Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Bear Spray

Since publishing my post that included advice for avoiding bear attack in the wilderness, I have had a few questions from people about how to defend against an attacking bear, and in particular, about the role of "bear spray."

Pepper spray marketed to repel bears definitely has a role, but should not be completely relied upon to deter an aggressive or charging bear. So avoidance of up-close bear encounters is the most important safety issue, and should never be forgotten.

If you are going to carry bear spray, here is some important information assembled from the writings and lectures of experts (including Steve French, M.D., Luanne Freer, M.D., Timothy Floyd, M.D., and Stephen Herrero). I also gleaned excellent information from the UDAP Industries site:

  1. Purchase a product advertised to repel bears. Some authorities indicate that the spray distance must be at least 25 feet with a minimum duration of 6 seconds, while others argue that duration is not as important as rapid, intensely concentrated coverage of the attack area.
  2. Product names include UDAP Pepper Power.
  3. The product should contain at least 1% capsaicin and/or capsaicinoids. Most products from reputable companies contain significantly more.
  4. Carry the spray where it is obvious and can be immediately deployed. It should be in a holster on your waist or chest. If it is hidden in the bottom of your pack, it will not be of any use to you during a sudden attack. Show your companions the location, so they can grab it if necessary.

photo courtesy of UDAP Industries

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Tags: Backpacking , Bites & Stings

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.