Two hikers with bear spray in front of mountains

What You Need to Know About Bear Spray

Counter Assault Bear Spray with Holster

40-Foot Bear Spray + Holster

A training canister and a Counter Assault bear deterrent spray with holster

32-Foot Spray & Training Canister + Holster

2 Counter Assault bear deterrent spray with holster

40-Foot & 32-Foot Sprays + Holsters

Counter Assault bear deterrent spray with holster

32-Foot Bear Spray + Holster


Bear Safety

How can I avoid bear encounters?

Bear spray is not a substitute for vigilance or following proper safety precautions. Avoid hiking at dusk or dawn when bears are most active. Hike in groups and make noise (like calling out in non-threatening tones to alert bears of your presence), especially when going around blind corners. Be aware of your surroundings. Take proper food storage precautions, like using the Counter Assault Bear Keg. Stay on established trails.


How do I keep bears away from camp?

Eat and prepare food at least 100 yards from camp. Use a bear-resistant container like the Counter Assault Bear Keg. Store all odorous items in the container when not in use such as food and toiletries. Store the bear keg at least 100 yards from camp on the ground hidden in brush, if possible. Keep the canister closed and locked, even when you are near your campsite.


What do I do if I encounter a grizzly bear?

Talk calmly, do not make eye contact and back away slowly at a diagonal angle. Do not run or scream or yell. Wave your arms and make yourself seem as large as possible. Many times, bears will stand up on their hind legs as a sign of curiosity, rather than a defensive move. Usually if a grizzly bluff charges you, it is trying to scare you away. Stand your ground and talk to the bear in a monotone voice so it knows you are friendly. Get your bear spray out and remove the safety lock. If the bear turns away and retreats, continue to back away.


What do I do if a grizzly bear attacks?

Your primary line of defense should always be your bear spray. In the unlikely event of a bear attack, play dead. Wait until the bear is almost on top of you before dropping to the ground. Lie flat on your stomach with your hands linked behind your neck. Spread your legs and elbows to stop the bear from flipping you over. Try to stay calm until the attack subsides. Engaging in a physical struggle typically escalates the aggression. A defensive bear will typically retreat once it perceives the threat is gone. Remember that these steps apply specifically to defensive attacks by grizzly bears. If it's a predatory attack (the bear sees you as prey), fight back vigorously using any available objects or your body. Predatory attacks are extremely rare but require a different response.


What do I do if I encounter a black bear?

Try to remain as calm as possible. Do not run. Avoid eye contact. Speak to the bear in a calm, firm voice which lets the bear know you are human and not a prey animal. While facing the bear, slowly back away without turning your back on it. Make yourself look as big as possible by raising your arms and standing on your tiptoes if you can. Do not corner the bear. Get your bear spray out and remove the safety lock.


What do I do if a black bear attacks?

Your primary line of defense should always be your bear spray. If a black bear attacks you, it's crucial to fight back using any available objects (like rocks or sticks) and focus your blows on the bear's face, eyes, and nose. Playing dead is not recommended for black bear encounters. Shout loudly, scream, and make as much noise as possible. This can help deter the bear and alert others to your presence. Try to stay on your feet if possible. Being on the ground makes you more vulnerable to serious injuries.


How does bear spray affect a bear?

Quality bear spray disables a bear’s senses, distracting it from the charge.  The bear will have trouble inhaling and exhaling deeply which it needs in a charging situation.  It irritates and inflames the bear’s nasal passage, mouth, throat, and lungs causing the bear to choke and sneeze, its eyes to water, its ears to ring, and mouth to salivate causing disorientation.


Bear Spray

Is all bear spray created equal?

"No, bear sprays are not all equal," says Chuck Bartlebaugh, Executive Director of the Be Bear Aware Campaign. He recommends bear sprays with the maximum level of capsaicin and related capsaicinoids of 2%, at least 7-8 seconds of spray duration, and 30-40 feet of spray distance. Counter Assault bear spray is formulated to provide additional time and spray distance to compensate for windy conditions, accidentally spraying too high, or more than one charging bear.


When should I deploy my bear spray?

Bear spray is only to be used as a last resort. The situations when you should use your spray are 1) when a bear is actively charging you, or 2) showing signs of aggression as if it is going to charge you. This could include making loud noises, huffing, growling, or displaying other aggressive behavior. If the bear is clearly agitated and not leaving the area, it is time to think about using bear spray. It is not to be used when you see a non-threatening bear in the wild. If you see a bear, most times there will not be a conflict and you should be able to slowly back away and remove yourself from the situation.

If a bear is charging you, hold the can firmly and remove the safety clip by placing your thumb in front of the clip and pulling back. Press the trigger and direct the spray cloud downward at the front of the bear. Continue spraying until the bear diverts its charge. If a bear is charging from within….

- 60 feet, spray 30-40 feet in front of you. The bear will meet the cloud almost simultaneously at that point.

- 30 feet, spray downward at the front of the bear until it diverts its charge.

- 15 feet, try to spray the bear but be ready to lie face down on the ground, protecting the back of your neck while holding the can and randomly spraying the area.


How to use bear spray from Counter Assault:

To arm, remove the safety clip, point in the direction of the charging bear, and squeeze the trigger. To disarm, put the safety clip back onto the trigger in the same fashion and push in until the clicks stop. 


Do I need to aim my bear spray?

No, do not aim. Aiming takes too much time and means you are waiting to be close enough to aim at the bear’s face. The expanding cloud is designed to reach the bear at a distance so it has time to divert its charge before it comes into contact with you. Deploy your bear spray at the charging bear and the bear should hit the cloud before it reaches you.


How will wind affect bear spray effectiveness?

Wind can be an issue, but it is not usually a big issue. Conflicts with bears most often do not occur in windy conditions because most attacks happen when people surprise bears in densely wooded areas. Bears do not like to hang around in areas where the wind is strong because they are unable to smell what is around them. Even if the wind is blowing, bear spray is designed to saturate the area and in almost all cases, the bear spray will reach the target. In a 2008 study in the Journal of Wildlife Management, a sample of bear spray incidents were analyzed from 1985 to 2006, in only 7% of the cases, wind was reported to have interfered with accuracy, although it reached the bear in ALL cases. Of all people carrying sprays, 98% of people were uninjured in close-range encounters.That being said, wind should be taken into consideration when deploying bear spray. Attempts should be made to adjust your spray angle so it drifts in front of the bear’s path. Bear sprays with longer spray durations allow additional time to make adjustments.


How will cold temperatures affect my bear spray?

Cold temperatures can affect bear spray’s range and speed of deployment, which is why Counter Assault includes additional chemicals to compensate for cold weather. In one study, bear spray only stopped working functionally at -65°F. While the range may drop in extreme cold, it still will work. In the same study, bear spray still deployed at about half the expected range at -9°F. If you are adventuring in cold weather, keep your bear spray warm by storing it close to the body in your clothing in an easily accessible pocket. While camping in the cold, keep the can inside a tent or inside your sleeping bag. To make sure the ingredients are not separated due to temperature fluctuations, shake the can before use.


Do guns work better than bear spray?

Unlike a gun, bear spray does not have to be aimed precisely to stop a charging bear. Use of bear spray has been proven as the best method for fending off a bear and preventing injury to the person and animal involved. Shooting a bear can increase the seriousness of an attack, making the bear more angry depending where the bullet lands. Even the most experienced marksman may not be able to aim accurately enough when in the face of a fast-moving charging bear. In a 2008 study, bear spray was 90% effective with 98% unharmed by the bear. Firearms were 84% effective in stopping the bear from attacking but the injury rates on the person were the same whether they had a firearm or not. When trying to decide on guns vs. bear spray, bear spray will give you the best chance of escaping a negative bear encounter without injury.


What is the difference between bear spray and pepper spray?

Is bear spray the same as pepper spray? No, bear spray and self-defense pepper spray have some key differences. It is illegal to deploy bear spray against humans. Bear spray is specifically designed to deter bears in the event of an encounter. Bear spray is formulated to have a longer range (Counter Assault Bear Spray can reach up to 40 feet) than pepper spray (designed to only reach about 10 feet). Most pepper sprays have a lower concentration of capsaicin, the active ingredient in both products, while Counter Assault has the maximum allowed at 2%. Pepper spray designed for self defense will not have the power or distance to deter a bear and they are not interchangeable.


How do I safely transport bear spray?

If traveling by car, secure your bear spray safely in a glove box or designated storage area and do not pack items on top of it to prevent accidental discharge. Do not leave your bear spray in your car for extended periods of time in extreme temperatures. The Counter Assault Kozee-Tote Bear Spray Carrier is a great option to keep you bear spray safe from accidental discharge when traveling in vehicles, boats and non-commercial aircraft. Bear spray is not allowed on commercial flights in either your checked or carry-on luggage.


How should I carry bear spray?

You should carry your bear spray in a readily accessible location, ideally on your person. The recommended way to carry bear spray is in a dedicated quick-draw holster attached to the front of you – like on your belt, waistband, or chest. This ensures quick and easy access in case of an encounter with a bear. Avoid storing it inside a backpack or in a location that would be difficult to reach in an emergency situation. Remember, the key is to have it readily available so you can deploy it quickly if needed.


What should I do if I get bear spray on my skin, in my eyes or on my gear?

Stay calm and avoid rubbing or spreading the spray. Move to an area with fresh air as soon as possible. Major effects of bear spray should subside within 30-45 minutes.

In eyes – Do not rub your eyes. Remove contact lenses as soon as possible. Turn your head and pour a gentle stream of cool water over your eyes and continue flushing for 15-20 minutes. Blinking frequently can help wash the spray out of your eyes.

On skin – Remove contaminated clothing immediately. Flush bear spray exposed areas with water and use dish soap if available. Capsaicins are oil-based and not very water soluble so using a soap that can remove grease can help. Vegetable oil can also be used to pick up the capsaicin oil and then washed off. Continue washing and rinsing any exposed area for at least 15-20 minutes. Avoid hot water as it can increase absorption.

On clothing – Remove clothing and handle with care. Do not rub or scrub the clothing as it can spread the residue. Air out the clothing in fresh air then wash separately and thoroughly with a strong detergent, using the hottest water temperature possible. Do not use bleach. Double rinse and air dry (the heat of a dryer can set any remaining residue).


Does Counter Assault Bear Spray expire?

Counter Assault bear spray has a shelf life of 4 years. There is an expiration year printed on the can. After that date, we recommend replacing your bear spray with a fresh can to ensure maximum effectiveness. Bear spray cans are under pressure and like all products under pressure, it is possible the pressure will decrease over time.


How do I properly dispose of expired or used bear spray?

Bear spray is considered hazardous waste and cannot be put into your regular garbage. We recommend contacting your local waste management company or recycling center as they have a process to safely dispose of bear spray. If you are in the Greater Yellowstone or Glacier National Park areas, there are recycling programs with designated drop-off points so the canister can be recycled.


Bearproof Storage

What should I store in my Bear Keg?

All food, trash, toiletries and other scented items should be stored in the bearproof Bear Keg. This includes all sealed food, sunscreen, soap, bug repellent, deodorant, medications, and feminine products.


Where do I store my Bear Keg?

Remove Bear Keg from any external case and do not hang or attach anything to the canister before storing at camp. The keg is designed to be smooth and offer no means for wildlife to hold or carry off the keg. The Bear Keg should be placed at least 100 feet from camp on flat ground. Do not store it near a cliff or on a hill. Placing pots and pans on top of the Bear Keg can be an option as well to act as an alarm if the Keg is disturbed.

Shop Bear Spray

Counter Assault Bear Spray with Holster

40-Foot Bear Spray + Holster

A training canister and a Counter Assault bear deterrent spray with holster

32-Foot Spray & Training Canister + Holster

2 Counter Assault bear deterrent spray with holster

40-Foot & 32-Foot Sprays + Holsters

Counter Assault bear deterrent spray with holster

32-Foot Bear Spray + Holster