Here’s how to use bear spray quickly and effectively. But first, let me briefly answer the question… “does bear spray really work”?
In an emergency or survival situation, the bear spray may end up saving your life. It can be one of THE most effective ways of deterring an approaching bear at close range.
Most bear attacks happen because you stumble across them by surprise.
To avoid these attacks, you CAN use your voice by either yelling out loud every few minutes as you’re walking along or singing out loud. And if you’re with others, you can talk loudly and make lots of noise too.
As well as triggering a bear encounter by surprising them, bears can also stalk you and charge at you from behind.
Tip 1. Keep your bear spray in a holster attached to your body, on a belt or chest harness, where it’s easily accessible.
If it’s in your backpack, a shelter, or a bike or quad, it may not be near you and can take too much time to grab. And believe me… you will need to get to it in a hurry! The bear spray could be your last line of defense.
Remember! A bear doesn’t want to conflict with you any more than you do with it. But if you end up in a situation where a bear is either charging or approaching you fast, like any survival tool, you need to know how to use it quickly and effectively.
Don’t wait for a crisis… know what to do before it happens!
Tip 2: Make sure you have actual bear spray and not pepper spray, as the bear spray has been designed to use on bears specifically. It may also be helpful, if needed, on other wildlife, like coyotes or mountain lions.
Tip 3: Make sure you check the expiry date. Bear spray is usually good for around 2-3 years. Oh! And don’t spray yourself or your equipment either… it’s not insect repellant!!
Tip 3: Practice drawing the bear spray from its holster like in the western films – without spraying it, of course.
With these tips in mind, here’s what you can do, in 5 steps, if you encounter a bear:
Step 1. Even though your heart may be pounding and have you have feelings of fear, and an adrenaline rush, or serious bowel movements… DO NOT RUN!
Step 2. Remove your bear spray from its holster and take off the safety clip.
Step 3. Keep one hand on the trigger and the other hand holding the canister firmly, as it may kick back a little if you use it. And have it pointing toward the direction of the bear.
Step 4. Back away slowly, avoiding eye contact. Now’s not the time to yell, though, as it’s got a bead on you, so talk to the bear as you’re backing away, in a nice soft, confident voice, something like, “Hey Bear, – I mean you no harm. I don’t taste very nice either. Honest!”
A lot of the time, at this point, the bear will move away and not bother you and not see you as a threat. However, if the bear approaches you or charges, you may need to use your bear spray.
Some brands can be used in a more extended range, depending on the weather and wind. So check and know these details beforehand. Standard sprays are most effective at about 13-16 ft (4-5 meters).
If you spray when the bear is too far away, it will not likely have any effect. And BE PREPARED if there’s a wind blowing towards you too. Some of the bear sprays may come back in your face.
Step 5. When the bear is in range, deploy the spray in 2-second bursts keeping your hands as steady as possible. This step is essential, as you don’t want to keep your finger on the trigger and spray continuously, as you only get around 8 seconds of bear spray in a regular canister and may need to use it again.
Oh! And never buy a bear spray canister that has less than 225 grams in it.
Extra Survival Tip. Aim the spray downwards, ever so slightly below the bear’s face, as a bear tends to lower its head when it’s charging at you.
If you’ve used your bear spray effectively, it will cause the bear to have a temporary loss of sight and some breathing difficulties.
These distractions should give you some time to remove yourself from the area, and retreat the way you came. But remember to keep your spray ready in case the bear comes at you again!
Think like a YoYo Survivor and BE PREPARED in case of a bear encounter. And check out How To Deal With A Moose Encounter too!
I have a love of the great outdoors and have lived in the backcountry for over 15 years. I like to practice and learn general survival skills and get educated on how to prepare for a natural disaster or emergency where my knowledge could save mine and other people's lives.