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Woods and national parks happen to be homes for bears. Sometimes bears wander into nearby towns and campsites. Bear sprays are a must-have if you reside in a bear-prone area. They are not really used in the cold seasons. Bears are hibernating in the cold season, but you may be curious to find out what will happen if the bear spray freezes. We've asked experts, and they have the following answer.
Bear spray does not freeze. The spray contains 1-2% capsaicin and other capsaicinoid-related components. These compounds are crystalline and waxy. Capsaicin doesn't freeze nor lose its potency in cold weather. Experts have tested the bear spray in temperatures below zero, and it worked excellently. The spray only becomes less effective in extremely cold temperatures.
Continue reading to see how you can handle and test the contents of your bear spray in freezing temperatures. We also have tips on how to act around bears.
Does bear spray work in cold weather?
Yes, it does. Bear spray works well in mildly cold temperatures. The spray can still be effective at 14 degrees Fahrenheit (-10 degrees Celsius). At lower temperatures, the spray becomes less effective. The canister could burst when subjected to extreme cold or heat.
In recent years, fewer bears are going into deep hibernation during winter. Bears also don't move around much in windy conditions. But always be prepared. When you go hiking in the winter, take a bear spray can with you.
will bear spray freeze?
Bear spray never freezes because its contents are waxy and crystalline in nature. The contents of the canister will remain intact even when the temperatures drop, but once the pressure in the canister drops, the bear spray won't spray.
When out about in the woods, keep the bear spray covered. Use your body temperature to keep it warm. Carry the can on your belt.
will bear spray explode if it freezes?
Yes, it will. The contents in bear spray canisters are under high pressure.
Extreme temperatures could destabilize them. When the contents are destabilized, the cans could explode. The bear spray might not be useful in extremely cold temperatures.
What does bear spray consist of?
As mentioned earlier, the bear spray contains capsaicin, which is a component found in chili peppers. This is a chemical irritant for mammals, in this case, bears.
Bear spray is colorless and highly pungent. This is because it contains capsaicinoids. Bear spray is hydrophobic. The bear spray repels water and doesn't freeze. Capsaicin and capsaicinoids are effective repellants.
What does bear spray do?
Bear spray disorients the bear. It has the same effect pepper spray has on its victims. It disables the bear's ability to see, smell, hear or breathe clearly. This effect is temporary but also harmless to the bear.
The effect is similar to touching your eyes with chili. This frustrates the bear thoroughly. The bear drops all intentions of charging at you, with its primary focus diverted to understanding what just happened.
The toxic chemical cloud engulfs the bear and disarms it without causing physical damage to the mammal. The effect of the spray lasts for 15 to 60 minutes. This will give you enough time to get back to safety.
How long does a can of bear spray last?
A can of bear spray lasts for 3–4 years. The length of time it will last depends on the following factors:
- exposure to extreme temperatures (both hot and cold)
- damaged canister (dropped or dented)
Bear spray may not be as effective over time. The effectiveness of the spray diminishes due to the above factors. This doesn't mean that the bear spray will be completely useless. It might work to some extent. Don't risk carrying an expired canister of bear spray.
how to use bear spray
Being a very potent pepper spray, bear spray is what you need to stay safe in the woods. It's portable and doesn't need a license. Although nothing is ever 100% efficient, the bear spray works well. It has proved to be very helpful in dangerous situations.
Handling Bear spray
When going for a hike or camping, make sure that you have a canister of bear spray. It's a must-have item in your gear. Carry your spray on your belt or chest harness. This way, your canister will not get too cold.
Don't put it on your shoulder strap. It may be difficult to reach when you need it. The canister should be held properly. To use, disengage the nozzle lock, and hold it with both hands. Put one hand on the nozzle and the other on the canister firmly.
Aim and wait for the bear to be at an uncomfortably close distance. Spray in short bursts for 2–3 seconds. This will buy you time to retreat.
If you're more of a visual learner, this guide may help you:
Testing Bear Spray
Canned sprays are compressed under high pressure. When they are exposed to heat or cold, it could alter the performance of the contents. Bear spray canisters get destabilized in extreme temperatures. The pressurized can will explode.
Avoid storing bear spray in the garage during winter. Don't leave the bear spray in your car either. You can test the effectiveness of the bear spray outdoors.
Use a clear opening for this test. Ensure that no pets or domestic animals are loitering around. Check the direction of the wind. Where possible, pick a clean patch of snow. This will help you see a clear trail. Aim and spray for 2–5 seconds.
You'll find that the bear spray works just fine. It can fire 4–6 meters depending on the wind speed. After the experiment, clean up all traces of the bear spray.
Here are some dos and don'ts around bears. These safety tips could determine if your trip will be a successful one or not. Whenever you're in a vicinity prone to bears, don't take safety precautions for granted.
- Talk loudly - Bears attack when surprised. Therefore, speak loudly whenever you are in the woods. Sing if necessary. This will let the mammals know you are approaching.
- Keep your distance - When you sight a bear make sure you keep your distance. Don't get too close for photos and whatnot. This may antagonize a bear.
- Don't run - The last thing you want to do is run. Use your spray but retreat slowly. Running will give the bear a feeling that you are prey. These mammals run fast and can climb trees, too.
- Play dead - Mother bears could attack to protect their cubs. The best strategy is to drop to the ground, and pretend to be dead. Once the mother bear perceives this, it leaves.
- Carry bear spray - This is a must. Spray it at the bear. The attacking bear will run into the pepper fog.
Is bear spray better than a gun?
Surprisingly, it is! Bear spray is a better and safer deterrent. You might miss fire and the charging bear will get to you. Sometimes panic may cause you to drop the gun. Many have been hurt trying to aim and fire at charging bears. The bear spray, however, works tremendously. Just don't panic and let the bear come within a close range before spraying. Let's not forget, as a hiker or camper, you are the one entering the bear's territory.
They'll become extinct if we keep shooting at them. But no deterrent is 100% effective. Ensure that before venturing out into the woods, you are conversant with these mammals' behaviors. Learn about the different types of bears and what to expect from them.
We've seen that bear spray should be kept at room temperature. Although the contents in a bear spray can don't freeze, avoid exposing bear spray to very cold temperatures. The contents in bear spray cans are effective and efficient, but harmless to the bears. Stay safe!