GARDINER — Ryan Harbach grew up in Gardiner, went to college in Bozeman, worked for the National Park Service for years and always enjoys exploring Montana's great outdoors.
Being a Montanan and passionate about the outdoors, Harbach knows how essential carrying bear spray is.
“It’s really important that people carry bear spray, and unfortunately a lot of people don’t carry bear spray,” Harbach said. “There was a study done by the Park Service some years ago that only 13% of day hikers carry bear spray, and we would really like to see that number up.”
After years of dreaming of creating a way to rent out bear spray, he made it into reality three years ago with kiosks offering bear spray to rent starting at $16 for two days and $28 for two weeks with a $60 refundable deposit. If the bear spray is used, the $60 is not refunded.
“When I was working for the Park Service, I just noticed that there was a lot of bear spray being thrown away or recycled,” Harbach said. “It’s great for tourists, especially those flying in because you can’t take it on a plane.”
While he did say that recycling the bear spray was great, he wanted to figure out a way to reuse the bear spray if it isn't used.
TrailQuipt Bear Spray Rentals are available at the Yellowstone Big Rock Inn in Gardiner, Madison Crossing in West Yellowstone and Montana Grizzly Encounter in Bozeman. The canisters can also be reserved online, which does not require a deposit of $60. The rentals can be returned to any of the three locations. The canisters are then thoroughly checked and weighed to make sure they have not been sprayed before being offered for rent again.
“Bear encounters, if you will, have happened in some of the park’s busiest areas. A few years ago, at Old Faithful, somebody had to use bear spray on a grizzly bear, so anytime you’re in grizzly country and you’re out of your car it’s good to have it,” Harbach said.