DIY Bear Canister: How to Make One That Fits Your Needs

So, you have decided to for a diy bear canister. Well before you go grabbing PVC, buckets, tape and power tools, there are a few things you should consider first.

When choosing the right one to go with, it can seem a little overwhelming. There are so many choices ranging from small compact set-ups to large and somewhat exotic. Choosing the right one for you takes some thought and considerations of more than you may think.

Where You’re Going?

One of the most important aspects to consider when choosing the correct canister is where you’re going. What will the temperature be? What kind of bears are there? Is the land public or private?

A large majority of National Parks require approved or certified canisters to be used. In this instance, a do-it-yourself version isn’t an option.

bear canister next to bottle, glass and boots

All these factors lead to the next determining factor.

What is the Canister Made From?

Another important thing to consider is what you use to construct the canister. Keeping bears from getting into the container might not be the only thing to worry about. Cost is a contributor as well.

You might want to spend the least as you must on a bear canister. In this case, a beer keg version wouldn’t be your best bet. Maybe the five-gallon-bucket would be a better choice. Read our popular article on how to hang a bear bag to keep your food and stuff safe.

How Many People Will Be Going on The Trip?

Something to consider that might seem obvious is the number of people that will be going. Not only will you need to make sure the container is large enough, but transporting could become an issue.

camping gear and bear canister

If you choose something large and bulky, like a beer keg for instance, it could be a nightmare for a two-man-trip.

See also: How to Scare a Bear: The Bare Necessities

Can It Be Hung?

A factor that can very easily be missed is thinking about being able to hang the canister. Yes, a bucket has a handle and a beer keg has two. A mason jar though for instance does not have any handles.

PVC Backpacking Canister

A very basic, simple and quick canister to make is the PVC canister. This is one that will work best for backpacking, hiking and small-group needs.

pvc bear proof containers

The only downfall to this canister is not having an easy way to hang it up without drilling holes and causing weak points.


  • 4’’ PVC pipe at desired length you want the canister. One foot to 18 inches works best.
  • 4” end cap
  • 4” female threaded coupler
  • 4” male threaded cap
  • PVC glue and cleaner


  • Use the cleaner to clean the outside of the pipe where the end cap will go. Repeat this step on the inside of the end cap.
  • Apply glue to the same areas on both the pipe and the end cap.
  • Firmly put the two pieces together. Be sure to press firmly and turn slightly to assure a proper seal.
  • Next, use the cleaner on the other end of the pipe the same way as well as the inside lip of the female threaded couple. Be sure not to get any glue on any of the threads.
  • Firmly put these pieces together the same as you did the end cap.
  • Allow all of this to sit and set-up for a few minutes. Time will depend on the glue you have used. Refer to the container or packaging the glue came in for the specific time.
  • After the glue is set-up, thread the male threaded cap into the female threaded couple. This works as your lid. Your canister is now done!

making pvc canister

For a larger group of people, the five-gallon-bucket method is a good option. It already has a handle for ease of hanging from a tree limb pole etc., affordable and effective.

Five Gallon Bucket Canister


  • Five-gallon bucket with lid. The lid should fit snugly.
  • Bungee strap
  • Kitchen-sized trash bag (non-scented)
  • Rubber band


  • Line bucket with the trash bag.
  • You will put your food in the trash bag then twist it shut. Use the rubber band to securely hold the trash bag closed. This will help keep any aromas from your food from making its way out of the bucket.
  • Put the lid on the bucket and make sure it snaps into place. Use the bungee cord to wrap under the bottom of the bucket and up the sides so it meets and latches to itself on top of the lid. This will help keep the lid from being knocked off it is nudged or knocked over. Keep in mind if the canister is not hung above the bears reach it will have the power to smash and penetrate the bucket.

bear canisters

If there is a decent amount of people going, you can afford to spend a little extra cash on a do-it-yourself project and you need something strong yet light, the cooler build might be right for you.

 Cooler Canister


  • Large Cooler.
  • Two padlock latches
  • Two padlocks
  • Drill and bit
  • Bolts, nuts, washers and lock washers. (size and amount will determine on the size and number of holes in the latches and the thickness of the cooler. The bolts will bolt the hinges in place instead of the supplied screws to prevent them from easily being pulled off.)
  • Two wrenches that fit the bolts and nuts


  • Place the latches on the cooler where the need to be and mark both the hinge and the holes. You want one side of the hinge on the lid and the other on the front of the cooler opposite the factory hinges for the lid.
  • Use the drill and drill bit to drill out the holes where marked. Made sure the holes go all the way through.
  • Bolt the latches on securely with the bolts. Put the washer on the bolt before sliding it through the hole so it is on the outside of the cooler. The lock washer will slide on next followed by the nut. Be sure to tighten enough to be secure but be careful not to over tighten and crack the coolers inner or outer shell.
  • You can now place your food in the cooler and latch it shut. After putting the padlocks in place there is no way the cooler can be opened.

If you plan to hang this canister be sure to use a cooler that has a handle. Two would be preferred. You could tie the two together with a length of rope and use a carabiner to attach the main rope you suspend it with. This will help keep it level. Be sure that the handles are well constructed and can handle holding weight for a long period.

Five Gallon Bucket Bear Canister making

Another popular backpacking option is a mason jar. Although a bears’ jaws can easily crush the jar, the sealing lid gives this option a huge advantage. After all, if a bear doesn’t smell your food, there is nothing in his mind to make him try and get to it.

Mason Jar Canister


  • One mason jar. (Size will depend on how much food you’re wanting to bring with you. A quart-sized jar is the most common and effective for backpacking. All sizes have been used and are equally effective from half a pint through gallon.)
  • Lid for the jar that has the rubber seal on it. Some older lids do not have this, most likely from heavy use. If you don’t have a jar and lid together and want to use a mason jar you found lying around the house that’s fine. Just be sure to buy a new lid so you can be assured that the seal will work at its maximum potential. Also, check to make sure the jar has no cracks or chips that could weaken it.
  • A piece of paracord or another cordage to suspend the canister from if that is what your needs require.


  • This canister is one of if not the easiest to make. It’s obvious you simply place your food in the jar, screw the lid on tightly and toss in your backpack.
  • If you are wanting to hang your canister you can just tie paracord or another cordage around the mouth of the jar. Tie the other end around the tree limb or whatever you may be securing it to.

three bear canisters in the woods

This next option is another one for either a large group of people or for a stationary camp site. The latter is the most preferred and I must agree due to its weight and bulkiness.

The Metal Drum


  • Metal drum. The most common are the oil drum style with the bolted-racket-lid. These are your best option.
  • Two four-foot lengths of cable.
  • Two cable connectors
  • Large trash bag
  • Rubber band
  • Cleaners to decontaminate the inside of the barrel.
  • The wrench that fits the bolt on the bracket
  • The wrench that fits the bolts on the cable connectors.


  • To start this project, use the cleaner to thoroughly clean the inside of the barrel and the lid. This is crucial. Even though your food will be inside a bag inside of this barrel, it is still a sealed container. Contamination could occur if not cleaned properly. Be sure to get in all the cracks and crevices to get all the old contents out.
  • Line the inside of the barrel with the trash bag. 
  • Place all your food inside of this bag.
  • Twist the end of the trash bag shut and secure with the rubber band. 
  • Now place the lid on the barrel and tighten down the ring with the wrench.
  • This is where using it for a stationary camp canister is nice. Use the cable to secure the canister to a tree. Use the cable connectors to firmly hold each cable in place. Wrap one length of cable around the bottom of the barrel and a tree, and the second length of cable around the top of the barrel and the same tree.
  • Connect each cable to itself separately with the connectors. Now you do not have to worry about the bear thrashing the barrel around. With it firmly attached to the tree it will be there to use each time you visit the camp. This makes it the best option for convenience with larger groups.

The Metal Drum Canister

The last canister option covered in this article is the ammo can version. Quick, simple, and pretty much ready to go from the store, this option is getting increasingly popular.

Ammo Can Canister


  • Ammo can (5.56 and 50 caliber cans are the most popular)
  • Small padlock


  • This is another option that is basically self-explanatory. Place your food in the ammo can and secure the latch.
  • Use a small padlock through the latch hole that allows for a lock.
  • Presto! Quick and easy canister.

Ammo Can Canister

This option is excellent. The handle makes it both easy to carry and hang. The can itself has a built-in waterproof seal, so like the mason jar canister, it blocks out most of the scent. Another great option for last -minute plans and grab-and-go situations. See other kinds of bear canisters in our previous article on this important topic.


All in all, as you can see, choosing the right canister to fit your needs might not be as simple as you first think. Location, species of bear, the number of people going on the trip, these things come into play.

So, whether you’re in a pinch, financially you can’t afford a manufactured canister or just like to make things yourself, there are defiantly options out there for the bear canister.

2 bear canisters

The most important aspect is to not jump into a decision too quickly. Weigh out your options and all the variables of the trip. After all, what could be worse than a camping trip ruined because all your food was eaten by a bear? Also, don’t think that these are the only options out there either.

You can even come up with your own effective ways to make a bear canister at home. All you need to do is understand the basic concepts of them and let your imagination run wild! You never know. You might invent the next best bear canister ever made!

For a great review of the best bear canister, check out our article on this timely topic.

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