One thing a lot of hikers worry about during a large portion of the year is bear attacks. If you plan on hiking alone or in a small group during bear season and in bear territory, you should definitely do some research beforehand about how to identify the different kinds of bears in the area and how to properly defend yourself if you come face-to-face with a bear. To make this easier for you, we’ve pooled together all of our knowledge on bears and bear spray into this guide for you to read before your next adventure. If your hiking with a furry friend like a dog or cat, be sure to get them a pair of bear bells! Without further ado, here is our guide to the best bear spray in 2020 and how to identify what bear you are up against.
Best Bear Spray for Black Bears and Grizzly Bears
When it comes to bear spray there are really only two options on the market that are worth buying. Bear spray is a different formula than regular pepper spray and at the time of writing, this is legal in all 50 U.S. states. It hits harder than regular pepper spray and is made to blind the bear’s sense of sight and smell. Like dogs, bears rely heavily on their sense of smell, and bear spray renders their nose inoperable. They will not want to mess with you after taking a blast of bear mace to the face. Remember, you’re hoping to never have to use this but if you do have to use it you want it to save your life! Don’t cheap out and think you don’t need a can of bear spray. Ask yourself how much your life is worth.
You might think that a pistol would be better to have than a can of bear spray, but studies have been done and show that bear spray is way more effective than a firearm. One study showed that people who used a firearm to fend off a bear attack suffered injuries 50% of the time while people using bear spray almost always escaped uninjured! If you want to be one of those escaping uninjured here are the two best brands of bear spray we recommend you purchase for your next trip.
Practice Bear Spray
- SAFE FOR PRACTICE: Does not contain pepper irritant
- BUILD FAMILIARITY AND CONFIDENCE: Learn how to use bear spray in a safe environment effectively with...
- PRACTICE BEFORE HITTING THE TRAIL: Be prepared before you begin your hike by practicing with this...
If you want to practice using bear spray but don’t want to waste the precious can that cost you more than a twenty, we suggest using an inert bear spray training can. Sabre makes an inert training unit that mimics their actual bear spray (which we have also included on this list) and we suggest you pick up a can of this stuff along with your choice of bear spray. It never hurts to practice beforehand!
SABRE Frontiersman Bear Spray
- MAXIMUM STOPPING POWER: The only bear spray with an in-house HPLC lab to guarantee maximum strength...
- GREATEST PROTECTION AT SAFEST DISTANCE - 35 FEET: Traveling up to 15 feet (4.6 m) farther than other...
- GREATEST PROTECTIVE BARRIER PER BURST: Rapidly deploys the heaviest fog of 1.84 oz (52 grams) per...
SabreRed is a well-known pepper spray and self-defense manufacturer. From stun guns to dog pepper sprays they have it all and their bear spray is one of the best on the market. Frontiersman contains the maximum amount of major capsaicinoids (the reason pepper spray hurts!) allowed by the EPA and has one of the longest spray ranges out there. While other sprays only go ten to fifteen feet Frontiersman goes an astonishing thirty-five feet! A full-grown bear can cover fifty feet in mere seconds while charging. Making sure that bear stays far away from you is a major goal if you want to survive.
Frontiersman has also been field-tested and proved effective by Brown Bear Resources a company based out of Montana where bears roam wild and free.
This can of bear spray also features an easy deployment system, unlike other brands that have bulky and cumbersome belt clips. Every second counts when you’re trying to get your bear spray out and ready.
Counter Assault Bear Deterrent
- 32-foot spray distance
- 8. 1 oz. bear spray with 7 seconds of spray time
- Hottest Formula allowed by law at 2% capsaicin & related capsaicinoids
Counter Assault Bear Deterrent is another great bear spray available on the market today. While it does reach just a shy shorter than SabreRed’s, thirty-two feet is still quite an impressive distance.
Counter Assault also contains the maximum 2% capsaicinoids allowed by law. Counter Assault claims that their formula is effective against every kind of bear out there, even polar bears!
One added benefit of the Counter assault spray is that it lasts longer than SabreRed’s Frontiersman. Frontiersman lasts for up to 5 continuous seconds of spray while Counter Assault lasts for a full 7 seconds giving you 2 more precious seconds of offense against a charging bear. While one blast to the face of any bear spray is usually enough to stop a bear in their tracks, it always is comforting to know you’ve got another 6 one-second bursts up your sleeve if they decide to come back.
Lastly, this can of bear spray is made by a company in Montana and has been produced since the late 90s. Always trust a product that is made in the very place it is needed most!
I personally chose this product over the SabreRed Frontiersman simply for the extra seconds of spray it gives. While I have not had to use it, I trust that when I do it will get the job done and make sure that bear runs off never to be seen again.
Udap Bear Spray
- Includes Exclusive Griz Guard Holster
- Most Powerful Bear Spray Fog
- Developed By A Bear Attack Survivor
Udap Bear Deterrent is another good choice for bear sprays. Made by a real life bear attack survivor, Udap is a sure shot if you’re looking for something to carry in bear country. Like the other bear sprays we’ve mentioned on this list, Udap carries the maximum amount of capsaicin allowed by law ensuring that any bear sprayed with this stuff will want to turn and run.
This bear spray also comes with a holster that some may find easier to remove the cannister from than a traditional nylon holster. The Griz Guard holster allows you to clip the can onto your backpack or belt
Guard Alaska Bear Spray
- EFFECTIVE BEAR PROTECTION - Includes ONE (1) Guard Alaska 9 oz. bear repellent spray canister and...
- TESTED & PROVEN - Guard Alaska was intensively tested for six years in the Alaska wild, and it is...
- 9 SECOND CONTINUOUS SPRAY - Releases 9 ounces of bear protection in 9 seconds, or may be fired in...
Guard Alaska claims to be the only bear repellent the EPA has classified as effective against all bears making it an optimal choice for anyone. Tested in Alaska for years before hitting the market, Guard Alaska offers 9 seconds of spray with the ability to fog an area in no time.
The included holster ensures you’ll never have it far from reach and will always be ready to pull it out at a moments notice. Again, this bear spray contains the max amount of 1.34% capsaicinoids. There is no reason to purchase a bear spray that has anything less than the max. Why cheap out on what is essentially your life insurance policy?
All in all, these bear sprays are all very similar and it will come down to personal preference. I carry a can of the Counter Assault when I’m in the woods, but you may prefer one of the other brands. What brand you pick is not as important as simply carrying one of the above cans with you when in bear country.
How to Tell the Difference Between a Black Bear and a Grizzly Bear
A lot of people think that because the Black bear is called a “black” bear that it has to be black. That is false! Black bears can come in shades of cinnamon so you can not always identify a bear by the color of its fur. A tell-tale way to identify the difference between a black bear and the more deadly Grizzly bear is the hump. Grizzly bears will have a distinct hump behind their head/neck while Black bears have a straight back from their nose to their tail.
In the above image, you can clearly see the hump we are talking about. It is quite distinct and hard to miss once you know it’s there. Compare that to the image of the black bear below and you’ll notice that there is no hump to be found!
There are other features that allow you to tell the difference between a black bear and a grizzly bear, but in our opinion looking for the hump is the easiest way to quickly identify what kind of bear you are dealing with.
Does Bear Spray Work on Mountain Lions?
We get this question a lot and it’s a good question. While lots of hikers are worried about bear attacks, many forget the other dangerous animals you may encounter while on the trail. There are rattlesnakes, mountain lions, even the occasional aggressive bobcat! Bear spray is essentially a high-grade pepper spray meaning it will work on almost anything that requires its eyes and sense of smell. Rattlesnakes not so much, you’re better just slowly backing away rather than trying to spray it.
If you spray a cougar or mountain lion or whatever you want to call it with bear spray, it will stop it 99.9% of the time. Sometimes even just the loud noise produced by the aerosol is enough to scare off a curious cougar. Since bear spray works almost immediately upon contact, any animal interested in making you a meal should almost always be deterred.
You should always use bear spray as a last resort. Try to slowly back away from the animal or judge whether it is interested in attacking or simply passing by. There is no need to blind an animal for hours just because you two happened to cross each other’s path. Keep the bear spray ready in your hand, but only use it once the animal charges or gets too close for comfort!
Can I Fly with Bear Spray in My Bag?
The TSA website states that you may not fly with bear spray in your carry-on or your checked bag. We suggest that you either purchase your can at your destination (Yellowstone offers this service at the park) or if you’re driving you can simply pack it along with your stuff.
Do not try to sneak bear spray through the airport! It will just cause a headache for you and your group if TSA happens to find the can (which they most certainly will.) Don’t start your trip off on the wrong foot.
Can I Take Bear Spray into Canada?
This depends on your can of bear spray. As long as it is clearly marked as a “bear deterrent” and is clearly not intended for use on humans, it should be okay. Declare it to the border agents and they may ask to see the can to verify that it is in fact bear spray. If you’re worried still, get the Counter Assault bear spray above. They have even said on their website that it is a-okay to bring it into Canada. It just cannot be resold or stay in Canada after your trip. You must bring it back across the border with you into the United States.
Most Border Agents expect you to bring bear spray if you are crossing at areas where there is a lot of hiking tourism and an active bear population.
In short, the above two products are the best bear sprays out there and we highly recommend that you have one or the other while out hiking in bear country. It should be said that these products are also great at fending off other animals such as mountain lions or a curious wolf. If you’re looking for other bear deterrents that will hopefully make it so you don’t ever have to even come close to a bear we suggest buying bear bells or even a bear horn. The best line of defense against a bear attack however is traveling in a large group. There has never been a recorded bear attack against a group of more than seven people and there are few reports of bear attacks against groups of five people.