This summer, a friend and I will be biking through the mountainous wilderness from Jasper to Vancouver. The plan is to rough it (like the cycling vagabonds we are) and sneaky camp along the way. Realizing that we are completely lacking in the camping gear department, we took a trip to our friendly neighborhood MEC to price a few essentials. After picking out a tent built for two and swooning in front of the die-hard camping gear, we thought it might be a good idea to look into bear spray -not because we actually thought we might see a bear (nevermind get within spraying distance), just because it seemed like the
cool safe and responsible thing to do.
Okay, so bear spray. We located a chatty and informative MEC employee who informed us that bear spray is a controlled substance, so he would need to see ID and have us sign a waiver before our purchase. Fine, fine. He then gave us a breakdown of the spray itself: It comes in a small can or a large can. Small is better to keep on your person in case of surprise bear attacks, but large has more sprays and better range. No problem. Also, make sure to give it a test run (not near playgrounds, or you know, people) and wipe down after use to avoid getting it on things that may come into contact with your eyes (ie. hands). Alright.
(Warning: If you are the kind of person that is afraid of things that are terrifying, you may want to stop reading here.)
Before we leave our new friend cautions us that although bear spray is an irritant, it becomes a bear ATTRACTANT once it settles on the ground. TC and I laugh nervously, but no joke. The spray is pepper based and once it settles on the ground, it becomes a foody smell which may cause, what I can only guess would be droves of bears, to come sniffing around. Use bear spray and get the hell away. Check. We say thank you and leave with a handy MEC Bear Spray fact sheet.
And by handy I mean terrifying.
I read the fact sheet out loud as we unlock our bikes. It is full of helpful, yet predictable tips such as “Bears run much faster than humans” and “Keep your campsite clean.” Then you turn the page and shit gets real. For example, please take the following tips on what to do if you are “charged or attacked”
- Don’t Panic
- Stand your ground and get your pepper spray ready. Sometimes a bear will make several bluff charges. Do not use your pepper spray unless you are sure the bear is not bluffing
- If the bear stops after a bluff charge, slowly wave your arms, talk softly and back away slowly.
- If the bear doesn’t stop, use your pepper spray.
- If it is a grizzly, play dead. Most experts recommend that you lie flat on your stomach with your hands clasped behind your neck. Remain silent. Leave your pack on for additional protection.
- If it is a black bear, do NOT play dead. Do whatever you can to fight off the bear. As an exception to this rule, if you are positive you are facing a mother bear with cubs, and contact is imminent, you should play dead.
- If a bear of any type keeps biting you for a prolonged period of time, or if you are convinced it is feeding on you, fight back. Never play dead if you know that a bear is preying on you (eg. if it attacks you in your tent).