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Will Bear Spray Save Your Life?

In some locations, bear spray should be at the top of your outdoor adventure packing list. You never know when it’ll come in handy.

Everybody wants to stay safe from dangerous wildlife while exploring nature. But can you trust this piece of wilderness protection to save your life?

Today, we’ll see if you can have faith in bear spray or if it’ll let you down. 

Let’s jump in!

Brown grizzly bear widely open mouth near a wooden house. Can bear spray save you from an attacking bear?
Can bear spray save you from an attack?

What Is Bear Spray?

Bear spray is a non-lethal aerosol designed to deter an aggressive or charging animal. A key ingredient is capsaicin, a chemical irritant that can cause a burning sensation. It is one of the most effective means for humans to defend themselves during dangerous encounters. Unfortunately, there are many options, and not all are the same.

Canisters come in various sizes and can typically shoot 20 to 30 feet in range. Their size determines how long they last, typically between four and nine seconds. Choose one that can hit a target 30 feet away and offer at least seven seconds of protection. 

Knowing when and how to use it is essential no matter which product you choose. Using it too early could escalate the trouble and leave you defenseless. 

You also want to avoid being face-to-face with an angry animal the first time you use it. The stress of the situation will likely make it difficult to think clearly.

To effectively use it, it should always be easily accessible when in nature. Remove the safety clip as soon as you perceive a threat. Hold the canister with two hands while slowly moving away from the animal. 

You must act if a bear charges or gets within 30 feet. Aim just ahead of the creature so it runs into the cloud. Shoot in short bursts, typically no more than two seconds each. Resist the urge to empty the container, as you may need another application. Swiftly leave the area, but do not run, as it could trigger a response from the agitated animal.

Why Do You Need Bear Spray?

As we mentioned, bear spray is one of the most effective ways to stay safe while exploring the outdoors. Come prepared when entering an area known for having bears. Keep it close, whether sitting at your campsite or on a hike.

Dangerous encounters can happen with little notice. You may accidentally stumble upon a sow and its cubs or a grumpy boar snacking. Unfortunately, both scenarios can result in unpredictable behaviors. It can help you de-escalate the situation and keep the distance between you and the creature.

In the United States, 40 of the 50 states have reported sightings. Alaska takes the prize for being the state with the most bears, but there are populations in the contiguous states. 

Have a plan if you’re visiting California, Colorado, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington State, West Virginia, or Wisconsin.

Bears aren’t the only dangers when you’re camping or hiking: What Are The Most Dangerous Creatures in the Smoky Mountains?

How Should You Carry Bear Spray?

Simply having a container on you isn’t enough. How you carry it is equally important and something that many adventurers overlook. It will be hard to get to if it’s at the bottom of your backpack when you need it.

There are multiple solutions and a variety of products that address this problem. Unfortunately, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Consider the available options and choose the best for your specific situation.

A few of the most common options are shoulder straps, hip belts, and chest holsters. Shoulder straps can be a great option if you’re wearing a backpack, but they can get in the way. 

Hip belts make for easy access but can affect your stride while hiking. Lastly, chest holsters can help you stay hands-free but can feel restrictive and cause heat under the straps.

It may be best that you have various options and adapt as necessary. What you’re wearing or doing could determine which is best. 

SABRE Frontiersman 9.2 oz. Bear Spray is one of the best-selling and highest-rated brands.

How To Avoid Using Capsaicin Sprays

The best way to avoid needing to defend yourself is to lock yourself inside, away from any threat. However, that’s no way to live life. Thankfully, there are things you can do while exploring the wilderness to maximize safety. You may never need to defend yourself if you change your behavior and make intelligent decisions.

For starters, making noise is a great way to avoid an encounter. You can accomplish this by wearing bells, playing music, or conversing with yourself or others. There will likely be some noise if you’re hiking in a group. Most animals will flee the scene when they hear you coming.

You can’t forget that many animals have a sense of smell that’s a hundred times more powerful than humans. These creatures are naturally curious and will invade a campsite looking for their next meal. 

Use bear-proof canisters when available and store and prepare food away from your camp. Suspend food out of reach of animals, typically 12 to 14 feet above the ground.

A healthy dose of common sense can go a long way to help you avoid encounters. Look and listen for signs of bear activity. Park rangers and management agencies often place signs to warn visitors. Scat or footprints along the trail can indicate that you’re not alone in the wilderness.

Black bear grazing and feeding on grass. Be prepared to defend yourself with bear spray.
Be prepared to defend yourself with bear spray.

Can Bear Spray be Used for Self-Defense?

Sadly, bears aren’t the only dangers humans must watch for on trails. While rare, some humans up to no good find victims in remote areas while hiking. So should you use bear spray as a form of self-defense?

The amount of capsaicin in it is much higher than that of pepper options. Not only will it cause more intense irritation, but it will last longer. 

While it may be overkill, it would likely be effective on a human attacker. They’d probably be incapacitated once it enters their system, and you could safely escape the danger.

However, while it is more effective than pepper-filled products, it exits the canister in a cloud. If the attacker is within arms reach, you’ll likely also experience the effects. This could make it difficult to get out of the area and away from the individual. Discharging it indoors would likely worsen the situation as the chemicals won’t dissipate as quickly.

When it comes to self-defense, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to survive. Use whatever is readily available to get away from the danger. Remember to report the encounter to the authorities as soon as it’s safe.

Do you know? Can (And Will) A Bear Break Into Your RV?

Bear Spray Can Save Your Life

Bear spray could save your life in a variety of scenarios. Certainly, if you’re going into bear country, carry some and know how to use it. It can mean the difference between life and death, and it’s better to be safe than sorry. You don’t want to find yourself unprepared during your next adventure!

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