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  • Trevor Perkes

Are Bear Spray Canisters Waterproof?

I thoroughly enjoy fishing the different waters of Yellowstone. Recently I was waist deep in one of my favorite rivers to fish in Yellowstone’s backcountry, which is also bear country. As I was maneuvering to get a little closer to the location where I wanted to cast my line, I looked down and saw that my bear spray canister, strapped to my waist, was submerged under water. But fishing must go on and it wasn’t until about a half hour later that I moved on to another fishing location where the water was shallower and where the canister was above the water line. At that time, I remember thinking, is my bear spray canister waterproof? Will it still effectively discharge its contents after being in the water? Will it protect me with the same effectiveness should I need to use it?

So, are bear spray canisters waterproof? Bear spray canisters are waterproof and will discharge their content effectively even if they have been submerged underwater for a prolonged period of time? Data from our bear spray canister water submersion - discharge test indicate that bear spray canisters were effective in expelling their contents according to the parameters listed on the canister.

Our hypothesis was that the bear spray canisters would still effectively spray their contents even though being submerged in water for an hour. To test our hypothesis, we performed a basic submersion and test fire experiment on two different bear spray products.

Product Selection:

We selected two different manufacturers of bear spray for our experiment.

Product Type: UDAP Pepper Power Bear Deterrent

Active Ingredients:

· Capsaicin and related capsaicinoids: 2.0%

· Other ingredients: 98%

Weight of canister contents: 7.9 ounces (225 g)

Product label discharge spray duration: 4 seconds

Product label spray distance: 30 feet (9 meters)

*Product label expiration date: 12/2022

Product Type: Counter Assault Bear Deterrent

Active Ingredients:

· Capsaicin and related capsaicinoids: 2.0%

· Other ingredients: 98%

Weight of canister contents: 8.1 ounces (230 g)

Product label discharge spray duration: 7 seconds

Product label spray distance: 30 feet (9 meters)

*Product label expiration date: 12/2022

*Note: Bear spray canister water submersion – discharge test was conducted August of 2019.

Test Methods:

We selected the Teton River in southeast Idaho to conduct the test as it is close to our home and easily accessible. We had two canisters of each type of product. Because the product label for each product indicated a 30-foot spray distance, we used a 30-foot tape measure fully extended and laid it down as a marker for distance measurement.

1. One of each product type canister was taken to the river and placed between rocks along the river’s bank to keep the canisters contained and fully submerged.

2. The other two canisters (one of each product type used for control) were not submerged, but simply placed where the product test would take place.

3. After 60 minutes of submersion, the canisters were removed from the river and taken to the product test location.

4. Within 5 minutes of canister removal from the river the testing commenced.

5. Each product test was filmed so spray duration time and distance of spray measurement could be properly evaluated.

6. Each of the canisters when tested were sprayed until discharge of contents was complete as indicated by completion of contents emptying from the canister and associated spray noise ceased.

7. The test sequence was conducted as follows:

· Canister 1 (UDAP – submerged)

· Canister 2 (UDAP – control, not submerged)

· Canister 3 (Counter Assault – submerged)

· Canister 4 (Counter Assault – control, not submerged)

8. Each canister test was evaluated for:

· Did the canister immediately discharge upon pressing the trigger, or was there a delay?

· Did the spray distance reach 30 feet (distance specified on canister)? A tape measure extending out 30 feet was laid down in alignment with the discharge direction.

· Did the spray produce an effective “cloud” or “barrier” of spray? A subjective visual measurement of the spray cloud characteristics.

· Was the discharge spray duration time in seconds consistent with the spray duration time stated on the canister? Discharge time was assessed using Photo Elements Video Editor to obtain precise spray duration in seconds.

Bear Spray Test Results:

Important: It should be noted that the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (IGBC), an organization comprised of representatives of various state, federal, and Canadian wildlife management services and dedicated to the recovery of grizzly bear populations through public education about bears, bear safety, and the use of bear spray, has issued a statement that, “The IGBC has adopted a new policy that recommends the use of any EPA-registered bear spray product without reference to spray duration, that is, the time it takes for a can to discharge completely. Exercising its collective professional judgment, the IGBC appropriately withdrew its outdated six-second spray duration recommendation, which lacked any scientific or empirical justification, and conflicted with modern bear spray studies.“

While this research design would not qualify as a scientific study and could not precisely assess every parameter of product effectiveness, and especially the most important factor of actually deterring to a charging bear, it did demonstrate that a bear spray canister can effectively discharge its contents according to label statements after being submerged in water for a prolonged period of time. This is good news considering that those unexpected outdoor incidences, such as wading in water while fishing to the level that your hip-strapped bear spray canister becomes submerged in water, or when you accidently drop your canister in the stream as you maneuver about to cross it, will not adversely affect the canisters effectiveness in discharging its contents.


Practicing preventive measures to avoid a bear encounter when adventuring in the great outdoors is always the best strategy. However, should you experience a bear encounter, knowing how to effectively respond to the situation is vitally important. Most professionals consider properly formulated bear spray to be the first and best line of defense against a bear attack. And of course, knowing how to use your bear spray properly and having the canister effectively discharge the bear spray, are essential, even if the canister has been submerged in water from an outdoor experience.

Another item of discussion originating from our own curiosity is the difference in spray duration time between the two products tested. The UDAP canister contained 7.9 ounces of spray in 4 seconds and the Counter Assault canister which contained 8.1 ounces had a discharge time of 7 seconds. As such, the UDAP product seemed to discharge its contents with greater force expelling the nearly same amount of spray (7.9 oz verses 8.1 oz) in just over half the time as the Counter Assault product. We were curious as to if this difference would be felt in a “kick back or recoil” effect that was greater with the UDAP product.

To increase the sensitivity of such a subjective measurement, the canisters were held with only one hand, as compared to the recommended two-hand grip during discharge. The individual who discharged all the canisters reported that the UDAP canisters and Counter Assault canisters had similar discharge kicks with a possible slight greater kick difference felt in the UDAP canister. This of course makes sense in that the spray volume amount per given time period was greater for the UDAP canister.

For expert information on how to avoid a bear encounter, how to respond should you experience a bear encounter, and how to properly use bear spray, read our article, “Bear Awareness in Yellowstone National Park” by clicking HERE.

When venturing out on a hike in the bear country of Yellowstone, be sure to carry bear spray with you. We know of two Yellowstone area businesses that rent bear spray. They are:

· Bear Aware – Bear Spray Rentals, located inside Yellowstone National Park, rents UDAP bear deterrent canisters. Read about their product and rental options at

· Teton Backcountry Rentals, located in Jackson, Wyoming, rents Counter Assault bear deterrent canisters. Read about their product and rental options at

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