Tuesday, March 28, 2023


RVer Safety: Do you hate guns? Alternatives for self-protection

By Mike Sherman

Do you want to feel protected while camping but you shun guns? There are alternatives that will help you in the event you find yourself under assault, either by an animal, or a human being acting like an animal.

Non-lethal weapons have, of course, been around since the beginning of time. Some might think a rock or a baseball bat is a non-lethal weapon but the law recognizes them as deadly weapons. If you rely on a baseball bat for personal protection, keep in mind its use requires you to be up close and personal with your attacker. But what about a defensive spray? They can save your life with a 15-foot separation between you and the offender. Continue reading about the benefits of pepper spray.

Differences between animal (dog or bear) spray and human pepper spray
SOURCE: Pepper-Spray-Store.com

If you want to stay safe from both animals and humans while jogging or camping, you probably don’t want to carry two different types of spray (animal spray and human pepper spray). So, the natural question is whether you can use one spray to cover all possible scenarios.

The fact is, animal spray is typically not as strong as human pepper spray. This is because, quite simply, it doesn’t need to be. Dogs and other animals have much more sensitive senses of sight and smell, so it takes much less OC (oleoresin capsicum, the active ingredient in pepper spray) to affect them and keep you safe.

Dog spray (like Mace Brand Muzzle Pepper Spray) is most often less than half of the industry standard put into human defense spray, with the industry standard for human pepper spray being about 2 million SHU (Scoville Heat Units).

If you only want to carry one type of spray, it’s advised to carry human pepper spray and have the protection against both animals and humans. Pepper spray is not lethal and will not cause long-term injuries to people or animals. It will only temporarily disable the attacking animal or human. Human pepper spray can still get an instant response in animals and the range is still adequate enough for you to stay safe (between 8 and 16 feet). Each spray wears off in 30 minutes to 2 hours and it’s legal in all states (with a few still having restrictions on its use).

Of course, it should be noted that human pepper spray might not be as effective on larger animals like bears. Bear spray might be a better choice if you’re an avid camper or hiker in locations where you’re more likely to encounter an angry bear than a human attacker. Both bear spray and pepper spray contain the same active ingredient, OC (oleoresin capsicum), and can cause temporary blindness, nausea, burning sensations, inability to breathe temporarily and other bothersome symptoms.

However, the big difference in bear spray and human pepper spray is the bear spray has to pass tests done by the Environmental Protection Agency, to ensure it’s humane. In terms of strength, bear spray has about 2% CRC (Capsaicin and Related Capsaicinoids) and human spray only has about 1.33% CRC. Bear spray typically can shoot farther than human pepper spray and also often has a wider affected area.

The main point is to keep yourself protected at all times, no matter where you are. Think about your lifestyle and what types of dangers you might encounter on a regular day. If you don’t ever camp or hike, chances are you need human pepper spray. It can help you fight off human or smaller animal attacks (dogs, cats, raccoons, opossum). It’s an ideal choice for joggers or for those who need protection as they walk in parking lots.

However, if you are in the woods a lot and need protection against bears it might be wise to carry bear spray alone or carry it with human pepper spray. It could possibly be illegal to use bear spray on a human should you be attacked by a human while hiking in the woods, as it’s not intended for human use. But, keep in mind if you’re being attacked you must react to keep yourself safe. So, if all you have is bear spray, be sure to use it! It will disable a human just the same, if not more effectively.

There are some restrictions in a few states. You can view the legal information and a wealth of product information at Pepper-Spray-Store.com .

Until next time, be alert and stay safe out there!

Note: We know what we discuss in this column may be controversial. While we invite your polite, constructive comments, inflammatory remarks will be immediately deleted.

Mike Sherman is a retired street cop and investigator with 30+ years of RV experience as a traveler, camp host and all-around advocate for the joys of living on the road. His articles are for general discussion purposes only – you should always consult your local authorities or legal counsel for specific answers if necessary. Write him at MikeShermanPI@gmail.com if you have questions, or leave a comment below. 

Read more RVer Safety articles here.




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1 year ago

Has anyone considered a boat horn…small spray type container. Most animals don’t like loud noise and humans the attention it brings. It is also better to be heard if lost outdoors.

Mike Daus
1 year ago

Low Tech: Whether you need a defensive firearm or spray, if you also need a low-tech deterrent that would send would-be wrong-doers looking for easier targets, consider warning stickers on the outside of the RV like that of a security system, “video surveillance” or even a “beware of dog,” notice. And, personal alert keychain or door alarms are battery powered and make quite a racket, which will attract attention. Near the campsite and need help, set off your car alarm.

1 year ago

We have used creepy Halloween masks over the years. A quick flash light pointing up from your chin..then the hyper flash blinking mode in their face.

Donald N Wright
1 year ago

I have known archers/bow hunters that use skunk spray. They spray themselves…

Thomas D
1 year ago

Watch television lately it seems that the police have forgotten their training. How does a man with both hand out the window “get out of the car” and finally when the door is opened get out of the car with the seatbelt fastened? Good thought about bear spray though. My 9 has the first 2bullets bird shot. Followed by 8 115 grain lead.

Bill N Stacey
1 year ago


Eugene Grochowski
2 years ago

Three years ago when we were crossing into Canada we were asked if we had any guns or pepper spray. We responded no, but we had bear spray and we were told that was okay, but not pepper spray.

Allan Cardinal
2 years ago

While human pepoer spray is legal to carry in the USA it is not in Canada, but bear spray or dog/coyote spray is.

2 years ago

Good article – i’m an avocate of carrying a OC spray in addtion to anything else – you don’t want to just have one tool on your belt.

be aware that you can’t fly with bear spray – i have put small personal sized containers in my checked bag and it was there later…

2 years ago

Mike Sherman,

Thank you for writing this article. I’m not sure where I read another piece about this subject (and maybe you were the author as well), it was stated to consider all the results of firing a gun at someone- both during and after the event. As mentioned, training should always be a prerequisite to owning and firing guns. If you-as the victim survive the attack, be prepared for mountains of legal mess afterwords. And, right now, before you’re confronted with an attacker, walk yourself through the whole scenario. A trained police officer has huge amounts of info to process quickly before firing a weapon- and they have completed a lot of training. I don’t know if the average person could do as good a job in the same amount of time. Thank you for your continuing service to all of us through your pursuits and articles. I know my response wasn’t too on-topic regarding the article but I think it was relevant.

Steve S.
2 years ago

One thing that must be considered is the human psychological factor.

People in general, and bad people in particular are fearful when a gun is presented.
Especially if they are looking down the barrel of the gun.

Bad people want a soft target where they have the advantage.
A gun removes that advantage.

Psychologically there is a big difference between a gun and a spray bottle.
They know that with a gunshot, they can die, but with a spray they will definitely survive.
A non-fatal shot with a gun is also more severe (physically and psychologically) than a similar miss with a spray.

There are also non-fatal firearm solutions too.

You can purchase non-lethal ammunition for your firearms, including handguns.
Whether it is rubber rounds, or ‘birdshot’ rounds, there are non-lethal options for handguns.

Using these will create a significantly enhanced psychological effect in the attacker,
but also has a psychological effect on the defender, creating a greater willingness to shoot the initial shot.

Another psychological effect is that once the first shot has been fired at the attacker,
the attacker no longer doubts that you will actually shoot them, and any bluffing they may believe in has gone away.

Another psychological effect on the defender is that once the first shot is fired, there is a greater willingness to keep firing until the threat has been removed.

So whether you load your firearm with all rubber bullets, or just the first one, you now have a significant advantage over the attacker.

Remember, you have every right to protect yourself and loved ones from attack, whether the animal is human or not.

Connie VH
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve S.

Bravo! Thank you for this well thought out post.

Tommy Molnar
1 year ago
Reply to  Connie VH

I agree.

2 years ago

I noticed the main page title was “don’t like guns?” to “hate guns” on the article. I don’t hate guns, or those who chose to own them, but after 30 years of active duty I’m done with proficiency training and maintenance, two things that every gun owner should practice. I’ve been full timing for 15 years now, and have never had an experience that required my bear spray let along a gun. But articles like this give some folks an opportunity to use their memorized NRA slogans, so they serve a purpose.

2 years ago

I went to Bass Pro to get some bear spray for use against the vicious dog running loose. He said bear spray would kill the dog. I was so angry about the dog at the time I didn’t care. I settled for dog spray, I don’t think he would of sold me the bear spray knowing my intentions.

Jim Barrett
2 years ago

Like a firearm for self-defense, a defensive spray takes practice to deploy and use effectively against its intended target. Don’t just assume that because you have one that under stress you are able to use it. Practice, practice, practice. I for one would prefer to carry a handgun as a backup to the spray.

2 years ago

How can bear spray not be as strong as pepper spray and yet have more OC in it? Doesn’t that make it stronger?

Walter Loyd Fuhrmann
2 years ago

but whatever you do, don’t go to Canada with pepper spray. We had forgotten we had a 3″ o c. container in our truck. Virtually arrested and fined $500 before we could continue. They said bear spray would have been okay…

2 years ago

And be sure you use a humanly approved spray when being attacked by a 800# grizzly. No wonder this world is like it is. Don’t want a lawsuit from some treehugger claiming you injured his eyes while you may be in intensive care clinging to life.

M. Will
2 years ago

I’d take using my bear spray over any of the others mentioned. I carry it while traveling in YNP and flyfishing in Idaho. Have it ready in the compartment of my drivers door. Also keep another can inside my travel trailer. If it will deter a bear it will do the same to a two legged idiot!!

Dick HIme
3 years ago

Mike, as a former LEO and long-tenured personal security consultant and firearms dealer/instructor, I surely hope you plan to have follow-up pieces regarding the methods of non-lethal protection other than OC to include at least the following: collapsible batons, drive-stuns, and civilian TASERS©. I tell all of my clients that my primary response to physical violence from a singe aggressor if not confronted with a firearm is my civilian TASER©. They are extremely effective in immediate temporary stoppage of the threat with a range of 15′ and give the user two (or more) follow up options: 1) 30 seconds of escape time, or, 2) electronic remote pain/control function for apprehension/detention. In a cold and practical manner of speaking, a TASER involves much less clean-up and myriad less paperwork than a firearm. TASERS should NEVER be confused with stun guns – two very different devices. Because one always needs a follow-up plan when using non-lethal deterrents, my recommendation is a concealed firearm but only when the owner has be trained FULLY in ALL aspects of firearm ownership including safety, storage, retention, tactics, manipulation, and especially the LAW!

Connie VH
1 year ago
Reply to  Dick HIme

Your comments remind me of my CCW class, 15 years ago or more. We spent 6 of 8 hours on learning laws and written testing, and the final 2 hours on target and tactical shooting tests. I wish we’d signed up for a 2-day course, but none were offered at the time. The 1-day class was easy for my DH…he was already a marksman. But it was tough for us 3 women in the class of 25.

DH had been (HAS been…still) my firearms safety and shooting teacher, and I passed all those tests then, and I enjoy target shooting now when we get the chance. Often, we MAKE the opportunity, to keep sharp. Best activity I ever pursued, having been a victim of a violent personal crime before I met my DH.

Last edited 1 year ago by Connie VH
Joe A.
3 years ago

What type of spray do police officers use?

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