Bear Spray vs Pepper Spray

Can you substitute one for the other?

One of the questions we get asked most is if our products can be used against bears. The short answer is no, HERO products were not designed for use against animals, nor have they been tested for that purpose. In fact, no product labeled as a pepper spray should be used for bear protection. But why is that?

For starters, bear spray is regulated by the EPA while pepper spray is not. There are set limits for the concentration of irritants allowed in each container of bear spray (1-2%) along with size requirements. The minimum size for a can is 7.9 oz (225 g), anything smaller may not be enough to fend off a bear. When you purchase bear spray, check for a label showing the EPA registration number to ensure you’re getting the real deal!

Bear spray just works differently than pepper spray too. A charging bear can run up to 30 mph, barreling through a spritz or isolated cloud of irritant in a moment. To compensate, bear spray is designed to fire downward at a point about 30 feet away. The spray billows upwards, creating a corridor of irritants the bear must path through. Ideally the distance will be great enough for the effects of the spray to dissuade the bear before it gets to you. This design makes bear sprays highly effective. A study of incidents in Alaska found they worked over 90% of the time. 

When your safety is on the line, don’t take chances. Use bear spray when headed into bear country, and take the time to learn about proper usage before you go.

Some people also mistakenly suggest bear spray can be used in place of pepper spray for self defense. While ideal for bears, the firing design outlined above is not a great fit for anywhere but the great outdoors. The large area of impact, covering up to 30 feet with a lingering cloud of powerful irritant, is much more likely to impact innocent bystanders. Additionally, bear spray must be fired at higher velocities to cover long distances. Bear spray can cause serious injury to the eyes when fired at closer range against a human target.

Finally, one often overlooked but important factor to keep in mind is the legality of bear spray and pepper spray from state to state. Bear spray is usually legal only when used for protection against wildlife. Use against human targets may break the law, and has landed multiple people in legal trouble. Pepper spray on the other hand is legal in every state (with some restrictions) as a self defense tool, and has been specifically designed to be effective against humans.

HERO products are a valuable tool in your safety arsenal. We’ll never promise them to be the only answer or one size fits all solution. We urge everyone to make a safety plan, learn situational awareness, identify the best tools for their environment and lifestyle, and train with those tools so they can live confidently and securely.

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