“Bear Resistant.” A Label that is Rigorously Tested.

Truth in advertising is important. Consumers today have a built-in detection system to weed out unrealistic and over-hyped claims that aren’t true. If a product makes a promise, then it should live up to it. We question claims such as organic, natural and others. These labels and promises are important, especially when it comes to the backcountry and using gear labeled ‘bear resistant.’ A broken promise for ‘bear resistant’ products means that both bears and people are in danger! (A saying in the mountains is that “a fed beer is a dead bear” – meaning that bears habituated to human foods are in danger from the humans.)

How does a product earn a ‘bear resistant’ badge? It’s simple. The bears are the actual product testers. Yes, 600-pound, hungry grizzle bears are the product testers at non-profit organization The Grizzle and Wolf Discovery Center in West Yellowstone, Montana. In order to keep bears and people safe, containers are put through rigorous testing by bears at the rescue center.

Picture it: Seven grizzles. Smart, large, and the ultimate sniff machines. Products are baited with the bears’ favorite foods. Coolers are padlocked (bears can open handles and latches), then placed in the bears’ enclosure. Bears go at it in their habitats, trying to break in and gain a food reward!

Once the bears start their “testing” process, the timer counts an hour to see if the bears can get into the coolers. Biting, smashing, bouncing, basically anything goes by these diligent product testers. If it passes – it gets certified as “bear resistant.” And if the bear gets in, then manufacturers review the video footage to see how the product fares with the grizzles. Some of the products that earned bear resistant badges are Bare Boxer, Bear Keg, Wise Backpack, Big Daddy, and more food canisters.

This has to be the ultimate in product testing.

Group Activities and Discussion Questions:

  1. Put students into groups. Have each group come up with common product labels and claims (e.g., organic, all natural, etc.). What is their opinion about how the claims are verified?
  2. Show the bear testing video: https://player.vimeo.com/video/296016960
  3. View the Web site for product testing: https://www.grizzlydiscoveryctr.org/research/product-testing/
  4. List of bear resistant products: http://igbconline.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/181026_Certified_Products_List.pdf
  5. Have students develop positioning maps for outdoor products.
  6. How should the certification be used in marketing the products?

Source: Housman, J. (20 November 2018). This is how bears decide if gear deserves the ‘bear resistant’ tag. Adventure Journal; Outside magazine.

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