How to Properly Use Bear Spray
If you are all too familiar with the call of the wild, chances are, you love being in the woods.
The fresh smell of the forest, the thrill of sleeping under the stars, getting back into nature and relying on survival techniques to make it through...all of it amounts to one adventurous pastime.
If spending time outdoors is one of your favorite things to do, you've likely heard that you need to carry bear spray.
But why? What exactly does it do, and how does it work? And how would you even use it in case of a dangerous situation, anyway?
Not to worry. The subject can seem confusing, but we have the basics laid out for you in an easy-to-understand manner.
Below, we've put together a comprehensive guide detailing everything you need to know about bear spray. We cover its proper use, things you should know before using it, and more.
Why Use Bear Spray?
When camping, hiking, or otherwise spending time in bear country, you should be equipped and prepared.
Bears are aggressive and powerful animals. If you encounter a bear or find that a bear is charging at you, you are going to want to be able to defend yourself.
Bear spray is a good alternative to carrying around a lethal weapon for protection against bears. It is non-lethal. It is designed to deter bears and stop their aggressive behavior.
It is sometimes referred to as bear pepper spray, though it is much more powerful than typical pepper spray.
This special spray can greatly reduce the chances of getting injured or even killed by a bear. It also helps to reduce the number of bears killed by humans in self-defense.
What Does It Do To The Bear?
The spray causes the membranes of the eyes, nose, and lungs to swell. This temporarily impairs a bear's ability to see, smell, and breathe. In fact, the result is a nearly total loss of sight and severely restricted breathing.
Bear spray comes out as a fine but forceful mist. It is composed of chemicals derived from Capsicum.
The strongest sprays usually have a 2% concentration of capsaicinoid. This is derived from red pepper, a very powerful irritant.
The result is powerful but temporary. This spray will not permanently injure or kill the bear. It merely gives the affected humans time to get away from the bear.
Remember, when you encroach upon a dangerous animal's territory, you are putting yourself at risk. There is no reason a bear should be killed unless a human's life is in imminent danger.
Even when it comes to the spray, you should not use this option until you have no other choice.
Steps for Proper Use
Bear sprays are very powerful. You should have a full understanding of how they work and how to use them before carrying one on your person.
How It Works
As an example of the strength of these types of sprays, MACE Bear Spray contains 260 grams of powerful chemicals. The can empties in as quickly as 6 seconds and can blast a bear from up to 35 feet away.
In essence, this creates a powerful wall between you and the charging bear.
Thankfully, bear spray does not require perfect aim or a direct hit to be effective. No need to rely on being a good shot in the heat of a terrifying and adrenaline-charged moment.
All you have to do is put a healthy cloud of spray between you and the bear that's coming at you.
How to Use
If you have found yourself in a dangerous situation with a bear nearby or even charging at you, here are the steps you should take. All of this should be done as quickly and effectively as possible.
First, remove the safety clip. Aim the can slightly downward and adjust for the wind conditions.
When the bear is around 30-60 feet away, pull the trigger and begin spraying. Do not spray too soon, as you risk the cloud dispersing before the bear is within close distance of you.
Spray directly at the bear so that it cannot get to you without first passing through the cloud of spray. Aim toward its face and eyes especially.
Continue spraying until the can empties or the bear stops charging at you.
If it comes within 15 feet of you, spray directly into its face. This also applies if the bear is sniffing around inside your tent or around your campsite.
Flee from the area--and the bear--as quickly as possible.
Do not run, as this triggers the bear to chase you. Just move quickly and calmly and get to a safe place away from the bear.
Lastly, avoid coming into contact with the spray. It will have the same effect on you that it does on the bear, if not worse.
In addition to proper usage, here are some helpful tips you should know as a proud owner of a can of bear spray.
Have It Handy
You should keep the spray can readily accessible. This could mean it's in a pocket you can reach easily or in a quick-draw holster. You could also keep it hooked to your belt.
The one place you do not want to keep it is stored away in your pack. Make sure you have quick and easy access to the can of spray in case you need to use it unexpectedly.
It Is Not Preventative
You should also be aware that bear spray does not work the same way that bug spray does. It is not preventative.
Spraying yourself or your equipment with bear spray will do nothing to deter bears. It only works when used in the moment, and does not make you "invisible" to bears the way bug spray does to insects.
Practice Makes Perfect
Don't wait until the moment a bear is charging to figure out how to use the spray.
Find an empty or used-up can and practice with it. Try removing it quickly from wherever you plan to keep it. Also, try removing the safety tab with your thumb and firing.
Try using the empty spray in all types of conditions. You never know what sort of situation you'll find yourself in when the bear is present.
You should be able to use the spray can whether you have a headwind or the wind is at your back.
You should also try with a crosswind so you fully understand how the spray will interact with all types of wind and weather conditions.
Proper Storage and Use
You should know some proper methods for caring for your bear spray.
Keep it away from extreme temperatures. The can of spray can explode if it reaches 120 F. Therefore, it should not be stored inside your vehicle, in the hot sun, or near any heat sources.
In the same way, bear spray does not work as well at super-low temperatures. Below 40 F, the can may not spray as far or might not work at all. Keep the temperature of the can as regulated as possible.
You also need to ensure that your spray can has not expired. The product will not do much for you if it is past its expiration date.
Lastly, make sure the spray you choose is stamped with a seal of approval by the Environmental Protection Agency. Personal defense products like a hand-held keychain pepper spray will not cut it.
It Is Not 100% Effective
Do not rely on bear spray to be your one and only defense against bears.
Though it is a very helpful tool, it should not be the only protective measure you take against a dangerous encounter with a bear. Staying safe while adventuring will ensure you have plenty more adventures to come.
You should spend time learning ways to reduce your risk of bear encounters while spending time in areas that bears roam. Knowing other wilderness techniques too can help keep you safe.
For example, leaving food around at your campsite is a surefire way to attract bears. All food should be locked up tight and put away so that bears don't catch a whiff and come searching.
Take many preventative steps to avoid the risk of bear encounters or attacks. The can of spray should not be your first line of defense, but your last resort.
More Bear Safety Tips
There are more ways than just bear spray to stay safe on the trails. You should be armed with basic bear knowledge to avoid dangerous attacks altogether.
With some outdoor know-how, you may not even end up with a need to deploy your bear spray. Avoiding situations where you'd need to is the main goal here.
Avoid Bears--And Help Them Avoid You
When you're in bear country, your best strategy is to avoid bears at all costs. If you see a bear from a distance, do not try to get close to it.
They are very dangerous and aggressive animals when provoked or frightened. Do not take your chances for an up-close glimpse at this wild best.
To help prevent a bear from happening upon you, make lots of noise as you go. Stay in a group--never traverse bear country alone--and look for signs that a bear has been in the area.
If you come across scat (bear droppings), dig marks, visible paw prints, or even overturned logs, chances are that a bear has been there. Vacate the area and look and listen for bear activity as you explore.
Bears: Territorial, But They Do Not Want Confrontation
Keep in mind: usually, bears avoid people. They are afraid of humans, as they find them unfamiliar and threatening. So do your best to make sure they don't come looking for you.
Most bear encounters occur because a bear has accidentally wandered too close to you. You should be especially cautious of mama bears who have cubs to protect. Their instincts force them to stop an nothing to protect their young.
In addition, bears with a fresh kill will be especially territorial.
How to React at First Sight of A Bear
So you've spotted a bear. As long as it's far away and has not noticed you, you are not in immediate danger. Do not spray anything just yet.
If you see a bear and it is not in close proximity, simply leave the area. Do not attract attention to yourself. Just leave quickly and quietly, and avoid contact with the bear.
If the bear has spotted you but is not charging or coming toward you, just back away calmly. Running and other sudden movements will inspire the bear to chase you.
Do not do anything that might make the bear want to attack or defend itself.
Defending Yourself From A Bear: Spray or Gun?
An aggressive encounter with a bear is rare, but it does happen. Having bear spray to defend yourself might even be more effective than a bullet from a gun.
With a gun, you have to shoot with proper aim and hit the bear in a spot that will disable them, not just anger them further.
There's a lot more pressure and responsibility when you're defending yourself from a bear with a gun.
Where to Purchase Bear Spray
Now that you know the importance of using and carrying this life-saving spray, you need to know where to buy it.
In fact, you should be aware that some states even have hunting laws now that require you to possess a can of spray.
Purchase bear spray only from a reputable source. You can check out our wide selection of personal defense products, including animal repellents, and buy here.
Among the animal repellents we sell are bear sprays that will certainly do the trick. They are EPA-approved and are some of the most powerful products of their kind.
Don't head out into the woods with anything less than these top-of-the-line products.
If you have bear spray concerns, questions about any of our highly rated products, or inquiries about company policies, please contact us today.