Trigger allows shooting in controlled bursts. Can be tested before being used out in the field. The strong formula spreads like a fire extinguisher so you don't have to be too accurate.
Doesn't contain as much of the active ingredient capsaicin as other options on our list.
Has a large range and spread, allowing for more effective use in the heat of the moment. Contains 2% capsaicin and related capsaicinoids. The included holster is a nice addition.
Some states may have restrictions on the size of the can.
The formula works consistently against large animals. The included holster is comfortable to have around your belt. Environmentally safe so it doesn't harm the bear permanently.
This spray is a one-time use, which doesn't allow users to test it out.
Can spray effectively up to 40 feet. Has a formula that spreads the spray efficiently. Restricts the bear's breathing capacity, making it easy to get away. The holster is of good quality.
Shorter spray duration than some others on our list.
This EPA-approved formula humanely keeps bears at bay and rapidly covers up to 30 feet upon deployment. Outdoor adventurers rest easy with this formula.
It's costly, but you do get two cans.
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You’re hiking a backcountry trail in Glacier National Park. It’s a beautiful day, the sky is blue, the birds are singing. Suddenly, a blur of brown fur the size of a living room sofa charges at you. You have three seconds to react. What do you do? If you’re prepared, you unleash an orange fog of bear spray between you and the attacker and the bear turns and runs away.
Bear spray is one of those products you don’t need very often, but when you do, you really need it. It’s like those things you simply must have in certain situations but hope you never have to use — insurance, a life jacket, a defibrillator, a first aid kit. Anyone who plans to go camping in Alaska, fishing in Montana or hiking in Great Smoky Mountains National Park will definitely want to take along a canister (or two) of bear spray.
While bear spray isn’t 100% effective, research has proven it to be one of the best tools for averting an attack during a bear encounter, much more effective than a gun. We researched bear sprays and found the Mace Guard Alaska Maximum-Strength Bear Spray to be the top option for its easy-to-use canister and potent formula that reaches up to 20 feet away.
Made by a top brand, this bear spray has a user-friendly trigger that makes it easy to control the product in effective bursts. When needed, it can produce a fog that reaches up to 20 feet, and it can release the entire contents within 9 seconds. Although some competing products have stronger concentrations of capsaicinoids, it’s a hot formula with 1.34% of the powerful deterrent. The can has a trim design with a loop handle that’s easy to carry and is compatible with the brand’s holster. The safety clip is effective at preventing an accidental discharge. What’s more, you can test it before you need to use it, which adds peace of mind.
Who better to create a bear spray than someone with firsthand experience of a bear encounter? This popular spray was created by a survivor of a grizzly bear attack who understands the need for an effective deterrent that can prevent a potentially deadly situation. The spray is made with the highest legal level of deterrent. The formula has 2% capsaicinoids and emits a potent fog that reaches about 10 feet to send most bears in the opposite direction. The two cans have durable loop handles and come with a well-made holster for a good value.
This powerful bear protection spray contains 2% capsaicinoids. When sprayed, it produces a forceful fog that can reach up to 35 feet. This makes it possible to deter a bear in seconds before it gets too close for comfort. This spray also includes a soft, flexible holster that can be secured easily to a belt and is comfortable to wear. The holster secures the spray can without hardware that could jingle when you grab it, which might further aggravate a bear. The spray also comes with a removable chest strap that can be adjusted for a customized fit.
If the distance a bear spray travels is your top priority, Counter Assault is a good choice. With an impressive range of 40 feet, the spray is effective at deterring bears before they get too close. It’s also one of the most powerful options, with 2% capsaicin and related capsaicinoids. The can contains a generous 10.2 ounces. Another feature that we like about this bear spray is the safety clip that glows in the dark. This feature makes it easy to see in low-light settings. Also included is a soft holster that’s comfortable to wear on a belt and simple to access.
Whether you explore the outdoors with a friend or venture out on your own, you’ll appreciate that Griz Guard offers a pack of two cans of bear spray with two holsters. The strong spray is made with 2% capsaicinoids for optimal bear deterrence. When sprayed, it produces a dense fog that reaches 30 feet for reliable protection. When you purchase bear spray, you want to know that it’s going to be effective if you ever need to use it. This is another brand that tests its spray to make sure that it does a good job.
Although this spray can be used for self-defense, it offers a strong 2% formula that’s effective against bears. It boasts a 35-foot range for reliable protection at a distance and produces a thick fog for excellent coverage. The can that a spray comes in is an important feature for ease of use. This spray can’s contoured handle is simple to grip, which makes the safety clip a snap to maneuver when needed. We also like that the can isn’t overly bulky, so it isn’t difficult to carry and fits nicely on most backpacks.
Bears are amazing, beautiful creatures, but they are definitely not Winnie the Pooh. Bears are very smart and very curious. Like people, bears are omnivores. They eat berries, nuts, plants, mosses, fungi, grasses, flowers, roots, bulbs, tubers, honey, insects, fish, rodents and other small mammals, and carrion, but probably not people if they can help it. An unpleasant encounter with a bear occurs most likely because one of you startled the other or you came too close to some cubs. Bear cubs stay with their mothers for about two years, and the mothers are very, very protective.
A group of bears is called a “sloth,” but there is nothing sloth-like about a charging bear.
While a 500-pound bear may look rather ungainly, you would be mistaken to think you could outrun one. Bears can move very quickly when attacking (experts say as much as 30 feet to 50 feet per second – either way, it’s a lot faster than you). And running away only increases the likelihood that the bear will chase and attack you. Bears can also swim and climb trees (probably a lot better than you can too).
There are three types of bears found in the United States: brown bears (including grizzlies, or North American brown bears), American black bears and polar bears.
Black bears weigh about 100 to 600 pounds. This is the smallest and most common of the bears in North America. You’ll find black bears in many places, from Florida to Canada and California to North Carolina.
Brown bears can weigh from 200 to 1,000 pounds. A large adult standing on its hind legs would tower over you (the largest of the brown bears – the Kodiak or Alaskan brown bear – would even tower over NBA players). If you’re lucky, you might spot a grizzly in Yellowstone National Park – from a safe distance, of course.
Polar bears can weigh up to 1,200 pounds (although the heaviest recorded weight is over a ton). It is the largest species of bear in North America (and some say on earth).
Bear spray is a nonflammable, non-ozone-depleting liquid made up of capsaicinoids, oil (or another fluid to dilute the capsaicinoids) and an aerosol propellant. When sprayed, bear spray is a fog, not a liquid.
Major capsaicinoids (MC) are the compounds that make hot peppers hot. Oleoresin capsicum (OC), an oily substance from hot red peppers, is the active ingredient in bear spray and the pepper sprays used for self-defense. Peppers have capsaicinoids that deter animals from eating them. As such, these natural compounds make excellent behavioral deterrents for both animals and people. Flavorless and odorless, the compounds affect the pain receptors, causing a burning sensation in the mouth when eaten – and on the faces, eyes and noses of bears (or people) with exposure.
MC (not the Scoville heat unit or SHU) is the only potency indicator recognized by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – 2% MC is the maximum strength allowed by the EPA.
Bear spray is not a bear repellant, so it won’t work if you spray it on your gear. Bear spray is not a bear killer. Bear spray is a bear deterrent. You want to convince the bear to go away and leave you alone without harming you or the bear in the process.
Faced with an attacking bear, your options are limited. Circumstances vary, but the National Park Service recommends playing dead if attacked by a brown or grizzly bear but escaping or fighting back if attacked by a black bear. Bear spray gives you one more option. In the case of a bear attack, do the following:
Studies in Alaska have proven the effectiveness of bear spray, but it isn’t 100% foolproof. Know the precautions regarding hiking and camping in bear country, such as hiking in groups in the daytime, staying on the trails, making noise (so bears can avoid you), watching for signs of bears and safely stowing packs and food.
There is a certain amount of standardization in the bear spray industry. If you can use one brand’s canister, you can probably use them all. Make sure to buy bear spray that is approved by the EPA.
Amount: This ranges from about 7.9 to 13.4 ounces per canister, with most containing around 9 ounces.
Reach: You want the spray to contact the bear when the animal is as far away from you as possible. Different brands claim a reach of from 12 to 40 feet, although some people who have used bear spray say the range is closer to 15 to 20 feet regardless of what the canister says.
Empty rate: This is the number of ounces or grams of bear spray the canister delivers per second. The empty rate is usually a little less than 2 ounces (50 grams), but it can be as low as 1 ounce (28 grams).
Safety clip: It is very important to make sure the safety clip is secure. Always keep it in place. You do not want bear spray discharging by accident – in your face, in your car, in your house. Some safety clips glow in the dark so you can locate the canister in low light.
Weight: Bear spray is one more thing you’ll be carrying, so factor it into the weight of the pack and gear you will be toting.
Shelf life: Most canisters indicate an expiration date about three years from the date of manufacture. Don’t tempt fate. If your bear spray is past the expiration date, use that canister for practice so you know you’ll be safe in an emergency. Buy a new can for your next hike.
Some canisters of bear spray come with a holster, carrying straps, a booklet of information or other extras.
A. Bear spray varies in price depending on the number of ounces in the canister and whether a holster is included. You can expect to pay an average of about $4.50 per ounce for a canister containing between 7.9 and 13.4 ounces. (Most canisters contain about 9 ounces.)
If you know you’re going to be in bear country, $30 to $65 per canister is a small price to pay for peace of mind.
A. Bear spray usually lasts three to five years from the date of manufacture; there is an expiration date on every canister. However, the manufacturers say that the spray will retain some of its effectiveness even after the expiration date. Even so, they recommend replacing the canister soon after that date to be safe. The last thing you want in the middle of an emergency is to discover that the spray doesn’t work.
A. The EPA regulates bear spray and has only approved it for use on bears. While some people have used bear spray on mountain lions and even aggressive dogs, manufacturers do not recommend its use on other animals. The results could be unpredictable and very dangerous. There are other products made from capsaicinoids that are designed to keep skunks, raccoons, squirrels and cats out of gardens or flowerbeds. The compound irritates and repels the animals when they taste, touch or smell it.
A. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has studied this question, and the answer is decidedly no, even assuming you’re an expert marksman with nerves of steel. Based on an investigation of human-bear encounters since 1992, people defending themselves against grizzlies with firearms were injured some 50% of the time, while those who used bear spray escaped without injury most of the time.
A. Quality bear spray has security features to help prevent users from spraying themselves, but accidents occasionally happen. If you spray it on your skin, first leave the area. Remove any clothing that has bear spray on it and wash the affected areas of your body with mild soap and cool water.
If you get bear spray in your eyes, leave the area where the accident occurred. Wash your hands thoroughly before touching your eyes. Flush your eyes with cool water until you feel relief, which is typically around 15 minutes.
Regardless of the part of your body that you spray with bear spray, consult your healthcare provider to determine if you need additional treatment.
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