When you hike and go outdoors in Northern America, there is a decent chance to have wildlife encounters. Chances to have a bear encounter are actually quite low, despite what the media and YouTube “Experts” will tell you. But, bears are probably not the biggest concern when you go backcountry hiking. Nonetheless, if you encounter a bear, it can be a very real and dangerous threat depending on the situation. With proper knowledge and equipment, you can minimize the chances of such a situation, but it’s good to have some backup in case things turn ugly. Bear sprays are shown to be the most effective solution to bear threats, even more, effective than firearms for most people; look here if you want to know more. I’ve spent many nights camping and hiking both in Canada and the U.S., backpacking, and sleeping in bear country, and I have both carried guns and bear sprays with me during that time. Time for a review of the best bear sprays for 2020!
So, what are the best bear sprays of 2020? COUNTER ASSAULT BEAR DETERRENT is our choice of the best bear spray for 2020, thanks to the longest spray time and range. Following up are FRONTIERSMAN BEAR SPRAY and RUGER PEPPER BEAR SPRAY.
Best Bear Sprays 2020 Review
#1 – Counter Assault Bear Deterrent: Longest Range and Spraying Time – Overall Winner!
Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Quick Facts
- PRO: 12 – 32 feet range, among the longest
- PRO: 9.2 seconds of spraying time
- PRO: Comes with a good holster
Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Review for 2020
This comes in a size of 9.2 ounces, making it the largest in our test. With this size, it carries enough power to be really prepared in the worst situation. From what we’ve seen so far, this is one of the more popular brands, which is just a good sign that this brand does something right, at least at marketing…
But the facts speak for themselves: Distance with this spray is between 12 and 32 feet, which is enough distance to be safe. Many factors influence how good the distance works out in reality, but an average distance of 22 feet is a very good value!
Duration of spray with this particular spray is very good: You get over 9 seconds of non-stop spray, which means you can put out quite some material when a bear comes to close. Spraying duration is important, as you are most likely in a stressful situation when a bear charges, and you might not be able to get the spray on his face within the first second or two, which makes long spraying duration a definite win!
With this spray, you’ll cover the bear (or other attacking animals…) with lots of active ingredients, even if you completely miss for the first 3 seconds.
The holster is not tactical, but it works and keeps the can in reach without being annoying.
Best Spray we reviewed for 2020, with plenty of spraying duration and an enormous range this capsaicin lancet will work well in any situation!
#2 – Frontiersman Bear Spray: Insane Range and Backed By Studies
Frontiersman Bear Spray Quick Facts
- PRO: Up to 35 feet of range
- PRO: Long spraying time
- CON: No included holster
Frontiersman Bear Spray Review for 2020
Frontiersman has been a staple in any outdoor store in the bear country anywhere in North America. They’re still producing the same formula they have been producing for the last 10 years, and the spray is a super reliable product.
Among the available sprays, this one has a very high content of capsaicin, the active ingredient in bear and animal deterrents. It comes with 2%, making it one of the strongest available spray – but keep in mind all of our top listed sprays contain 2%!. This product actually has university studies backing up its effectiveness and has been field tests in Alaska and Montana.
The best feature of this spray is the enormous range: Some sprays cannot even reach 20 feet, but this spray has reported distances of more than 30 feet – WOW!
The biggest downside and reason why this spray doesn’t hold the top position is the fact that the holster has to be bought extra. Other manufacturers ship their spray with a holster for the same price. That being said, there is an optional chest and belt holster version, which is more expensive, but the holsters work and are of good quality!
Frontiersman comes in two sizes: 7.9 ounces and 9.2 ounces, as the 7.9 ounces version only reaches 30 feet distance, we recommend: Stick with the 9.2 ounces can!
Frontiersman Bear Spray in 2020 is still a field-tested and proven product. It will deter bears from a safe distance, and if you buy the more expensive holstered version, it is also very practical. A well deserved Nr. 2 on our list!
#3 – Ruger Tornado Bear Spray: Long Spray Time, Small Bottle, No Holster
Ruger Tornado Bear Spray Quick Facts
- PRO: Up to 9 seconds of spraying time
- PRO: Fog cloud spraying pattern is easy to use
- CON: No included holster
- CON: Short distance of ~ 20 feet
Ruger Tornado Bear Spray Review for 2020
In 2020 we have Ruger with a bear spray they manufacture. Ruger is a producer of firearms and ammunition, and this bear spray works super well on mammals and bears.
Since this spray only delivers 20 feet of distance, you will get less range than our Nr.1 and Nr.2 picks, but the spray delivers its material in the same easy to use cloudy fog pattern, so you don’t have to worry about aiming.
What this spray excels in is spraying time: Out of the 9-ounce canister, you get a full 10 seconds of spraying. This means you deliver less fluid per second than from the Frontiersman or Counter Assault model, but have more time to aim. And the canister is very light!
But the Ruger spray has no included holster, so that’s kind of a bummer, but the many available aftermarket holsters work all great!
Best For: Long spray time in a smaller bottle – just don’t forget to pick up a good holster!
Rugers Bear Spray delivers an easy to handle pattern and comes in a smaller can. If you can live with the short-range and want to buy your own holster anyway, this spray is a good fit!
#4 – Udap Bear Spray Safety Orange: Customizable but Short Distance
Udap Bear Spray Quick Facts
- PRO: 4 Different holster colors
- PRO: Developed by bear attack survivor
- CON: No included holster
- CON: Short distance of ~ 20 feet
Udap Bear Spray Review for 2020
From all the products we have tested, it’s kind of a surprise to find customizable bear spray.
Udap makes a customizable bear spray as the holster is unique and can be modified with different colors available!
While the colors are fancy, we had a hard time verifying some of the bolder statements of the brand like the “most trusted bear spray brand.”
From what we know and could also verify with other reports, the range is pretty decent, with 30 feet as being reported and seen.
The overall feel of the canister is good; the holsters are sturdy and well though-of. They do feel a little bit more expensive than the other holsters of our test candidates. A drawback of the semi-open holster design could be the tendency of the canister to fall out if you go upside down or tumble. Keep that in mind!
If you like fancy colors and can live with the semi-open holster, Udap is a good choice with decent range and high capsaicin content.
#5 – Alaska Bear Spray: The Cheapest Bear Spray
Alaska Bear Spray Quick Facts
- PRO: Cheap
- PRO: Same size as more expensive sprays
- CON: No information about spray length
Alaska Bear Spray Review for 2020
Alaska Bear Spray is a very affordable spray that comes with a holster, and we liked that.
There is nothing special about this spray except for the fact that it’s cheaper than most of the other brands in this test.
Since it’s cheaper, it’s not a big surprise that the velcro and holster feel a little cheaper and less robust too. On the other hand, in the test, they didn’t give us any trouble, so I guess they might feel subjectively less quality, but they objectively did a good job.
We couldn’t find any reports of spray duration, nor does the company release this information. We are very confident to assume, though, that this spray is going to last for around 3-10 seconds, depending on the fog thickness – it’s a 9 ounce can, and that’s what we tested in the past for cans this size.
Alaska produces a good bear spray with an even better price point, that does not excel in any aspect but is our best value bear spray for 2020
Bear Spray Information Before You Buy
We collected some interesting knowledge and information about bear sprays. This is what you must know, and it will help you to make an informed decision when you buy. Combine it with our test, and you will get the right bear spray for your situation and needs.
Holsters and Positioning
Besides not bringing a bear spray in the first place, the next big mistake most newbie hikers make is to stuff the bear spray into their backpack. You probably guessed it: If you pack your bear spray into the backpack, you can as well leave it at home. Rarely will you be in an emergency situation where you have time to open your backpack and search for your bear spray among sandwiches and other items.
It’s vital to have the bear spray with you at all times. And unless you have the bear spray in a holster on your belt or chest, this is not the case.
If you have another option to carry it, fine, but make sure you have it within hands reach anytime. The easiest way is to carry it in a holster, like with any self-defense item.
And that’s why it’s crucial that the holster is at least well designed enough for you to use it – otherwise, you will just stuff it inside your backpack again.
A good holster for bear spray should have these features:
- Accessible located where you can reach for it easily
- Room for attachment
- Tough material, durable
- Allow you to open it in a stress situation, i.e., with clumsy fingers
A good holster makes the user carry it at the hip, chest, or other open locations. It also needs to enclose the bear spray in a way that it cannot easily fall out while you hike. And you need to be able to open when you’re under pressure, so practice this beforehand!
All bear sprays I know of have only one main ingredient, Capsaicin. It is extracted from chili peppers, and it works by heavily attacking a bears’ eyesight and smelling sense.
While it is not damaging the bear, permanently, it basically robs them of their vision, smell, and taste senses for a while.
The bear reacts to this with mucus and tears running from their eyes, and it’s very painful. Watering, sneezing, and growling will follow, and then the bear will try to escape. Escape is the natural reaction to this unknown pain and sensation, as the bear relies on vision and sense of smell to attack and defend itself, and robbed of this sense, it will go into flight mode.
By the way, the bear spray works on most mammals, including humans, so make sure to not accidentally spray yourself or friends and family if you use it! The higher the concentration, the worse the effect on the target.
Don’t aim into the wind, or you will suffer yourself! The highest allowed content of capsaicin in animal deterrent sprays is 2%, and there is no real benefit from going higher than this. IF you deploy the spray into the bear’s face, it will be more than enough to scare him away and disable him for a while. But you should then try to get away and alert someone, as the bear might come back later.
If you want to see how effective bear spray is check out this video:
Most people who use bear spray reported it to be more effective than firearms, and if you like to know more about bear attack ins general, check out this article!
The distance of the Spray
The distance you can effectively use a spray is one of the features that’s most important. Not all sprays are made equal, and distance is one of the governing factors.
How far the spray will spray in reality is also influenced by wind and your aiming accuracy. Believe us when we say: It’s very easy to miss a target if you are chased by it.
If you want to stop a bear, every foot of distance counts! In terms of distance, this is how the tested spray ranked:
- Frontiersman Bear Spray: 35+ feet
- Counter Assault Bear Spray: 32+ feet
- Guard Alaska Bear Spray: 20 feet
- Udap Bear Spray: 20 feet
- Ruger Tornado Bear Spray: 20 feet
If you only care about raw distance, Frontiersman Bear Spray is still the number one brand to buy!
Spraying yourself with bear spray is bad, and if it happens to you while you are in an encounter with a bear, this could be fatal. So be careful when you use bear spray, and never spray against the wind or on other hikers!
The bear spray brands we reviewed here come with safety caps and rings to avoid discharging it accidentally. And Frontiersman and Counter Assault ships their sprays with a glow-in-the-dark plastic safety cap that enables you to use it even without a flashlight at night!
A Safety Note
Bear spray is your last resort to deter a bear attack. It’s not a replacement for correct education about bears and the right practices when hiking backcountry.
And the fact that you carry bear spray does not make you and a bear equal opponents. Bear spray will deter a bear for a while, but after that, it might come back. And bear spray runs out at some point, so I recommend to do the best to avoid bear encounters.
Keep food packaged in bear canisters, and follow guidelines to avoid bear encounters. Wilderness courses like Wilderness First Aid or Wilderness First Responder teach you the basics needed!
How high are the chances to encounter a bear?
According to this study, the following chances exist to encounter a bear
- Remain in developed areas, roadsides, and boardwalks: 1 in 59.5 million visits
- Camp in roadside campgrounds: 1 in 26.6 million overnight stays
- Camp in the backcountry: 1 in 1.7 million overnight stays
- Hike in the backcountry: 1 in 232,613 person travel days
- All park activities combined: 1 in 2.7 million visits
Can I defend myself in a bear attack with a gun?
Yes, you can try. However, unless you have a VERY large caliber gun(Cal. 50 and above) and are trained to shoot and kill under high pressure, you are better off with a bear spray.
There are many records of bears surviving multiple rounds of large caliber handgun rounds to the head, so don’t count on headshots stopping a bear. If you want to know more, read this article.
Can I attach my bear spray to my backpack?
Sure, as long as it’s accessible! If you have to fumble while grabbing for it, that’s not a good way to carry it.
Is it good to test a bear spray?
I wouldn’t do it unless it’s old. And in that case, I would probably buy a new one. If you test it, be super careful to wash your hands afterward, or you will be in for a bad surprise!
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