Using Bear Spray while Hiking

Bear spray for grizzly bears

I’ve wanted to fire a can of bear spray for some time. I spend enough time in grizzly bear country that I should at least test it before I have a real need to. For some reason, I never got around to it until this video. I had seen some videos on bear spray and decided to finally do it and blog about it. Below are some takeaway points.

  1. Always carry bear spray in bear country.
  2. Always have at least two cans in a group (if you’re alone, have one ready and one spare in your pack).
  3. Bear spray is a deterrent, not a repellant. Spray the bear if it comes at you, not each other before you hit the trail. Bear spray is effective when it’s airborne, not on the ground or on you.
  4. Bear spray is nasty to breathe in and a skin irritant. Practice caution around it and wash hands.
  5. Spray a test spray to make sure you won’t spray into the wind and disable yourself.
  6. Bear spray is a better choice than a gun with bears. It creates a fog barrier and can be fired on a bear that is on your buddy. It’s very effective against bears. It’s safe for bears and safe for people.
  7. Check for expired bear spray. Expired bear spray makes great practice canisters.
  8. Counter Assault is the bear spray of choice. Visit for more info on bear spray, bear encounters and how you can be safe in bear country.

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6 responses to “Using Bear Spray while Hiking”

  1. Debra Franciosi Avatar
    Debra Franciosi

    This is great, Jake. A couple comments… (1) Don’t underestimate the nastiness of this stuff – it’s well designed for its purpose. My friend and I were hiking up by Many Glacier and someone on the trail told us there were bear in the area. My friend took the safety off the bearspray can and inadvertantly hit the spray a few minutes later. He ended up getting a light spray in his face, which resulted in temporary vision loss (we were on the shore of a lake, so he immediately submerged his head), chemical burns on his cheeks, and some discomfort. Thankfully, by the time we got back to the car, he could see – it just hurt like heck. (2) Some people really think a gun is a better option, and they’re deluded. In the journals of Lewis and Clark, they talk of skinning a bear killed in a nasty encounter where they discovered the bear survived at least 9 hits from a high caliber weapon (think 1805 – big metal slugs) over the years before a lucky shot hit an eye socket or some such took it out. I’m a big fan of bearspray – as you said, the bear AND the person have a better chance of walking away.

  2. Hey thanks for putting this blog up. We do carry bear spray when in bear country but have wondered about the spray distance, width, etc. It was helpful to see that 🙂

  3. Great video – love the pre-spray kung fu warm-up!

    1. Here to entertain! 😉

  4. Mark Daghir Avatar
    Mark Daghir

    Thanks for this and all of your other videos, Jake. Since we cannot pack or carry-on nasty aerosols like bear spray on our flights to/from GNP, do you know if the NPS or any local concession would rent us a can & holster? If not, would the NPS or some other non-profit accept unused spray? How about a half-full can of stove fuel?
    There should be enough air travelers coming and going to MT that a recreational HAZMAT exchange/sharing program would probably work well for everyone.

    1. I WHOLE-HEARTEDLY agree! I just chatted with the find folks at Replay Sports which is just a bit south of the Kalispell airport. They sell new and used equipment. You can either buy a pre-owned can (that’s never been fired) at a discount or you can buy a new one. Either way, you can bring it back and sell it back to them. Kinda like a rental. As far as fuel, you could do the same with them. One other option would be just to ask the guys in the backcountry offices. They have a lot that gets returned to them when people come out. I don’t buy fuel any more. 😀

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