We all know we should be carrying some form of bear protection when out exploring the backcountry, but how do you know what kind? Keep reading for the 101 on bear spray and bear bangers, what they are, how they should be used and when.
Bear bangers are like a flare, in a capsule the size of a sharpie marker. Bear bangers are a deterrent, its ideal use is when you see a bear in the distance. You set a banger off to scare the bear away from the direction you are traveling. Bangers are not a tool when reacting to an attack or a close encounter because if you set a banger off you could deploy it behind the bear and send him barreling towards you! A bear banger launcher typically looks like a pen that has a safety and a compartment where both bangers and flares are attached and deployed. They should NEVER be carried loaded and should be stored in a cool dry environment.
Bear spray comes in canisters about the size of hair spray cans. Bear Spray is considered a last resort and should only be used for bears during a bear attack. Carry your spray in a holder on your backpack hip belt or on your trouser belt. If you’re biking, you can get holders similar to a water bottle holder to attach onto your frame. Spray kept inside your backpack is useless as there is not enough time to take your bag off, open your bag, find it, pull it out, aim, pull the safety and deploy. If it’s inside your bag you might as well not be carrying spray. Spray should be kept in a cool dry environment. Bear spray is considered a controlled substance in Canada meaning you must be legal age (18+), must have government issued photo I.D, and you must sign a waver, to buy it. Bear spray has an expiry date, this means that the propellant in the can will eventually be lost and your spray won’t spray. Bring your expired or used canisters to your local fire department and they can safely recycle them. DO NOT put them in your blue bins or local recycling depot.
Bear Spray Considerations:
- Do NOT deploy your spray around your camp site as a “protective shield”, this will do NOTHING and will irritate your body as well as other campers
- Do NOT leave your spray in your car, tent, or with your food as they become very hot during the summer in the sun and can be concealed under other items and accidently deployed when sat or jostled
- Bear Spray is a one time use ONLY
- It is considered a weapon and is NOT used for protection in an urban environment or to deal with aggressive dogs in your neighbourhood
- Unknown effectiveness with cougars
- CANNOT be brought across the boarder via. Air, land, or water
How to Use Bear Spray:
- Remove spray from holder and aim
- Pull back safety and spray – create a wall of spray (will only deploy for 8 seconds)
Bears should never deter you from going into the mountains and having a great day or weekend in the outdoors. If there are bears in an area you wanted to visit and you don’t feel comfortable, consider changing locations as there are plenty of trails to explore and enjoy! Make your presence known through sound and leave no trace (garbage). If you do see a bear, respect their space and you both will continue having a great day! I have seen many bears and have never had a close encounter. It’s a humbling and exciting experience witnessing a bear in its home, something I will always cherish about my backcountry experiences.