Hiking and exploring in the backcountry is one of the best feelings in the world. With the sights and sounds of nature around you, it’s an experience everyone should enjoy at least once. 

However, the wilderness can be as dangerous as it is beautiful. There are harmful plants and dangerous animals lurking around. One such common encounter in the backcountry is with bears.

Staying prepared is the best way to deal with possible encounters with wild animals. For bear encounters, there’s really no other item that works better than bear spray. It’s widely known to be the most effective self-defence tool against bears. So, what exactly is bear spray anyway?

What is Bear Spray?

Bear sprays are essentially canisters or aerosols that are used to spray capsaicin towards charging bears to disorient them. Capsaicin is an active element found in peppers and chili. It possesses chemicals that often cause burning sensations or irritation on the skin. Think of bear spray as pepper stray times 10.

Bear sprays have been proven to be one of the most effective and efficient means of deterring bears from approaching you. This is mainly because it is non-lethal and very cost-effective. The spray will incapacitate the bear in multiples ways. 

The Capsaicin in the spray can irritate and burn the eyes, nose, mouth, and other exposed flesh of the animal. A bear’s sense of smell is known to be much more heightened than some other animals. The spray can render it temporarily blind and without a sense of smell. This gives ample time for you and your party to get away.

The Best Bear Sprays

1.    The Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray (10.2 fl. Oz.)

Overall:

The Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray is, without a doubt, the best bear spray on the market. It’s been used and proven in the field, and it boasts of a high success rate among trekkers. You’ll notice that most experienced hikers carry this product whenever they’re out in the backcountry. That’s because of the reliability and efficiency with which this bear spray works.

The Counter Assault bear spray gives you maximum distance, maximum volume, reliable spray, and potent ingredients. It’s an all-round performance from a 10 fl. oz container.

Features:

Strength: 

The Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray has a 2% capsaicin in its content. This is the ideal concentration of capsaicin for a strong bear spray. In fact, most environmental laws do not allow concentrations above this level. With the Counter Assault spray, you’ve got the maximum strength of spray right there in your hands.

Size:

This Counter Assault spray gives you a good 10.2 fl. Oz. of bear spray in an easy-to-carry canister. This quantity is easily beyond the minimum 7.8 oz amount recommended. The dimensions of the Counter Assault canister measure 8.5 x 7.6 x 2.25 inches. Along with the container, the unit will weigh around 15 ounces while on you.

Distance:

This unit can spray a distance of up to 40 feet away. That’s more distance than any other reliable spray in the market right now. The additional reach and range of this spray allow you to make the first move way before the bear has even come close to your position.

Spray Duration

The Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray can empty itself in around 8 seconds. This means not only does it have a spray duration of 8 seconds, but its rate of spraying is also very high. The higher rate of spray is because the 10.02 fl. oz capacity is more extensive than most other sprays.

Reliability:

The Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray meets the guidelines set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It also meets the requirements of the SNAP (Significant New Alternative Policy) under the Clean Air Act. Each canister of Counter Assault bear spray has a shelf-life of up to 4 years, with the date of expiration clearly printed on the labels.

Bonus tip: The Counter Assault bear spray has a glow-in-the-dark feature. The safety wedge on the top glows when there’s no light around. This makes it easier to find in the dark and makes it less likely to be misplaced at night.

2.      The Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray (9.2 fl. oz)

Unfortunately, the sabre frontiersman is no longer available.

Overall

Next on the list among the best bear sprays is the handy Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray. This spray stands out because of its strength and rate of spray, which rivals the Counter Assault spray and beats most other generic brands. 

It’s also one of the few bear spray manufacturers who have a High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) Laboratory in-house, which works to improve their products continually.

The Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray also undergoes the most stringent testing and verification procedures. This ensures that their products reach the market shelves only after rigorous testing and improvement.

Features:

Strength:

This bear spray also boasts of a 2% concentration of major capsaicinoids. This means the Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray is also one of the strongest sprays in the market. The strength of the spray is so potent that specific police forces in other countries are known to prefer this product over standard mace and pepper spray.

Size:

The Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray has a capacity of 9.2 fl. Oz. The quantity is not as much as the Counter Assault 10.2 fl.oz. But it’s still sufficient for a canister. Also, it’s way beyond the minimum recommended 7.8 oz volume, so you have more than enough to use if necessary.

Distance:

The spray distance of the Sabre Frontiersman reaches a maximum length of up to 35 feet. This distance is better than most other sprays, which average around 20-25 feet in some cases. The 35 feet length gives you the leverage to make the first move on the bear before it gets too close.

Spray Duration

The spray duration of the Sabre Frontiersman can reach almost 6-7 seconds, but if required, it can also empty the canister in as little as 5 seconds. This turns out as a great advantage because the rate of spray is incredibly fast. With a volume of 9.02 oz., the canister would have to dispense the contents at 1.804 oz. Per second to finish the can. This is among the highest rate of sprays in the market today. For comparison, the Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray (10.02 oz) has a rate of spray equaling 1.25 oz per second.

Reliability:

The Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray is definitely one of the most rigorously tested and tried products in this industry. This product has undergone field testing by the Brown Bears Association as well as the Elmendorf Air Force Base. Also, the Sabre Red company has an in-house testing lab that works with High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC), which makes their products increasingly reliable. It’s also EPA-approved.

3.    The Udap Bear Spray with Color Grizz Holster

Overall

The Udap Pepper Power Bear Deterrent takes the third slot in this list of the best bear sprays available today. This bear spray is composed of powerful agents that include capsaicinoids which work together to form one of the most potent bear sprays out there. The particles are easily inhaled by animals nearby, making it a very active and non-lethal deterring agent.

The Udap Bear Spray covers a considerably effective distance and dispenses a large volume in a lesser amount of time compared to other sprays. It’s a product that’s used widely by hikers and campers alike.

Features:

Strength:

The powerful and potent Udap Bear Spray matches the Sabre Red and Counter Assault sprays in its capsaicin content. The spray has a concentration of 2% (EPA advised limit) of capsaicin and other related capsaicinoids, giving it a strong and overpowering effect on animals.

Size:

The Udap Pepper Power Bear Spray 7.9 oz. is more prevalent among hikers in general, but it also provides a 9.2 oz. and 13.2 oz variants. The higher volume variants have a slightly better range.

Distance:

If you have the Udap Pepper Power Bear Spray 13.2 oz., the distance covered by this variant reaches up to 35 feet. The maximum range for the 7.9 oz. and the 9.2 oz. comes down to around 30 feet. Either way, this maximum distance of 30-35 feet is still a formidable range when in the wilderness.

Spray duration:

The Udap Bear Spray may be able to hit up to 7 seconds of spray time in certain situations. However, the spray duration for this product can vary depending on several factors. In fact, spray duration for any bear spray can change depending on the temperature, wind speeds, and air pressure around you.

Reliability:

The Udap Bear Spray is manufactured to meet industry ISO standards. Also, it’s increasingly being used by park rangers across different National Parks in the county. This testifies to the fact that it’s a highly reliable and effective bear deterrent. Each Udap spray can has an expiration time of three years.          

Bear Spray Buying Guide

There are tons of bear spray brands in the market today. It can get confusing as you browse through all the variety of products out there. Knowing what to look for in your bear spray can help you stay away from inferior goods and buy reliable ones.

When buying a bear spray, here are the top things you have to look out for:

Strength

The spray should contain a minimum concentration of 0.895% of capsaicin in its content. However, this is just the minimum amount. Ideally, you’ll be better off with at least 1-2 % of capsaicin in the canister.

Size

Your aerosol or canister should weigh a minimum of 7.8 ounces (or 225 grams). Aerosols can spray out their contents quickly. If the capacity is too small, you run the risk of emptying your bottle and missing your target.

Spray type

Your canister should be able to spray the contents in a cloud or conical pattern. This means it should spread out as it travels further from the dispenser.

Spray Distance

For practical purposes, the farther away your spray can reach, the better. But aerosols and canisters do not shoot projectiles like guns. They are small pressure units that dispense liquid or gas. That’s why they have a limited spray distance. However, we recommend getting a bear spray that can spray a minimum of 25 feet from your position. This gives you time and space to react before the bear gets dangerously close.

Spray duration

Make sure your canister can hold its spray for at least 7-8 seconds. This ensures that you have enough spray time to direct it at moving targets. A charging animal will not sit still and let you squirt liquid in its eyes.

Reliable products:

Always find and use a bear spray that is certified by organizations such as the EPA. This will ensure that you don’t use environmentally harmful chemicals or lethal chemicals on the animals. Also, make sure that your product is designed to be used against bears. Some people confuse mace and pepper sprays with these products.

Even though bear sprays are required during hikes, shopping and browsing for a bear spray can be tedious and time-consuming work. Fortunately, we’ve compiled the best bear spray products here to save you the trouble.

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