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The longer days and inviting warmth of spring and summer make it the best time to play outside. Whether you’re planning on hiking to an alpine lake for the first time, backcountry camping off-grid or visiting a remote national park, bear spray is a must-have when exploring the wilderness. From checking the expiration date to decoding the ingredient list, here’s what you need to know before picking up a canister to protect yourself and the wildlife when recreating in bear country.


Why Should You Carry Bear Spray?

beautiful nature image where wildlife livesSABRE

Bear spray can safely deter a charging bear, avoiding a dangerous wildlife encounter—for both the humans and the bear. Bear spray should only be used as a last defense. Hikers and campers can prevent a bear encounter by taking precautions, like hiking in groups of four or more, consistently making noise on the trail by talking loudly or clapping and being vigilant of your surroundings by recognizing any tracks and fresh scat. But if faced with a charging bear, bear spray is your best option when used correctly.


How Does Bear Spray Work?

spraying bear spraySABRE

Though the effective range of bear spray is five metres, both the Frontiersman Xtra and SABRE Wild Max have a range of 10.5 meters, meaning you can deploy the spray in short two- to three-second bursts from a farther distance, creating a larger protective barrier between you and the bear. These ones by SABRE also contain 1.84 per cent capsaicin and related capsaicinoids (CRC), which is the maximum amount allowed by Health Canada. The bear sprays come equipped with a glow-in-the-dark safety so you can easily access the canister even when camping. Because bear spray doesn’t have to be tested in Canada, it’s important that you purchase from a reputable brand, like SABRE.


When Should You Carry Bear Spray?

carrying bear spray into the wildernessSABRE

Bears can typically be spotted from May to October, but the exact timing varies depending on the region’s weather conditions and when the snow falls or melts. On the BC coast where temperatures are milder, bears can be spotted as early as mid-March; it might not be until May in places where winters are harsher. Because of the variability, adventurers should be prepared for bear encounters anytime in the spring, summer and fall.


Where Can You Get Bear Spray?

new belt holsterSABRE

Check your local hardware stores, like Home Hardware and Canadian Tire, or outlets catered to outdoor adventurers, like MEC. Bear spray can also be purchased from retailers online. Because bear spray should be accessible in a matter of seconds in case of an encounter, consider a belt holster with your purchase. Otherwise, you can tuck the canister in the water bottle holder on the side of your backpack.


What Is the Process of Buying Bear Spray?

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In Canada, bear spray can only be sold by authorized vendors to anyone over 18 venturing into known bear territory. According to s.90 (1) of the Criminal Code of Canada, carrying bear spray in situations where it’s deemed unlikely to encounter a bear, like when walking around a city, is illegal and a punishable crime. Bear spray, as stated on all canisters, is designed for defense against animals only, and you’ll have to sign a Notice to Purchaser Agreement at the time of purchase acknowledging the legal terms of bear spray use.


How Do You Store Bear Spray?

bear spray in backpackSABRE

Store bear spray in a cool and dry place. When you take it out of storage for the first time in the season, check the expiration date before heading out, as canisters lose pressure when expired. If you’re hiking in larger groups, consider purchasing multiple canisters.


What Should You Check Before Buying Bear Spray?

check the bear spray is not expired before using itSABRE

To maximize your safety, there are a few things to check for before you purchase bear spray. Besides double-checking for a safety clip and the expiration date, look for a bear spray with a minimum concentration of 0.857 per cent capsaicin, the active ingredient, with a net weight of at least 225 grams. This allows for the canister to fire far and long enough to withstand a bear’s charge.


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This article was sponsored by SABRE

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