Born and raised in bear country, I know very well that coming across a giant fuzz ball in the woods is less of a “if” and more of an “when”. While my encounters have always been trouble free, it’s best to be prepared, just in case. This is what I carry:
Bears and beautiful, amazing creatures, but also creatures to be thoroughly respected. They’re powerful, fast, and will react when provoked. While I do not fear bears and realize that almost all bear encounters end uneventfully, that is never guaranteed. I also have learned over the years that when I do stumble across a bear, it’s never when I expect it. My encounters have happened on and off trails, in the wild and even in cities and at work. There’s nothing quite like stepping out of your car on your morning commute to see a large mamma bear round the corner at the stairs of your office building. These things are unpredictable, but can be accounted and planned for.
While I’ve been lucky and never had to use my bear spray, it’s best to always be prepared with a fast, effective solution that’s also humane. Something that provides reliable protection, without endangering or, hopefully, not inflicting long term harm on the bear. This is why I prefer bear spray. It’s punchy, powerful, but isn’t likely to create and lasting issues for these creatures. Afterall, when we go hiking or camping, we’re visiting their homes. We should treat them with respect and care for them, even when protecting ourselves.
So, a few details on while I prefer this particular deterrent by Frontiersman: For one, it’s easy to use. Pull the pin, point and spray. It has a long (35 foot / 10 meter) wide spray that is almost certain not to miss. The spray lofts in the air and provides a wall of protection for several seconds per burst. Trust me, no one wants something that’s difficult to use when panic sets in and the opposition is moving towards you. So this simple utilization is fundamental.
Second, it’s convenient. It can be slipped into a water bottle pocket, stashed by the front door for late night garbage can runs, or even strapped on with available holsters and mounts. I’ve even saw people adapt them to slide into water bottle mounts on bikes by adding a chunk of fun noodle as a buffer and fit adapter. No matter where you put it, just make sure you can grab it very quickly. Every second matters.
Third, it’s safe to keep around. These cans have a sturdy locking pin that requires a bit of intentionality to remove. I’ve had mine in packs, in tents, in vehicles, and even stuffed into sleeping bags on below freezing nights to prevent freezing, and never once has the locking pin moved at all. Dropping the can isn’t likely to damage it either, which I’ve tested, maybe more than a few times by accident. If it ever does accidentally discharge, no one is going to pay for it with their life either. Safety is key.
Finally, they’re affordable, durable, and lasts for years. At around 49 bucks it is far more effective and affordable than most alternatives. 50 bucks to prevent a bear mauling is rather easy to justify, at least for myself. I actually own three of these at this point and take them with me any time I’m traveling in the woods.
A couple notes? Make sure to carefully choose where you keep your spray, and practice getting to it every time you go out. I can easily reach my bottle pockets while wearing my packs, so I choose to keep them there. But, tucking it inside a backpack? That’s not going to work. It needs to be fast, one hand access to be effective. Consider a hip or chest mount if you are clumsy or can’t find a convenient slot for it. Also, keep it away from fire and sharp objects, clearly. You don’t want your can to pop. It’s also not a bear “deterrent”. The smell will not deter a bear. In fact, the scent is peppery and rather nice after fading, and may in fact attract one. Do not spray your clothes or gear with it. Also, never use this on anything but a bear. It’s highly illegal and you’ll likely do serious harm to a human or dog with it, while also likely going getting you put away for a while.
When it comes to protection, this is what I carry. I’ve been using this product or similar it for as long as I can remember. It does eventually expire, so check the dates on your canister and properly dispose of it, but aside from that, it’s about as close as perfect as it gets.
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