Always Have It with You
I purchased these for my wife and myself because were going to the Wind River Mountains and there have been four deaths from grizzly bears in the greater Yellowstone area in the last two years (I'm writing in September 2013). All four of those who died did not have pepper spray. There were two other cases where people saved themselves because they did have pepper spray.The forest service and the Park service recommend carrying it. We carry this even in the desert because it works on mountain Lions too.
This is the third time I purchased the Counter Assault Brand. My wife and I just tested one that expired in 2004. Supposedly the propellant loses power over time, but it really seemed to spray quite well — at least 20 feet. Also there was a slight breeze that blew the spray back in our face (I didn't know there was a breeze until I sprayed it) and we started sneezing like crazy from just inhaling a tiny amount. So we know the pepper keeps its power too! Just thought you'd all like to know.
My main worry is the holster. In one of the above-mentioned cases one fellow wasn't able to get the spray out in time before the bear attacked him. Fortunately his buddy sprayed the bear and they were saved. So I made two loops of 1/8 inch elasticized cord that I attached my hip belt and I slide the bear spray under that with the loop facing out so I can pull it out quickly. The bear spray can also has Velcro glued on it that I use for attaching it to the side of our pickup camper inside so we can use it quickly if necessary. The Velcro helps keep it in place so it doesn't slide in the loops. My wife doesn't like this idea so she will keep it in her holster, but it definitely takes longer to get it out. I will see how it works. When we are above tree line and can see well ahead of us I will probably keep it in the holster. I'm experimenting with a spot of glue to hold the clip in place so a branch doesn't pull it off, but I'll be able to. We plan always to hike close together (with her behind me) since this may help deter an attack also. The Park service suggests parties of three or more in Yellowstone.
Just now I made the mistake of rubbing my eye without having washed my hands after using the spray. It's burning like crazy. But it's nice to know the pepper is still active. I don't suggest testing a new can since this might make it more likely to leak propellant. But definitely test pulling it out of your holster, removing the safety clip, and aiming it (all with your poles on). One of the above-mentioned parties had just practiced this a few days before their bear encounter.
According to a forest service Ranger I emailed there have been no encounters with grizzlies in the Wind Rivers, but black bears a been a problem getting into food. We always have the spray close by just in case.
Note that the can says do not use below 32°. I should test this in cold weather since it's been down to about 15° in the Wind Rivers above Tree Line in September in the past.
I volunteer with US Fish and Wildlife a lot. Although I have not personally used it, there are more than a few stories every year where techs use this product successfully. We get issued shot guns and many carry pistols. I have both but when you are working hard and already carrying weight who wants to lug around a 6 pound revolver! Not to mention here in Alaska if you down a bear for self defence you must clean and skin the animal, salvage all edible meat and the skull then turn it in to the troopers. I can't speak for others but I would MUCH rather use the spray and be done than sit there for 2 or 3 hours skinning out an animal I don't even get to keep meat from. FYI the meat does get donated to soup kitchens and such, it does not go to waste.
Another reviewer mentioned buying two so you have one to practice with... Not a bad idea but you can also order a pratice spray that is cheaper and won't ruin your day if the wind shifts
DARN GOOD PRODUCT
Have owned 3 cans of this product. Have had to use one. After surfing REI for goodies, I looked at the reviews and thought I would put in my 2 cents worth. This product is worth it's weight in gold when needed. Believe me when I tell you it will turn back most anything. I have had to spray it once in upper British Columbia, and a second shot (from the same can) on the Kanectok River in Alaska- where I had a Taurus .44 Mag on my other hip.
As a matter of curiousity I took a can outside and gave a short burst straight into the pavement of the street in front of my house The expiration date was 10/2000. It fogged like it was brand new. The neighbors ( 100+ feet away) were at work, but had a cleaning woman that opened their door almost 20 minutes later to shake out a mop and she started sneezing like crazy. This stuff is potent and it lingers longer than I imagined. Don't worry too much about this stuff losing it's potency!!!!!
Great Insurance Policy
I purchased this bear spray for a recent trip to Yellowstone National Park. We were staying in heavy grizzly bear country, so I just wanted to be prepared. We saw only one grizzly bear while hiking the trails, but we were able to quickly identify it and leave the area and it didn't seem to even notice us. It was reassuring to know I had the bear spray just in case. I also noticed that all the park rangers were wearing this exact brand of bear spray with holster as part of their uniform, which I found even more reassuring. The rangers insisted to me that bear spray is safer and more effective than a gun when you come upon a bear suddenly, which is when most bear attacks occur.
I'm glad I didn't need to use it, but I felt great comfort knowing I had it with me in case it was needed. The holster is a must, too. I'll be keeping this bear spray with me whenever I go hiking and camping in bear country.
There when we needed it...
When a grizzly walked into our camp in Paintbrush canyon (Grand Teton NP) my wife and I just stood there and watched him walk up to us and just look (15 ft). I pulled the clip, we were armed and ready to fire our Counter Assault Bear Deterrent spray.... The rest of the plan was hazy.... spray, jump off the back of the campsite (20 foot) into a brushy meadow....Run... the Grizzly just looked at us and saw the Counter Assault, he turned and walked away.... The Bear Spray worked.... All of the Rangers swear by it....
IT WORKED... NO ATTACK
On the hike up to Holden Lake, WA., last year, we surprised a large Black Bear feeding on berries alongside the trail. We pulled out our Counter Assault Bear Spray and slipped off the safety and pointed. Two hikers, two cans of spray. Enough spray to give the bear a headache. The bear grunted and turned his rear end toward us and we slowly walked backward up the trail, eyes on the bear, cans pointed. Very comforting to have the bear spray while in Bear country. Perhaps this bear had a bad memory for bear spray.
Nice to have in bear country. Buy two and use one for target practice. If you have to use it you want to feel comfortable that you know the range and spread. Note: when testing, make sure you are up wind. The spray will linger and will make you cough even in small doses. If you buy it, buy the holster because leaving it in camp does you no good with the bear on the trail.
How do you review something...
... you hope never to use?
This is BEAR SPRAY! I feel very secure in the wilderness, clutching this bright red cannister like a rosary. Luckily, I have not yet had to use it. When it's works successfully, I'll be back with further info. When it doesn't work successfully, I won't be back. Good luck!
Peace of mind
Although I haven't had to use this product yet (and I hope I never do), I know it works from having been sprayed with OC-10, when I was a law enforcement officer with the USFWS, as a part of our training. Pepper spray is very effective in altering attitudes.
Never want to use it
Well, so far it's great. It comes in a well packaged container that seems to be durable. I hope I never to update my review... That would have meant that's was bear bait at some point and had to deploy its contents.