Best Bear Spray Reviews
If you spend a lot of time outdoors it is likely that you consider the wildlife that you are sharing the wilderness with. While it is always a thrill to see deer while on a hiking trail or at a campsite, the idea of encountering a bear while out exploring nature can be scary.
I admit I had not thought much about running into a bear while on a hike, however that changed when there was a bear sighting about a quarter of a mile from where I was hiking with my two young children. It was then that I realized it was important to learn more about bear safety, as well as which is the best bear spray that could help protect me and my kids.
What is Bear Spray?
While I had heard of bear bells that would keep the bears away, I did not know much about bear spray. Bear spray (also sometimes called bear mace or bear deterrent spray) is non-lethal and meant to stop a bear’s aggressive behavior.
The idea of bear spray is to reduce injuries in people by bears, along with reducing the number of bears that are killed by people that are defending themselves. Capsicum derivatives in bear spray reduce the ability of a bear to breathe, see and smell on a temporary basis, allowing you the time to get away.
Bear spray is an important item to have for backpacking, camping, and hiking in bear country.
Bear Spray vs. Guns
According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Publication “Fact Sheet#8-Bear Spray vs. Bullets-Which offers better protection”, since 1992, half of all individuals that tried to protect themselves from a grizzly bear with a firearm were injured. Those facing a bear attack that used pepper spray were able to avoid injury “most of the time” and if they were attacked, the injuries that they sustained were not as serious and the attacks lasted less time.
For me, having bear spray accessible is preferable to carrying a gun. Based on the publication above, the bear spray has had better success in preventing and minimizing attacks than a gun and I appreciate that with bear spray I will not kill or seriously injure the bear.
Bear Spray vs. Pepper Spray
In researching bear spray, I was curious as to the difference between bear spray and pepper spray. The products are similar, though while they include the same active ingredient (oleoresin capsicum) the concentration in bear spray is much lower than in pepper spray.
The usual concentration of oleoresin capsicum (OC) in pepper spray is 10 percent or higher. In bear spray, the concentration of OC is usually around 1-2%. The purpose of the bear spray is to scare off a bear during an attack, not to cause it serious pain.
Bear spray, rather than pepper spray, should be used to stop a bear looking to attack. The lower concentration of oleoresin capsicum makes it more humane for the bear, while being just as effective in stopping the attack.
Reviews of Best Bear Spray
Now that I feel confident that bear spray is the way to go as far as protecting myself from bears while camping and hiking, the next step is to consider which bear spray is best. The following bear spray reviews can be organized in a comparison chart to enable one to make the most educated decision.
One option to consider is Frontiersman Bear Spray. It advertises “maximum stopping power”, created with the most strength allowed by the EPA/Health Canada.
Frontiersman Bear Spray offers excellent protection with a maximum range of 35 feet. This means that if you use the spray any distance up to 35 feet it should be effective in stopping the bear in his tracks.
The heavy fog delivery from Frontiersman Bear Spray allows significant coverage. With a three year shelf-life, the spray comes with a safety as well as a belt holster so the spray can be easily accessed if necessary.
- Offers a range of up to 35 feet
- Quick to spray after removing the safety
- Effective on bears and attacking dogs
- Some reviewers found the canister too large
- Have to be careful it does not get on you or you will be “stopped”
Another option to consider, the Counter Assault Bear Deterrent, boasts a range of up to 32 feet. As with the Frontiersman Bear Spray, this option includes the highest concentration of oleoresin capsicum allowed by the EPA.
Like the Frontiersman Bear Spray, the Counter Assault Bear Deterrent includes a glow in the dark safety that is helpful to keep from accidently spraying yourself, as well as a holster so that you can wear the spray on your belt for easy access if necessary.
- Range of up to 32 feet; while less than the Frontiersman Bear Spray, is still a good range.
- Effective on bears as well as dogs
- Holster included so you can keep the spray accessible
- Like the Frontiersman Bear Spray, depending on the wind some of the spray may get on you (which is still better than being attacked by a bear)
- Some users complain of the cooler leaking
UDAP 12 HP Bear Spray is another possible option. With a range of 30 feet, UDAP 12 HP Bear Spray was developed by someone who survived a bear attack and is advertised as the “hottest bear spray available”, though it appears to be the same potency as the Frontiersman Bear Spray and the Counter Assault Bear Deterrent.
Like the two options discussed above, this bear spray includes a safety clip that glows in the dark that will keep you from accidently discharging the spray. The UPAP 12 HP Bear Spray includes a 32 page UDAP Bear Safety Tips booklet for additional education.
- Effective on both bears and dogs
- Range of up to 30 feet; while not as far as either of the first two options it is still a significant distance.
- Includes safety information that may be helpful for outdoors enthusiasts
- Product does not include a holster, which would be helpful for ensuring easy access when out
- The canister is large and may be difficult to carry (particularly without a canister).
- Like the first two options, there is a risk that wind will blow some of the spray back on the user.
Mace Brand Bear Pepper Spray is noted to be EPA approved, though it is not clear if it has the same concentration of OC as the three options previously discussed. The range of Mace Bear Pepper Spray is 30 feet.
As is the case with the three options previously discussed, Mace Brand Bear Pepper Spray has a safety clip (though it does not glow in the dark like the others). This product does not include a holster for carrying the spray.
- Effective on both bears and dogs
- Lowest cost option discussed so far
- While not the longest range available, 30 feet is close
- Does not come with a holster which would be helpful to ensure easy access
The final option to be discussed is Bear Guard Alaska Bear Pepper Spray with Holster. With a 15-20 feet firing range, a bear will need to get closer to you than with the other options discussed in order to be impacted.
According to Amazon, Bear Guard Alaska Bear Pepper Spray offers a fogger delivery system and is the only bear repellant registered with the EPA as a repellent for all bear species (making it useful for black bears and grizzly bears).
- Lowest price of all options reviewed
- Includes a holster which will allow you to keep the spray handy in case it is needed.
- A pair of wheels for easy mobility
- Its interior is lined with stain and odor-resistant material
- Range of spray is a least ten feet less than other options reviewed.
- A few reviewers experienced the canister leaking.
How to Use Bear Spray
It is important not just that you have bear spray in your possession, but that you know how to use it. Fortunately, using bear spray is not difficult.
First, make sure the label on the bear spray states that it is a deterrent and that it has not expired. You will want to keep in mind that while bear spray is a deterrent or a repellant, it is not something that you want to spray on yourself or your gear; in fact if you do that, you might wind up inadvertently attracting a bear.
It is important to be sure that your bear spray is readily accessible when you are out in bear country. This means that your bear spray should be secured in a holster, either around your waist or your chest. You do not want to hold it in your backpack as you won’t have time to get it out if you encounter a bear.
Should you encounter a bear, you will want to remove your bear spray from its holster. Do not make direct eye contact with the bear. Speak in a low, deep voice. Slide the safety clip off with your forefinger in the grip hole and your less dominant hand holding the canister steady, while slowly moving back the way you came.
You will spray the bear spray in short bursts (one to two seconds long) in a zig zag formation, starting at knee level and working your way up. Make sure to account for the wind direction as you don’t want the spray to end up in your face.
If a bear is charging from 40-60 feet (the length of a school bus), you will only have 2-3 seconds to react so it is important to practice using bear spray with test cans. Remember that you never want to run away from a bear.
What to do if Bear Spray gets on you ?
When using bear spray, it is possible that even if you are careful, some might get on you. It could happen by accident or as a result of the direction the wind is blowing as you spray it toward the bear.
It is a good idea to know what to do if bear spray gets on you, so that you do not panic if that happens. Below are the steps that you will want to take:
- Stay calm, or if it is someone you are with who has gotten bear spray on them, do your best to keep them calm. You or the person with you will likely feel pain or discomfort. Remind yourself or the person that you are with that you know how to relieve the symptoms.
- Should you or the person with you be unable to breathe, 911 should be called.
- Get fresh air immediately. If the bear spray got on you or the person you are with, go outside or move away from where it was sprayed. A breeze or a fan is helpful.
- The area that has be impacted should be flushed with cold water for up to 15 minutes. Should the spray have gotten into the eyes and the person affected wears contact lenses, hands should be washed before the contacts are removed and the eyes flushed.
- Use a non-oil based or cold cream-based soap to clean skin that has gotten the spray on it. You can also use a solution of milk, honey, mild detergent and baking soda, or just plain milk. There are special wipes that remove capsicum from skin that are typically available where you purchase bear spray.
- Any clothing that has gotten bear spray on it should be removed and placed in a sealed plastic bag.
With time, the pain and discomfort should subside. Third degree burns are possible and in some cases a trip to the emergency room may be necessary.
Does Bear Spray Expire?
When it comes to bear spray, while it is important to have, you hope that it is something that you never actually have to use. Should you be fortunate to not have to use your bear spray, you may not think about the fact that you are carrying around the same canister for years.
It is a good idea to consider the expiration date of bear spray, so that you don’t wind up with bear spray that is ineffective.
The shelf life of bear spray is three to four years. The passing of time does not render the spray less potent, however over time, the canister may not maintain its ability to spray well.
If your canister is unable to spray well, you could be faced with a bear and not have the protection that you anticipated. This being the case, it is a good idea to replace your bear spray every three to four years (or per the expiration date on the canister).
Bear spray is an important item to have when spending time outdoors in bear country and there are multiple options that are effective when encountering a bear. While having the spray is important, it is just as important to have it accessible and know how to use it correctly.
Remember that bear spray should only be used when you encounter an aggressive bear. Avoid having to use bear spray by staying aware of your surrounding and making excessive noise while in bear country. Bear bells are a great way to make a lot of noise and keep the bears away.