If you are new to camping, and just don't know where to begin, use this handy list of what we consider to be the essentials! By no means is this everything you'll ever want, but it is truly what will make the difference between a good outing and a bad one.
1. Tent or other Shelter: This will be your shelter, so make sure it's the right size for your group and the right type for the conditions you'll be camping in. Sleeping in your car? Great! Just bring some extra pillows and blankets for those weird uneven surfaces.
2. Sleeping Bag: Choose a sleeping bag rated for the lowest temperature you expect. Also, if you live in a warm climate, you can get by with stealing the blankets off your bed!
3. Camping Mattress or Pad: This will provide insulation and comfort.
4. Cookware and Stove: Compact camping cookware and a portable stove are essentials if you plan to cook.
5. Food and Water: Plan your meals in advance and bring plenty of snacks. Also, bring water and a method to purify water.
6. Clothing: Pack appropriate clothing. Think layers, and remember waterproof gear if there's a chance of rain.
7. First Aid Kit: This should include basics like bandages, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, medical tape, and pain relievers.
8. Map and Compass or GPS: Even if you plan to stick to well-marked trails, a map and compass are essential safety items.
9. Headlamp or Flashlight: Don't forget to bring extra batteries!
10. Fire Starting Kit: Waterproof matches or a lighter, and some sort of easily ignitable tinder.
11. Multi-tool or Knife: A compact tool with a variety of uses.
12. Trash Bags: Leave no trace! Pack out what you pack in.
13. TOILET PAPER: Even if you are going to a developed campground, never trust that they will have it! Perhaps a shovel too if you are going somewhere without toilets.
Remember to adjust this list according to the length of your trip, the weather, and the specific activities you plan to do.