"No sure what base wt vs skin wt exactly means."
First of all, one category is your base weight. That includes shelter, cook gear, sleeping bag, carried clothing, and all manner of gear, including the backpack that you carry it in. A second category is your consumables. That includes food, water to start with, fuel, and maybe other tiny things that get used up during a trip. The base weight generally does not include the normal clothing that you wear, boots, etc. However, a few extreme folks jump through some hoops and try to minimize that worn clothing as well, so they go with super skimpy clothing and shoes. So, "from skin out" is meaningful to a few people.
"Also, I am told that I am required to carry a bear-proof canister/bag of some sort."
Yes and no. There are a number of places where a bear-resistant canister is required. There are many places where a bear-resistant canister is highly recommended. There are a few places where they are lightly recommended. There are a few places where there aren't any bears at all, but there are other critters that could get into your food bag, so it isn't completely stupid to use one. Every park, forest, or other backpacking jurisdiction will tell you what their rules are, so you can equip yourself before you leave home. Some places require you to have a wilderness permit. Some places require you to have only a campfire permit. Again, each place has its own rules. Some parks will rent you a heavy bear canister.
There are several brands and models of bear canisters, but you kind of need to decide what size. They start around 275 cubic inches, which might hold almost three person-days worth of food, up to 900 cubic inches, which might hold 9-10 person-days worth of food, but that depends on how dense your food is. The heavier models are cheaper to buy. The very lightest models are expensive. If I had to guess, I would guess that the first bear canister purchase is around 500 cubic inches, and probably the BearVault 500. I only guess that since it is not the most expensive, and it is not the lightest, nor does it have the biggest volume. I think it might be typical. Note that if your backpack has a small top opening, a large bear canister might not fit, so you need to measure the situation. Many bear canisters are cylindrical, they have a diameter of 8 or 9 inches, and they have different lengths. What you would like to avoid is to keep buying new/different bear canisters to meet the requirements for different length trips.