UDAP Industries Bear Spray

UDAP Industries Bear Spray

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Mike England

Seeing a grizzly in the wild can be a thrilling experience — its massive, brown body; those powerful jaws; that great, lumbering stride. But these qualities are best enjoyed from a safe distance. When you round a bend in the trail and find yourself face-to-face with an angry, 600-pound bruin, its physical virtues are your last concern — you just want to get out of there, and fast. At this point, two things work together to determine your fate: your reaction and the bear’s reaction. The encounter becomes a sort of primordial poker game — and it’s your move.

To stack the odds in your favor, there are a few things you can do. One, learn about bear behavior and how not to provoke an attack. Another is to pick up a can of bear spray. In Gallatin Gateway, UDAP Industries makes its version, Pepper Power. They’ve been manufacturing pepper spray since 1994, two years after owner Mark Matheny was mauled in the Gallatin National Forest. A friend’s well-placed blast of bear spray caused the attacking griz to flee into the forest, saving Matheny from further mauling and perhaps death. Not one to hold a grudge, Matheny became a crusader for pepper spray, promoting its use over firearms, and striving to improve the product and clear its dubious reputation (a few of the early sprays were weak and unreliable, giving the whole lot a bad rap in the early '90s). After eight years, the result is a powerful bear deterrent that’s proven itself in the field many times over. I decided to pick up UDAP’s largest canister, the 9.2-ounce size, and see how it worked.

While I didn’t go looking for grizzlies, I did test the UDAP spray for trajectory, accuracy, carrying convenience, and speed of deployment. On all counts it performed well. The elastic holster held the can snug, but still allowed for a quick draw. You can choose the traditional hip holster or a special chest holster that holds the can just below the sternum. I liked the chest holster, because it didn’t hang up on the waist belt of my backpack, and I could deploy the spray with either hand. Both holster styles are flexible, so with a little twist I was able to shoot right from the hip or chest, which could save a crucial second or two in a bear attack. The brightly colored, glow-in-the-dark safety clip meant I didn’t have to worry about blasting myself or anyone else by mistake, but it came off smoothly with a quick flick of my thumb. The actual pepper cloud went out a good 30 feet, with a radius of three or four feet. That’s a big discharge — after a few bursts I decided that if I can’t hit a bear with this stuff, I probably deserve to be eaten.

Okay, the big question: will it stop a charging grizzly? UDAP makes no guarantees, but Matheny does have a two-inch-thick folder of customer testimonials lauding its effectiveness. With tales ranging from ornery boars in Alaska to protective sows outside Yellowstone Park, Matheny’s customers all have one thing in common: the pepper spray saved their butts.

UDAP’s pepper spray comes in various sizes, from handheld canisters for trail running to the larger sizes designed for hunting and backpacking trips. They also make personal defense sprays for use in urban environments. Their latest product is an early warning system called "The Bear-ier" that protects campsites from undetected intrusion. Check their website for details.

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