Does Bear Spray Really Work? How To Use It When Backpacking

All hikers have to accept that there’s a risk of encountering wildlife when you spend time out in nature. It’s usually fun and harmless to see things like deer, porcupines, or birds. But wildlife can be quite dangerous too, and one animal that you won’t want to mess with is a bear. Lots of people talk about using bear spray as a defense, but just how effective is it really?

Bear spray makes it difficult for a bear to see and breathe, which will distract them from attacking. It offers a good range of coverage and will be irritating and distracting, but won’t leave long-term damage. In most cases, a can of bear spray is safer and more effective than a firearm. 

Bear spray is basically like pepper spray or mace that’s designed to slow down wild animals. This means that it’s definitely powerful enough to harm a human, so it’s important to use it wisely. This product can be a great source of protection, but every hiker should understand how and when to use it.

When To Use Bear Spray

Bear spray is a good last line of defense, but you shouldn’t use it unless you have to. It’s a powerful spray that can hurt both you and the animal if you’re not careful. You should do everything you can to de-escalate a situation before you try an aggressive tactic. Most bears just want to be left alone and they won’t attack unless they feel threatened, or have cubs.

So if you happen to run into a bear in the wild, there are a few things you can do before you resort to using bear spray. Keep it handy just in case though!

First of all, identify what kind of bear it is. There are different tactics you should use, depending on what kind of bear you’re dealing with. If it’s a brown bear or a grizzly, you should make yourself as non-threatening as possible. Slowly walk away, avoid eye contact, or play dead.

If it’s a black bear, you should take a more aggressive tactic. Try to run away and escape, or make yourself as large as possible and fight back. Be loud and try to intimidate them or scare them away. Black bears can climb trees, so head for protected areas like cars or houses.

If any kind of bear becomes aggressive and begins to charge you, your next tactic should be bear spray. It’s effective against all types of bears and it can save your life in an emergency situation. As soon as the bear has been distracted, run as fast as you can in the opposite direction and prepare to fire again if the bear pursues you.

How To Use Bear Spray

Now that we know that bear spray works, the next thing you might be wondering is how to properly use it. As we’ve mentioned above, bear spray is like super-powered pepper spray that makes it difficult for bears to see and breathe. So just imagine what would happen to a human if you accidentally got some on yourself!

So before you take your bear spray on any trip, make sure that you, and everyone in your group, knows how to safely use it.

  1. Keep the spray in an easy-access location. Don’t keep it inside a backpack or other sealed pocket. You won’t have time to fish around for it if you’re dealing with a bear encounter. Consider clipping it to your belt, or on one of your backpack straps.
  2. Make sure that the safety mechanism is on when it’s not being used. You don’t want the spray to discharge by accident, and it’s easy to remove when you need to.
  3. If you need to use it against a bear, unclip the spray, remove the safety, and try to position yourself so that you are upwind from the bear. This will prevent the spray from blowing back at you.
  4. Hold the bottle with both hands (one on the trigger, one on the can) and wait until the bear gets within 30 feet of you.
  5. Spray in a zigzag pattern, creating a barrier between you and the bear. If the bear continues to approach, aim directly for their face.
  6. Retreat as soon as the bear is distracted. Keep the spray on hand until you’ve escaped.
  7. Contact a park ranger as soon as possible to let them know there is an aggressive bear nearby.

The video below provides a demonstration of how to properly use bear spray.

Bear Spray vs. Guns

Bear spray is generally considered to be the safest and most effective bear deterrent. However, some people might not want to use it or be worried about the effects it could have if they accidentally sprayed themselves.

The main alternative to bear spray would be a gun. These have their own set of safety risks, and they can sometimes end up making the bear angrier instead. However, in an emergency, a gun is still a better defense than nothing. Just make sure you store it safely, keep the safety on, and keep it away from people who don’t know how to safely use it.

“Studies show bear spray is 90% successful when used to deter bear attacks, versus 76% for long guns and 84% for handguns.”

This statistic demonstrates that bear spray is the best method for keeping yourself (and the bear) safe from permanent harm.

Recommended Product

SABRE Frontiersman Bear Spray

When you need to buy a good reliable bear spray for your next trip, consider this product from SABRE. It has a shelf life of 3 years and comes with a variety of holster options. It can spray up to 35 feet and has been thoroughly tested for safety. Best of all, it has over 3,000 reviews that have ranked it as 5 stars, making it one of the most popular and well-reviewed products on the market.

Final Thoughts

Bear spray might seem like a hoax when you first hear about it, but this product has actually been proven to be quite effective! It’s a good way to keep bears at a distance without causing any long-term harm. As long as you use it safely and correctly, bear spray is one of the best ways to stay safe out in nature.


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