Bear spray is an essential item for anyone planning to hike or camp in bear-inhabited areas, as it can provide a non-lethal means of deterring bears in an encounter.
However, with the strict regulations surrounding air travel, it can be challenging to know whether or not you can bring your bear spray with you.
This post will explore the rules and regulations surrounding packing bear spray in checked luggage, as well as some tips for safely transporting your bear spray on your next wilderness adventure.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) prohibits the transportation of bear spray on airplanes, whether it is placed in a carry-on or checked luggage.
In contrast, The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) states that you are allowed to bring a single can of bear spray in checked baggage as long as the container is not larger than four fluid ounces and the active ingredient concentration is under 2%.
As you can see, the transportation guidelines for bear spray on airplanes appear to be ambiguous.
So the question arises:
Is bear spray allowed on commercial flights, or isn’t it?
Luckily, someone asked the TSA via their Twitter page about this fact, and the TSA answered that bear spray is allowed only in checked bags if the container is less than 4 oz and the active ingredient is less than 2%.
Related: Can you bring a body spray on a plane?
However, for optimal effectiveness in deterring bears, bear spray typically needs an active ingredient concentration of over 2%, and the container size should be at least eight fluid ounces.
Because of these limitations, it is currently impossible to find a bear spray on the market that adheres to TSA rules.
As a result, bear spray is effectively banned from passenger planes.
What can you do?
Given that transporting bear spray by passenger airplane is not feasible, there are two viable options for getting it to your destination: send it ahead of your flight or buy it at your destination.
Attempting to stash it in your checked luggage with the hope that TSA agents wouldn’t notice it is not a reasonable option.
Keep in mind that bear spray is considered a hazardous material, and it is essential to know that not all shipping services will be willing to handle it.
While some may refuse to transport it entirely, others may agree but with an additional fee.
Related: Can you take a Swiss army knife on a plane?
In some states, courier companies might even request a valid Hazardous Materials Transportation License when shipping bear spray.
There is good news: there’s a third solution that will save you some time!
An option gaining popularity among those who only need bear spray temporarily is simply renting it.
To maximize safety, consider renting a new and unused can, even if it may come at an additional cost.
Renting a bear spray can also be more cost-effective than other alternatives. Remember to check the expiration date before renting.
Another option is to go to Facebook and search for Bear Spray Exchange groups.
There are people in these groups who give away their remaining bear spray for free after finishing their trip.
Why is pepper spray allowed in checked luggage, but bear spray is not?
The reason for the discrepancy in regulations between pepper spray and bear spray is due to their relative potency and container size.
Pepper spray is considered less potent (under 2% active ingredient), and most cans contain less than 4 ounces.
Additionally, in the event of an accidental discharge in the cargo area of a plane, pepper spray would not pose a significant risk to the plane’s ability to fly safely.
Related: Can You Bring Handcuffs and Zip Ties on a Plane?
However, bear spray is more powerful, and its larger container size could pose a risk if accidentally discharged.
Even pepper spray can cause chaos on a commercial flight despite its relatively low potency.
In 2021, an incident occurred at Southwest Florida International Airport in which a passenger accidentally discharged a keychain pepper spray, resulting in health issues for several passengers and forcing the plane to return to the gate.
The incident highlighted that even a tiny bit of pepper spray could pose a risk, and it was revealed that TSA agents had failed to detect it at the checkpoint. –source.
Can pepper spray deter a bear attack effectively?
If a bear charges toward you, pepper spray can be used as a deterrent, but it is not a guaranteed method of stopping a bear attack.
However, anything that gives you slight chance to survive is better than facing the beast with bare hands.
There aren’t studies showing the efficiency of self-defense sprays in stopping a bear attack, but rangers say that small pepper sprays are inefficient.
The bear might retreat, or it may become more aggressive.
Additionally, the range of small pepper spray is limited to around 10 feet, which sounds like a lot until you find out that bears can charge at speeds of over 40 feet per second, giving you insufficient time to respond effectively.
Most people will panic in this high-stress situation and use the spray early, leaving them at the beast’s mercy.
By comparison, a typical bear spray has an effective range of 25-35 feet, thus giving the user more time to react.
Research published in the Journal of Wildlife Management in 2010 highlighted the effectiveness of bear spray in preventing bear attacks.
The study found that 92% of bear attacks were halted when bear spray was utilized, and a staggering 98% of those who employed the spray remained unharmed.
Additionally, the study revealed that only a few individuals sustained minor injuries. –source.
This study is eye-opening because another study showed that the efficiency of firearms in stopping a bear attack is 84% for handguns and 76% for long guns–source.
This information is especially relevant for those who may find themselves in the high-stress situation of facing a bear, as the pressure can cause their aim to waver.
Can you take bear spray in a small aircraft?
When it comes to bringing bear spray on a small aircraft, it is vital to consider the circumstances of your flight.
If you own the plane, you can bring bear spray, as you are responsible for any potential issues. If you decide to do this, pack the bear spray in an airtight container.
However, suppose you are using a carrier or flying on someone else’s plane.
Related: Can You Bring A Lighter On A Plane?
In that case, it is essential to inform the pilot or service provider of your intention to bring bear spray beforehand.
In most cases, they will allow it, but remember that some pilots may choose to secure the bear spray in a container or strap it to the outside of the plane in case of accidental discharge.
While this may seem unusual, it is a highly effective and FAA-approved method.
In Alaska, where small planes are frequently used, pilots often inquire about the presence of bear spray among passengers to ensure safety.
Some small planes have a homemade container made of sturdy PVC pipe with caps at both ends which securely stores any potentially hazardous materials during the flight.
In response to a previous bear spray incident, a pilot who operates a remote route decided to invest in a gas mask and keep it conveniently located near his seat.
Will bear spray explode on a plane?
Bear spray will not explode on a plane. As there is no significant difference in pressure between being on the ground and being at 40,000 feet inside a pressurized airplane, the bear spray will not be affected by the cabin pressure.
You can send a can of bear spray into the stratosphere, and it will not explode.
However, keeping the bear spray away from any heating sources is essential as it can be a potential fire hazard.
Is bear spray effective in winter?
Despite common misconceptions, bear spray will not freeze at normal winter temperatures.
However, in temperatures below -7°F, a slight decrease in pressure within the can may occur.
A study conducted in 2020 has put those concerns to rest by proving that bear spray remains effective even in extremely cold temperatures.
The study concluded with: “Our results provide no compelling reason to not carry bear spray in all areas where bears occur, even if it is windy or cold.”-source
Manufacturers recommend using bear spray within a temperature range of -4°F to 175°F for optimal results.
Can you bring bear spray on international flights?
Almost all international passenger airlines ban bear spray aboard their planes.
It’s also important to note that some countries have different laws and regulations regarding bear spray.
Does the bear spray permanently hurt the bear?
Bear spray does not permanently hurt the bear. It temporarily irritates the bear’s eyes, nose, and throat but will not cause long-lasting injuries.
Bear encounters can be frightening, but it’s important to remember that these magnificent creatures are highly intelligent and possess a remarkable memory.
A bear that has been sprayed is unlikely to approach humans in the future, making it a highly effective deterrent for future encounters.
Is bear spray effective against moose?
Yes, bear spray is effective against moose.
Does bear spray work on alligators or crocodiles?
Bear spray is designed to deter and protect against bears. While it may have some effect on alligators or crocodiles, it is not a reliable protection method against these reptiles.
The active ingredient in bear spray is optimized for use on mammals and may be less effective on reptiles.
Is bear spray legal in all states?
From what I found online, bear spray is legal in all states.
However, it’s important to note that certain national parks may prohibit the possession and use of bear spray.
For example, Yosemite National Park prohibits possessing or using pepper spray, bear spray, and other irritant gas devices.-source.
This is funny since bears are present inside Yosemite National Park.
Can you use bear spray for self-defense?
No laws prohibit the use of bear spray in self-defense against another person. However, if you use it without a valid reason, you could be charged with assault in most states.
As you can see, you are not allowed to bring bear spray onto an airplane.
Any attempts to include it in checked luggage may result in the item being confiscated and the possibility of facing a fine.