A few years ago I pulled off the highway onto a deserted logging road and pulled out an old container of bear spray. I wanted to fire it off to refamiliarise myself with the range and dispersion pattern of the capsicum spray.
I checked the wind direction, removed the safety latch, and pushed down on the trigger. Instead of a jet of droplets an anemic orange trickle ran out of the nozzle and coated my fingers. Over the years all the propellant in the bottle had slowly leaked out, leaving no pressure inside to push the noxious capsicum into the air.
It was a good thing that this was a test deployment and that there wasn’t an angry bear in front of me.
With this incident in mind I recently grabbed a bunch of older bear spray canisters and headed out into the woods to see if they still worked. Here’s the video of that test…
Takehome lessons from the bear spray testing
- Older bear spray can malfunction if all the propellant has leaked out or the outlet gets blocked by dirt or dried pepper resin
- Surprisingly, old bear spray can still work quite well but you don’t want to rely on it
- Most manufacturers suggest replacing the bear spray after 3 to 5 years
- Manufacturer’s expiry dates can fall off or be difficult to read, so use a label maker or magic marker on the day that you buy it and double up on that expiry date
- Pay attention to the wind; even a slight change in wind direction can leave you gagging and wheezing. Consider backing up 20 to 30 feet immediately after deploying it to get out of the aerosol radius.
- Don’t waste expired bear spray; take it to a deserted place and fire it off to get a sense of how far it goes and how much it spreads out
- Not surprisingly, smaller containers of dog spray and/or self-defense pepper spray have a MUCH lower output and should not be relied on in bear country.
In the video I listed three studies showing that bear spray is generally more effective against charging bears than firearms. Here are the links for that claim…