The Only Way to Truly Bearproof a Cooler: BearBolts Review

58 views 8:02 pm 0 Comments January 11, 2024

<img width="2545" height="1697" src="http://mindflight.me/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/BearBolts_Brand-New-Action-Jackson.jpg" class="attachment-full size-full not-transparent wp-post-image" alt="BearBolts allow you to bear-proof your bear-resistant cooler" decoding="async" srcset="http://mindflight.me/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/BearBolts_Brand-New-Action-Jackson.jpg 2545w, https://s3.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2023/12/BearBolts_Brand-New-Action-Jackson-300×200.jpg 300w, https://s3.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2023/12/BearBolts_Brand-New-Action-Jackson-700×467.jpg 700w, https://s3.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2023/12/BearBolts_Brand-New-Action-Jackson-768×512.jpg 768w, https://s3.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2023/12/BearBolts_Brand-New-Action-Jackson-1536×1024.jpg 1536w, https://s3.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2023/12/BearBolts_Brand-New-Action-Jackson-2048×1366.jpg 2048w, https://s3.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2023/12/BearBolts_Brand-New-Action-Jackson-800×533.jpg 800w, https://s3.us-east-1.amazonaws.com/images.gearjunkie.com/uploads/2023/12/BearBolts_Brand-New-Action-Jackson-720×480.jpg 720w" sizes="(max-width: 2545px) 100vw, 2545px" data-has-transparency="false" data-dominant-color="76776c" style="" data-attachment-id="350381" data-permalink="https://gearjunkie.com/camping/bearbolts-bearproof-cooler-review/attachment/bearbolts_brand-new-action-jackson" data-orig-file="http://mindflight.me/wp-content/uploads/2024/01/BearBolts_Brand-New-Action-Jackson.jpg" data-orig-size="2545,1697" data-comments-opened="0" data-image-meta="{"aperture":"0","credit":"","camera":"","caption":"","created_timestamp":"0","copyright":"","focal_length":"0","iso":"0","shutter_speed":"0","title":"","orientation":"0"}" data-image-title="BearBolts_Brand New Action Jackson" data-image-description="

BearBolts allow you to bear-proof your bear-resistant cooler; (photo/Nick LeFort)

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(Photo/Nick LeFort)

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Even in places that are still wicked rural, more and more bears are joining the human population in our day-to-day lives. And they can be a real challenge when it comes to camping and adventuring. If a bear raids your camp food supply, you’re going to have a mess on your hands. Not to mention, it’s a dangerous situation for both you and the bear.

A majority of public and state campgrounds have installed food storage contraptions to help keep bears out of your coolers and food supplies. But what about those times when you’re out in the backcountry camping? Or you’re dispersed camping and don’t have access to a food locker? Making matters more complicated, even though you’re in the middle of nowhere, it may be regulated that you keep your food secured.

In those cases, it’s up to you to protect your food. Many coolers like YETI and RovR are certified as “bear-resistant” by the IGBC (Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee), meaning bears likely won’t get into them — though, there is still a chance they could.

But BearBolts, a locking system for camp coolers, claims to turn bear-resistant containers into bear-proof ones.

That caught my attention. So I got my hands on a pair of BearBolts and decided to put them through a wringer that no bear could possibly muster. Unless that is, they learned to drive vehicles.

In short: BearBolts are a simple bearproof keyless locking system for the most common IGBC-rated coolers. It is the only such locking system approved by the IGBC itself. They’re easier to use than a lock-and-key system, and they’re made from solid steel. After the test I put them through, I’m confident these bolts would protect my cooler’s food from even the hungriest of bears.


BearBolts

Specs

  • Pin
    8mm (5/16th in.) in diameter
  • Grip length range
    21-44mm (0.82-1.73″)
  • Pin materials
    Precision machined 17-4 hardened stainless steel
  • Three-way receiver materials
    304 stainless steel
  • Lanyard
    Vinyl-coated braided stainless steel cable
  • Handle
    Injection-molded ABS+polycarbonate

Pros

  • Durable

  • IGBC certified

  • Bearproofs bear-resistant containers

Cons

  • Won’t stand up to being dragged by a vehicle

  • More expensive than alternative options

BearBolts Review

What Are BearBolts?

Believe it or not, the folks at BearBolts aren’t primarily concerned with protecting food — they’re concerned with protecting bears. Bears that get into campgrounds and meddle with people food have to be relocated. Repeat offenders are usually euthanized. That’s why BearBolts’ whole mission is to reduce human-bear conflict by making it easy for people to comply with food storage regulations in bear country.

By using a bear-resistant cooler and a device like BearBolts, you’re not just appeasing Ranger Rick, you’re also doing what’s right for these wild animals who don’t know any better.

Designed to fit into the locking holes on your cooler, BearBolts are both keyless and effortless. With the push of a button, you can install and remove the bolts in seconds. There are no loose pieces, everything is tethered together, and no tools are required to use them.

Additionally, the bulk of the bolts are made from precision-machined, stainless steel parts. You’re not going to be able to go to Home Depot and cobble one of these together. And even if you could, it still wouldn’t be certified by the IGBC.

BearBolts are sold as a set for $100 a pair.

What Coolers Do They Fit?

Certified for bear love; (photo/Nick LeFort)

If you plan on using BearBolts with your cooler, it needs to be IGBC-rated and on this list. Any cooler that’s IGBC-certified has survived testing at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Mont., where grizzlies work around the clock trying to break into outdoor products.

At the time of this writing, BearBolts is the only locking system that has been tested and approved by the IGBC. That speaks volumes for the effectiveness of these toggle bolts. Locking an IGBC-certified cooler with IGBC-certified locks ensures that your cooler isn’t going to teach bears any bad habits no matter where you’re camping.

Testing the Bolts

(Photo/Nick LeFort)
(Photo/Nick LeFort)

Having no way of getting a bear to test these bolts for me, I wanted to take this test to the extreme. The best thing I could come up with was dragging a cooler secured with BearBolts behind my 4Runner along winding New England dirt roads in my area.

I decided to use my personal, limited-edition, seafoam green YETI Tundra 35 cooler even though YETI had sent me a brand-new cooler for this specific test. My green cooler has been with me everywhere. It’s got all the best stickers that I spent years acquiring and carefully placing on the walls of the pricey ice chest. It felt more authentic to use this one in testing.

So, I stuck my GoPro Hero 12 to the liftgate of my 4Runner and recorded the following blessed hellride:

Drag Test: Results

In the end, the bolts failed and the cooler got beat to hell. But — and man, is this the but of all buts — the first bolt failed after 2 miles, at 20 miles per hour. That’s way more trauma than any bear, or even a team of bears, can put on any cooler.

To say I’m impressed that the first bolt lasted that long under such obscene testing conditions would be an understatement.

(Photo/Nick LeFort)

I would love to tell you when the second bolt came off and where. I’ve rewatched the full video time and time again and I can’t pinpoint it. I also can’t find it. I walked that trail for 3 hours and came up empty. But at the very least, it must have made it further than the 2-mile mark.

Big picture — BearBolts won’t withstand a dragging death. But the fact that they lasted as long as they did, reinforces what the IGBC already affirmed: BearBolts should effectively keep bears out of coolers.

Why Not Use a Masterlock?

These BearBolts sell for $100 a pair. A pair of Masterlocks at the hardware store will run $15-25. So why use BearBolts?

First off, Masterlocks aren’t as easy to attach or remove. BearBolts are keyless, and just require a pair of opposable thumbs to unlatch and open. You don’t have to fiddle with a key every time someone wants to grab something out of the cooler, open the locks, take them off, reattach them, and then relock them. With BearBolts, you just unlatch and remove the bolt, and then pop it back on afterward.

And, once again, BearBolts are certified by the IGBC as a bearproof cooler locking system. Masterlocks are not. (Although, they’ll definitely keep both animals and people out of your coolers.)

A Note on Fit

BearBolts allow you to bear-proof your bear-resistant cooler
(Photo/Nick LeFort)

These BearBolts aren’t a perfect science. They are a precision one. The specific set of coolers that are compliant with BearBolts have specific dimensional requirements that allow the bolts to fit. However, due to differences in manufacturing, as well as exposure to the elements, the BearBolts could be a bear to use on your cooler.

For example, my 10-year-old, limited-edition, seafoam YETI Tundra 35 I chose to use for this test has been all over the place and exposed to all sorts of weather patterns and seasons. Because of this, the lid has warped on the sides. It doesn’t impact the efficacy of the cooler. However, there is a small gap on the side of the lid that makes it tricky to fit the bolt through.

Will this be a problem with a new cooler that’s on the certified list? No. But if your cooler is older or has seen better days, mind that gap and make sure to check your fitment. I was able to get the bolts to work on my cooler with some coaxing.

Shout Out to YETI

Sure, my limited-edition seafoam cooler, which I dragged behind my truck through the woods for 5 miles at 20 mph, got beat up badly. But it’s still a fully functional cooler. I had to pop one of the rubberized feet back in place, and it needs a good wash. But I didn’t lose the drain plug. The rubber handles are still intact. And I’m going to use this cooler for more years to come.

BearBolts: Conclusion

BearBolts allow you to bear-proof your bear-resistant cooler
(Photo/Nick LeFort)

If you’re willing to spend $300 or more on an IGBC-rated bear-resistant cooler, another $100 to make it certified bear-proof shouldn’t be a question. Not to mention it could help avoid any hassles or fines from park rangers and the like. And on top of all that, they’ll help keep bears safe by keeping them out of human food.

Obviously, this drag test put the BearBolts through a lot of abuse. And while it isn’t the kind of abuse they were engineered to withstand, it was still a testament to their durability. Besides, the IGBC already had their expert grizzly testers try their paws at getting past BearBolts, and they were unsuccessful. Tying my BearBolted YETI cooler to a car and dragging it through the woods seemed like a reasonable next step in testing.

BearBolts has several retail partners in Utah and Idaho. But if you live outside of those two states, the best way to get your hands on a pair is directly through its website.

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(Photo/Miya Tsudome)

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