Athough I camped as a kid, and went backpacking camping when I was in High school, I haven’t camped since and would like to, but I don’t have any equipment.
I don’t think I will backpack, but I will probably do some underwing campiing with one of my club’s planes, from my kayak, or possibly from my new bike. (see http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?threadid=181665 )
A tent. 2 person. I’ll probably only use it in the summer, but here in Minnesconsin summer can mean 3 seasons. The REI Half Dome Plus 2 is reviewed well.
A stove. I doubt I will ever camp outside the US, but I like a mutifuel option (so I could use Jet A if I need to). The Primus Himalaya Vari-Fuel Stove looks good to my novice eyes.
I have a sleeping bag. Any other major (>$50) purchace I’m missing?
For car camping, you have dozens of options with tents. The REI Half Dome is fine, but there are lots of models, from Eureka and others that will work just fine. As long as you pick a free-standing tent with quality materials you should be fine.
As others have said, a self-inflating sleeping pad is a great investment. While Therma-Rest is the market leader, there are others that make extremely similar products for less money. All work pretty much the same. Since I backpack I use the ultra-light model, but people say nice things about the delux extra-thick camp models.
If you plan on flying outside the US on a commercial flight, forget about the multi-fuel stoves. Most airlines won’t let you fly with them, even cleaned out. They especially won’t let you carry empty fuel bottles. When you go overseas, buy the stove there and leave it there. Alas, it’s the simplest way these days. I love the MSR Whisperlite stove, and the Dragonfly is very good as well. I may get a cartidge stove for lightweight summer travel.
I wouldn’t worry about GPS systems until you really get into off trail travel, or a flare gun, transponder, etc. Instead buy a compass and learn how to use it. Take a course in map and compass and practice.
Go into things slowly, buy what you need when you discover a need for it. Except for the sleeping pad. Get that now, your back will thank you.
Flashlights: I prefer the MagLite or their Brinkmann knock-offs for both the 3 D-cell heavy unit and the 2 AA-cell pocket unit. (The single AAA-cell pocket unit is OK, but I can get the 2 AA unit into my pants pocket, so I don’t bother with the tiny version.)
I’m still looking for the “ideal” lantern. The traditional propane lantern from Coleman is way bright enough (and uses the same fuel as their propane stoves), but some of the newer fluorescent lamps look interesing–I just haven’t found one I’m convinced will hold up.
I second the Victoronix recommendation (although I suspect that the Wenger’s are just as good). However, for work beyond the “pocket knife” category, I use the Gerber Utility tool. (I use the Gerber 07540 Needlenose 600, but your needs may vary.)
For flashlights, while MagLites are good I find a headlamp much more useful in camp or when hiking after dark. I have a PrincetonTec but will probably get one of the LED headlamps as well.
I do carry a Swiss Army Knife, but aside from cutting food and using the scissors for cutting moleskin (and of course the bottle opener) I rarely use it. Not to say you shouldn’t carry some type of knife/multi-tool, but I rarely use mine.
I really like my Camelback and/or Platypus for hydration bags for hiking, but you’re mainly asking about camping. If you want hiking advice (boots, daybacks, clothing) ask away.
A Crazy Creek chair is a real nice addition to camp life. You can also buy adaptors that turn a Therma-Rest into a chair, but I don’t think they’re as comfortable or useful. Crazy Creeks also make great slings and first aid splints.
You can get by with lots of household stuff while camping. Instead of special plates and bowls I use Tupperware to eat from. I do have a backpacking cook set, but if you have some lightweight cooking gear that’ll work as well.
Yes, I’ve seen the MagLite headbands but find them to be not nearly as comfortable or useful as a real headlamp. I still have my MagLite AA, but never bring it camping as the headlamp does everything I need.
The only time I hike with it is when I’m doing a night hike, and I carry the MagLite as my backup light source.
Hehe Zen, we might be taking a comically over-safe route here, but most of us campers take the overly carefull view about trying to inform people about camping, because we arn’t sure that the OP is the only one who might end up here for advice and the uniformed might end up in a bad situation.
Also, the reason why I really ended up looking here again (sorry Zen $6.00 item ) is just to make the suggestion that a cheap ass tarp can help perserve a $250 tent, as long as you are car (or plane; that sounds so damn cool) camping and 3 pounds of weight isn’t a big deal
I’m mostly interested in big items, but I don’t mind the smaller item reminders as weel. Is there a good check list online somewhere? Obviously whayt you need to pack for the Idatarod is going to be different than an overnight stay in the summer.
I’ll second the LED headlamp suggestion.
Trying to cook on a camping stove with a maglite clenched between teeth is not the most comfortable experience.
Besides, LEDs last for a LOT longer than bulbs, and they don’t blow.