 4.8 / 5 stars

For more info and to purchase or rent: Wild Ideas Website

Review Summary: The largest of the four Bearikade models from Wild Ideas, the Expedition is an extra-large carbon fiber bear canister that does one thing and does it very well: protects large amounts of food from bears while adding as little weight as possible to your pack. The only downside is the high price.

What I Love

  • Weight to volume ratio is the best of any bear canister available.
  • It holds a ton of food.
  • Straightforward cylindrical design is easy to pack efficiently and access easily.
  • Excellent camp chair

What I Don’t Love

  • Just the price.

Design and Features

Note that the Expedition is really just a taller version of the general Bearikade design. The three smaller models (Blazer, Weekender, Scout) have the same diameter and design described here, but are shorter in height.

Weight

The Bearikade Expedition weighs a hair over 36 ounces, or 2.25 lbs. That’s roughly as much as a lightweight freestanding solo tent or a 3-season down sleeping bag. It’s lighter than about half the other bear canisters on the market, including some that hold only half as much. In other words, it’s a heavy piece of gear but it’s very light for what it is.

Size and Shape

It’s a big slippery cylinder. Bear cans tend to be unwieldy by design (so bears can’t carry them off) and the Bearikade Expedition is no exception. The metal rims around top and bottom offer a tiny bit of grip while wrestling it in and out of your pack.

The opening is very wide, basically as wide as the canister, which makes it easy to get things in and out. This is especially appreciated as you’re trying to keep up to 12 days of food organized inside.

The 14.5″ height is, of course, difficult to fit in some packs. You’ll likely need to pack it vertically, or even figure out how to carry it on the outside of your pack.

Related: How to Choose, Pack, and Carry a Bear Canister

Lid and Open/Close Mechanism

The Expedition opens and closes by twisting three separate screws using a coin. A quarter is easiest, but for the ultra-ultralight hikers out there (or those who spent all their spare change on a Bearikade), pennies work too, as do nickels and dimes. The screws can be a tad sticky sometimes, but I’ve never been unable to open them.

Can you use something other than a coin to open the Bearikade? Maybe, but I wouldn’t count on it. The slots are slightly rounded in the middle and require a fair bit of torque to turn. I tried the back edge of my camping knife and could not get it open. Same with a credit card.

I suggest packing at least two coins: one in an easily accessible place, and a backup in your first aid kit or somewhere safe for when you lose the first one.

Trying to open Bearikade bear canister with knife (doesn't work)
Opening Bearikade bear canister with coin

Note that the lid doesn’t seat properly if the screws are in the wrong position, so you need to first twist them into the open position, then seat the lid, then twist all the screws closed.

The lid is attached to the inside of the canister with a wire, so you don’t have to worry about it rolling away or being misplaced.

Empty Bearikade Expedition bear canister from Wild Ideas

Protection From Bears / Approval For Use

Thankfully I don’t have any personal experience testing my Bearikade with actual bears, but I can tell you that the Bearikade approval/certification is a little complicated. If you hike in non-grizzly territory, it’s more likely to be approved, but you should check with the land management agency where you’ll be using it for the final word.

Camp Chair

Two thumbs up. It’s flat on the bottom, flat on the top, and a perfect height for sitting.

Hiker sitting on bear canister on high plateau
There’s literally nowhere else to sit up here on the Bighorn Plateau. Good thing we have our Bearikades! (He’s sitting on an Expedition, and the one in front is a Weekender).

How much food fits in a Bearikade Expedition?

According to the Wild Ideas website, the 900 cubic inches of volume in the Bearikade Expedition can hold:

  • 3 days of food for 3 people
  • 12 days of food for 1 person

Interpolating between those would give something like 4.5 – 6 days of food for two people.

Note that the upper end of the range is more than the standard “1 day of food per 100 cubic inches” rule of thumb, so this implies the menu has been carefully planned and efficiently packed. For pointers on how to pack a bear canister most efficiently, see this guide to using bear canisters.

Hiker packs bear canister at Muir Trail Ranch
Carefully packing the bear canisters with 9 days of food at Muir Trail Ranch

Will the Expedition fit in my backpack?

Good question. At 14.5″ tall and 9″ base diameter, the Expedition is definitely going to be the biggest thing in your backpack.

You almost certainly won’t be able to fit it sideways. I tried with my old GoLite 70 liter pack that’s as wide and boxy as they come, and it wasn’t even close.

It will probably fit upright in your backpack, but the question is, how much room will be left over for everything else? Here are a few reference points:

Bearikade Expedition canister inside 60 liter backpack, inside view
Inside a 60 liter pack. You can see there is some room around the sides.
Bearikade Expedition canister inside 60 liter backpack, outside view
Inside the same 60 liter pack, with my hand showing the top of the Expedition.
Inside a 30 liter day pack (in case any ultralighters are tempted to try and make something like this work)
Inside the same 30 liter day pack. Not much room for anything else.

Do I really need such a big bear canister?

I hear you. Nine hundred cubic inches of bear canister is not for everyone. I can see the Bearikade Expedition really proving its worth in a few different scenarios:

  • Solo hikers on long, remote trips with minimal resupply opportunities. This could even include slower hikers on the southern half of the John Muir Trail, though instead of spending money on a fancy bear can you could consider spending money to hire a pack mule instead.
  • Couples who frequently hike together on backpacking trips of 4 – 6 days and have a dialed lightweight gear setup.
  • Families or groups going out for a long weekend and trying not to bring more weight than necessary.

If you frequently hike solo as well as in a pair or group, you’ll likely find a standard size bear canister more versatile. If you still fancy a fancy bear canister, check out the Bearikade Weekender instead.

Wild Ideas Bearikade Expedition bear canister stuffed full of backpacking food
The Bearikade Expedition holds an impressive amount of food when packed carefully.

Is the Bearikade Expedition worth the money?

In addition to having the largest volume and the best weight/volume ratio, the Bearikade Expedition is also the most expensive bear canister money can buy. Is it worth it?

If you’re a solo hiker who needs to carry 9-12 days worth of food between resupplies in an area where a bear can is needed, you don’t really have any other options (and you probably have enough backpacking experience to understand the value of good lightweight gear). If the Bearikade Expedition allows you to tackle that epic and remote trip and you have the cash, then yes, it’s worth it.

For couples or groups considering sharing an Expedition on shorter trips, you’ll have to decide if the weight savings are worth the extra dollars. For example, two people on a 5 day trip could either:

  • Share a Bearikade Expedition: $425, 36 ounces weight
  • Each carry a BearVault 450: $84 x 2 = $168, 33 x 2 = 66 ounces weight

In other words, you can choose to spend over twice as much money to get almost half the weight. To be precise, you can spend $340 more to save 30 ounces, which comes out to $181 per pound saved.

If you’re already dabbling in lightweight backpacking, this kind of tradeoff is familiar. The right answer depends on your budget, the style of hiking you expect to do and how often, and how much you’ve already optimized your other gear for weight.

In this post on lightweight backpacking tips I explain the spreadsheet I use to compare cost per pound saved when trying to find the best value lightweight gear. For this particular BearVault / Bearikade comparison, the cost per pound saved is actually comparable to some other upgrades I have personally deemed worthwhile, like my sleeping pad and quilt, but that’s going to be a very individual decision.

When sharing a bear canister, there’s also the question of what happens if someone needs to bail early? It’s worth talking this through in advance, for a number of reasons.

Finally, if you’re on the fence about whether the Bearikade Expedition (or any other size Bearikade) is worth the money, here are two more factors to consider:

  • There’s a very good market for used Bearikades. You could probably buy it, use it, and sell it (on eBay, GearTrade, etc.) for a net cost that’s less than or similar to a heavier bear canister. But once you buy it, there’s always the risk that you’ll like it so much you’ll keep it (why do you think I still have one?).
  • Bearikades can be rented, so if you think this is a one-time need, crunch the numbers and see if that’s appealing.
Bearikade Expedition bear canister and camp stove on John Muir Trail
Also makes a great wind shield in the high granite basins of the John Muir Trail

Bearikade Expedition on the JMT

For those looking into a Bearikade Expedition for the John Muir Trail, this personal experience might be helpful.

My first encounter with Bearikade was in 2014 while preparing for an 18 day John Muir Trail thru-hike. My husband and I were looking for ways to lighten our packs and figured we could ease the pain of the Bearikade’s price tag by selling it after our trip.

We purchased not one but TWO Bearikades: an Expedition model and the smaller Weekender model. Up through Muir Trail Ranch, with only four days between each resupply, we shared the Expedition. (Yes, I admit he carried it, but I carried pretty much EVERYthing else).

From Muir Trail Ranch, where our resupply strategy dictated we each carry 9 days of food, I carried the Weekender (shipped to MTR in our resupply package) and he carried the Expedition. It was actually still a tight squeeze to get all the food in on the first night, despite our carefully planned and packaged meals, but it did work.

The plan all along was to sell both canisters after the hike, but of course that didn’t happen, because we decided we loved backpacking in the high Sierra and wanted to do more. We split the difference, selling the Weekender to a friend and keeping the Expedition for ourselves.

Why did we choose to keep the Expedition? It’s the rarer of the two beasts. We wanted to bet on longer, epic trips together and figured we could always make the shorter trips work too by carrying other gear in the oversize bear canister. Additionally, if we needed to buy another smaller canister at some point, there are more options to choose from in that size range.

Final Thoughts

As with all purchases, the value / money tradeoff is a personal decision. The Bearikade Expedition is a unique piece of gear that fills a niche and fills it well, and if you’re in that category then there’s no better bear canister out there.

I do personally recommend the Expedition for those who know they will use it often, or use it once and then sell it. But if it’s not strictly necessary for your use case, it’s a lot of money and a lot of space in your pack. You’ll need to be honest with yourself about whether your future backpacking plans include enough Expedition-worthy trips to make the purchase worthwhile.

Of course, once you throw down the cash for the Escalade of bear canisters it may be motivation to plan more epic backpacking trips in the future… And that’s priceless. 🙂

More Lightweight Backpacking Resources

If you’re looking into Bearikades, you might also find these helpful:

Or visit the backpacking section for lots more!

About the Author

Hi there, I’m Alissa, founder of Exploring Wild. I’ve had the pleasure of hiking the Arizona Trail, Colorado Trail, John Muir Trail, Tahoe Rim Trail, and countless shorter amazing trails throughout the US and abroad. I love solitude, big views, and a good lightweight gear setup. Learn more here.

Excited about backpacking but need help getting started? The Backpacking Trip Planner Workbook will help you start off on the right foot.

Hiking resources in your inbox?

There’s more where this came from! Sign up here for occasional emails full of inspiration and information about backpacking and hiking.

Share the Adventure

If you found this article helpful, please consider sharing so more people can benefit from it:

2 thoughts on “Bearikade Expedition Bear Canister: Long-Term Review”

  1. Thank you for the down to earth and thorough review. Best I’ve seen and has significantly aided my decision. Fortunately money isn’t a major concern as I find it paradoxical to pinch when you’re doing something that’s inherently optional and pricey. I’ll be getting either a weekender or expedition depending on if the expedition fits in my 55L pack.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Item added to cart.
0 items - $0.00