We LOVE that you bought bear spray. You should carry bear spray with you every where you go in K-Country. That includes places like Grassi Lakes (which runs entirely through a wildlife corridor that bears frequent), Troll Falls, any day use area (bears wander through them regularly), while biking the Highwood Pass, etc, etc.
But for your safety, we want you to check your bear spray. Right now. Go get your can. We’ll wait.
It ships in plastic
When you bought your bear spray, it looked like the picture above, or sometimes, the picture at right. This means the can is sealed for shipping. You can’t use it without a lot of work. You need to remove that plastic wrap.
It’s a pain to remove. Bear spray is only useful if you can get it out and ready to use in under 2 seconds. You won’t be able to remove that plastic in a hurry. So make sure to remove it, now.
Yes, we have seen people in the wilderness carrying factory sealed cans like this in their holsters.
Get rid of the yellow strap
Normally, but not always, there’s a big fat yellow tie strap holding the safety on. It’s pictured at left. Just like the plastic wrap, the purpose of that yellow strap is to prevent the can spraying while shipping. But we have seen people leave the strap on, even though it usually says “Remove After Purchase”.
Make sure to cut the yellow strap off, too. This really takes work.
Yes, we have seen folks in the wilderness with bear spray with this strap on.
Yellow strap gone? Good. But you’re not done yet.
Don’t lose the safety
That big fat orange thing is the safety clip. As long as it is in place, the bear spray cannot go off.
You don’t want to lose that safety. The moment it is not there, about all you have to do is LOOK at the trigger and the spray will discharge. When you need it to do that, that is good. But when you don’t, it’s VERY bad indeed. So make sure you HAVE a big fat orange clip installed. You do NOT want your can looking like the picture at right.
It’s actually pretty easy to accidentally knock the orange safety clip off. After all, it’s SUPPOSED to come off easily when you need to use your bear spray.
Or perhaps a bear was close by, and you decided to take the clip off, but the bear went away and you didn’t need to spray. You want that safety clip back on. Dropping the clip in the heat of the moment and losing it is bad, because now, you have live bear spray, ready to accidentally go off, for the rest of your hike or bike.
If you don’t have an orange safety clip on the bear spray you’re checking, we suggest contacting the Canmore office of Bow Valley WildSmart. They have TONS of extras they give away for free, and they even mail them to people sometimes.
A safety for your safety
Since losing your orange safety clip is bad, bear spray (normally) ships with another zip tie or elastic that is there to prevent you from losing the clip. There are a number of different styles. Typical styles include a zip tie that is normally white, or a black elastic, or a style that features an elastic with balls on the ends.
But bad things happen
It’s pretty common these days to see one of the ball type looking like the photo at right. How these come unclipped is often a mystery. But when they’re unclipped, you have nothing preventing that orange safety clip from going astray if it comes off – accidentally or on purpose.
If you have strong enough fingers, you can re-thread the ball styles back onto their little clips. You can make a Z shape as in the photo above, or just put the two balls on the same side. Either works.
There was a period in 2020-21 when, for various reasons, some brands of bear spray were shipping without any “safety for your safety”.
Or some people clipped off both the big fat yellow strap AND the zip tie that is the “safety for your safety”, thinking both should be removed.
Either way, your bear spray may look like the picture at left: you have a safety, but nothing stopping it from being lost if it comes off.
If your bear spray looks like this: DON’T PANIC. There are lots of ways to fix it.
Making your own safety for your safety
Here are our favourite methods for adding a safety so you don’t lose that safety clip, all of which are free. Just remember in every case to keep your tie loose.
- A rubber band, pictured at right. Everyone has a junk drawer, and everyone’s junk drawer has a rubber band in it. Simply snip the rubber band, thread it through, and tie it in a knot. Rubber bands are stretchy, so you don’t have to worry about getting it too tight;
- Your own zip tie. You just need to find one small enough to fit through the hole of the safety clip;
- Dental floss. Strong as all get out, and thin enough to easily fit through the hole. Easy to make the right length;
- Twist Tie: You need one that’s long enough and covered in plastic, not paper.
And check the expiry date
And while you’re looking at your bear spray, have a look at the expiry date. Remember bear spray DOES expire. The nasty pepper stuff inside stays nasty, but the propellant breaks down over time. Instead of spraying, it could come out in a stream. Instead of 8 seconds of spray, you might only get 3. If you need it, wouldn’t it be nice to know that it actually will work as intended?
Get some more safety tips for the outdoors here!