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General Gear Discussion The General Gear Discussion forum is for the discussion of traditional and lightweight (ultralight) backpacking gear that is not covered in other Practical Backpacking™ forums. [Please post about Backpacks, Shelters, Sleeping Gear, Backcountry Kitchen (Food, Stoves) in those respective forum areas.]


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  #1  
Old 07-21-2015, 08:26 AM
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Balzaccom Balzaccom is offline
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Bear Vault ingests water?

On our recent trip to Mono Pass and Pioneer Basin, we had something happen that really took us by surprise. No, it wasn't the hailstorm that clobbered us right at dusk--although we had hoped we would miss that particular adventure. But it's related to that.



The next morning, when we got up and inspected the damage around our campsite from the hailstorm, we were surprised to see about a half an inch of water sloshing around inside our Bearvault.

Huh? The bear can was sitting away from our tent, in a small clearing among some trees, and it was upright the entire time---from before the storm hit to the next morning. So how did all that water get into the can?

All we can imagine is that the small lip on the bear can that sticks out beyond the lid was saturated during the rain and hailstorm, and that the can and its contents were relatively warm from the day's hike. As the contents cooled, they must have created a bit of a vacuum, and if the lip were saturated with water, maybe the vacuum sucked the water standing on the lip up through the threads and into the can. And that continued for some time, because the storm lasted a while, and the really cooled down everything--there was still an inch of hail on the ground when we woke up the next morning.

Anybody got a better explanation?
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  #2  
Old 07-23-2015, 10:06 AM
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GGervin GGervin is offline
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Backpack: Gregory Shasta, Deuter ACT Lite 65+10
Sleeping Gear: REI ThermoPod +0 mummy, MH 3D +40 mummy
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Sorry for your bad luck/interesting problem. I don't have a bear vault, I have a Garcia and a Contender. I'm sure neither of them are waterproof, so I always put them upside down and off the ground so they don't collect storm water. I have had problems with significant condensation inside from time to time (certainly not 1/2" worth), but I've never had them take on water from a storm. But the bear vault's whole lid system is different. I don't know that putting it upside down would solve anything.

I think your vacuum idea is interesting. Certainly, water's getting past the threads somehow. But I wonder if wind and heavy rain alone could drive water up and past the threads?

I think you should put it in the shower to experiment. See if it takes on water just sitting upright. Maybe water will get in just driven by the shower spray. You could also try to put a ziplocked bag of ice in the vault, and maybe use warm shower water to see if that re-creates your suspected vacuum.

If the threads are the weakness and you want watertight, I wonder if you couldn't make a lid gasket out of a thin rubber sheet?

If you try these experiments, I hope you'll tell us what you discover.

Last edited by GGervin : 07-23-2015 at 10:23 AM.
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  #3  
Old 07-23-2015, 01:31 PM
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Balzaccom Balzaccom is offline
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Good idea about the shower, George. I've also got a note into Bearvault to see what they have to say...
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  #4  
Old 07-24-2015, 08:32 AM
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dustin dustin is offline
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Backpack: Golite Jam
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I bet this is a combination of capillary action between the canister threads and the lid plus the pressure drop inside the canister sort of sucking the water in.

The amount of water that got in does seem like a lot, which makes me think it would be a great science fair experiment for an outdoorsy school kid.

I finally got my own BV this year, so I will definitely keep this in mind when setting it out. Thanks for posting this.
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Old 07-30-2015, 05:56 AM
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Balzaccom Balzaccom is offline
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Sarah at BearVault was kind enough to respond to our recent questions about water getting into the BearVault during a storm. Here's what she wrote:

"There is a small lip on the BearVault housing which prevents a bear’s claw or tooth from getting under the lid during an attack. If the BearVault is almost perfectly upright then during a rain this lip can allow a small “moat” of water to form at the top of the housing. If the storm then passes during the night, the atmospheric pressure gets higher and this forces the water in the “moat” up the threads and into the housing.

To prevent this, just tilt the unit slightly during the night so that the water cannot accumulate in that “moat” if it rains- it’s that simple."
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  #6  
Old 07-31-2015, 01:47 AM
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GGervin GGervin is offline
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Backpack: Gregory Shasta, Deuter ACT Lite 65+10
Sleeping Gear: REI ThermoPod +0 mummy, MH 3D +40 mummy
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Join Date: Jun 2010
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Thanks for getting back to us and telling us what you found out. Looks like Sarah confirmed your suspicions. And the answer sounds very easy. I'm sure your reporting will be of real interest to anyone who's got a Bear Vault.

There's an irony, here, though. When I go packing, I can never find a perfectly level place to set things. Looks like you found a perfectly level place the one time you didn't want one!
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  #7  
Old 07-31-2015, 06:13 AM
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Balzaccom Balzaccom is offline
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Good point George. It's hard enough to find a spot for a tent!
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