Trail Running and Hiking in Grizzly Country with Scatbelt: A Review

Those who frequent trails in bear country know that you should never be without your trusty bear spray. More successful at preventing a bear attack than guns, bear spray has quickly become another essential everyone needs. Yet, for many outdoor enthusiasts, finding a comfortable, accessible place to hold your bear spray can be a challenge. That is where Scatbelt comes in.

I used to carry my bear spray in the water bottle holder of my running or hiking backpack, but always felt a little hesitant about it, as it would take a weird arm bend for me to get it out if/when I encountered a bear on the trail. I know of hikers who put their bear spray in their bag and hope they can stop, open their bag and take it out before an aggressive/defensive bear comes their way. Both of these ideas are not great and should be avoided, as your bear spray should always be close and easy to reach.

As a trail runner, finding a convenient place to carry bear spray can be a tough thing to do, as we like to travel as fast and light as possible. There are harnesses and holsters and all that, but they tend to not be so great, fitting awkwardly or bouncing a lot. I tried out a few in previous years and didn’t feel like they worked with the rest of my gear. I even know people who carry their bear spray in hand while running, but this is 2020 and we should have a good solution that isn’t so cumbersome or awkward fitting. That is why I was stoked to see an ad for Scatbelt come across my Instagram feed.

Who am I?

I am a mediocre trail runner who is most often found in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem of Montana, Wyoming and Idaho. I’ve completed 50ks. I’ve ran every road in Yellowstone National Park. I have a trail running podcast and spend all of my free time running and hiking.

I also love running belts, as they create an easy to access area for runs of all distances. I wear a running belt when running through town, running trails, climbing mountains or hiking with friends. Again, when I saw what Scatbelt was selling, I was intrigued.

I reached out to them, explained that I had a trail running podcast and was located out in grizzly territory and they sent me out two belts, one of each, free of charge. I received both models, The Griz and The Cub. The cub is nothing more than a belt with a place for your bear spray. The Griz is a bit more than that, offering a spot for your phone and a small pocket.

Over the last month or so, I have put in 100+ miles on trails in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, wearing my Scatbelts in an area with more bears than anywhere else in the Contiguous United States. In corresponding with Scatbelt about this review, they told me to be honest about my experience with my belt, so here we go.


THE GRIZ

Pros:
– Bear spray was extremely easy to reach quickly and confidently.
– No bouncing of the bear spray, once belt is properly adjusted.
– Sleek design that doesn’t ride.
– Easy to clean after sweating all day.

Cons:
– The pocket on The Griz is way too small. I couldn’t fit my key fob in it. It is useless, in the current design.
– Phone rests vertically and not horizontally, causing a bit of bouncing. My phone never fell out, but I was constantly feeling like I needed to check it.
– The clip to attach the belt could be a little stronger feeling. It works, but looks weaker than it is.

Overall, I rate The Griz by Scatbelt a 4 out of 5. They are great, work well and very useful. I just feel they could be tweaked and made even better. The issues I have with The Griz are minimal and could only apply to me. On short runs, I also carried a handheld water bottle with a pocket and that was good for a snack and to hold my key. On a long run, I am usually bringing a backpack or running vest with me, so the small pocket wasn’t too big of an issue. It still is something I feel could be improved.


THE CUB

Pros:
– Quick and simple.
– Comfortable.
– Sleek design that doesn’t ride.
– Easy to clean after sweating all day.

Cons:
– The clip to attach the belt could be a little stronger feeling. It works, but looks weaker than it is.
– That is it. Sure, there are no pockets or places for a phone, but that is what The Griz is for.

The Cub is perfect for what it is. No frills. No nonsense. Just a belt for quick access to a conveniently placed bear spray can on your back. I don’t use this one as much, as I enjoy having my phone on me and easy to get to for when I want to take pictures. That being said, for hiking, this is perfect and is one I often find myself loaning to friends when on adventures with them.

FINAL THOUGHTS

Honestly, if The Griz had a bigger pocket and allowed me to put my phone in it horizontally instead of vertically, or attach it in a way that felt more secure, I would be singing the belt’s praises from the mountain tops I am exploring. Instead, I am just strongly recommending everyone in bear country pick up one or both of these belts. They work for what they say and will keep you safe, and that peace of mind is well worth the low asking price. As of publication, they are being sold on the Scatbelt Website for just $25 for The Cub and $39 for The Griz.