How to Use Bear Spray: The Essentials - AdventureTripr

How to Use Bear Spray: The Essentials

Sam Taliancich · August 13, 2021

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How to Use Bear Spray
How to Use Bear Spray

Adventuring in bear country can be intimidating, especially if it’s new to you. It’s essential you know how to use your bear spray. It’s one of the most overlooked pieces of equipment but has the potential to save your life. Read on for everything you need to know about using bear spray!

What is Bear Spray

Bear spray is a bear deterrent. It is usually made of red pepper oil, which severely irritates the eyes and respiratory system, and is intended to stop aggressive bears in a non-lethal way. A good bear spray should contain 2% or more capsaicin, the irritating component of red pepper oil. Bear spray is not 100% effective, but if used correctly, it does work. 

A Brown Bear Walks Down a Trail
A Brown Bear Walks Down a Trail

How To Use Bear Spray

If you encounter a bear in the wild, your first step should be to get big and scare it off. According to the National Park Service, the best way to do this is to identify yourself as a human by waving your arms and talking to the bear in a calm but firm voice. If that doesn’t work and the bear moves aggressively toward you, here’s what you need to know about how to use bear spray:

  1. Remove the canister from your bag or holster and remove the safety pin.

  2. Grip the canister with two hands and point away from you with outstretched arms.

  3. Aim slightly downward and wait for the bear to get within 10 yards.

  4. Once the bear is within 10 yards, pull the trigger and spray all the contents of the can.

  5. Spray in a zig-zag pattern to create a wall between you and the bear.

  6. If the bear continues to charge, spray directly into their eyes, nose, and mouth.

  7. Once the bear retreats, immediately leave the area and notify the local park rangers of your encounter.

Tips For in The Field

  • Stand downwind. If possible, try to stand downwind so the spray doesn’t get on you.

  • Keep your spray readily accessible. That means have it in a quick-release holster instead of having it in your pack.

  • Make sure your can isn’t expired. Bear spray is like any other natural product with an expiration date.

  • Practice! You can purchase or ask a gear store if they have an inert bear spray. This means there is no active pepper oil, making it a great way to test the motions before you're in a scenario where you might actually need it.

  • Bear spray explodes at 120° Fahrenheit. Make sure you store it in a cool place, and not in your car on a hot summer day.

Bear Spray Recommendations

  • Counter Assault Bear Repellant Spray: This is the farthest-reaching of all bear sprays and has a light to help spot bears at night.

  • UDAP Bear Spray w/ Holster: This spray has a highly potent formula designed by a bear attack survivor, so you know you can trust it. 

  • Sabre Frontiersman 9.2 oz Bear Spray: This highly potent bear repellant is easy to use, making it a solid choice for beginners!

Now, you know how to use bear spray. Remember to keep it on you at all times in bear country, and to give wildlife space on the trail.

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