If you keep your eyes open-you just might see a bear!
If camping in bear country: Have an extra bin with a lid to place dirty clothing in each night and NEVER put food inside the tent or wear clothing to bed that you ate or cooked in. Don't put uneaten food in the fire pit. Carry out all trash each night and place it in bear-proofed trash bins. Place dirty clothing, toiletries, food and cookware in the car each night and bathe between dinner and bed. It is extra work, but worth the effort when you all come home intact. Just cheerfully remind the grumbling family that a black bear can kill and eat a deer and they are all dears. Gets mine in gear to scrub and change.
During the day, store the stove (unless you need it) in a Rubbermaid bin with a lid along with any cookware. Place the whole thing under your picnic table and this should be fine-unless the rules are different where you are camping. In grizzly country, all food has to be stored in the car-period. Black and brown bear country the rules are a little less strict and not even enforced at many campsites.
We were camping in the Smokies just outside Cherokee, NC and the kids were playing in the creek just below the tent. I looked up and saw a huge black bear lumbering down the hillside behind them to get a drink. Bear and kid were less than 20 feet apart-both oblivious to the other. I was jumping up and down and screaming at the kids, who could not hear me over the rushing stream all around them. The bear saw me running at it and took off for the hilltop again.
What to do if you actually run up on a bear. Well, let logic prevail. You are 160,000 times more likely to die in a car accident than be killed by a bear. Doesn't that cheer you right up? No? Well then the next thing is to take stock of where you are. If the bear is in your campsite about about (or already commenced) to eat all your food, you should be sure the bear has a CLEAR ROUTE to escape-then yell, wave your arms and bang pots. Stay 15 feet away from the bear regardless. This works best if more than one person makes noise. If you are the only adult along, throw rocks at the brush around the bear and try to look bigger.
If you are on the trail, back up slowly, just as you would if you came up on a big snake sunning on a rock. Do NOT run because the bear may run as well-right over to see what you are and if you taste good.
Leave your dog at home if camping in bear country. If this is impossible, never let your dog off the leash. They will go find a bear and then come right back to you, leading the (probably angry) bear right to your campsite. If not a bear then a skunk, porcupine or cucklebur plant.