I'm aware that bear sprays are normally banned from commercial flights, including in checked bags. As I'm not sure of the reason behind that, I'm in turn unsure of whether it's wise to have some with me in my Cessna as I take it to go backpack.

Are there risks to having bear spray with me, flying up to 12,500 ft?

Additionally, why is bear spray banned from commercial flights (I mean in checked bags, it's pretty obvious why they don't want that in the cabin)? Is it the difference of pressure? Surely these things are made to withstand pressures up to 13 or 14k feet, as they could very well be taken that high when simply hiking?

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    $\begingroup$ When you're hiking, you can toss the can of bear spray safely away from you if it starts leaking. Try doing that in an enclosed airplane cabin. $\endgroup$
    – Vikki
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 23:32
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    $\begingroup$ Interesting your perspective. The reason it's outlawed in commercial flights is how useful it would be to terrorists trying to take over the airplane. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 1:51
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    $\begingroup$ @Harper-ReinstateMonica Also, the chance of encountering any bears at 10,000+ ft. is pretty much nil, so there aren't too many legitimate reasons to have it accessible during the flight... $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 19:25
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    $\begingroup$ @Harper-ReinstateMonica I meant why is it forbidden to have in checked bags, where it's not accessible during the flight. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 19:55
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    $\begingroup$ Imagine being an airline manager, responsible for passenger safety in a multi-million dollar (a 777 is 306 million) aircraft -- and their luggage. A passenger puts bear spray in their luggage, maybe leaky or a broken anti-discharge safety (dropped on rocks, sabotaged as a prank, whatever) and it discharges... into the middle of an aircraft hold full of luggage. It all has to be cleaned, passengers placated and compensated, and a 777 costs around $7,380 per hour to operate. You want to delay flights, handle that cleaning job, all the fallout? Would YOU say "sure, no problem, pack it"? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 21, 2021 at 4:16

2 Answers 2


The main danger in a light aircraft is that the spray accidentally discharges in the cabin. That could temporarily blind and incapacitate the pilot, which would obviously be extremely dangerous.

According to an article from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, GA operators typically take special precautions when transporting bear spray:

You can take bear spray, but you must tell the carrier and the pilot must know. It requires special handling. Carl Ramseth is with Alaska Seaplanes, a Southeast Alaska regional service, which has planes on both floats and wheels. Bear spray is defined as a hazardous material, he said.

“You can fly with it, but it needs to be declared,” he said. “We ask passengers as they check in – people on scheduled flights as well as people going to remote locations. People don’t realize it could be a problem, so we always ask. There is paperwork filled out. We transport it in a sealed can, stored in a part of the aircraft that is not in the main cabin, so there is no risk of it going off in the cabin. Or it goes in the float compartment of a float plane.”

Some carriers use a length of heavy duty black PVC sewer pipe, four inches in diameter and threaded with caps at both ends. Several cans can be stacked and sealed in the tube for transport.

Another article on the same site says that some operators don't want to carry it at all:

“Bear spray is a big one, it’s dangerous,” said Stewart of Skagway Air. “We can do it, but we really prefer not to. Typically speaking, most carriers won’t allow it. You don’t want that going off in an aircraft.”

“We really try to have them leave it behind,” said Vanessa Thompson, with 40-mile Air.

Even if you don't have a floatplane, as long as you have some duct tape it's still possible to carry the spray outside the cabin:

Bear spray taped to aircraft strut

ilya_ktsn, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

It might look odd, but it's allowed by the FAA per JO 8400.34 - Fixed-Wing External Loads in Alaska:

Items in this group are small, lightweight, and temporarily attached with bungee cords, straps, ropes, etc. Below is a list of items that are examples that may be carried under a Standard Airworthiness Certificate. For the purpose of this order, these temporarily-attached items are not considered design changes or alterations.


Cans of animal repellent, such as bear spray or pepper spray.

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    $\begingroup$ Very interesting, thanks a lot! $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 18:05
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    $\begingroup$ This is a way better answer to the main question than mine, since it brings out the real world comments about the bear spray. All in all, if pros don't want to fly with that stuff in the cabin, well... $\endgroup$
    – Jpe61
    Commented Aug 18, 2021 at 20:47
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    $\begingroup$ I just did this a few weeks ago with another Southeast Alaska regional service. They put the bear spray in a container in the float (the kerosene went in the float too). This is how I've always seen it done here. $\endgroup$
    – llogan
    Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 0:51
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    $\begingroup$ ah, duct tape. The universal cure where WD40 is inappropriate :) $\endgroup$
    – jwenting
    Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 7:33
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    $\begingroup$ Now let's go crop-dust some bears! $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 19, 2021 at 9:27

Second things first (just because I can):

Bear sprays such as this Wikipedia example are banned as carry on luggage on airliners for two reasons:

  1. They are aerosols, which generally are banned
  2. They contain capsaisine, meaning they essentially are a pepper spray, and could be used as a weapon.

TSA has ruled that:

One 4 fl. oz. (118 ml) container of mace or pepper spray is permitted in checked baggage provided it is equipped with a safety mechanism to prevent accidental discharge. Self-defense sprays containing more than 2 percent by mass of tear gas (CS or CN) are prohibited in checked baggage.

I am unaware of any rule or regulation banning bear sprays on general aviation aircraft, but unless the container was equipped with a safety device described in TSA rule, I would not take one on a plane. Not that I would be worried about the container bursting, but simply because any kind of accidental discharge could very well prove to be fatal.

If you ever have had the chance to try how it feels to be maced, you know you immediately end up in IFR without the possibility to read the gauges. The experience is blinding and very, very painful.

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    $\begingroup$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Commented Aug 23, 2021 at 8:37

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