By Diana Gerstacker
The process of vacating our homes to spend a night out in nature is called camping. Beyond that broad definition, camping is extremely subjective.
When it comes to style, there's the bare bones, man versus nature survival trip, there's "glamping” or glamorous camping -- and then there's everything in between. The term camping covers a wide array of comfort levels and there’s plenty of gear to choose from regardless of your approach to camping.
The survivalist can buy a simple compass and sturdy knife. There are specialty beds and portable espresso machines for the glamper. And, of course, outdoors shops and websites have no shortage of other gear for the rest of us.
People head outdoors and away from civilization for a different experience -- to break the daily pattern and enjoy a change of scenery. A 2012 report on camping by the Outdoor Industry Association stated that, according to both public and private campsites, there has been a "general uptick in camping participation."
Nearly 43 million Americans went camping in 2011 for a total of 534.9 million days. Participation is up from 39.9 million campers and 514.8 million days in 2010.
More recent and equally specific statistics are not yet available from the Outdoor Industry Association, but it's safe to say that camping is still a popular summer activity.
While every camper has their own style and preferences, we put together a list of 12 items that you shouldn't leave home without. From sleeping bags to first aid kits, and lesser known products like the ARCA flashlight/ lantern/ USB charger and StakeLights, which brighten the area surrounding your tent, this gear is practical and portable.
No one likes tripping over tent stakes in the middle of the night and your fellow campers won't be amused when the tent caves either. StakeLights give off up to 10 hours of steady light (or 24 hours on strobe mode) with one AAA battery. Made of durable aluminum, they are water resistant and feature and on/off switch on the lens.
Industrialrev.com $6 for one, $20 for a 4-pack.
Whether you prefer matches, a lighter or something a little more old school, you’ll need something to light the campfire. Waterproof matches are a popular choice for the woods, and the Strikeforce Firestarter (pictured left) is a great choice as well. This heavy duty sparkbar comes with a compartment to store dry tinder and has received great reviews.
Once you've got the campfire going, you'll need to cook the food with something other than your bare hands. Grandpa's FireGrill is a stainless steel adjustable and ultra-portable solution -- all you need is a stick.
Another popular option is the over-fire rack. Not quite as portable, but even more useful, Over the Fire Grill will cook whatever you throw on top. When you're not cooking, use it as a table or a drying rack, this particular model is cheap and received rave reviews.
For those who would rather not cook over a campfire, a portable stove is the best solution. The FireHole 200 is a portable propane stove that is both lightweight and effective. Weighing just over 13 pounds, this cooktop has a boiling time of three minutes. Adjustable legs help keep the stove even on any terrain and two side windshields double as prep areas. Just don't forget the pots and pans!
Convenient plates, cups and utensils are a camping must-have. The MealKit 2.0 has everything you need including a strainer, a cutting board and a harness to pack it all together. All materials are BPA-free and microwave and dishwasher safe.
It's always a good idea to have one of these on hand, choose a small kit with the essentials. Massive kits will take up too much room and chances are if you run into trouble you'll be heading back early anyway, so there’s no need for 8 pounds of gauze or 37 Band-Aids. The Adventure Medical Kit is a low-cost kit or you can make your own.
For the complete list of the 12 Essential Pieces of Camping Gear You Shouldn't Leave Home Without, go to TheActiveTimes.com.
More From The Active Times:
-- The Best Sleeping Bags for Backyard and Backcountry Camping
-- 5 Luxe Gear Pieces for Cushy Camping
-- What to Pack When Camping With a Crowd