Camping, Backpacking & Hiking Gear

The Best Bear Sprays for Camping, Hiking & Running 2020

best bear spray
Bertie
Written by Bertie

There’s nothing like getting to camp in the outdoors and amongst nature. For me, the fun starts with packing.

Speaking from experience, make sure you have everything planned out well in advance. Think of all the extreme situations you may experience on your trip—for one, have you considered packing a bear spray?

Unfortunately, there’s always the chance that a bear would end up wandering near your camp or your tent.

It’s in such situations that having the best bear spray to hand might just save a life! And for this, the Frontiersman Bear Spray gets the winner award.

These are a few of the best bear sprays currently available:

Specs

The product comes in a size of 7.9 ounces, providing a maximum spray distance of 30 feet and a spray time of 5 seconds. The capsaicinoids concentration is 2%, and it can be holstered to your belt. ($$)

You can grab this spray as a single, two-pack, with a holster or with a chest holster.

The Verdict

The first thing of note is that it provides a fair, safe distance between you and the bear. With the aerosol sprayed 30 feet away from you, there’s more than enough time for you not just to use the spray, but also make sure you get out of the bear’s way, or that they get out of yours.

The product is also able to spray as much as 1.58 ounces per second, giving you about 5 seconds of spray time. It doesn’t just stop there, however. This amount being sprayed ensures that a massive protective barrier between you and the bear is set up in short notice.

A 2% concentration of capsaicinoids, which is high compared to something like pepper spray, ensures effective deterrence. You want to make sure there’s enough irritation for the bear to suddenly change its mind about attempting to attack you.

A belt holster allows you direct and quick access to the spray when needed. It even allows you to use the canister from the hip level, meaning even swifter access. Also, no straps hold the canister in place, so you can easily grab it in one quick motion.

In Summary

The combination of a high capsaicinoid concentration formula, a 30-foot spray distance and a deploy time of 5 seconds greatly reduce danger levels. This is added to by the belt holster, which makes dispensing the spray faster.

If you’re looking for a bear spray that combines performance and price, then this is the best choice.

If you’re looking for something more specialized in terms of being tactical, the Counter Assault or Udap bear sprays are good alternatives.

Specs

Coming in canisters holding 10.2 ounces and a capsaicinoid concentration of 2%, this bear spray has a reach of 40 feet over 7 seconds. It also comes with a belt holster. ($$$)

The Verdict

With its maximum spray distance of 40 feet, you have ample time to use it before the bear comes too dangerously close. 

The product is capable of spraying as much as 1.45 ounces per second. This gives you a maximum time of 7 seconds to work with. You might think these few seconds aren’t much, but in such a dangerous situation, they can be a lifesaving factor.

Having a 2% concentration of capsaicinoids sprayed at the bear’s face will greatly irritate its eyes and mucus membranes, giving it no choice but to put distance between the spray and itself.

Being able to holster the product to your belt makes for very easy and immediate access to the spray when needed. Pull it out in one swift motion and spray away, or you can directly spray while it’s at hip level, saving even more time.

In addition, the canister has a locator that glows at night, allowing you to easily locate it in the dark. 

In Summary

The product lives up to its name—a counter-assault spray but with an excellent reach and spray time. I particularly like how this product can be sprayed from the hip in those clutch moments.

If you go backpacking in the wild often, this is a suitable option. Otherwise, take a look at the Frontiersman Bear Spray.

Specs

The Guard Alaska holds 9 ounces of repellant and comes with a belt holster. It can be sprayed over a maximum distance of 20 feet over 9 seconds. Its capsaicinoid concentration is 1.34%. ($$$$)

Grab this product as a single or in a two-pack.

The Verdict

With the product being able to spray the repellant as far as 20 feet, it should leave enough distance for you to repel the bear with a proper aim while remaining safe.

At a spray rate of 1 ounce per second, you get 9 seconds to empty the entire canister toward that incoming bear. As such, there’ll be time for you to put more distance between you and the bear and also more time to spray over a larger area, adding to your protection.

The product’s capsaicinoid concentration of 1.34% ensures effectiveness at keeping those potentially dangerous bears away. It’s also not too high to cause any irritation in terms of skin contact, especially if the wind ends up blowing some of it against your face.

Included with the product is a belt holster with a metal clip. This means that carrying the bear spray around won’t be a problem, and the velcro strap keeps it well-secured.

In Summary

Dealing with bears won’t be problematic with this spray—it has a good spray distance as well as spray time, while the easy-access holster improves reaction time. Plus, its capsaicinoids concentration is well balanced to provide good bear deterrence while lowering the chance of skin irritation.

If you’re experienced in dealing with bears, then this is a suitable choice. If you’re more of a novice, you’re better off with something like the Counter Assault Bear Spray.

Specs

This product is available in 7.9-ounce canisters of a 2% capsaicinoids concentration. It’s capable of providing a maximum spray distance of 30 feet. The entire canister can be emptied in a matter of 2 seconds, and there’s a camo hip holster included. ($$$)

The Verdict

When it comes to an aggressive bear charging at you, or about to, having those 30 feet of distance can be very significant in determining your safety—enough time to react quickly.

This product is also able to provide a huge volume of spray over a very short period —about 2 seconds, which is a massive 3.95 ounces per second. With such a volume at 30 feet, the bear is likely to do nothing but retreat, giving you enough time to take further safety measures. Such power combines well with 2% of capsaicinoids. So it’s highly concentrated, which makes for a powerful counter-attack.

It comes with a camo hip holster, which is not only cool but allows for more tactical use. The firing mechanism sits above the holster, meaning you can just hip-fire the spray if you have limited time.

In Summary

With this product’s high volume per second and spray distance, you should feel safe in knowing you can fend off a bear. The capsicum concentration is also high enough to deter any attackers. Finally, if you’re going for the whole camo look, the holster will visually appeal to you, while still providing a high level of functionality.

For the more experienced of you, in terms of using a bear spray canister, this is a good choice, especially if you’re confident in your aim.

Specs

This brand of bear spray carries 9.2 ounces of repellant with a 10% concentration of oleoresin capsicum in its canister. It’s able to empty in just six seconds, delivering a powerful blast that can reach a distance of 35 feet. The set also includes a belt holster. ($$$$)

The Verdict

35 feet is an excellent reach to keep an attacking bear away from you. That’s enough to distance for you to work with, maneuvering yourself into a safer spot and working out what to do next.

Such a reach and a high volume of 9.2 ounces is nothing if it can’t be dispensed at speed. But by emptying itself over six seconds, that’s a prolonged period to create a good barrier of protection in a short time. Those six seconds might just be the reason you’re able to tell the bear-survival tale.

The ability to cause powerful skin irritation is possible with the product’s high concentration of capsaicinoids, which will end up causing the bear enough pain to stop its attack, allowing you to continue with your day. This also does not cause long-term harm to the bear, only enough to keep it away from you.

Using the belt holster, having fast access won’t be a problem at all with this product. It also makes for an easy carry.

In Summary

This product delivers the results, with an impressive working range, short deployment time and a high concentration of capsaicinoids. On top of this, the holster will ensure that the spray is at the ready when needed.

This spray appeals more to intermediate users who don’t mind spending a little more money. If your budget is more limited, then take a look at the Frontiersman Bear Spray.

Specs

With a size of 7.9 ounces, the training unit doesn’t contain any capsaicinoids. It’s able to shoot its contents as far as 30 feet over 5 seconds, and you can choose from either a belt holster or a chest holder. ($)

The Verdict

Unlike other products in this review, this is a combination of the top-rated Frontiersman bear spray but with a training unit. This allows you to hone your skills at home before heading out, without then having to buy a separate bear repellent.

There’s always the risk of getting exposed to the spray yourself using the real stuff, so using the training product first is an excellent idea.

It comes in the same size with the same spray distance and time as the real product. You’ll know what to expect when you finally switch to the actual product in terms of reach and duration.

Note that there are absolutely no capsaicinoids in this product. It’s perfectly safe to use for practice, so there’s no danger from anyone at home getting hurt from sprayback. 

In Summary

This is great for those who are hesitant about using a bear spray for the first time and would like to practice first. It comes with everything else an actual bear spray has, except for the repellant itself.

If you’re in the wild, this is most definitely not a useful product to have. It's for practise ONLY!!

Specs

This product comes in a 7.9-ounce canister and its own customized holster. It contains a 2% concentration of capsaicinoids and can spray a maximum distance of 30 feet. 

The Verdict

Keeping the bears away won’t be an issue with this product since it’s able to shoot up to 30 feet away. It might not seem like much, but this will maintain ample distance between you and the bear, ensuring it won’t come any closer.

With 7.9 ounces of spray to unload, you’ll provide yourself with a good aerosolized shielding between yourself and the angry bear. Also, the high concentration of capsaicinoids will strongly irritate the bear and force it to turn around without harming it.

The customized holder differs from others in that it clips onto your clothing, meaning that you don’t need a belt to use it effectively.

In Summary

Staying safe and avoiding bear attacks is more than possible with this product, combining a powerful combination of distance, concentration and spray speed. The included clip-on container is a nice touch, too.

What to Look for in Bear Sprays

Choosing a bear spray product isn’t as simple as grabbing the first one you see. You need to factor in the following key factors, and understand why they matter:

  • Formula type and strength.
  • Spray distance.
  • Spray time.
  • Ease of access.

Formula Type and Strength

The purpose of a bear spray is not to kill the bears or cause them irreversible damage. Merely, the idea is to deter them by keeping them away from you. 

This can be achieved simply by using a formula that contains capsaicin or its related compounds—capsaicinoids.

We’ve all come across these compounds before eating chili and spicy foods. This compound triggers a burning sensation when it comes into contact with any kind of living tissue, particularly the eyes and mucous membranes.

For bear sprays, it’s recommended that the concentration of these compounds be no less than 1% and no more than 2% to achieve the desired result.

Higher concentrations are more effective but can also be more irritating to you in case of accidental exposure. 

Spray Distance

Unlike a personal pepper spray, a bear spray should be capable of spraying a wide cone of its contents over a considerable distance, at least 20 feet, if not more. This basically puts an entire area of irritating fog that the bear has to go through to get to you, making it less likely to press on with its attack.

Spray Time

Try and avoid the extremes of spray time. Try and aim for something between the following spray times:

  • Minimum: 1 second.
  • Maximum: 10 seconds.

Too long would increase the odds of the bear reaching you before enough volume is ejected to repel it away. Too short puts more pressure on you to aim the canister properly, so the contents aren’t wasted and you don’t miss the target.

Ease of Access

In moments where there’s an impending bear attack, time is of the essence. The most important thing is for you to be able to quickly reach for your spray and then quickly use it to protect yourself from possible mauling or death. 

Having a holster solves this problem, especially one that can be sprayed without removal from the holster.

Watch out, though—some holsters come with a handy clasp to keep the canister secure, but this can make it longer to get the canister out.

What’s the Best Spray for Grizzlies and Black Bears?

Even though there are different species of bears—black, brown and grizzly, as examples—it doesn’t matter which spray you use.

The different bear spray products use very similar formulas and concentrations of their active ingredients, all of which use the same class of compounds. 

No matter the type of bear you come across, all the sprays we’ve featured should work.

What’s the Best Bear Spray for Running?

There isn’t a particular kind of spray that works best for trail runners, so don’t worry about that.

Instead, grab one of the sprays we’ve featured and then a running holster from ScatBelt (https://scatbelt.com/).

You mustn’t use regular pepper spray as a substitute for bear spray. It isn’t strong enough to repel bears, and no, don’t even think about trying to outrun a bear.

While bear spray canisters are large, securing them isn’t an issue for running, as long as you make sure it’s fastened correctly before you set off.

Conclusion

The Frontiersman Bear Spray gets to take the prize home, with Counter Assault and Guard Alaska sprays following close behind.

For me, the Frontiersman combines all of the features mentioned above in a balanced way at a fair price, with a relatively long spray distance, optimal spray time, a high concentration of capsaicinoids and it’s quick-to-access holster.

Don’t hesitate to get this one to keep yourself safe from any bears while out backpacking and camping. And if you’re considering not packing bear spray, please think again!

About the author

Bertie

Bertie

I’m Bertie and I’ve been enjoying the wilderness for as long as I can remember. I get out camping, hiking and backpacking whenever I can. And when I can’t, I enjoy writing about outdoor-related stuff!

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