Which bear spray is best?
Bears are majestic, fascinating creatures that are amazing to witness in the wild from a safe distance. Thousands of bear encounters are reported every year, and while attacks are rare, the National Park Service still recommends carrying bear spray when hiking in bear country.
Similar to pepper spray, bear spray uses a formula that’s known to safely and effectively deter a bear in the case of an attack. If you’re looking for a reliable product with a long spray range, then UDAP Bear Spray is the top choice.
What to know before you buy bear spray
Bear spray uses the same chemical compounds that give hot peppers their spiciness. Also known as major capsaicinoids, these compounds affect the brain’s pain receptors, causing a burning sensation in the target’s mouth, nose and eyes. While extremely uncomfortable, the effect wears off after a few hours, and the bear experiences no lasting harm. For more information, check out the complete bear spray buying guide from BestReviews.
Types of bears
There are three types of bear that reside in North America: the black bear, the brown bear (including the grizzly) and the polar bear. Bear spray is an effective deterrent against all three.
The smallest and most common type of bear found in North America, the black bear typically weighs around 100-600 pounds. The NPS recommends fighting back in the case of a black bear attack and not playing dead. Impressively large and powerful, brown bears usually weigh 200-1,000 pounds and can reach up to 9 feet when standing on their hind legs. Grizzly bears are a well-known subspecies of brown bear. The largest species of bear in North America, polar bears can weigh over 1,000 pounds and are typically only found in Arctic regions.
What to do in a bear encounter
When faced with an approaching bear, don’t turn and run. As the animal draws near, speak in a calm voice and slowly wave your arms to identify yourself as a human. Slowly back away to keep as much distance between you and the bear as possible. If the bear continues to approach, aim for the face and release a cloud of bear spray once the animal is within range. Continue to spray until the animal runs away, usually 5-10 seconds.
What to look for in a quality bear spray
When shopping for bear spray, look for one with a long spray range. Anything over 10 feet is preferred, with most high-quality bear sprays reaching 15-30 feet when used. Regardless of the brand’s claims, it’s unlikely that a spray’s reach will exceed 30 feet in reality.
The strength of a spray is measured in its percentage of major capsaicinoids. Bear sprays are typically 1%-2% MC.
Volume and empty rate
Most canisters will contain 7.9-13.4 ounces of bear spray. The empty rate refers to how much spray is released, usually less than 2 ounces per second. Look for a spray that balances a practical volume, empty rate and weight.
Many canisters of bear spray come with a holster. This lets you clip the canister to your belt and gives you quick access should an attack occur.
How much you can expect to spend on bear spray
Most consumers can expect to pay $30-$60 for a canister of bear spray. The higher end of that range will typically be a large canister that includes a carrying holster.
Bear spray FAQ
How long does bear spray last?
A. Bear spray typically lasts 3-5 years, but check the canister for an expiration date. In the meantime, store the spray in a cool environment, not in a car or workshed.
Does bear spray work on other animals?
A. While bear spray could be effective against other animals, its potency has only been approved for use against bears. Search for other capsaicinoid-based products if you’re looking for a general deterrent spray.
Does bear spray hurt bears?
A. Bear spray only causes a temporary burning sensation, deterring the animal and giving you time to safely leave the area. The burning wears off after a few hours, and the bear experiences no lasting discomfort.
What’s the best bear spray to buy?
Top bear spray
What you need to know: This popular bear spray boasts an impressive range and comes with a holster.
What you’ll love: Developed by a bear attack survivor, this canister has a 30-foot spray range and includes a glow-in-the-dark safety clip, a holster and a 32-page booklet of bear safety tips.
What you should consider: Some users say that the trigger can be difficult to use in an attack scenario, while others report issues with the holster.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top bear spray for the money
What you need to know: This affordable fogger has a long-range and commendable empty rate.
What you’ll love: Using an EPA-regulated formula, this powerful bear spray claims a range of up to 35 feet and empties in 6 seconds. The well-designed trigger allows for spraying in short bursts, offering better control.
What you should consider: The canister empties faster than some brands, and some users reported traces of capsaicinoid oil leaking onto their hands when handling the bear spray.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: This high-quality spray offers longer spray time and comes with a free nylon holster.
What you’ll love: This bear spray releases 9 ounces of continuous spray using a powerful formula of 1.3% MC. The company uses an environmentally friendly formula that contains no flammable or ozone-depleting ingredients, and they also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
What you should consider: The holster isn’t very durable, and the spray range is shorter than other brands.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Patrick Farmer writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.