Hunters and outdoor enthusiasts are no strangers to unexpected encounters with wildlife. While most of these encounters are simply a passing glance in one another’s direction, there’s always the possibility of startling an animal that wasn’t expecting you to be there.
When startled, bears are some of the most powerful and dangerous creatures you’ll find in the wild, so having a solution to protect yourself is essential. Our list of the 10 Best Bear Sprays will help you defend yourself by temporarily incapacitating and (mostly) scaring away our large furry friends.
1. Frontiersman 7.9-ounce
This 7.9-ounce bottle of bear spray comes with the maximum strength formula allowed by the EPA and Health Canada. It has a 2.0% MC rating and this strength has been thoroughly tested by the University of Utah (1) to eliminate the 30% failure rate experienced with some other brands. This bear spray is most effective against black, brown, and polar bears.
The Frontiersman 7.9-ounce Bear Spray is an essential addition to any hiker’s toolkit. It features a 30-foot range with a large barrier of up to 45 grams per second. It delivers a heavy fog of spray that has been tested effective in the field by members of the Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska and Brown Bear Resources in Missoula, Montana.
2. Counter Assault
This bear spray features the hottest formula allowed by the EPA with 2% capsaicin. It’s ideal for new users because it offers a long spray time of 7.2 seconds, giving you plenty of opportunities to create the fog barrier of spray that will deter an oncoming bear.
The Counter Assault Bear Deterrent is an 8.1-ounce bottle that’s capable of spraying fog at a distance of up to 30 feet. It’s also packaged in a tamper-resistant, sealed blister pack for safety and includes a glow-in-the-dark safety tie that makes it easier to handle in the dark.
3. UDAP Pepper Power Safety Orange
This bear spray offers a super hot formula that’s one of the hottest on the market. If you’re heading out for a hike or backpacking trip in bear country, it’s a no-brainer to carry this along with you, especially because of the included Griz Guard holster that enables shoot-from-the-hip deployment with this bear spray.
The UDAP Pepper Power Safety Orange Bear Spray shoots at a range of up to 30 feet to affect the bear’s eyes, nose, and lungs. The bottle is 7.9-ounces in weight and its highly visible safety orange color means bears can see you and might recognize that you’re not to be messed with before you have to deploy the spray.
4. Bear Guard Alaska
This 9-ounce can of pepper spray is one of the only sprays registered with the EPA to be effective against all species of bear. It’s also environmentally safe, doesn’t contain any flammable or ozone-depleting substances, and is endorsed by the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation.
The Bear Guard Alaska super size bear spray is capable of spraying to ranges of up to 15 to 20 feet and comes with dimensions of 8-3/4” x 2”. The accompanying holster is made of nylon with a Velcro closure and a belt loop attachment.
5. Mace Brand Bear Attack
This Mace Brand Bear Attack Bear Spray contains a 2.0% Capsaicinoid concentration. Mace products are manufactured in the United States and shipped from Cleveland, Ohio, so you’re getting a quality, American-made product if you go with the Mace brand name.
This bear spray contains a powerful magnum fogger that can deliver a blast cloud of spray up to 35 feet away. The canister is larger than 9 ounces, but it empties in just six seconds to create an intense barrier to an attacking bear. This spray also comes with a matching holster to keep it handy, but also to keep your hands-free until you need it!
6. UDAP 18HP
Another iteration from UDAP, this bear spray is a must-have for grizzly country. The 18HP version comes with a huge, 13.4-ounce (380 gram) bottle of 2% CRC solution. It’s the largest bear deterrent registered by the EPA.
The UDAP 18HP Bear Spray features a maximum spray distance of 35 feet and disperses the totality of its contents in just seven seconds. Unlike some brands, this spray deploys a concentrated, dense fog that covers a broader area in a shorter period of time, which means more protection for you.
7. Ruger RB0100
This bear spray from Ruger is ideal for use on multiple bears in one shot. It unleashes a full 9.2 seconds of continuous spray and reaches ranges up to 20 feet. The canister’s solution is dispersed in a fog cloud pattern to maximize effectiveness.
The Ruger RB0100 Bear Spray canister contains a total of 9 ounces of high concentration solution. It is also a great bear spray for wetter environments, such as the Pacific Northwest, as it is capable of penetrating wet fur to still have the desired effect.
8. UDAP 12HP
Developed by a bear attack survivor, this 12HP Bear Spray from UDAP is great for the novice user because it also comes with a free, 32-page booklet containing a number of great bear safety tips. The spray itself is the hottest available by EPA standards, with a 2% CRC solution.
This bear spray is ideal for hunters and outdoor enthusiasts that require high-performance products they can rely on. It has a maximum blast range of 20 feet to create an effective barrier against a charging bear. It also comes with a glow-in-the-dark safety clip with a chain attached to aid in nighttime use.
9. Frontiersman Maximum Strength
The larger version of Frontiersman’s Maximum Strength bear canister features a 9.2-ounce canister capable of delivering a fog barrier at the industry max range of 35 feet. Ideal for grizzly country, this bear spray also offers industry-leading stopping power with a max strength, 2.0% major Capsaicinoid solution.
This bear spray delivers 52 grams of solution per second to create the industry’s largest barrier against bear attacks. It also sprays up to 40% more solution per burst than its competitors. Lastly, this bear spray can remain immediately accessible via a chest holster and its glow-in-the-dark safety makes it easy to locate in low light conditions.
Bear spray first started to gain popularity in the late 1980s as a “revolutionary tool for better co-existence.” (2) Since then, the types and strengths of bear sprays available have proliferated greatly, leaving you, the buyer, with many options. This Buyer’s Guide will focus on a few major characteristics that separate good sprays from great ones: strength and range, spray duration and capacity, and extras.
Strength and Range
Generally, bear sprays are more powerful and effective than pepper sprays. Bears, of course, are stronger targets to deter than most (if not all) humans. However, the common active ingredient in both bear and pepper spray is oleoresin capsicum (3).
While pepper sprays used for self-defense typically have an MC rating between 0.18% and 1.33%, most bear sprays rate between 1% and 2%. The best sprays on the market offer a 2% MC rating, which is the hottest available under EPA standards, mostly for safety reasons.
Range is also an important consideration because, unlike a human assailant, a charging bear can be moving at you at rates up to 35 miles per hour. Bear spray range can vary from about 12 to 35 feet, but most fall somewhere in the 15 to 20 feet range. Most experts, however, recommend buying a bear spray that offers a minimum range of at least 16 feet.
Spray Duration and Capacity
Every bear spray also features a different duration of spray. Some last from 4 to 6 seconds while others last as long as 7 to 9 seconds. Generally, a longer spray will give you more opportunity to deter a charging animal, but it’s more important to make sure your can is EPA-approved so that you can trust that all its features have been thoroughly tested to work efficiently and effectively.
Canister capacities will vary from brand to brand as well. Generally, it is recommended to find a spray that contains at least 7 ounces of solution, but many experts suggest finding one with closer to 9 ounces of content. For reference, the largest bear sprays on the market still weigh less than a pound; so don’t be expecting a massive canister the size of a small fire extinguisher.
Many bear spray brands have started to add a host of features to make canisters easier to carry and use in a variety of situations. Chest and belt holsters are one good example. Glow-in-the-dark safety features are another.
Having your bear spray easily accessible can be key if you find yourself in a confrontation with an angry mama bear. At this point, you’re not really going to want to fumble around in your backpack to find your best mechanism for self-defense.
Additionally, features that make your canister easier to locate and use in the dark are essential for backpackers and campers in bear country. Unfortunately, it is most often at night when we forget to properly secure food scraps that bears come in close contact with humans. Lastly, many brands have also started including safety caps. For all users, these caps are critical in preventing accidental discharge and reducing the likelihood that the wrong critter (or person) gets sprayed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Having bear spray on hand when the moment arrives will make a huge difference, but just buying a bear spray is only the first step. Knowing how to properly use your bear spray and maintain it are also important. This Frequently Asked Questions section will discuss the use, maintenance, and a few other key topics you’ll need to know when buying or using bear spray.
How does bear spray really work?
In short, an aerosol can shoot bursts of atomized capsaicin, which is a derivative of cayenne pepper. This solution is most effective at short range, but some canisters can shoot up to 35 feet. The solution causes the membranes of the eyes, nose, and lungs to swell and the result is a temporary, but nearly complete, loss of sight and a severe restriction of breathing.
When should my bear spray be replaced?
Bear spray should be replaced when it has been discharged for any reason, left in extreme temperatures (above 50 degrees Celsius or below freezing), or has passed its expiration date. The reason is that the seal that holds the propellant can deteriorate and become compromised, which reduces the ability of the product to propel the spray effectively.
What is the safest way to transport bear spray?
Always be careful to keep the spray’s safety mechanism securely in place. Never transport your spray inside the passenger area of a vehicle or airplane unless you have it securely enclosed in a fully-sealed container.
How long do the effects of bear spray last?
The exact answer will depend on the specific solution in the bear spray being deployed. Generally, however, the average full effect of most market bear sprays will last somewhere between 20 and 90 minutes (4).
Many studies have shown that bear spray is even more effective than a speeding bullet when it comes to defending yourself against the full charge of a grizzly at 35 miles per hour. We hope that you’ve found this information useful and we wish you the best of luck in finding the best bear spray for you.