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Does Bear Spray Actually Work?

This brief article is a part of a larger string of articles on bear spray and bear safety, especially as it relates to backpacking and the National Parks. So, what exactly is Bear Spray, anyways? More importantly, does it even work?

Read Also: The Best Bear Sprays

What is Bear Spray?

Bear spray is a product used to deter bears; resembling a pressurized aerosol spray, it is filled with high concentrations of capsaicin, the substance that gives spicy food its kick. The capsaicin is extracted from cayenne peppers, which are extremely spicy and inexpensive to use. Bear spray is designed to be sprayed directly in a bear’s face if it charges- but only if it charges.

Is Bear Spray Effective?

If you think you’re in danger of a bear attack, bear spray is what you need in your hand. In one study, bear spray was found to repel the bear in more than 92% of bear encounters; 98% of people walked away without injuries. Counter Assault, makers of the leading bear spray, claim that their spray is more than 98% effective at helping people survive bear attacks.

There is no other deterrent that is more effective than bear spray. Of course, the most effective thing you can do is follow proper bear safety techniques so that you never need to use bear spray. But, if you’re someone like me who’s heart starts pumping at the mere thought of a bear attack, the effectiveness of bear spray is a welcome relief.

Read Also: Can you use bear spray on humans?

Bear Spray vs Firearms: Which is Better?

Before bear sprays were developed and studied, it was widely accepted that a revolver or rifle was the best way to survive a bear attack. In recent years, though, studies have confirmed that bear spray is actually safer and more effective.

Think about it: with a gun, your chances of missing the bear or striking it in a way that only angers it are much higher. Bear spray releases a 12-second continuous stream of capsaicin at a distance of 30 feet. This gives you all the time needed to hit that bear in the face- even for the shakiest of hands!

Bear spray has a higher rate of success and results in fewer injuries than firearms. If you’re venturing into bear country and you’re not an expert with a gun, stick with bear spray.

Bear Spray FAQ

Is Pepper Spray the Same Thing?

Pepper spray and bear spray are not the same, though they are made from the same ingredients. Pepper spray comes in much smaller packages and doesn’t spray nearly as far. Bear spray, on the other hand, comes in 8 or 11-ounce packages and can spray up to 30 feet. That gives you the spraying power and distance you need to stop a charging bear before it becomes a deadly bear attack.

Can Pepper Spray be Used as Bear Spray?

Because of the reasons just mentioned: inadequate volume and spraying distance, pepper spray is not a substitute for bear spray. Leave your everyday pepper spray at home and get yourself a hefty can of bear spray- doing anything else would be foolish!

When Do I Need Bear Spray?

Any time you’re in bear country, you should plan to have bear spray on you. If you’re on a heavily trafficked trail, you might not need to worry; bears know how to keep their distance. But, the further you go into the wilderness, the more likely it is that you could run into a bear that isn’t expecting to see you. When that happens, you’re in danger- but you can safely escape by knowing proper bear safety and using bear spray as a last resort!

Where Can I Buy Bear Spray?

Bear Spray is available through Amazon and sold at most outdoor stores. If you’re venturing into bear country, stop by an outfitter or camping store before you hit the trail!

Do Bears Dislike Pepper Smells?

Because deterrent sprays are made with cayenne, some people assume that cayenne pepper, when spread around a campsite, works as well. This is the opposite of the case- cayenne pepper does not keep bears away. If anything, it actually attracts them.

Are Bear Attacks Common?

There are less than a dozen bear attacks each year in North America. If you’re hiking or backpacking, you need to be careful, but not fearful. You should be more worried about getting lost out there than you should be about bear attacks!

What Bear Spray is Best?

The most common and effective brand of bear spray comes from Counter Assault. It’s a bit expensive, but not nearly expensive as paying for a funeral!

Can Sound Deter Bears?

Yes! Loud sounds, air horns, and screaming can all scare off bears before an encounter turns dangerous.

Final Thoughts

Bear spray is one of the best inventions in modern times in terms of safety while backpacking. It’s more effective than pepper spray and, shockingly, the same is true for firearms. Bear attacks are rare, but you should still be ready with a can of bear deterrent spray at your hip!

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