[cdt-l] Pepper Spray?

Jonathan Ley jonathan at phlumf.com
Sun Apr 1 01:32:14 CDT 2007

Even the best prepared person can have an unfortunate encounter with a
grizzly (or black bear). It's not worth being paranoid about or dwelling on,
but it does happen. Consider these cases...

When I was hiking up toward Stoney Indian Pass, a grizzly came around a
blind corner on a steep trail... luckily, I was about 50 yards away and the
griz thought a bit, turned and ran. But, if I had been 30 seconds faster, we
would have come face to face and the encounter might have been quite
different. I was glad to have a (admittedly small and probably inadequate)
can of pepper spray as a last resort. Perhaps it'd take an amazing bit of
bad luck to have such an encounter, but there is no amount of preparedness
that would have prevented it. (especially with the raging waterfall nearby
that obliterated all possible warning sounds)

I usually don't cook where I sleep on a trail for a matter of camp
cleanliness. Twice on the PCT I learned that there was a group behind me who
did camp unknowingly where I'd cooked and had bears visiting their camp that
night. Pepper spray might not have helped, but it couldn't hurt. In glacier
you have to stay at established camp sites. How do you know what the people
next to you, or the night before did at the camp? 

What exactly would you do if you came around a corner and found a grizzly
ripping apart a mountain goat who'd died the previous winter? He spots you,
and starts walking toward you... This is a potentially dangerous
situation... again, a matter of bad luck, and the odds are quite low. But it
does and has happened. What if you are walking through thick brush and get
between a sow and her cubs - you can't even see either of them, but the sow
sees you... 

What exactly do you plan to do if you notice a lone grizzly has been
following you for 2 miles? 

Again, I don't think it's worth being paranoid about, but it is worth being
prepared. Pepper spray is just one tool, and hardly the most important
one... But it can be a very useful one in certain situations. Your head is
the most important tool - read up a bit on bear behavior. There's a great
book (now revised) by Stephen Herrera titled "Bear Attacks: Their causes and
avoidance" that I'd recommend - maybe it's at your local library? Again,
that the odds are greatly in your favor that you'll have no problems. But,
it's always good to be prepared.

Lastly, I know of about a few instances of people being bitten by dogs along
the CDT, and many "close encounters". Pepper spray might have helped in
those situations... who knows.


-----Original Message-----
From: cdt-l-bounces at backcountry.net [mailto:cdt-l-bounces at backcountry.net]
On Behalf Of Ginny & Jim Owen
Sent: Saturday, March 31, 2007 8:41 PM
To: cdt-l at backcountry.net
Subject: Re: [cdt-l] Pepper Spray?

We've hiked the CDT twice, didn't carry spray either time, wouldn't do it 
again.  We've also hiked in Canada, Alaska and the Abasarokas sans spray.  
We've seen grizzlies on each of our hikes but had no difficult encounters.

Learn how to handle bears without the spray, then decide whether you will 
feel more comfortable with it.  We never felt it worth the weight.  We'd 
rather make noise as we hike and keep a clean camp.

Ginny & Jim


>From: "Rod" <rbelshee at hotmail.com>
>Reply-To: cdt-l at backcountry.net
>To: <cdt-l at backcountry.net>
>Subject: [cdt-l] Pepper Spray?
>Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2007 11:16:00 -0700
>Question for CDT veterans: if you were to hike the CDT again, would you
>carry pepper spray?
>If so, what size (2oz, 4oz, 7oz, 9oz)?
>Steady Sr.

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