Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Lightest Bear Spray?
Display Avatars Sort By:
Mark Primack
(Bufa) - MLife

Locale: Cape Cod and Northern Newfoundland
Lightest Bear Spray? on 08/13/2012 18:15:46 MDT Print View

I'm headed out to Yellowstone country to spend more than a month backpacking and car camping. I've been several times before, but not for any length of time in about 10 years. Clearly the number of bear attacks/deaths has become more of a concern during the past 3 or 4 years for rather inexplicable reasons. I've never bothered with bear spray before, but now it seems like something I should have with me both backpacking and day hiking and car camping, mostly solo and most of the car camping will be at the more remote sites like Slough Creek, my favorite.

In looking at bear spray on line, all of the pepper sprays listed as "Bear Spray" seem to have a minimum of 7oz. of ingredient plus the metal and plastic container, for a total weight of 15 or so oz., I'd guess. That's pretty heavy to me. I also noticed that several companies make smaller "Personal Protection" sprays that seem to have exactly the same ingredients, but spray a lesser distance. So those of you who regularly carry bear spray: What is the lightest bear spray that will be functional? Thanks.

PS: I have camped, dayhiked, and backpacked in Yellowstone before, both for more than a month at a time and also solo, and also backpacked and car camped/dayhiked several times in Denali. I am not looking for general guidance on bear avoidance and danger/attack minimization. Thanks.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Lightest Bear Spray? on 08/13/2012 18:42:48 MDT Print View

I will not claim to be a bear spray expert, but when I operate in Yellowstone, I always carry bear spray. You also want to figure in some kind of a "holster" so that the bear spray is very handy. I sewed my own holster out of plain webbing, and it is a shoulder-strap-over-the-chest thing that can be put onto a belt instead. I have Counter Assault brand. I don't think that I would want to carry anything that had less range or less spray time.


Jim L
Bear Spray Range on 08/13/2012 18:57:16 MDT Print View

CounterAssault has a bit of discussion of why the distance and time of spray are important. (

Bottom line is bears are FAST and aren't always alone. I would be very surprised if any spray would stop a bear instantly. If bears really can run 30 miles per hour (44 feet per second) you already are on thin ice with trying to stop a bear in full charge at 30 feet.

For me, if I'm forced to go with a closer range 'solution', I'll be bringing a spare pair of underwear also. They will certainly be needed if I survive at spittin distance.

Just sayin.

Robert Cowman
(rcowman) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Re: Re: Lightest Bear Spray? on 08/13/2012 18:59:25 MDT Print View

those little sparys shoot out a sream like a water gun. bear spray is like a giant windex bottle getting more on the animal. its more about how much is really the minium over how light there going to make it. 1lb for a pretty good chance of survival is 1lb i'd be willing to take.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
bearspray. on 08/13/2012 19:50:23 MDT Print View

I just got back from Yellowstone so here are my thoughts:

The personal protectants are NOT designed to spray 30 feet. You need 30 feet range because grizzlies are FAST and you want to hit them in time so they can turn around and head the other direction.

Further, from my understanding the personal protectants are directional not omnidirectional so there isn't as wide of a 'cone' as with the bear spray.

The larger containers can carry extra capacity and a guide I met told me that someone recently had to hit a griz with THREE puffs from his bear spray. It was a sow with two cubs and he scared her coming around a bend.

Now imagine you're still 2-3 days from civilization. Having additional spray for that time would be nice.

Also, when you leave see if you can donate your spray to a ranger or some other organization. You can walk into an outfitter and they will also help you donate it.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
cool on 08/13/2012 19:55:41 MDT Print View

this is pretty cool:

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Bear Spray on 08/13/2012 21:01:25 MDT Print View

If you are bringing spray bring something that is designed for bears. Otherwise dont bring anything. If you want to see difference by a can of each and fire them off and decide for yourself. I think no matter what it is a good idea to try using bear spray in the field and discharge a can to get used to its range and any blow back. Most people who carry spray have never fired it. I think a practice can is definately worthwhile

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: Bear Spray on 08/14/2012 00:47:48 MDT Print View

I hike exclusively in griz country (NW Montana). I just eat the weight. It's worth it to me.

But more importantly, you should educate yourself on bear behavior. Read Stephen Herrero's excellent book on bears. Bear spray, while generally very good, can't always save you. I'm borrowing this from Dan Durston, but I think it's best to think of bear encounters in three ways:

1. How to avoid encounters entirely.
2. How to handle an encounter that turns aggressive.
3. How to handle an encounter that turns violent.

Bear spray, ideally, should be part of a total system that understands how bears think and react to situations. I spend a lot of time on number one (I shout a lot when hiking alone or in small groups. If necessary, I do my best to be prepared mentally and physically for numbers two and three.

Also, it helps to be prepared for moose. I was recently almost charged by a bull moose until he changed his mind. I was glad to have bear spray on hand for that encounter as well, even if I didn't need it.

/*/Edit to add that I carry Counter Assault. Not sure if it's the lightest, but it's what everyone I know and trust carries. I'll go for reliability and reputation on this one./*/

Edited by GlacierRambler on 08/14/2012 00:51:51 MDT.

Clayton Mauritzen
(GlacierRambler) - F

Locale: NW Montana
Re: cool on 08/14/2012 00:52:43 MDT Print View

Kevin, interesting video. I've been indirectly sprayed by bear spray before. I can't speak for the bears, but it's powerful stuff.

Mark Primack
(Bufa) - MLife

Locale: Cape Cod and Northern Newfoundland
Thanks and agree on 08/14/2012 06:30:26 MDT Print View

Thanks for your thoughts everyone. It's unanimous that one doesn't want to skimp on bear spray. I can see that if I am going to carry bear spray it should be the real thing, probably Counterassault.

Again, I have hiked solo extensively in Yellowstone and Denali without bear spray but with lots of education--I did an eight-hour course before hiking solo in Denali--and even more awareness and caution. I have seen grizzlies up close, more often, at middle distances, and come on fresh scat still steaming in the morning dew more than once. I have hiked out of the outback at high speed, talking very very loudly more than once as well, the fear having gotten to me. Still, it is the attacks of the last few years in Yellowstone that make me much more wary. I will buy Counterassault with its holster and carry it. Again, thanks.

Dena Kelley

Locale: Eagle River, Alaska
Re Lightest Bear Spray on 08/14/2012 10:54:26 MDT Print View

Clayton brought up a good point about the moose. Bear country is moose country - at least it is where I live- and I've had FAR MORE encounters with moose than with bears and Moose can be incredibly aggressive. I think bear spray is a good idea to have for either purpose. Heck, I've had so much trouble with aggressive dogs in my neighborhood that I'm considering carrying it just to walk my dog on the streets.

Back on topic, I was in Sportsman's Warehouse the other day and for all intents and purposes it appeared to me that the bear spray manufacturers are pretty much the same. The concentration of capsaicin was the same in all the brands, and the distance that the can would spray appeared to be based more on the can size (I'm guessing more propellant is in the larger cans?) as the brands that sold multiple size options had the distance it would spray decrease as the can got smaller. The furthest I saw was 32', although the next size down claimed 30'.

Does anyone know what the shelf life of bear spray is? I've got a can that is 15 years old. I'm loathe to toss it, since they cost $40, but then again if it's not any good any more it needs to be replaced. There is no use by or exp date on the can.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re Lightest Bear Spray on 08/14/2012 11:35:15 MDT Print View

The current products have Use By Date stamped on them, and it is typically something like four years.

While it is certainly possible that the 15-year-old can is still usable, I wouldn't bet on it. You might choose to make that old one into a "training can." (You know those aggressive dogs in your neighborhood?)


Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Expired Spray on 08/17/2012 00:28:35 MDT Print View

Old cans can lose their pressure, so I wouldn't take one that I didn't give a short test spray with first. Even then, old cans can seem to have pressure but quickly fade out in a second or two, so I don't trust them. I've seen some really impotent old cans. I'm not sure if the potency of the ingredients changes.

Two days ago I was hiking solo in grizzly country. I was bushwacking through a long alder section when I noticed my bear spray was gone from my pocket - presumably a branch had snagged it. I consoled myself by thinking 'at least I'm done with the alpine section where the grizzlies usually hang out, it should just be black bears down here'. Then no more than 10 minutes later I heard a crash and saw a lone adult grizzly about 30 yards away. Thankfully he immediately ran off so the encounter was over before I knew it was happening.

Edited by dandydan on 08/17/2012 00:29:18 MDT.