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If you plan on spending time in the outdoors hiking, camping, rafting, or exploring in an area known to be a habitat for bears, it is highly recommended to carry bear spray – and have it easily accessible. Bear spray is proven to be extremely effective in deterring bears, but it is not like bug spray: you don’t wear it. Instead, when activated, it emits a strong, powerful stream of capsaicin (extremely hot pepper) that stings the bear’s face and lungs – but doesn’t cause any lasting damage. It also works on moose, mountain lions and other aggressive animals. Here are the best bear spray options to keep you safe.
Best Overall: Counter Assault
As a top choice of park rangers and experienced hikers, Counter Assault is a reliable and effective bear spray that’s reasonably priced. The 10.2-ounce can of spray is larger than some of the others, has a range of 12 to 32 feet, can empty in 9.2 seconds and allows the user more control of the spray amount. The spray includes a nylon holster and a glow-in-the-dark feature, plus a safety cap in case of accidental discharge. When released, the spray is a cloud-like stream so be mindful of “blowback,” as it can cause irritation to the user as well. Keep in mind that the spray is only effective for three to five years, but replacing it before then is recommended.
Runner-Up, Best Overall: Frontiersman Bear Spray
Manufactured by Sabre, an established company that produces pepper spray for law enforcement, Frontiersman Bear Spray is a solid option. The 7.9-ounce canister empties faster than most others, has a range of 30 feet (although the 9.2-ounce one has a 35-foot range) and is the maximum strength allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency. The spray was field tested in Alaska and Montana and has been proven effective against black, brown and polar bears. The can also glows in the dark, so you can locate it at night. The canister has a three-year shelf life and does not include a holster.
Best Value: UDAP Bear Spray
Created by a survivor of a bear attack, the UDAP bear spray formula improved on existing products, so the spray is an extremely hot, oil-based formula at a budget-friendly price.
The 7.9-ounce canister has a range of 30 feet of powerful fog that can empty out in four seconds as it enters the bear’s eyes, mouth, and nose – stopping the attack. The bottle comes in bright safety orange so it’s easy to spot, and includes a camouflage hip holster that snuggly holds the canister for easy transport on the trail. Several Amazon buyers reported that they used the spray successfully to ward off an aggravated bear.
Best Range: Mace Brand Bear Attack Survival Spray
The brand name, Mace, is known for its powerful self-defense spray used by a number of law enforcement officers, and the “Bear Attack Survival Spray” is yet another premium product. The nine-ounce canister empties in six seconds and can spray up to 35 feet of fog – keeping a safer distance between you and the attacking bear. The combination of quick spray and distance can make all the difference in a crisis situation. A lightweight holster is provided for quick, easy access to the spray. Made in the U.S.A., the spray is made from the highest level of capsaicin concentration (what stuns the bear) allowed by the EPA.
Best on All Bears: Guard Alaska
Designed to work on all species of bear, the Guard Alaska spray is a popular choice but has a shorter range than some of the other options. The nine-ounce bottle has a 15 to 20-foot range (significantly less than Mace brand or UDAP), but is registered with the EPA as a repellant against all bears, and is endorsed by the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation. It is not flammable and does not contain ozone-depleting chemicals. The canister has a removable safety trigger in case of accidental use. Be cautious with storing this product indoors for long periods of time, as some Amazon buyers reported leaking in certain conditions.
Best MultiPack: Pepper Defense (Guard Alaska) 4 Pack
If you’re spending a lot of time in the woods or would like to give bear spray as a gift to an outdoor enthusiast, the Guard Alaska multi-pack is a cost-effective option. The package comes with four canisters containing nine ounces of the powerful spray and they all have a shelf life of four years. The entire canisters can be emptied in nine seconds, or you can fire short bursts to scare the animals off. The kit also includes four metal holsters that can attach to a belt clip that is well-constructed and durable. Amazon buyers liked the easy-grip handle and felt that the multipack was a good overall value.
Best Practice Spray: Frontiersman Practice Bear Spray
Bear Spray is only effective if you know how to use it, so Frontiersman also developed a practice spray so if an emergency does arise, outdoorsman would know what to do without hesitation. The spray is a water-based product and will not protect against an actual attack – but it will prepare you to stay calm and use the real product correctly. It is also a great idea for camping families to practice (but it is a single-use item). There’s also a free safety online video with step by step directions on how to use the spray. Although useful, the spray is a tad expensive and some felt that two canisters should be provided instead of just one.