I fish the Beartooth-Absaorka(sp?) backcountry every other summer for 3-4 weeks. There is nothing like coming around a corner finding bear dropping with the juice on the berries still wet. *
Bear bells work well there; (away from the stream) because the bears act "like bears". With the noise around our streams, I don't know if bells would work. Almost all my bear encounters have been when I've been on the stream or near it.Smokies bears are another story which makes them actually more dangerous. I have had one see me and bee line down a hill toward me. My Son and I had a very hard time convincing it not to come accross the river.They don't know fear of man or how a bear should act around humans. My concern about the "little bears" in the Smokies is EQUAL that of walking up onto a Brown furry sleeping in the Tag Alders. Respect them because they are unpredictable.
The propellant in your spray has a life of two years after which its distance will decrease. The pepper doesn't lose effectiveness. Might as well carry it if you have it, if you have to use if it will probably be on someone's dog. (The spray is legal in the park!)