A must-have for campers and hikers who plan to venture into bear territory? A quality bear deterrent spray, also known as simply bear sprays.
Upon contact, a bear spray causes the membranes of the eyes, nose, and lungs of a bear to engorge, resulting in a temporary loss of sight, restriction of breathing and a painful burning sensation - enabling you to make a quick retreat!
This self-defense essential can be the key to your safety and survival, helping you stop a charging bear and prevent a full-on bear attack. That is exactly why we think every hiker should pack a canister when hitting the trails.
In a hurry? Here’s the test winner after 10 hours of research:
5 Best Bear Sprays - Overview
With so many options on the market, it can be a challenge to determine which bear deterrents are worth the money. This is where our Best Bear Spray Overview offers a solution. Our experts have bundled the top-rated, high-quality and very potent bear sprays in one, handy overview. This helps you save time and effort, instantly navigating you towards the best-value bear sprays readily available via Amazon.
We've also included a quick Bear Spray FAQ at the end of our product review, as we think it's important to understand the basics of this self-defense essential. For example, what is the difference between bear spray and regular pepper sprays; what are capsaicinoids; and when to use a bear spray to deter or defend from a bear attack. We advise you to quickly review this Bear Spray FAQ, as it helps you make a well-informed choice in the best bear deterrents.
Our top-rated Best Bear Sprays are:
- UDAP Bear Spray
- Guard Alaska Bear Spray
- Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray
- Counter Assault Bear Repellent Spray
- Mace Maximum Strength Bear Pepper Spray
Discover our Best Bear Spray Overview, and our handy Bear Spray FAQ at the end, and invest in your safety by stocking up on this bear territory must-have!
1. UDAP Bear Spray Safety Orange with Holster
Let's start with the original bear spray: UDAP. Developed by Grizzly bear-attack survivor Mark Matheny in the 1990s, UDAP Bear Spray has been a firm best-seller for nearly 3 decades. The potent spray is known for immediately affecting the bear's eyes, nose, and mouth - effectively halting a charging attack instantly. The non-flammable deterrent works on all bear species and is trialed and tested by many hikers, as confirmed by lots of 5-star Amazon reviews.
The UDAP #12SO Bear Spray contains the maximum concentration of capsicum extract: 2% Major Capsaicinoids. This means that though it's one of the strongest sprays on the market, it's still within EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) guidelines. This original bear deterrent has a 30-foot range of dispersion with a shotgun blast pattern. The canister measures 8.5 x 2 inches and has a net content of 7.9 oz / 225 g.
Griz Guard Holster
The potent UDAP Bear Spray is available with various add-ons, such as the Griz Guard Holster. This holster makes your bear spray instantly accessible, and easily clips on to your backpack or hiking gear. This accessory has a special 'Shoot from the holster design', meaning you don't even have to remove the canister in situations where every second counts.
Any cons? Well, be careful when removing the cap lock as there is a minor risk of inadvertently tripping the trigger. Also, the entire canister is dispersed in just 5 seconds, which is a bit on the low side and means you'll have to aim quickly and precisely, which can be a challenge in moments of panic. That said, those are pretty much the only cons, and with overwhelmingly positive feedback from outdoor enthusiasts, this classic and original bear spray is just as effective today - as it was when first released in the 1990s.
2. Guard Alaska Bear Spray with Nylon Holster
- EFFECTIVE BEAR PROTECTION - Includes ONE (1) Guard Alaska 9 oz. bear repellent spray canister and ONE (1) Pepper Enforcement metal belt clip holster
One of the most affordable bear deterrents on the market, Guard Alaska Bear Spray is a budget-friendly choice with a long 4-year shelf life. The Guard Alaska Bear Spray can be used on all bear species and comes in a lightweight 9oz canister. The affordable spray also includes a free nylon holster with velcro closure and belt loop; adding to its portability.
The Guard Alaska Bear Spray contains a 1.34% concentration of capsaicinoids. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) recommends bear deterrents to contain a minimum of 1% capsaicinoids/capsicum, so though the Guard Alaska Bear Spray is less potent than the 2% of UDAP's spray, 1.34% is still potent enough to act effectively as a deterrent. This bear spray by Guard Alaska has an impressive 9-second spray duration and measures approximately 8.75 x 2 inches.
6 years of quality testing
Another reason we rate this product as one of the best bear sprays on the market is its endorsement by the Alaska Science & Technology Foundation. This product underwent 6 years of intensive testing in the Alaskan wilderness, ensuring it lives up to any challenge, posed by any bear species. Though its 15-20 feet delivery range isn't as much as competing brands, the seal of approval by both the EPA and the Alaska Science & Technology Foundation makes us confident that at close range this spray is strong, effective, and easy to use.
3. Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray
- MAXIMUM STOPPING POWER: The only bear spray with an in-house HPLC lab to guarantee maximum strength (50% stronger than police strength pepper spray) and eliminate the 30% fail rate experienced by...
Another top-rated favorite amongst outdoor enthusiasts is the Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray. This easy-to-use spray is praised for its great accuracy and simple aim and has been extensively quality-tested by the manufacturer to ensure maximum deterring power. The Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray is available in a 7.9 oz and 9.2 oz canister and can be ordered with various accessories such as a chest holster, belt holster, and even a training practice spray to learn how to handle the deterrent.
The Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray contains the maximum allowed dosage of major capsaicinoids, as determined by the EPA: 2.0%. This means it is a maximum strength spray with a strong, potent effect when dispersed. According to Amazon reviews and experts, the Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray emits a heavy fog of 1.58 oz per 1-second burst, enabling you to quickly create a protective barrier between you and a charging bear ready to attack. The 9.2 oz sizing of this bear spray offers 5 seconds of continuous spray, with a spray range of approximately 35 feet.
Effective against all bear species
The Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray has been tested during development at various locations, as comes with the seal of approval by the Elmendorf Air Force Base (Elmendorf, AK) and Brown Bear Resources (Missoula, MT); confirming its an effective deterrent against most bear species, including black, brown and polar bears.
4. Counter Assault Bear Repellent Spray
- FARTHEST REACHING BEAR REPELLENT - Counter Assault is the industry leader in bear repellent spray and is the farthest reaching bear spray on the market today - It’s effective up to 32 feet! “When...
Counter Assault is another highly-regarded brand in bear deterrent sprays. Just like UDAP, Counter Assault was one of the first brands to transform and adapt pepper sprays into high-quality bear deterrents, and the company has over 30 years of experience in the industry.
All the Counter Assault products, including its popular Bear Repellent Spray, are extensive quality-tested before release. The products have been trialed and tested by renowned scientific institutes, including Cambridge University, the University of Calgary, and the University Montana; the state where Counter Assult was founded in 1986. This means that when you pack a canister of Counter Assault Bear Repellent Spray on your trails, you know you're making a well-informed choice that gets the thumbs up from both scientists, the EPA, and other outdoor enthusiasts.
The Counter Assault Bear Repellent Spray is available in an 8.1 oz packaging, and a 10.2 oz sizing. We prefer the 10.2 oz size, as listed in this product review. Why? Because this spray has a range of 40-feet, which it can reach in approximately 9.2 seconds. This means that when a bear is charging at you at high speeds, Counter Assault has the needed performance to timely create a protective barrier. To compare, the Guard Alaska Bear Spray (as listed previously) has a range of 15-20 feet, meaning Counter Assault's spray is nearly double as effective.
The Counter Assault Bear Spray offers contains the maximum 2% capsaicinoid content, meaning maximum strength. The 10.2 oz canister offers 8 seconds of continuous spray, which also exceeds many of the competing brands. According to the manufacturer, the formula works on all species of bear, including polar bears.
4-year shelf life
Another perk is that the Counter Assault Bear Spray has a 4-year shelf life, meaning you have to replace it less often when not used. The Counter Assault bear spray also meets all EPA requirements for the Significant New Alternative Policy (S.N.A.P) of the clean air act regarding ozone-depleting substances - making it also less impactful on the environment. Protective towards you, non-harmful to bears, and kind on the environment? That sounds like a win-win to us.
Do note that the 10.2 oz canister of Counter Assault Bear is slightly larger than others on this list, measuring 9.9 x 2.5 - making it a bit bulkier to carry around. On the plus side, a handy holster is included with your purchase.
5. Mace Maximum Strength Bear Pepper Spray
The Mace Maximum Strength Bear Pepper Spray is made by a trusted brand in self-defense products. Besides this high-quality bear spray, Mace also produces pepper sprays, personal alarms, stun guns, and pepper gels - making it an expert in solutions to effectively ward off aggressors, whether they are humans or animals. That is why many hikers swear by Mace, rating it as one of the best bear sprays on the market.
The 9 oz Mace Bear Pepper Spray has an EPA approved formula containing the maximum 2.0% capsaicinoid concentration, creating a powerful blast of prickly heat to stop a bear in its tracks. The spray has a range of up to 35 feet, similar to other high-end brands. The fog spray duration of the Mace Bear Pepper Spray is about 5-6 seconds, not as long as some other products, but more than sufficient to deflect from a bear attack.
Easy to disperse in seconds
The Mace's Bear Spray features a finger loop handle with safety clip design. To use, simply pull off the orange safety wedge on the top of the grip and get ready to spray the bear by pressing down on the actuator button on the top of the ergonomic handgrip. The spray has a shelf life of 3-years from the date of manufacturing.
A minor con is that the 9 oz canister of Mace Bear Pepper Spray, as listed on Amazon, does not include a holster. Mace does have a matching holster available, but you'll need to purchase this separately - making the product slightly less cost-effective. That said, overall the Mace Bear Pepper Spray is still a great deal considering its ample 35-feet spray range and generous 9 oz content, so it may not be the best value choice on the market, but it's still more than worth the inclusion on this overview.
If you're venturing into bear country, a bear spray can truly be the difference between life and death. Yes, we know that sounds dramatic, but that doesn't make it less true.
According to research, statistics, and actual testimonials of hikers, approximately 98% of persons using the bear spray at close-range encounters escaped uninjured. This means that though a bear spray is a guarantee to ward off a bear attack, it certainly helps reduce the risk drastically. That is exactly why every hiker, hunter, camper, and/or backpacker planning a trip to bear territories should invest in one of the quality Best Bear Sprays listed in this overview.
Counter Assault Bear Repellent Spray may tick the box. Perhaps spray duration is more important to you, for which the 9-seconds of the Guard Alaska Bear Spray could be 'the best' match. Or maybe you prefer a spray that quickly creates a heavy fog. Then the 1.58 oz per 1-second dispersion ability of Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray could be a better match. You can also consider shelf-life, price, weight, dimension, and the inclusion of a carrying holster as buying factors.
Rest assured, all 5 products in this Best Bear Spray overview are worth your time, money, and attention - and all have the quality standards to effectively ward off charging bears. We've ensured each product comes with full EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) approval, ensuring that though deterrent, it will not harm or hurt the bear permanently.
Though bear attacks are relatively rare, they do happen. Which is why we advise you to prepare for the worst, by investing in the best bear spray for your needs. Trust us: venturing into bear country without bear spray is a risk no adventurer should want to take.
If we had to pick a favorite, we'd probably settle on the Counter Assault Bear Spray. Why? Because it's packed with deterring potential. The formula contains the maximum dosage of 2.0% capsicum (as determined by the EPA standards), making it potent and powerful in the 'heat' of the moment.
The spray is available in two sizes, 8.1 oz, and 10.2 oz, though we'd favor the 10.2 oz canister because of its extra-long 9.2-second spray duration and extra-far 40-feet spray range. Plus, it's 4-year shelf life is also one of the longest when compared to competing brands, making it more cost-effective in the long-term (providing you don't use it).
That said, every bear spray on this overview is EPA-approved and contains the needed dose of capsicum extract to act as an effective bear deterrent. So, whichever bear spray works for best you, we're confident it will be a life-saver during any aggressive bear encounter in the backcountry or bear territory!
Bear sprays FAQ
What is a bear spray?
A bear spray is a general term for a deterrent spray that contains capsicum, a genus of flowering plants in the nightshade family. Capsicum contains capsaicin, a lipophilic chemical that can produce a burning sensation when it comes in contact with sensitive membranes such as the eyes and mouth. Bear sprays, pepper sprays, and other spray canisters for self-defense contain an aerosol extract of capsaicin/capsicum - effectively warding off aggressors when dispersed.
The original bear spray
The first bear spray was developed in the 1990s by Mark Matheny, a longbow hunting enthusiast. Together with his hunting buddy Fred Bahnson, Matheny ventured northwest of Yellowstone National Park, straight into the path of a mother Grizzly bear and her young cubs. The Grizzly bear charged at Matheny and Bahnson, launching an instant bear attack. The thing that saved both from being mauled to death? A canister of pepper spray called "Karate In A Can". Only weeks before their ordeal in Yellowstone, Bahnson has read about other hunters and hikers using pepper spray to defend from bear attacks, and has brought a canister 'just in case'. During the attack, Bahnson, hit the charging grizzly approximately 10 feet away in the mouth and nose with the nearly the full 4 oz. can of pepper spray. The bear gasped and choked, and veered off into the woods, enabling both men to make a hasty escape.
After this life-changing experience, Matheny set out to create a type of pepper spray that would hang in the air longer, aimed at deterring bears from charging and launching an attack - instead of merely acting as a defense spray during the attack. The result was the first-ever 'bear spray' UDAP, which featured a carrying holster and a glow-in-the-dark safety clip, ensuring the spray canister would always be within reach and could be easily located at all times. Many brand model their bear sprays on this original, as it's proven to be a winning formula to keep hikers safe when venturing into bear territories.
What is the difference between a bear spray and a pepper spray?
Bear sprays and pepper sprays are quite similar, as both contain capsicum as the main active ingredients. However, the difference is that bear spray contains has a lower concentration of capsicum and capsaicinoids, with an average concentration of 1-2%.
This can seem a tad strange... Because shouldn't a bear spray be more potent and strong than regular pepper spray, as bears are larger and stronger than human aggressors? No, because the purpose of a bear spray is different. By using a pepper spray, you aim to completely incapacitate your attacker. By using a bear spray, you want to scare off a bear - preventing an actual bear attack. That is why bear spray is also known as a bear deterrent: you're deterring a charging bear from actually engaging in an attack - without actually harming it or causing it pain.
To prevent harm to bears, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set the maximum content of capsicum in a bear spray at 2%. This means that most commercially-available bear sprays range in strength from 1% to 2% CRC (capsicum and/or capsaicinoids) content. The higher the percentage, the stronger the spray. As a general rule of thumb, always look for a spray that has a minimum CRC content of 1% to make it potent enough to deter bear attacks quickly.
How to use a bear spray
Firstly, it's important to understand that bear spray should only be used as a final, last resort. When venturing into bear country, take your normal precautions to reduce the risk of a bear attack, such as making excessive noise to avoid surprising a bear. However, if you do find yourself in the path of a charging bear, these are the steps recommend when using bear spray:
- Remove the bear spray canister from the holster before removing the safety clip to avoid any accidental discharge
- If possible, move upwind to reduce the risk of being caught and/or affected by the dispersion of the bear spray
- Grip the cannister with both hands, steadily your aim
- Wait until the bear is within the correct range before discharging/firing the spray. Yes, we know this sounds frightening, but if you disperse when the bear is still a distance, it simply won't be as effective. The correct range at which a bear spray is most potent should always be mentioned on the canister's label or in its user manual, so be sure to check this before setting off on a hike. On average, most bear sprays have a range of 20-50 feet.
- When you're actively discharging the spray, try to form a 'cloud' or imaginary barrier between you/your group and the charging bear. The aim is to obstruct the bear's path as much as possible with a deterrent.
- If the bear is not deterred yet, aim the spray at the bear's face and keep dispersing
- Once the bear stops its charge, retreat quickly yet cautiously.
Disclaimer: these are general tips as listed by other experts online, and serve as a guideline - not a guarantee to ward off a charging bear attack with bear spray. We do recommend you to consult other online resources on how what other precautions to take when venturing into bear country, how to react when you encounter bears, and how to properly retreat.
Are there any restrictions on using bear spray?
Yes! When you're planning a trip to bear country, always double-check what the local authority or National Parks Service says about the usage of bear spray in the area. There is a surprising difference in legal status from one area to another. For example, you're not even allowed to carry a bear spray when entering Yosemite National Park. Whilst in other bear country areas, such as the Banff Canada, hiking with a bear spray is mandatory.
The reason bear sprays are prohibited in certain bear areas is often relevant to the high-traffic of hikers, campers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. For example: using bear spray on a popular trail can also cause discomfort and health issues to other hikers accidentally caught in the whiff of your spray.
This discrepancy in regulations on using bear deterrents can be quite confusing. Fortunately, online resources such as the National Park Service can provide quick info on the specific regulations for certain areas - and we recommend you to check the legal requirements before you set off on any hiking or backpacking adventure into bear country.