Our hunting situation is actually quite nice...we stay in a person double-wide on his personal land then make a 5 minute drive to another persons personal land and use it to access the public hunting ground a good 5 miles in from the nearest public entrance. So as far as a 'camp gun' goes, unless there isn't enough dinner for the 3 of us I doubt there will be much need for self defense. The sidearms are purely for the hike in and hike out, while our rifles are strapped to our backs. Last year we had success hiking to a certain spot and waiting and I think that is our plan for this year as well.
I have read the pepper spray tactic but like you I am not real comfortable with letting a bear get close enough for that, and i also dont feel like carrying around the small fire extinguisher that would it would require to affect a bear at a range I would feel at least some sort of comfort.
I totally agree with the whichever you can shoot better argument, which is why last year I went with my .45. My dad didn't have any guns yet so my .45 was all I had shot. This year I am much more experienced and still have plenty of time to practice with the .357 so its not as much of an issue.