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Do I Need Bear Spray for Camping?

Do I Need Bear Spray for Camping?


If you plan to visit an area where bears exist, then you may need bear spray for camping. If you plan to camp in an area where grizzly bear are known to live, then absolutely you will need bear spray. Even if you are visiting an area where there are only black bears, it’s still a good idea to have a can available.

will i need bear spray for camping
What a can of bear spray looks like

Do I Need Bear Spray for Camping?

If your plan is to camp in an area where bears are known to exist, it’s good idea to have a can of bear spray with you. Even more important, if you know that you will be camping where there are grizzly bears, you should absolutely keep bear spray with you.

Read, “Do I Have to Worry About Bears When Camping?

Bear spray is perhaps the most effective, and the most affordable way, to stop a bear from attacking you. The reason why it’s more effective than shooting a gun is because it attacks a bear’s senses, particularly it’s nose and its eyes. This prevents an aggressive bear from being able to see you or smell you.

Bear spray is not intended to make a bear retreat, though often times they do. Rather, it’s intended to give you extra time to flee. When a bear is hit with a dose of spray, it usually stays where it is, shakes its head, rubs its paws on its face, and sometimes rolls around on the ground. As soon as you see the spray hitting the bear, you should be running, not watching.

A gun can certainly stop a bear dead in its tracks, but only if you can aim at its head, and only if you have a big enough gun. The problem is that you may only have seconds to react to a charging bear. Moreover, bear spray is legal to carry on your belt in all 50 states, but not necessarily a gun.

Where Can You Buy Bear Spray?

Most sporting good stores carry it, particularly those located in bear country. General stores and convenience stores located near national parks and forests usually stock it. You can buy it online from Amazon, Walmart, and just about any e-commerce store that sells outdoor recreation equipment.

What is the Best Brand of Bear Spray?

Any brand containing the maximum 2% capiscum is best. We also recommend the largest can you find. However, the most popular brands on the market are the following…

  • Frontiersman, 9.2 oz canister, with holster, 35 feet spray range, 5 second spray time (see it on Amazon)
  • Counter Assault, 10.2 oz canister, with holster, 40 feet spray range, 8 second spray time (see it on Amazon)
  • Udap, 7.9 oz canister, with holster, 30 feet spray range, 4 second spray time (see it on Amazon)

Are All Bear Sprays the Same?

No! They vary by a few important differences…

  • The federal legal limit of capiscum (the active ingredient in bear spray) is 2%. Most brands offer the maximum 2% limit. However, some do not. Make sure to read the label to verify you’re getting the maximum concentration.
  • Spray distance is a huge factor to consider. Most brands can shoot a stream of spray at least 15 feet away in distance. But others can go further, up to 40 feet. IMPORTANT… the further distance you are allowed to spray, the faster your can will go empty. If you want a can that will shoot 40 feet away, you will need a bigger can, which will add weight to your belt.
  • How much time it takes to empty a can. All brands of bear spray will go empty between 4 seconds and 9 seconds when keeping the nozzle held down. A can will achieve a longer duration either through a shorter spray distance, or with a larger volume of product.
  • When spraying a bear, you must make sure to take aim so that you don’t waste precious seconds and spray. It’s recommended that you buy a “practice can” (see below) so that you will be prepared.
  • If you want maximum distance, and maximum spray time, then you need a really big can.

When to Spray a Bear

Wait until a bear is about 50 feet away from you or less. You may want to practice first by measuring out 50 feet and seeing for yourself how far away that is…

  • Take note of how far in distance your bear spray can shoot a stream.
  • Even if your spray can only reach a maximum of 30 feet, it’s still very effective when a bear runs into the cloud of product. You don’t have to actually hit the bear in the face with a stream.
  • If a bear is still greater than 50 feet away, you may end up wasting your spray if the bear makes a sudden change in direction, or if the wind blows the product away.

How Much Bear Spray Do I Need for Camping?

At least two cans. One can you will keep on your belt while hiking, the other can you will keep on a table at your campsite. Make sure everyone in your camping party knows where to find the can of spray on the table. Never remove the can from the table so that it will always be there when you need it.

It’s not necessary to have a separate can of bear spray for each person in your camp. One can is all you’ll need to give everyone time to run away.

Otherwise, bear spray can cost between $30.00 to $70.00 a can, depending on how big of a can. If you can afford to buy several cans, then go for it.

How to Know if There Are Bears in My Area?

Here’s a good map that shows you…


Bear Spray Shelf Life

Bear spray typically has a shelf life of three to four years. Every can of spray will have a expiration date stamped on it.

Buy Practice Cans

Most bear spray brands offer practice cans. These cans are shaped exactly the same as their real product, and use the same nozzle. They contain plain old water inside.

It’s important to practice because you need to know how far a can of spray will shoot, and how long it will last. You also need to know how to remove a can from your holster and how to unlock the safety.

Search Amazon for “practice bear spray”.

Bear Spray Practice Tips

  • Before spraying, make sure you know which way is forward so that you don’t spray yourself.
  • Take care to note how far your can sprays, and how many seconds it can continue spraying.
  • When practicing, make sure other members of your party are watching so that they know how to unlock the safety.

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