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The best way to understand a backcountry place is to base camp there. Base camping provides you with the opportunity for day hiking and exploring from the comfort of a fixed camp. Because the camp is fixed, base camping also allows you to relax as much as you want, once camp is set. With base camping, you would usually carry all of your gear for some distance, set up camp, and explore from there. So, keeping the weight of your gear as light as possible is still very important. Base camping typically allows you to get away from it all, but still bring enough gear to be comfortable.
The basic principle is to organize or categorize your gear items by "when" and "how quickly" you'll need them.
Arrival stuff: when you arrive at a campsite, the first thing you may want is your raingear, the tarp and its guylines, stakes, and mallet. If they are kept handy, you only need the doors or the trunk open for an instant to get them. With the tarp up and the car backed in under it, you can rummage without either you, the car trunk, or the gear getting soaked in the event it's raining.
Raingear: keep everyone's raingear together in one breathable (mesh) bag that's accessible from inside the car. Keeping it together also makes it easy to hang it all out to dry thoroughly as soon as any opportunity arises - and before it mildews.
Night stuff: you don't need"night stuff" until the night, so keep it all in one bag - night attire, flashlight, sleeping bag, sleeping pads, wash kit, etc. If that bag is well buried under other items in the car that's fine - you'll have unloaded the other stuff by the time you need it anyway.
Tent and fly: they might be wet, so keep them separate from other gear. You don't need them during the day so they can get buried. That way there won't be as much stuff underneath for a wet tent to drip and ooze into, either!
Spare clothes: changes of clothing are not needed every day or during the day - you can bury them too.
Miscellaneous daytime needs: items you might need any time of any day (extra sweaters, a windbreaker, swimwear, towel, a sunhat, sunglasses, personal medication, water bottle, bug repellent, and odds and ends). Pack in a"daybag" for each person, perhaps even a daypack.
Kitchen stuff: cutlery, plates, mugs and pots should all be together in a plastic storage box, along with the standard items you need at every meal - dishcloth and soap, tea, coffee, condiments, etc.
Stove stuff: stove, white gas, lighter, etc., need to be kept separate from food.
Food: divide into four categories in separate containers. The cooler with perishables, and the non-perishable "lunch stuff" that you need during the day should be kept handy. The "dinner supplies" and "breakfast supplies" in their own containers can be buried deeper since they are not needed during the day.
Well, it doesn't involve sleeping in your car, unless you just really want to. It simply involves packing all your camping equipment into your vehicle and driving right up to your campsite. You can even use your vehicle for storage or an extra room, and have it available for inclement weather or those little side trips to the local store, tourist spot, or hospital (God forbid!).
Camp for at least two nights, if possible. There's a lot of work involved in packing, and setting up and breaking down camp. The longer you camp, the more enjoyment you'll get out of your efforts.
I think 3 or 4 nights if ideal for the average person. After, that amount of time, only the true outdoors enthusiast is still having huge fun (like me!). Most recreational campers need to get home to jobs, commitments, TV, running water, etc.
To pick a great basecamp:
1) Choose a place that can be reached by foot or canoe in a day or two.
2) Pick a spot where water is nearby.
3) Choose a place that ensures solitude. Serenity is essential, and so is the peace of mind that your gear is going to be there when you return.