How To Protect Yourself From Bears While Hiking

How To Protect Yourself From Bears While Hiking

Before you start googling such requests as “how to kill a bear with a knife”, there are way better and effective ways of avoiding bears and surviving the attacks of grizzlies. Check out the article to figure out how to avoid bears in the first place, and what to do when you encounter this wild and dangerous animal.

Should You Be Concerned?

The first thing to think about when planning a hiking trip is to figure out what bears live in that area, or whether they even live there. Check out the official websites in the city, what kinds of bears live there, that’s how you can act accordingly.

How To Protect Yourself From Bears While Hiking

Depending on the types of bears that inhabit the area, officials create certain rules. In some cases, officials encourage hikers to take and even using bear sprays, but in others, they are against the sprays. For example, rangers are against hikers using bear sprays against black bears, but not against grizzlies.

The best idea is to read the rules of how to behave in a certain area. You can find official websites on the Internet to find out more information about the area. Nevertheless, even if there are no bears where you go hiking, you still should be careful in case there are other wild animals who may pose a threat.


Prepare yourself and people in a group that you may encounter bears. Meaning, during the whole hiking trip, you should act like you are about to encounter a bear. Moreover, you also need a bear spray in case you encounter bears. The spray is not a repellant, it’s a pepper spray that will affect the bear’s eyes and respiratory system so you can leave the area.

How To Protect Yourself From Bears While Hiking

You should take food containers that don’t let out the smell of the food. Bears might be curious or hungry, so they will want to follow the smell. And even though bears might not be aggressive in the first place, most hikers would rather not encounter them in the wild. Here are some common “how to protect yourself from bear” rules to follow if you are going hiking in the places inhabited by bears.

What Surrounds You?

Make sure to avoid choosing non-used paths. If you are hiking in a forest where most hikers choose to, most likely you can find clear paths rather than bushy and thin ones. Try to choose trails where you can see through the trees.

Stay Under The Sunlight

Make sure to avoid dark places as well. The best thing you can also do is to hike only when it’s the day, not dusk or dawn. Bears are extremely active during dusks and dawns, and you want to avoid them.

Always Clear The Mess Left Behind You

Never leave any residue food when hiking or camping – that’s the best way to attract the hungry bear. Clear the mess behind you – that’s what people should do anyway since it’s not good for nature to leave garbage anyway.

How To Protect Yourself From Bears While Hiking

When cooking food and cleaning the dishes, try to choose a spot a bit far from the actual camp. You don’t want to attract the bear to the place where you are planning to sleep at night. Try to avoid using anything with too strong odors. Try to wash the dishes with only a small amount of soap.

Stay As A Group

The research shows that groups of four people and more are less likely to be attacked or simply approached by a bear. Note, it’s extremely important to avoid bears with cubs since they are more aggressive to protect their offspring. To make sure you won’t come by them unnoticed, keep making noise in the forest. Sing, talk to each other, scream something once in a while, to give the bear an option to leave the area so you won’t encounter each other.

Stick To Planned Paths

The rule of every experienced hiker or camper is to always have a clear path. You can’t just blindly choose a spot in the forest and decide to go there. Or even worse, to state that you don’t know where you go – it will depend on the situation.

How To Protect Yourself From Bears While Hiking

Always plan your hiking trail, moreover, you can even draw it on a physical map. The best idea is to choose the paths that are existent and used by hikers or campers. It means that people often use these trails, which means, bears are less likely to approach these areas.

Take A Bear Spray With You

The very first important thing to remember about the bear spray – it’s not a repellant. Do not use the spray on yourself or the tent. First of all, the spray will affect you since it contains pepper. Second, the smell might attract bears – they might want to check what is the source of the smell.

How To Protect Yourself From Bears While Hiking

The spray is a precaution in case you encounter a bear ready to attack. Usually, bears don’t even approach humans in case they make noises and don’t leave food traces behind them. But just in case, keep the spray somewhere where you can easily access it. The spray works at a distance of 12-30 feet, it will affect the eyes and the respiratory system of the bear.

In Case Of Encounter

Don’t google a “how to fight a bear with a knife” request just yet, most likely, you won’t need a knife. There are two types of bears that you can encounter – the black bear, and the grizzly bear. In the first case, you can scare the black one away even without using sprays. In the second case, you won’t win a fight against a grizzly with a knife. The more detailed instructions are posted below.

First Glimpse Of The Bear: What To Do?

First things first, try to recognize the type of bear you are being approached by. Black bears have a typically black coat, they are smaller, they don’t have a hump between their shoulders. They have bigger and taller ears. Grizzlies have a hump between their shoulders, the ears are more rounded, shorter, overall the bear is big.

If you encounter a black bear, get closer with your group. Stick together, you look more threatening. Try to shout at the bear, throw objects at him, it should scare the animal away. Do not let the bear take your food – this is important. Only if it’s the last resort that you can give your food to the bear and retreat.

How To Protect Yourself From Bears While Hiking

In case you encounter a grizzly bear, don’t look directly into his eyes. Try to be as non-threatening as possible. Talk in a calm way to the bear to appear as you won’t harm the animal. When the bear retreats, don’t run, keep backing down until you don’t see the animal. No matter what type of bear you encounter, be ready to use a spray.

A Bear Comes Closer

If a black bear comes closer, still try to discourage the animal. Try to appear bigger by keeping your hands in the air. Throw objects, don’t let them take your food. But if the bear is extremely interested in your food and isn’t backing down, just drop the food and leave the place without running. Try to go to civilization after encountering a bear that took your food. If the black bear attacks you, be as aggressive as possible and don’t play dead.

In case you encounter a grizzly, look at his behavior. If it stands up to look at you, it may be targeting you. Try to talk calmly to the animal without looking in the eyes.

Fight Back Or Do Nothing?

In case you are attacked by the black bear, use a spray. Be ready to aim at the bear, better to aim lower so it will 100% attack the animal. Be ready to use the spray multiple times by creating a gas cloud. Eventually, the animal will leave the place because of irritation and disorientation.

How To Protect Yourself From Bears While Hiking

If you are attacked by a grizzly bear, play dead. The best way to save yourself is to drop to the ground on your stomach and to lock your hands on the back of your neck. When you lock your hands on the neck, try to hold your elbows close to the ground. Spread your legs and use elbows to avoid the bear flipping you over. If the animal manages to flip you on your back, keep rolling so that you are on your stomach.

Play dead while laying on the stomach, even though the bear may bite you. If the bear bites you, most likely it will then leave you. Laying on a stomach is extremely important in this case since the bear simply can’t get to your internal organs and kill you. So no, do not pull a Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘The Revenant’, and don’t fight a grizzly back. Play dead and you will survive a fully charged grizzly.

Using Bear Spray

So, how to fight a bear and win? The best idea is not to fight a grizzly bear and to be very aggressive towards the black bear. In case you have a bear spray, aim lower to the ground so it reaches the bear’s head. Create a gas cloud and be ready to create it multiple times while calmly and slowly pulling back.

Caution: Firearms

Most authorities will warn you against using firearms against bears. You would think you can kill a bear with a firearm, but you may simply wound the bear which will be much, much worse. A wounded bear is always more aggressive, which means your encounter might be lethal for you, not the bear.

How To Protect Yourself From Bears While Hiking

Moreover, state authorities are against using any weapons against animals. But if you use a firearm against a bear, immediately contact the authorities. Note, the best way to avoid potential damage is to stick to the rules. Even if you encounter a bear, you can still repel the animal by using the proper techniques. In case the bear is aggressive, use a spray, it’s much more effective than the gun.

How To Protect Yourself From Bears While Hiking
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