Last Updated on March 9, 2020
Although bears attacking humans is rare, the possibility of it happening is something about which you should be aware if you are spending time outdoors in areas that are the natural habitat of these animals. If you know you are visiting an area with bears, you should prepare yourself in advance so that you can retaliate and protect yourself in the unlikely event of an attack. One way that many people do this is to carry a bear repellent spray. Another substance that many people carry to protect themselves from all sorts of attack is pepper spray. So, is bear spray or pepper spray the better choice?
What is Bear Repellent Spray?
Bear spray is an aerosol canister that contains a substance specifically designed to protect you against bears. This is something that campers, hikers, and backpackers commonly carry with them if they are visiting an area with bears. The active ingredients in a bear spray are capsaicin and related capsaicinoids. These work by giving the bear a burning sensation in their nose and eyes that then deters them from continuing with an attack against a human.
What is Pepper Spray?
Pepper spray is also an aerosol canister that contains a substance that people can use to protect themselves against an attack. This substance is used by man police forces around the world as a way of temporarily disabling a criminal that poses a threat. Members of the public may also carry pepper spray as a way of defending themselves if they are attacked. Pepper spray is made from properties of cayenne pepper. It works by causing irritation to the eyes and respiratory tract. Most people who have pepper spray sprayed into their eyes are temporarily blinded and experience severe itching which makes their eyes water.
Bear Spray vs. Pepper Spray
Although bear spray and pepper spray are similar, they are not the same thing. They contain the same active ingredients, but these have a lower concentration in bear spray than they do in pepper spray. This is because the purpose of pepper spray is to incapacitate someone, and a bear spray is simply a deterrent.
Due to the greater concentration of active ingredients in pepper spray, the effects of using it are more serious and will last longer. In some cases, pepper spray can cause incapacitation of longer than 20 minutes.
Bear spray is not intended to incapacitate the bear. The aim of this is to cause enough irritation to make it retreat, hence the lower concentration of the active ingredients. It is certainly not designed to cause long-term harm to the bear.
The other two differences between pepper spray and bear spray are the size and the cost. A canister of bear repellent spray is typically larger than a canister of pepper spray as the latter is designed to fit discretely in your pocket or handbag. Bear spray is also more expensive than pepper spray.
Should You Use Bear Spray or Pepper Spray?
As bear spray is designed for use as a deterrent to attacking bears, you should use this rather than pepper spray. Although both will work if you are attacked by a bear, pepper spray is more likely to cause harm to the bear and this is not the intention. However, if you carry pepper spray anyway and you came unexpectedly under attack, then pepper spray would work in just the same way.
Related: Does Bear Spray Really Work?
Are All Bear Sprays the Same?
Although all bear sprays have the same active ingredients, they are not all identical. The main difference is the distance from which you can use the sprays effectively. It is important to check the instructions to before heading out into the wilderness to see what the recommended distance is for use. The other difference between bear spray is how long they take to work. The average is six seconds of spraying before it affects the bear enough for it to retreat. However, it can take anywhere between four and eight seconds for a bear spray to work.
While bear attacks on humans are rare, it is a very real risk if you enjoy outdoor activities in areas that are the natural habitat of bears. Therefore, it is important that you are prepared. The most common form of protection against bear attacks is a bear repellent spray. Capsicum is the main active ingredient in this product and it works by irritating a bear’s eyes and nose. Pepper is spray is a similar product that uses the same active ingredients in a higher concentration. Although they are similar products, bear spray is designed specifically for use as a repellent to bear attacks, while pepper spray is intended for human attacks. Therefore, it is best to stick to bear repellent spray as a bear attack deterrent on your trips outdoors.