If you spend any time in the wilderness, having the right gear on hand is not only important for making your experience enjoyable, but it will also keep you and your group safe. Depending on the area where you are hiking, fishing, hunting or camping, safety gear can include first-aid kits, rain gear, snow gear, avalanche beacons and in some areas, bear spray. A fast-acting and non-harmful method of defense, bear spray is the best option to use when a bear gets too close for comfort.
Most bear spray uses hot pepper extract to engorge the eyes, nostrils and lungs of a bear, making it difficult for the animal to see and breathe. The effect is temporary and does not cause any lasting damage to the animal, providing an environmentally friendly and humane way for people to briefly incapacitate a bear so that they can get to safety.
One study on bear attacks in Alaska found that when bear specific repellent was used as a defense mechanism, the spray stopped the bear from attacking 90% of the time and users who were attacked only sustained minor injuries. Shooting a bear, on the other hand, may only wound the animal and anger it, making it more prone to attack. Regular pepper spray used for personal defense is not appropriate for bears and typically will not help to protect people.
For a bear spray to work, users have to be within 20 to 40 feet of the animal and be able to quickly access the spray. It’s a good idea to practice opening the spray canister and administering the spray before venturing outdoors to ensure users know how to effectively use the product. Several of the options on our list come with holsters to help keep the spray within arm’s reach at all times.
Many bear attacks occur while people are either walking their dog in dark conditions or protecting their animal on their own property. For that reason, we have also included a bell that is easy for dogs to wear and designed as a deterrent to bears, who typically prefer to stay away from other animals and humans.
Before you head outdoors, make sure you are protected with a reliable and effective can of bear spray.
1. SABRE Frontiersman Bear Spray
For a spray that will stop and disarm a bear in its tracks, there is the SABRE Frontiersman Bear Spray. More than 50% stronger than traditional police pepper spray, the Frontiersman spray has an impressive 35-foot range and can deploy a dense fog of 1.84 oz per one-second burst. Using the maximum strength of Capsaicinoids allowed by the EPA and Health Canada, the environmentally friendly spray won’t leave any toxic residue or ozone-depleting chemicals but is still powerful enough to incapacitate a bear by inhibiting its ability to see or smell. The Frontiersman is suitable to be used with all types of bears. We also like that the spray comes with a fabric holster that makes it easy to keep the security device on hand and ready when outdoors.
2. Counter Assault Bear Repellent Spray
GOOD FOR LONG RANGE SPRAYING
For a spray that will work on all types of bears, including polar bears, there is the Counter Assault Bear Repellent Spray. The bear repellent works up to 40 feet away and disarms the bear by obscuring their vision and sense of smell. The 10.2-ounce single-use canister has a continuous eight-second spray and meets all EPA requirements. Made without any ingredients that are harmful to the ozone layer, the bear repellent has an impressive four-year shelf life. Like the Frontiersman, the Counter Assault also comes with a fabric holster for added convenience and safety.
3. UDAP Magnum Bear Pepper Spray
MADE IN THE USA
Like the Counter Assault spray, the UDAP Magnum Bear Pepper Spray also has an impressive 40-foot range for bear repellent spray. UDAP has designed its spray to deliver a high-volume blast that provides excellent coverage and doesn’t require users to administer the spray directly in line with the animal. Made with a red pepper extract that acts as an irritant to bears, the spray is sold in a pack of two with each canister including its own holster for easy carrying.
4. Guard Alaska Maximum Strength Bear Spray
LONG SPRAY TIME
For a bear repellent that won’t empty before the spray has time to take effect, there is the Guard Alaska Maximum Strength Bear Spray. At 20 feet, the Guard Alaska has a shorter spray range than other options on our list, but the canister takes a full nine seconds to empty, which provides more time for the fog to enclose around the bear and prevent an attack. The EPA certified spray uses hot red pepper extract to overwhelm the Bears sense of smell and vision, giving users enough time to escape. A safety guard helps to ensure that the spray is only discharged when necessary and a finger loop handle makes it easy to quickly grab and point the spray.
5. Mace Brand Maximum Strength Bear Spray
The Mace Brand Maximum Strength Bear Spray has a 35-foot range to deliver a searing spray of fog that will cause the eyes, nose and lungs of a bear to temporarily engorge and render them defenseless, giving users enough time to escape to safety. The canister fully empties in six seconds and Mace sells a holster specifically designed for their product to make it easy to keep the EPA registered spray on hand. Each canister has a three-year shelf life and delivers a potent fog meant to disarm bears.
6. Tornado Personal Defense Bear Spray
LONG SPRAY TIME
For a spray that will give users an extended amount of time to fully discharge the canister, there’s the Tornado Personal Defense Bear Spray. The pepper spray has a shotgun-cloud pattern that is fully discharged in just over nine seconds. Designed to penetrate the wet hair of a bear, the spray has a 20-foot range and is powerful enough to quickly incapacitate bears without causing any lasting damage to the animal.
7. SABRE Frontiersman Bear Horn
BEST NON-SPRAY OPTION
Using a spray is an effective way to escape a bear attack, but it does mean coming into close contact with the large animal. Prevent a bear from getting within spray range with the SABRE Frontiersman Bear Horn. The powerful 115dB horn and can be heard up to 0.5 miles away and can be discharged up to 60 times. Ideal for using when setting up camp, hiking a new terrain or moving through an area populated by bears, the lightweight and compact horn is easy to carry in a backpack or on a belt loop and provides another non-harmful option for keeping bears away.
8. Coghlans Bear Bell with Magnetic Silencer
BEST PREVENTATIVE TOOL
Another great non-spray bear repellent is the Coghlan’s Bear Bell with Magnetic Silencer. Ideal for wearing on packs during hikes or attaching to a dog leash during trail runs or walks in the dark, the bell emits a loud ringing noise that will alert bears to your presence and keep them at bay. Thanks to the magnet inside the storage bag, the ball won’t ring when not in use.