The Best Bear Spray for Self-defense

Despite bear attacks being relatively rare occurrences, preparing for one can be the difference between life or death–and to be prepared, you need a high-quality bear spray. But what is the best bear spray for self-defense according to outdoor enthusiasts? Keep reading to learn more.

Best Bear Spray

SABRE Frontiersman

Best overall

  • Duration: 5”.
  • Range: 30ft.
Counter Assault

Premium Pick

  • Duration: 7”.
  • Range: 32ft.
Mace Guard Alaska

Best Value

  • Duration: 6”.
  • Range: 35ft.

What Is Bear Spray?

Bear spray is a pressurized aerosol containing capsaicinoids. Capsaicinoids are the compounds in peppers that make your eyes water. In the right concentration, they are powerful enough to stop a charging bear in its tracks–without causing fatalities.

When you deploy bear spray, it establishes a barrier-forming fog that causes the bear’s eyes, nose, and lungs to swell and become irritated. Used correctly, bear spray incapacitates the bear and allows you valuable time to escape.

When to Use Bear Spray

Bear spray should only be used as a last-ditch attempt to prevent an attack from a charging bear; it’s useless for trying to scare the animal away from a distance. You should start spraying when the bear is thirty to sixty feet away, which should be enough time to disable the animal before it attacks.

If the bear is less than twenty feet away, aim the spray directly in its face. Otherwise, spray it ahead of the bear, so it has to run through the cloud to get to you.

How to Use Bear Spray

To use bear spray, pull out the canister and remove the safety clip. Hold it firmly in both hands and aim toward the potential path of the bear at a downward, thirty-degree angle. The objective is to spray it where the bear will have to pass through to attack you so that it receives the full blast of spray.

Then you should spray in one- to two-second bursts in the bear’s path. In some instances, the sound of the spray discharging and the smell of it alone will deter the bear. If it somehow continues through the barrier, aim squarely in the bear’s face until it stops attacking.

Any situation where you need to deploy bear spray will be high-stakes; as such, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the instructions of your spray’s brand. Many manufacturers sell spray bottles meant for practice that release water instead of pepper spray.

What to Look For in a Bear Spray

Here are some features to pay attention to when buying bear spray.


In most scenarios where you need bear spray, you have a short window of time to utilize it. They may not look it, but bears are fast animals that can run over 50 feet per second, so accessibility is critical. If your spray is in your gear, chances are you’ll be under attack before you can get to it.

Because time is of the essence, the best place to store your spray is on a holster on your body. The two most common holster types are belt and chest holsters. The canisters tend to be bulky, so choose the holster type that’s most comfortable for you.

Spray Time

Spray time indicates how long you can spray before the canister empties. As you might imagine, the longer the spray time, the better. This helps account for user error when deploying the device, which is vital since you’re probably not using bear spray regularly.

Having a longer spray time also allows you to get the best protection regardless of variable weather and wind conditions.

Spray Distance

The best way to prevent an attack is to start spraying when the bear is thirty to sixty feet away, which will ensure there is a protective cloud barrier before the bear is too close. The minimum spray distance on the market is fifteen feet, but you should only choose products with at least a twenty-five-foot range.

However, the most superior products have a thirty- to thirty-five-foot spray distance, which can make all the difference in windy conditions.


All bear sprays list the concentration of the active ingredient capsaicin, and the numbers you see will range from one to two percent. Two percent is the maximum concentration allowed, which also allows for maximum effectiveness, so choose a product with this percentage.

Shelf Life

Finally, it’s vital to know the shelf life of a spray before purchasing it. The pressurization in spray cans allows them to achieve long spray distances when they’re activated. However, they lose pressure over time and become less effective. The shelf life tells you how long you can expect excellent results from your bear spray.

Look for something with a shelf life of three to four years, which will last you a few seasons. Pay close attention to the expiration date as well. The can may expire before its shelf life is up, depending on when you buy it.

The Best Bear Sprays for Outdoor Safety

Now let’s take a look at the top three best bear sprays to keep you safe in the wilderness.

SABRE Frontiersman

SABRE is a well-known name in law enforcement, as this brand manufactures pepper sprays specifically for police use. However, their bear spray is different from the pepper sprays that law enforcement uses in that it’s fifty percent more potent–power that is highly effective at stopping black, brown, and polar bears in their tracks.

The 7.9-ounce can has a spray distance of up to thirty feet, and because the deploy mechanism is straightforward, it’s easy to use. Practice canisters are also available so you can get a feel for the spray. SABRE’s bear spray is non-flammable and eco-friendly, with no ozone-depleting chemicals. It has also been extensively field-tested in the wildernesses of Alaska and Montana.

What makes this product stand out is the variety offered. There’s a SABRE bear spray for everyone, thanks to the various versions available. You can purchase it with a chest holster or belt holster, and it also comes in a 9.2-ounce canister.


  • Manufactured in the USA
  • Available in different sizes and holster types
  • Glows in the dark
  • Three-year shelf life


  • May be a bit pricey

Counter Assault

When considering this product from Counter Assault, keep in mind that this company assisted in developing the first-ever bear spray. They’ve been in the game since the ‘80s, and considering their history, the success of their products is hardly a surprise. Counter Assault is also the spray of choice for park rangers and seasoned hikers alike.

This product will allow you to enjoy the great outdoors without fearing a bear attack. The 8.1-ounce can has two percent capsaicin and an excellent spray duration of seven seconds. It reaches an impressive spray distance of thirty-two feet, while the 10.2-ounce can has an even greater range of 40 feet and empties in eight seconds.

Counter Assault’s product has a shelf life of four years, and the leak-proof canister includes a nylon holster. It was also the first bear spray ever to receive EPA approval.


  • Made in the USA
  • Easy to see thanks to the red color and glow-in-the-dark features of the can
  • Long shelf life
  • Meets the Significant New Alternative Policy (SNAP) requirements of the Clean Air Act


  • High price per ounce
  • Some reviewers say it takes two hands to remove it from the holster, which may slow you down a bit

Mace Guard Alaska

Law enforcement prefers the Mace brand when it comes to pepper spray, which should say something about its caliber–and their bear-specific formula is no different. Its excellent spray range (up to thirty-five feet) will keep you safe when exploring the great outdoors. It won’t break the bank, however, which is why it is our Excellent Value pick.

The Mace bear spray features up to six seconds of spray time and three-year shelf life, plus it works in temperatures ranging from 32 to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Additionally, this product is environmentally friendly; it’s even registered with the EPA to avoid adverse effects on wildlife.


  • Orange safety wedge makes the canister easy to identify
  • Long spraying distance
  • Environmentally friendly


  • Doesn’t include a holster


Because your life is literally on the line, choosing the best bear spray is a critical decision. While you can’t go wrong with any of these products, the SABRE bear spray takes our top prize for several reasons.

With different sizes and options for wearing the canister, SABRE makes it easy to keep your bear spray accessible. It’s highly effective against several types of bears, and deploying the device is intuitive–a feature that’s critical when the stakes are high. Though nobody wants to have to use this product, with SABRE, you know that you can incapacitate any bear.

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