When hiking in bear country be sure to carry bear repellent. Bear spray is an effective and non-lethal product to help protect you from bears. It is basically a high-powered pepper spray designed to cause immediate inflammation of the lungs and respiratory distress. You must be able to access the spray IMMEDIATELY. Most bear spray is designed to shoot about 30′ for 5-8 seconds. The spray is often an orange or reddish color so that you can see the stream.
Before hiking stop at a Ranger Station and ask about bear dangers and how to deploy the spray. Different species of bears require different tactics so check with Rangers first. When I visited Yellowstone a Ranger explained how to deploy bear spray.
- First, spray a line in front of an approaching bear (should deter most bears)
- Spray in short bursts of 1-2 seconds
- If the bear continues towards you then spray directly in front of the bear
- If the bear continues closer then spray the bear directly in the face
- Remember that you may be affected by the spray as well
Bear spray should be carried where you can access it very quickly such as on your belt or on a shirt loop. NEVER put bear spray in your backpack. Note that the propellant in the canister is temperature sensitive and it may be less effective in cold weather. If the temperature is below 50° then consider carrying the canister inside your coat. The canister can also explode when exposed to high temperatures such as in a car on a hot day. The bear spray will not lose its effectiveness but the propellant will.
- Refuge Notebook: Tips for Using Bear Spray
- When buying bear spray I opt for the larger cans