Ever hear the one about Bob and Joe hiking in the woods when they come across a bear? Bob immediately prepares to make a dash for it by tying his shoes. Joe says, "What are you doing? You can't outrun a bear." Bob replies, "I don't have to outrun him. I just have to outrun you!"
Running away is a bad plan if you find yourself toe-to-toe with a grizzly, black or any other type of bear. While bears rarely attack, they are wild animals and therefore unpredictable. They can also run as fast as 30 miles (48 kilometers) an hour [source: National Park Service]. The good news is that they usually just want to be left alone. Encounter one in the great outdoors and your best bet is to back away slowly while facing the animal and avoiding direct eye contact.
If the bear continues to follow, you'll likely have to go on the offensive. There are limited circumstances in which "playing dead" can help you. Namely, if you're being sized up by a grizzly or brown bear that sees you as a threat to her cubs. These bears are commonly found in the western U.S. and are distinguished from black bears by a shoulder hump and "dished" face [sources: Murray; PBS].
Under all other circumstances, it's best to get aggressive. Despite their size and strength, bears of all colors are intimated by loud noises and dangerous objects. Start by making yourself as big as possible — by going to higher ground, for instance. Shout at the bear, wave a stick and even throw rocks at it. Also, be sure that you're ready to use that bear spray if the animal gets close enough [sources: National Park Service; Murray].