Camp Stove1 of 7
You can always cook over the fire, but it's a lot easier to use a camp stove. It's not always convenient to dig a fire pit, find kindling and start a fire; not to mention that this kind of cooking takes skill, what with the uneven temperatures and flare-ups of a wood fire. A simple propane stove can make your life a whole lot easier when cooking at a primitive campsite.
What to Buy: Look for a stove with two burners so you can cook more than one thing and have them ready at the same time. Adjustable legs are another plus, since it's unlikely that you'll find a completely flat surface for setting up your folding table.
Cooking Gear2 of 7
Not just any 'ol pots, pans and utensils will do for making meals in the woods. Nested pots, bowls and cups take up the least room; make sure to get the kind that has folding handles for even easier packing. The largest pot can double as a washbasin for cleanup afterward.
What to Buy: For eating utensils, the spork is well-known amongst campers. It works as a spoon and a fork at the same time. You can consider bringing a Swiss Army Knife or other pocket knives that will do double duty for cooking and cutting rope or twigs.
Aluminum cookware is the best because it heats food evenly and is very lightweight, a bonus for campers. Hard-anodized aluminum is treated to last longer, and that's your best bet when it comes to inexpensive, yet tough, camping cookware.
Heavy-Duty Lantern3 of 7
When you're out in the forest in the dead of night, you don't want to be stuck in the dark with no way to see what's around you. Flashlights are camping staples of course, but they only illuminate one area at a time. Place your most reliable lantern in a central location and make sure everyone knows how to operate it.
What to Buy: There are lightweight lanterns that can be attached to the ceiling of a tent. While they are good to have, you'll also want to purchase a long-lasting lantern with a powerful battery. You can find one that will provide 30 hours of light for around $30 to $40. If you really want to cover all the bases, some camp lanterns even come with cranks you can turn to recharge them.
Footwear4 of 7
This may sound less vital than having access to food, water and light, but protecting your feet with the right footwear is actually a big deal. You'll want to bring the right kind of shoes for both camping and hiking to make sure you don't suffer from wet or blistered feet. Everything you do to take care of yourself depends on your mobility. Bring extra socks, too, because you're probably going to need them.
What to Buy: There are a multitude of different shoes to pick from, but you can narrow it down by starting with the length of your trip. If you're going for a day hike and/or just camping overnight, look for approach shoes. They have sticky rubber soles that create a good friction on rocky ground. The trade-off is dirt, sand and mud can easily get inside the shoe and create discomfort.
For a longer trip, you'll want to consider high-cut models such as hiking boots or backpacking boots. They have better support for the ankle and can secure balance on rough surfaces. Consider getting shoes with Gore-Tex fabric. They are waterproof and breathable, saving your feet from wet and hot conditions—not to mention stinky feet.
Rain Gear5 of 7
You never know if it's going to rain while you're camping, so you might as well pack as if it will. Luckily, lightweight rain ponchos fold up into almost nothing and can be thrown in easily with your other camping supplies.
What to Buy: A breathable, hooded rain jacket that comes down below the hips and packs up into itself will be your favorite article of clothing if a deluge comes. There are three basic designs of rainwear layers. The 3-layer design is the most waterproof and breathable, but carries the highest price tag. It is suitable for very harsh environments. On the other hand, if you are looking for basic weather protection, the 2-layer or 2.5-layer designs should be sufficient—they're more affordable, but less waterproof and breathable.
Water Purification Kit6 of 7
Camping out means you'll be depending on the natural resources around you for hydration and cooking. But water at campgrounds is not always safe to drink; in fact, unless the campground has posted signs that the water is safe to drink, you need to take steps to purify your own drinking water. With a water filter, you can remove bacteria that can cause illnesses without having to boil your water first or use chemical tablets.
What to Buy: Water purification tablets are light and don't take up much space in the bag. Commonly made of chlorine dioxide, they kill most waterborne pathogens but require at least 30 minutes to fully purify the water. The colder or cloudier the water is, the longer the treatment takes.
If chemical treatment sounds scary to you, opt for water filters instead. There are a few types of filters to choose from. Bottle filters work like a coffee press. They have a cartridge inside the bottle to catch debris and bacteria, cleansing the water for safe consumption.
Squeeze filters are attached on top of bottles. The water is treated through the filter before leaving the bottle. Straw-style filters, meanwhile, work just like straws and allow you to drink directly from the source.