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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Dick HIme

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!

Joe A.

What type of spray do police officers use?

Phil Smith

I was surprised when crossing into Canada that they confiscated my tiny pocket-sized human spray, but allowed me to keep my gigantic (relatively) bear spray…

Carson Axtell

“Better to stand before a jury of your peers than to lay stretched before a coroner.”


Wasp and Hornet Spray – 20 ft range. Legal to own in all 50 States. “I defended my family using what I had on hand.”

Primo Rudy's Roadhouse

” It could possibly be illegal to use bear spray on a human …” I guess that will tell us something about lawmakers. Thanks for the article, it was informative.


Reread the article…”BEAR SPRAY has about 2% CRC (Capsaicin and Related Capsaicinoids) and human spray only has about 1.33% CRC.”

Manne@Arms Safety

This article doesn’t make sense, claiming “animal spray is less than half as strong as human spray” AND “2% for animal spray and 1.3% for human spray.”

IMHO, the biggest difference is most animal sprays shoot further and deliver more volume from larger dispensers. The larger size is less convenient to carry in the city, but still as effective IF you hit your target, and easier to do that with more spray to use… hose your mugger down.


Caveat 1: Pepper spray, just like a sidearm or taser requires users to be willing to practice with it. Yes, you practice with spray – know where it shoots, how far, and for how long. Wasting a practice can is worth that knowledge.

Caveat 2: I don’t recommend pepper spray for use in cars or RVs… most have enough backsplatter and fumes that in an enclosed space, they will gas the defender as bad as the attacker. Use in open air only.