Food Bags for Backpacking [ What Materials, Size, & Needs ]

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Have you ever gone out backpacking and had a leaking drink somewhere in your backpack? With all the movement and travel, it can be hard to carry food while you backpack. Food can also attract animals and bugs.

So proper food storage is necessary for backpacking. And depending on your trip, what size food bag for backpacking you should get also differs. 

While you can simply use ziplock bags to carry small amounts of food, there are a lot of options available for longer trips where you might need to carry more food. There are bear vaults, dry sacks, canisters, etc. The size will depend on what kind of backpacking you’re gonna be doing but there are plenty of resizable ones to suit your needs as well. 

What kind of food storage you should go for really depends on the environment you’re going to be backpacking in. There are a lot of factors involved.

So, I advise that you stick with till the end to find out which food bag would be best for you. 

How Do You Carry Food While Backpacking?

It is very important to properly store your food while backpacking. Especially for longer trips, where carrying food becomes necessary, one wrong move could leave you starving in the middle of nowhere. You should use food bags specially made for backpacking, and bear bags, bear canisters or vaults, etc to carry your food and store them properly. 

Depending on where you’re going, there could be animals and bears around, who can get attracted to the smell of food. This can be very dangerous, especially if you stay overnight in the wilderness or go camping.

You should never sleep near open food, or even sealed ones. This is why there are food bags and bear bags that seal the smell inside and protect you from bears. 

Here are the 2 types of food bags you can get:

Bear Bags Or Dry Sacks

These are more of the traditional bags that you pack your food in and hang up from a branch somewhere; hence the term “bear-bagging”. These are usually made from kevlar or bulletproof, high-density materials that are meant to keep bears and other animals out.

This means they can’t be ripped and are very sturdy. 

They usually also have a string attached or a mechanism for you to tie the top and hang it to a high place so bears can’t reach it. These are also very light and foldable and therefore easy to carry. You can fold it when you’ve emptied it and store it in your backpack. 

Try to get ones that are waterproof, more usually referred to as Dry Sacks. You can easily turn them inside out and dry and wash them as well. 

Bear Canisters Or Vaults

These are much more protective and sturdy. As the name suggests, this isn’t a bag but a container made of hard plastic, metal, or even carbon fiber, with a tight lid that animals cannot open.

These are very strong and sturdy and won’t break even with pressure. And the lids usually have complicated opening mechanisms that can even baffle humans. 

Bear canisters or vaults are much heavier, however; they can be very difficult to carry around, especially with food inside. But some places have made it mandatory to use canisters due to bear risks.

If you backpack to such places you won’t have a choice but to use one. Check online for restrictions and regulations before planning a backpacking trip.

So it just depends on where you are going. Sometimes a simple Dry Sack is enough to carry all your food just fine and other times you will need to buy a canister otherwise you can’t even go.

Do your research about the terrain before going on. 

Lastly, remember to properly store your food in zip lock bags, or air-tight containers before putting them in your bear bag or canister. Try to pack light and take dry snacks rather than full meals.

If you just plan smartly ahead, you should have no problems with food even on a longer backpacking trip.

How Big Should Your Food Bag Be?

You should keep in mind that usually, an average person’s one-day trip should only take 10L to carry food and essentials. So according to how many days you plan to stay, and how much you consume, multiply that by the volume and that’s the size of the canister or bag you should need. 

It’s best not to get the smaller ones as they’ll be too tight to fit anything in. A safe option is going for the 16″x19″ like these ones from Hilltop Packs. You can easily use them for 2-5 day long trips as well.

After which you’ll probably need to refill anyway because food doesn’t last that long. This still means you should pack light though. So if you need it, you can go for much larger ones. 

You should keep in mind the size of your backpack too. It should be big or small enough to fit inside it, while also carrying the other things you need.

Also going too big might be very cumbersome as it gets much heavier and takes away the experience of backpacking smoothly. 

The Best Food Bags and Canisters for Backpacking

Now that you know what to look for in a food bag for backpacking, here are a few recommendations to start you off. 

Outdoor Products 3-Pack All Purpose Dry Sack

This 3 in 1 dry sack back is made of 1/6th cotton, and 1/4th rayon material, which makes it very strong. Bears or other animals cannot rip through it. It comes with a roll-top closing mechanism, with a buckle-like lock that ensures air-tight storage and a bear-proof lock. 

It is very affordable and you get 3 different sized bags that you can use for different purposes and trips. They come in 2L, 4L, and 8L bag sizes, perfect for all kinds of trips. 

Check Price on Amazon

Frontiersman Bear Safe & Resistant Food Storage Container

While bear canisters are much more expensive and cumbersome to carry, they do provide the protection you can’t find with other food bags.

The Frontiersman bear canister is designed to perfectly fit inside your bag without wasting space. It’s big and sturdy with a volume about 11.86L made with polypropylene. 

It can work well if you’re planning longer trips with friends or family and you need a lot more food to carry. The screw-type lock system ensures that bears can’t get in and it traps the smell of the food inside to not attract any bears in the first place. 

Check Price on Amazon

Marchway Floating Waterproof Dry Bag

The Marchway Dry Bag is one of the best options on the market, with many different sizes ranging from 5L-40L bags and many different colors to choose from.

The best thing about this bag is you can use it for a lot of different kinds of adventures, not only backpacking. They are waterproof and floatable and so you can use them on waterway adventures as well. 

Made with tarpaulin, this bag is very strong and durable. Bears can’t rip into it and you don’t have any chances of accidentally puncturing it either. It is a great, versatile food bag option for all your backpacking needs.

Check Price on Amazon


You’re now all set to start packing your food for your backpacking trip! Prep your meals, and plan out exactly what you’ll need.

Then determine what size food bag for backpacking you need. Once you’ve gotten your hands on the right one, you should be all ready to go. 

Thanks for reading till the end. And I hope this article has come to your aid in making a wholesome backpacking trip. 

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