What Happened When We Tested Expired Bear Spray

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Written by Bernie Carr

We have a canister of bear spray that we take with us when camping in bear territory. It’s been a couple of years so we checked the expiration date and the expiration date showed “2019.” We’ve tested pepper spray before, and of course you have to take precautions.

We just wanted to see if the spray nozzle still works or if it will jam when we need it the most.

What’s in bear spray?

Bear spray contains concentrated pepper spray, capsicum, and will induce a painful, burning sensation. It will temporarily inhibit a bear’s eyesight, smell, and breathing to give you time to escape. Bear spray is said to be very effective in halting an aggressive bear’s behavior. Of course you still have to take precautions any time you’re in a bear vicinity.

We tested it outside

We took the bear spray outside and Mr. Apartment Prepper aimed the spray nozzle toward the ground. There were no other people or animals around. We also made sure it was not a windy day when we went out to test it.

What happened?

Mr. Apartment Prepper held the canister aiming downward toward the dirt. He sprayed it a couple of times to see if it would work.

We found that a couple of years after the expiration date, the spray nozzle still works.

Right after the second time, a light breeze came up.

Whoa! I was 10 feet away and I felt some of the effects and I started coughing. He was already walking away from area that he sprayed but he was closer so he too started coughing and felt more irritation in the skin around the nose. He quickly washed the affected area with some water and some hand soap. He rinsed several times but it was still burning. Milk provides relief when ingesting hot peppers so he then applied some milk to the area with and that seemed to help. The burning went away after about 15-20 minutes.

What to do if you get accidentally get sprayed with bear spray

When I thought about it, I realized there is always a risk of getting bear spray blown back at you, if you were to use bear spray in the wild. In the stress of the moment, when faced with a charging bear, you may not have time to check which direction the breeze may be blowing. You may get it on your hands or face.

Here’s what you need to do if you get sprayed with bear spray:

  • When safe to do so (the bear is gone) get away from the area where the bear spray was deployed.
  • Remove the clothes that got sprayed with bear spray and wash them.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly. If you got bear spray in your eyes, remove any contact lenses if you are wearing them. Flush your eyes with cool, clean water for around 10-15 minutes or until you feel some relief.
  • If the bear spray is affecting your skin, wash the area for 10-15 minutes as well. You can soap the area with a bit of Dawn dish liquid or shampoo or remove any residue.
  • Milk or yogurt on the affected skin does offer some relief.
  • Seek medical attention if you are unable to feel relief.

I found these decontamination wipes that can help offer relief on skin that is sprayed with pepper spray. I will definitely carry them with me with pepper spray or bear spray.

What I learned

Everyone always talks about carrying pepper spray or bear spray for protection, but no one ever covers what happens if you come into contact with it such as catching a whiff or touching your skin, which can happen anytime if you deploy the spray. That expired bear spray still works and is still quite potent. I will keep decontamination wipes handy if I carry bear spray or pepper spray.

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About the author

Bernie Carr is the founder of Apartment Prepper. She has written several books including the best-selling Prepper’s Pocket Guide, Jake and Miller’s Big Adventure, The Penny-Pinching Prepper and How to Prepare for Most Emergencies on a $50 a Month Budget. Bernie’s latest e-book, FRUGAL DIY has just been released on Amazon. Her work appears in sites such as the Allstate Blog and Clark.com, as well as print magazines such as Backwoods Survival Guide and Prepper Survival Guide. She has been featured in national publications such as Fox Business and Popular Mechanics. Learn more about Bernie here.

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