Difference Between Bear Spray VS Pepper Spray

​People who are experienced with camping, hiking or hunting in the outdoors know the importance of a good bear repellent. If you come a cross a bear in the wild, it can buy you enough time to escape unharmed. There are a few different kinds including bear spray and pepper spray. If you're not familiar with these, you're in the right place. This guide is to tell you everything that you need to know about bear spray vs pepper spray so you can be the judge of which is the best choice for you.

​Bear spray is an aerosol bear repellent that is formulated specifically to deter bears. It includes an ingredient that causes pain when sprayed in the face of a bear. It doesn't have any harmful lasting results. It's a more humane approach to keeping yourself safe without hurting or killing the bear. The active ingredient that is used in bear spray is called capsaicin. Other ingredients that are related to this are capsaicinoids. These are extracts from hot peppers. It's a natural repellent that is highly effective when it's used correctly.

​What is pepper spray?

Pepper spray as we pointed out is much stronger than bear spray. It is an inflammatory substance that causes pain and blindness. It's also used as defense against bears and while some campers prefer to have a stronger deterrent on hand, others are interested in lessening pain and suffering for the wildlife.

Some people believe that pepper spray is overkill when compared to bear spray. It's not necessary to inflict such pain and disability when a milder less painful version will work just as well. There have been rare cases of pepper spray causing death in some humans who have other contributing health conditions such as asthma or other lung conditions.

​Studies also show that exposure to pepper spray in the eyes can cause changes to the structure of the eyes. Over time it can cause permanent damage in human vision. With this in mind, it makes sense that it could do the same in bears.

​The Difference between Bear Spray VS Pepper Spray

​We've already talked about the ingredients in bear spray. Although bear spray and pepper spray may sound like the same thing they are very different. Bear spray contains the same ingredients as pepper spray but they are in much lower concentrations. Bear Spray is not as strong as pepper spray and it was developed to offer a self-defense tool for campers that is more humane for the bear.

The full strength pepper spray can cause temporary blindness for between 15 to 30 minutes. All that you really need to escape from a bear safely is a few moments to move to a different location. While self-defense sprays typically contain at least 10% of the active ingredient or more, bear spray only contains a 1 to 2 % concentration.

​It's far better to deter the bear and make it leave you alone, rather than to disable it or cause temporary blindness. There's just enough of the pain causing chemical in bear spray to make the bear back off. Studies have been conducted on the effectiveness of bear spray and they show that it's effective in cutting down the number of bear attacks within the national parks systems.

​When to use Bear Spray

​Bear spray is intended to be used when you come across the path of an aggressive bear. Use the bear spray if the bear is actually charging towards you. You should not spray a bear just because you can see him or if he's merely curious. It's to be used to prevent bear attacks. A non-aggressive bear may simply wander close to your camp and then leave when he sees you, so spraying him is not necessary. Avoid using bear spray on clothing or camping gear. The scent can attract bears and make them want to investigate. Bear spray should only be used as a last ditch effort to prevent bear attacks.

Final verdict Bear spray and pepper spray are similar chemicals that are both used to deter aggressive bears. They're both effective but pepper spray is far stronger and can cause extreme and unnecessary pain and discomfort for bears.

​​There are pros and cons in using pepper spray. While it may give you extra peace of mind, it's really stronger than what is needed for the situation. Our vote is for using the bear sprays, but the choice is yours to make.

Daniel Sturm

I started this blog to provide the guideline, you towards a better and more comfortable hiking experience. I deliver more than hiking, camping and backpacking guideline.

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