Planning to go on a backcountry camping or hiking expedition? Sometimes you may find yourself camping in a place where it is the habitat for the bears. If you ever encounter a bear, then you need one of the best bear sprays out in the market to protect yourself.
Don’t panic. If the bear doesn’t notice you, then just take a deep breath and back off slowly to a safe place without alerting the bear. However, if the bear is looking at you, then don’t freak out because you are not the lunch of the bear. Just keep an eye on the bear and slowly move to a safe place.
But if you encounter a bear that is showing some aggression and you notice that the bear will attack you, at that moment a bear spray comes in handy. So in this article, we will review some of the best bear sprays, talk about the features and how to use bear sprays. We will also discuss about how to choose the right bear spray.
So what is bear spray?
Bear sprays are similar to extremely hot pepper. Bear spray is made of oleoresin capsicum. Bear spray is not your normal bug spray instead when emitted, it sprays a stream of capsaicin which temporarily irritate a bear’s eyes and lungs which threatens the animal and the bear moves away from you.
However, bear spray is not lethal, rather is proven both effective in deterring the animal and humane. Bear spray is also effective on other wildlife animals like moose or gorilla. Bear sprays contain a concentration of Capsaicin and related capsaicinoids that ranges from 1% to 2%. This range has been implied by EPA which regulates the sprays because this level of concentration is proven to be effective and humane.
Best Bear Sprays:
- Frontiersman Bear Spray with Chest or Belt Holster
Counter Assault Bear Deterrent (10.2 oz)
UDAP 12HP Bear Spray
Bear Guard Alaska Bear Pepper Spray
UDAP 18HP Super Magnum Bear Spray
Mace Brand Bear Pepper Spray
Tornado Rugger Bear Repellant
1. Frontiersman Bear Spray with Chest or Belt Holster:
Frontiersman Bear Spray, manufactured by Sabre is one of the industry-leading bear sprays that is trusted by campers, hikers and even by police around the world.
The coverage of this bear spray is just excellent. The maximum distance provided by the manufacturer after field test is 35 ft which is more than enough to protect yourself from the bear encounter. This bear spray contains 2% capsaicinoids which is the maximum strength that a bear spray can have as restricted by the EPA.
There are various sizes of canister available, however, we are mainly talking about the 9.2oz size and we recommend you to purchase the 9.2oz canister as this is the industry standard and will give you more protection. This 9.2oz offers 1.84 oz of spray per second and the canister empties after 5 seconds.
Although the duration is not very attractive, however, the per the second burst of this bear spray is 40% more accurate and works great in fog compared to other bear sprays.
The Frontiersman bear spray is available with chest hostler or with a belt holster. Many brands hostlers come with cumbersome straps or velcro closure which can create noise that attracts the bear and it is also time-consuming to access your bear spray. But this Frontiersman bear spray has no straps or velcro closure to disturb the bear as you reach to take out your bear spray.
This bear spray will not cause any harm to the environment and will not leave long-lasting damage to the bear yet this spray is very effective as guaranteed via HPLC laboratory.
This product has only three years self-life which is less than the standard 4 years. Overall, this is one of the best bear sprays to carry around in your next camping or wilderness trip as this bear spray has great coverage, comes with belt or chest hostler and provides immediate access and has maximum stopping power and lastly, spraying this bear spray when encountered by a bear is easy and convenient.
2. Counter Assault Bear Deterrent (10.2 oz):
To protect the campers and hikers from dangerous encounters in a non-lethal way, this Counter Assault bear deterrent was developed. This bear spray is very popular among outdoor professionalist, campers, and even by state wildlife agencies. You will find this spray in every outdoor store.
There are two sizes available: 8.1oz and 10.2oz. We will mainly talk about the 10.2oz because while camping in the backcountry, safety comes first and you need one of the best bear sprays to protect yourself from any dangerous encounters.
So, 10.2 oz is one of the largest capacity sprays on the market yet this product is lightweight and easy to carry. So, you will have no problem going for a backpacking camping or hiking adventure with this bear spray.
This bear spray has spray distance of 12 ft. to 32 ft. which is less than many of its competitor but the range is good enough to protect yourself. You can spray this product for up to 9.2 second which is just awesome and the duration is more than the competitors.
It has the maximum strength limited by EPA which is 2% of capsaicin formula. So it is very effective to counter bear attacks in a non-lethal way. Most of the people who purchased this bear deterrent never replace this brand because this brand has 90% effectiveness once the spray hit the animal.
This spray does not have any shelf life, however, to eliminate any dangerous event, it is wise and safe to replace the product before 4 to 5 years. Hostler for the bear spray is included with this product. Also, to prevent accidental emission, this bear spray features a safety cap.
The Counter Assault Bear Deterrent spray is the camper’s first choice because of its size, weight, duration of spray and effectiveness. You will not regret taking this bear spray on your next wildlife camping trip. Moreover, this is an affordable bear spray that is very effective and humane.
3. UDAP 12HP Bear Spray:
UDAP has been one of the leading brands in self-defense and bear-defense industry. They provide one of the best bear sprays in the market.
This UDAP 12HP bear spray has a capacity of only 7.9 oz which makes this very compact and easy to carry on a backpacking camping trip. This bear spray has a maximum range of 30 ft. which is good enough for a small 7.9 oz canister.
The duration of the spray is only 4 second. Wait, don’t despair after hearing the duration. If your accuracy is good then this bear spray will never let you down because this is a single shot spray which emits a strong and high amount of active ingredients in the shortest amount of time.
As this spray discharges fog twice as fast as other bear sprays, this spray causes immediate irritation to the bear’s eyes, lungs, and nose. So, accuracy is the key factor and if your accuracy is poor, then this product is not recommended for you.
This bear spray has the standard 2% Capsaicin and related Capsaicinoids. For convenience, this bear spray comes with a hostler and glow in the dark safety clip. This is a non-flammable product that has an expiration date of 3 years. Moreover, keeping your safety in mind, this spray comes with free 32 Page UDAP Bear Safety Tips booklet.
Overall, this is a nice bear safety product to carry around in the wilderness. Although the duration is only 4 second, if sprayed accurately, it emits strong capsaicin which drives away the bear immediately. Also, many campers and hunters has reported that the duration is more than 4 second.
4. Bear Guard Alaska Bear Pepper Spray:
This bear pepper spray from Guard Alaska has a capacity of 9oz which falls between not being too small and not being too large. Although the capacity seems promising, the range of this bear spray is short. The spray distance is only 15 to 20 ft which is very low compared to its competitors. Although this range is above average and this product is not recommended if you have never handled a bear spray or never encountered a bear.
The strength of this bear spray is only 1.34% total capsaicinoid formula which is above the minimum 1% threshold. Although the percentage of capsaicinoid is low, it emits an ultra-hot pepper spray that is proven effective. One of the features that fill in all the drawback is the duration of this spray. This bear spray is capable of continuous emission of 9 seconds.
This bear spray is also registered with EPA to drive away all species of bear. So if you going on a backcountry camping or hunting trip and you don’t know what species of bear you may encounter, then this spray comes really handy and effective.
This bear spray comes with nylon hostler. You should keep in mind that some of the users complained that the canister has leaked which is can be a major drawback. So if this bear spray has been sitting in your garage for months, then do check if there is any leak before heading to the backcountry trip.
Although there are some drawbacks, this bears pray is non-flammable and it is environmentally friendly as it does not have any ozone-depleting chemicals. To avoid accidental discharge, it features a removable safety trigger. However, the canister trigger is not easy and convenient to open which may cause a problem.
Overall, this product is above average that is environmentally friendly and can repel all species of bear. However, can this be one of the best bear sprays? I would not completely say yes because it has some major drawbacks. This product is only recommended when you don’t know which species of bear you will encounter and in the event when the other recommended bear sprays are not available in your local outdoor shop.
5. UDAP 18HP Super Magnum Bear Spray:
Were you determined to buy the UDAP 12HP but the 4-second duration held you back? Don’t worry, you will love this larger UDAP 18HP Super Magnum Bear Spray. This large 18HP bear spray has a total capacity of 13.4oz. Yes! You read it right. This is the highest capacity bear spray registered by EPA.
The smaller UDAP 12HP has a maximum range of 30ft which is great. However, this larger 13.4oz canister has a maximum range of 35ft which makes this the highest coverage bear spray. This bear spray also has 2% Capsaicin and related Capsaicinoids, so this bear spray is strong and effective.
Despite being the largest canister a bear spray can be, this UDAP 18HP has a spray duration of only approximately 7 seconds. Although this duration is more than enough and is more than the smaller brother UDAO 12HP which has a duration of only 4 seconds, most competitors can spray for longer periods. However, the fog of this bear spray is very dense which makes this one of the strongest and powerful bear sprays. So, this is a one-shot bear spray and you need to have some accuracy skill to use this bear spray effectively.
One of the disadvantages of this bear spray is the design. This bear spray’s trigger does not allow for easy burst firing because you have to manually depress it down to cut off the spray.
Included with this bear spray is a bear safety tips book. The book is very useful because this bear spray was developed by a person who was attacked by a bear and has the experience to write useful tips. Over, compromising the design, this is one of the best bear sprays due to the capacity, strength, power and the range. However, you have to keep in mind that this top quality product is not cheap and costs more than most of the bear sprays.
6. Mace Brand Bear Pepper Spray:
Do you love to go on a backpacking camping adventure or hiking expedition? If you somehow camp in the habitat of wild bear, then you must carry a small and handy bear spray to protect you. Carrying larger bear spray may be inconvenient for backpacking or hiking session as they are heavy and may take up a lot of space.
So this Mace Brand Pepper Spray which has the capacity of 9oz. / 260 Grams is a small and handy weapon to protect yourself from the wild bear on your camping journey. Although being small in size, the manufacturer claims that this bear spray has a range of 35ft, which is the highest range a bear spray can spray. So the range is more than other competitors’ larger canister and this range is same as Frontiersman Bear Spray reviewed above.
Not only this spray has a high range, it is also strong and very powerful. This bear spray is made from the highest level of capsaicin concentration registered by EPA. The formula contains 10% OC pepper bear safe formula and once it hits the bear, it causes temporary loss of sight and breathing problem. So the bear will run away as soon as the smallest fog hits the bear’s face.
This bear spray’s duration is around 6 seconds which is slightly higher than the Frontiersman Bear Spray (9.2oz). So you do not have much time to miss and fire again. However, using this bear spray is easy and convenient, just pull off the orange safety clip on the top of the grip and spray.
This bear spray has only 3 years of shelf life so if this spray is laying around for 2 years, it is better to purchase a new unit to stay safe. Overall, this is one of the best bear sprays that is small and powerful.
7. Tornado Rugger Bear Repellant:
Tornado is a brand that sells lots of safety products like pepper spray, bear safety products, stun guns and law enforcement safety products. The features that distinguish this spray from others are the duration and the shotgun pattern fog.
The duration of this bear repellant spray is around 9 second, which is more than other competitors like the Frontiersman’s 9.2oz bear spray. This bear spray contains 1.34% capsaicinoids which are lower than its competitors, however, this formula is more than the minimum 1% and it is very effective due to shotgun pattern fog.
If you camp or hike in a rainy season where you there is a possibility to get attacked by a wet bear, you need a bear spray that is effective on the wet fur of the bear. Have no fear, this bear spray can penetrate the wet fur of the animal. However, the range of this spray can disappoint many campers and hikers. The range is only around 20 ft which seems low but it is more than to deter an attacking bear.
It is also worth to note that this bear repellent is ideal for multiple bears. You should also know that this product contains the chemical that is carcinogenic. When a bear attack, spray this product carefully so that it does not contact your skin otherwise it may cause cancer. So this is a major drawback. Overall, can it be said to be one of the best bear sprays? I would like to leave the answer to you.
How does bear spray work?
Bear sprays are made of capsaicin (a substance made of cayenne pepper) and it is stored in an aerosol canister. Once this substance hits the face of the animal, the membrane of the eye, nose and the lungs of the bear begins to swell and the animal will temporarily become blind and will have a breathing problem.
Should I use a gun instead of bear spray?
I would not recommend using a gun because to use a gun you need to be skillful and professional and most of the campers and hikers do not have that accuracy or skill. Also, when a bear is charging at you, you may misfire and it may even hit your partners. But bear spray will emit fog which covers a wide radius than the gun and the success rate of deterring a bear is higher. Also, even if the spray hits your camping partners, the effect is temporary.
Shooting at the bear with a gun may kill a bear but bear sprays will not kill a bear, rather it will temporarily make them blind and cause breathing problem. Bear spray will not kill the bear and preserve the wildlife.
What is the minimum range of using a bear spray?
To stay safe and deter the bear, you need to spray the bear deterrent from at least 15 feet or 5 meters.
What is the minimum strength?
For the bear spray to be effective, minimum of 0.857% capsaicin should be in the product.
Does bear sprays have expiry dates?
Yes, bear sprays expire. The shelf life of bear spray ranges from 3-5 years. Different brands of bear spray will have different expiry dates. After the bear spray has expired, it will be spray as far as before or may not be as effective as before the expiry date. However, it is wise to change the unit before the expiry date. It is also worth noting that exposing the bear spray in extreme temperature may make the bear spray useless. So try to keep the bear spray at room temperature.
How to use a bear spray?
I know when a bear attacks you will panic. But you must stand firm on the ground about 20-35 feet away from the bear. For accuracy, hold the bear spray firmly with two hands. Then, if your bear spray unit has any safety clip, remove that. After that, aim straight at the bear and spray a couple of short burst at a zig-zag pattern to effectively deter the bear.
You should always carry your bear spray hanging on your belt, or on the side pockets of the backpack so that you can quickly reach the unit when a bear charges at you. Also before firing the spray, check the wind direction. If a strong wind is blowing in your direction and if you spray, then the spray will flow at you. So be cautious when spraying the bear repellant spray.
How to choose one of the best bear sprays?
Strength: As mentioned earlier that for a bear spray to be effective, a minimum 0.857% of capsaicin should be present. It is wise to choose a bear spray which a concentration of capsaicin of 1% to 2%. All the bear sprays mentioned above contains capsaicin of 1.34% to 2% and most of the mentioned bear spray contains 2% of capsaicin.
Range: Range of the bear spray is very important. The minimum range of bear spray should be around 5 meters (16ft). If your accuracy skill is low and you are not confident, then choose a bear spray that has a spray range of 30ft or 35ft. Most of the bear spray that we reviewed has a spray range of 30ft and 35ft.
Duration of the spray: Generally, Bear spray with long duration is better. However, some of the bears spray like Frontiersman bear spray despite having spray duration of 4 second is very effective due to the strong and powerful composition. So, personally, I think that if the bear spray is powerful, a minimum duration of 4 seconds is enough.
Convenience & safety: Make sure that the bear spray is easy to release because there is little time for you to react and spray at the attacking bear. Also, check if the product has any safety clip or not. Choose products with safety clips because they will prevent accidental emission. Also, bear spray that comes with holster is recommended.