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BACKPACKER Gear 360 Review
When it comes to bear safety, distance is everything—always keep at least 100 yards away if you can. But sometimes you can do everything right and still round a turn in the trail and come face to face with a bruin; in that case, you’ll want a bear spray that acts as a quick and effective deterrent. That’s why this spray from SABRE gives us peace of mind during hikes in bear country, especially habitats where grizzlies roam: It has an effective range of 35 feet, one of the longest distances on the market. The canister is noticeably larger than most sprays, which we found a bit distracting at first but eventually got used to as the miles piled up. (It's also available in a 7.9-ounce version that's smaller and lighter, but has a range of 30 feet.) Removing the glow-in-the-dark safety using just your thumb is smooth and easy, so you can activate the spray at a moment’s notice. The Frontiersman is available in packages that include a holster and/or a canister of practice spray; we appreciated being able to get a feel for the kickback of the canister by using the practice spray, but our testing sample did not include a holster (we carried ours in a pack pocket, which is less than ideal).
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The Frontiersman brand has a longer range (35 feet) than my other bear spray (Counter Assault; 30 feet). But the bottle is also a bit bigger and heavier. The best part of this spray is the holster. All my other sprays have a holster designed to go on a belt. I can put them on my hipbelt, but every time I take off my pack, the can slides off. I almost walked away from it once when taking a break. It may not sound like much, but it could be a very bad thing. However, this holster has a clip so you can attach it to a pack strap or somewhere else.
I had my wife shoot the training unit. She said it was easy enough to flip the safety off and shoot it with one hand.
I did not have to use this spray on a bear, but I did use it on a moose. At 2 in the morning, a young bull came into my camp by a lake in the Mallard-Larkins area of North Idaho. He ended up not being aggressive, but he was stubborn, and it is hard to sleep when there is a bull moose walking around near your tent. I tried to shoo him away a couple of times, but he came back within minutes. I decided to give him a quick puff of bear spray. He jogged off … but came back again in a few minutes.
When I initially tried out the bear spray, the canister seemed oversized and I felt like I had a baby-carrier on. I'm a short woman, so I loaned it to my 6'4" male friend who said the same thing. It's noticeably bigger than other bear sprays. I compared Frontiersman to Counter Assault and UDAP, and the canister was larger than both. I prefer something more compact, however others may feel safer since it presumably holds more spray.
I used this while dayhiking, fishing, backpacking, and berry picking in Montana. It stayed in its holster well and didn't slip when I was bending over to pick berries. For ease-of-use, it came out of the holster more readily than the canisters that use a top loop to secure the spray; you can take it out in one fluid motion. I have lost multiple bear spray canisters while bushwhacking and I don't think that would be a problem with the Frontiersman.
I used the test canister with a friend who had never deployed bear spray before. She said it made her feel more confident in carrying spray and was thankful for the opportunity to test it. The inert canister deployed as any other spray would. I also like the glow-in-the-dark safety latch and wish all sprays would have this feature.
The holster may be good for running if you are a man and don't have a large chest to interfere with the fit. I am small-chested so this wasn't a major issue, but I feel like it would be uncomfortable for women with a C-plus cup.