Jul 22, 2012 at 11:39 am #1292232
I carry bear spray whenever I'm on a long trip, but I suspect it might not be as effective as it could be where I carry it–in a side pocket on my pack, with the loop poised for quick grab. I have seen somewhere photos or an actual person carrying bear spray/pepper spray on their shoulder straps, which seems like a pretty good location. I'm looking for ideas how to do that, and what product to carry–I could have sworn he had 2 smaller cartridges, rather than the big 8 ounce bottle, but I could be wrong.
On a side trip where I had my summit bag, I did resort to carrying it in a cargo pocket on my pants. It was certainly an easy grab, but got annoying banging against the thigh after a while.
I hike a lot in Mt Rainier National Park, the Olympics, and some in the southern Cascades. Have seen bears on several hikes, never needed to pull it, but always had it ready just in case.Jul 22, 2012 at 12:59 pm #1896673
Diane, my avatar photo (taken in 2006; note the heavy pack before I met you guys) shows how I have carried my bear spray for quite some time. It's slipped onto the short end of the sternum strap. I liked that it didn't bounce around much, and it was fairly easy to grab. The several times I came across a griz from 100 yards away, it was no problem to arm myself quickly (never actually had to use it though).
Then, last summer in Glacier Park, I came within 50' of a huge bear in a curved brushy corridor on a trail, and we surprised each other pretty good. I had zero time to whip out my spray, only getting it out after 5-6 seconds of slowly backing up and soft talking.
I learned 2 things from that encounter: Keep the spray much more accessible for a faster draw, and remove my hands from the trekking pole loops when entering suspect bear territory (they impeded my ability to quickly manipulate the sternum strap release).
In a few days, I'll head up to Yellowstone and Glacier for a bunch of 1-3 night hikes to check out some 5-star campsites I've not yet enjoyed. I've already cut the straps off a couple pair of trekking poles, and I plan to attach my Counter Assault holster to my hip belt. I might try your cargo pocket technique too. And I'll of course continue to loudly sing Jimmy Buffett songs as I hike solo.
Edited to include this technique employed by a GoLite employee: She said she sews a strip of Velcro onto her shoulder strap. Then she glues the opposing Velcro strip to her Counter Assault canister. I haven't taken the time to try this out, but it seems to have merit.Jul 22, 2012 at 12:59 pm #1896674
I never carry bear spray unless I am out on my own in Yellowstone or Glacier. I have a nylon strap that goes over one shoulder and across my chest, and the bear spray is held over my chest or belly. That keeps it pretty handy for quick deployment. On a couple of times, I have attached it to a fanny pack so that it was next to my water bottle, still pretty handy.
You don't want to carry it anyplace such that you have to look for it. You need to keep your eyes on the bruin, and let your hands grab the bear spray and get it ready.
I forgot where I read this, but one national park claimed that the average distance from the bear to the person when the person realized that it was a bear was 14 feet. That doesn't give you much time to react.
–B.G.–Jul 22, 2012 at 1:51 pm #1896679
This thread got me to thinking about my canisters. I went downstairs and looked closely at the canister ring that the index finger slips into. Inside that ring is another tiny ring, maybe to tie a string through or something. I promptly cut that off with my Dremel. The canister now can be removed quickly from the sternum strap, much easier than before. I might now forgo the holster. Thanks for starting this thread, Diane, as you helped me solve a problem I thought I had.
Bob, if the average is a mere 14', and my encounter was ~50', that must mean that some folks are getting thumped from behind before they even see the bear. Maybe I should switch over to singing mean-sounding bad@ss rap songs instead of Jimmy Buffett? It might make them think twice…Jul 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm #1896684
"The canister now can be removed quickly from the sternum strap, much easier than before."
I don't even need to remove my canister from its holster strap. I can just hold it out away from the chest and then pull the trigger.
It's just a good thing that it is not the nasty tear gas that we had in the military.
–B.G.–Jul 22, 2012 at 2:28 pm #1896687
I found some 1" self-adhering Velcro in the basement, so I tried it out. 2" of the hook version on an expired canister, 2" of the loop version on the load lifter strap of the pack. I figured I would need to use Gorilla Glue to get it to properly stick to the canister, and to sew the other onto the load lifter. But it seems quite secure as it is. I'll let the Velcro glue set overnight, then give it a rigorous test tomorrow. This could be the best idea yet, assuming the canister doesn't fall off while bushwhacking.Jul 22, 2012 at 2:54 pm #1896692
Hmmm, velcro, I do have some velcro around here with industrial strength adhesive, that could work. The only problem I can see to that is that when you get a new cannister, you then need a new piece to slap on it–continually throwing away one half of the velcro. Some sort of strap that could be wrapped around a new cannister, but would release quickly with a rip on the cannister (can't be fumbling for the end of the strap) would be ideal.
What size cannisters are you packing? I think I have the 8 oz, on a shoulder strap that seemed really big and intrusive. My shoulder straps are perhaps wider and at at different angle that a guy might have to worry about!
Counter Assault is the only brand I know, any others folks favor?Jul 22, 2012 at 3:36 pm #1896699
Counter Assault, 8.1 oz.
I've found that my self-adhering Velcro works good until high temperatures hit it, and then the adhesive weakens. It works a lot better to back that up with a few stitches of nylon thread.
I don't have my Counter Assault supported directly by Velcro.
–B.G.–Jul 22, 2012 at 8:09 pm #1896762
I'll report to you tomorrow night, Diane. I Gorilla Glued 2" strips to my 2 go-to canisters this afternoon, and I sewed a 2" strip to my modified Jam left load lifter strap (left side, faster access for a right handed guy). We'll see tomorrow how secure the Velcro is for what we're thinking about.Jul 22, 2012 at 11:24 pm #1896787
@skopeoLocale: British Columbia
I carry my bear spray on my hip in a holster. The holster is not on my pack waist belt, it's attached to the belt on my pants.
There are two schools of thought regarding bear attacks. One is that you should keep your pack on and hope that it protects you if you are attacked. The other is to drop your pack if a bear charges and hope that the bear will go for your pack. I like to think that if I drop (or take off) my pack, that my bear spray will still be on my hip. Might not work for everybody but works fine for me. Just make sure that if you use a holster, that you get the kind with the flap that covers the top of the bear spray. I've used the open top holsters that allow you to "shoot from the hip" but I've found that the safety clip on my bear spray was pulled loose while I was walking/bushwhacking… an accident waiting to happen IMO.Jul 23, 2012 at 10:39 am #1896882
@owareLocale: Steptoe Butte
Kings Canyon bear were trained to charge people, since they know the hiker will likely drop a pack full of tasty food.
Canadian grizzly are one thing, but black bear in California shouldn't be encouraged to false charge by rewarding them with Slim Jims and Pringles.Jul 23, 2012 at 4:09 pm #1896960
@skopeoLocale: British Columbia
I have to admit, I have never thought the idea of giving my pack to a bear was a great idea… letting him run off with my vital gear is just going to leave me another problem.
I'm just curious… if habituated bears are bluff charging hikers to try and get their packs, don't they also get a face full of bear spray from time to time?Jul 23, 2012 at 4:49 pm #1896972
In some of the U.S. national parks, there are only black bears, no grizzlies. As a result, the park service prohibits the use of bear spray on the bears.
In other U.S. national parks, there are mostly grizzlies with some black bears. As a result, the park service recommends carrying bear spray.
This is the big difference.
In the U.S. probably such a low percentage of backpackers ever carry bear spray that the ordinary black bears haven't learned what it is, so they will try a bluff charge.
Hey, if it worked for Cousin Yogi, it might work again.
–B.G.–Aug 20, 2012 at 10:29 am #1904191
@carlbeckerLocale: Northern Virginia
I have yet to carry bear spray. From my research I believe quick access by either hand without having to look is the best. That being said center chest would be my placement. Not sure of attachment but it should be a no fumble no lose type. Bears are quick and reaction time when surprised may be very slow.Aug 21, 2012 at 12:09 pm #1904581
i use elastic on my shoulder strap. i just make a loop at the top with a cord lock and a tighter loop at the bottom , both attached to loops on my shoulder strap. it is loose enough at the top to be pulled out without hanging up by pulling up to bring it out of the bottom loop then down to release from the top loop. i can tighten the cord lock when bushwacking and what not.Aug 25, 2012 at 10:38 am #1905959
Diane, here's a photo of what I did for my recent trip. I had sewn a 2" piece of Velcro to my pack's load lifter strap, and then glued the opposing Velcro to my bear spray canisters. While the attachment seemed fairly secure, I wasn't. The rounded contour of the canister prevented a perfect Velcro connection. I was afraid that if the Velcro got dirty or just plain "tired," that I could end up losing the canister while hiking. So I added another piece of Velcro to secure everything. The red piece from REI has a quick release tab, which works well. To grab the spray, it takes both hands–my left to release the REI tab, and the right to rip the canister out. But it's a very quick maneuver, faster than if I used the regular holster on my belt.Aug 27, 2012 at 9:51 pm #1906731
I have to say,,,,,, you guys are brave. Lol…I carry bear spray in my hand when in bear country. When I saw one 75 feet from me in June, I started carrying it with the safety off. On that particular trai, I saw 2 bears. Very cool. The close up one was more scared of me and ran off. The other was upwind and never noticed me.Aug 31, 2012 at 8:29 pm #1908106
Thanks, Gary. That is more or less what I had in mind. With my large backpack, having it in the side pocket seems to work ok, but if I change to a different backpack, I may consider doing what you did. My boyfriend has taken to carrying it in the front pocket of his pants, which seems to satisfy him.Sep 1, 2012 at 9:11 am #1908196
@brianleLocale: Pacific NW
Last year I used the waist belt approach that Mike W showed. I would be concerned about velcro, as the can is pretty heavy. For the waist belt it took a little fiddling to unthread and then rethread a side strap through a buckle, but no big deal. The side strap, however, would periodically loosen so that there was too much slack and the can would then hang low and flop around, so I used a big safety pin to prevent that. After a few weeks the safety pin was rusted and at some point popped out, so have a care not to get stabbed that way.
The other issue with the waist belt thing is that if I put the pack down hastily I sometimes would clang the can against a rock or just generally forget it was there so that the can hit a bit hard. A bit alarming, perhaps, given that I had taken both safety features off the can when I started hiking with it, but never a problem there.
Also, since it was attached to the pack like that, I sometimes remembered and sometimes forgot to take the can into the tent with me (I typically sleep with my pack in a trash bag outside the tent).
Over time I just forgot it was there, but I was nevertheless happy to dump it once I walked south of Yellowstone.
And in terms of "forgetting it was there", my hiking partner and I did have a pretty classic grizzly encounter and we both literally forgot we had bear spray — the situation worked out fine, but it wasn't until quite some time after that we compared notes and realized that neither of us had even thought of the spray. Maybe if the encounter had been within days of starting to hike in grizzly country we would have remembered, but this was three weeks into the trip.
Despite the issues with it, I would use the waist belt approach again if/when hiking in areas where grizzlies abound.
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