I recently secured a reservation for a camp site in Rocky Mountain National Park for a few nights near the Neversummer Wilderness. In order to stay there you’re required to pack your food in a hard sided bear proof container. In doing my research I came up with the Counter Assault Bear Keg.
The container, by the rules of the park had to be hard sided. That meant I could only consider offerings from Garcia, Counter Assault, and Bear Vault. The Nalgene-like Bear Vaults are lighter, but as of this year are no longer allowed in areas like the Adirondack high peaks region.
Knowing that I’d want to camp in RMNP a few times while living in Colorado, and that OutdoorsGeek in Denver had them for $20/week to rent I decided to buy. I figured I’d likely hit the break-even point of four adventures, so off I went to purchase one. I found the Bear Keg at Sportsman’s Warehouse for MSRP. I’m usually a deal seeker but my trip was imminent!
- Approved by the IGBC & the SIBBG
- 716 cubic inches of storage
- Dimensions 9″ X 14″
- 3.8 Pounds
- 3 x Metal toggles to secure the lid to the keg
- Slips right into the Counter Assault Bear Keg Universal Carrying Case
The dimensions of the keg itself is 9″ wide by 14″ tall, which doesn’t really mean much. What you really need to know is that it will fit snacks and food for one person for 5-7 days fairly comfortably. Or, you can do what I did for a shorter trip where it’s required and pack your camp stove, camp cookware, water purification, and other odds and ends into the keg. There’s no real way to reduce size on a hard sided container, so your best bet will be to make most efficient use of the space you have available to you.
The bear keg itself runs $79.95 MSRP and the carrying case runs $15.95, both can be found on sale for a little cheaper if you’re willing to look.
The Bear Keg by Counter Assault is just that, a keg. Shaped like it should be filled with delicious beer, the top is secured by three toggles that can be operated by a screwdriver or coin. The carry bag has a zippered top, four nylon webbing loops, and a nylon webbing handle across it’s length. This makes the keg slightly easier to affix to your pack when on the move.
Some people report the Bear Keg making an “excellent” camp stool, but I’d tend to disagree. While in theory it should work, I had difficulty being able to sit on it for any length of time without a serious case of numb-butt. Even with a hooded sweatshirt wadded up underneath. Perhaps Counter Assault could make a cushion? I found it did make an excellent foot rest once I’d pulled up a log or two to sit on and take a load off.
Packing the Counter Assault Bear Keg is pretty straightforward, but there can be a trick to it. I start by layering flat dehydrated backpacking food around the edges, alternating right-side-up and upside-down to maximize space. From there, snacks and accessories go into the center of the keg, being careful not to lock away something you’ll want on the trail.
Having dehydrated food for breakfast and dinner will make space a little tight. In the photo above I have enough dehydrated meals for two meals a day for four days. Add in snacks and you’re going to be pressed for space. Pack wisely, and consider smaller form factor meals that pack a punch. Mountain House offers a ProPak that is already tightly vacuum sealed, and Heather’s Choice meals are all relatively small but mighty.
While some experts contest that you don’t need to do a bear hang for your food, I still do. Even if it’s in a hard sided container, I’ll continue to hang my food to keep it bear safe. I carry a length of paracord with a noose knot around a carabiner in order to hang my food. Tossing the line over a limb and clipping it is all I need to do. The cord also lives in my hunting pack to string up a turkey or to hang meat from a kill.
If your Bear Keg is inside the Counter Assault Universal Carry Bag you can easily thread a carabiner through one of the nylon strap loops used to affix the bag to your backpack and hoist it up into a tree. The ideal bear hang is 12 feet off the ground and five feet out from the trunk — meaning that in some places it’s next to impossible. Where we stayed in Rocky Mountain National Park we were amongst a stand of lodgepole pines. You simply cannot get the food to be five feet out on a limb you can reach with a stone or stick around the carabiner.
The Counter Assault Bear Keg is meant to stand up to a bear giving it the once-over. I didn’t kick my keg around like a soccer ball or beat it with a claw hammer. Even though I definitely thought about it. If it’s good enough for IGBC & the SIBBG to consider it bear proof, it’s been through enough testing for me.
This is a piece of specialty gear that if you need it, you likely know it. Ultralight backpackers won’t be clamoring to throw an additional 3.8 pounds on their back. However, it is required in some of the nicest places to camp in the United States. If I had to do it again it would be a real tossup between the Counter Assault Bear Keg and the Garcia. Both absolutely fit the bill and are sturdy.