Lea and John are both guys that really enjoy camping. Seriously - why sleep indoors when there's so much more space outside? Unfortunately many of their camping experiences have been very off the cuff and have not been well prepared; or at least they have not been as well prepared as they could have been. Most of their camping experiences involve drive up camping, because the types of packs that allow an individual and their gear to hike to a site are, at least by their standards, prohibitively expensive. Besides, they already have cars (including one that has 4wd and is very capable off-road), so why not use what's available?
All of that said, they do have a decent amount of knowledge regarding what absolutely not to do, and what can be done to make life in the wilderness more acceptable for as much as 72hrs. There are much better camping resources and guides out there, and we wholeheartedly suggest that you pursue them instead of this when it comes to actually abstracting gainful knowledge. That we haven't died of exposure or been eaten by bears, wolves, and/or raccoons is nothing short of a miracle.
Where to go
Before you go into the wilderness, regardless of whether or not you're going to be camping or just hiking, there are a few absolute essentials you should have. This list includes those essentials (as we have discovered them) as well as a few amenities that make life easier in general.
If ever you're somewhere you haven't been before, you should have a map - especially when you're in the wilderness. If you're at a state park campground you can probably go without a map, but much of the camping we prefer to do involves exploring National Forests, and they typically do not have nice little clearly marked paths and campsites. We get the latest maps of the largest scale, and USGS 1:24k quads are typically the best. Sometimes the Forest Service produces maps for certain more highly traveled regions, and these tend to be very good, but they cannot always be located for all regions. The USGS sells 1:24k quadrangles on their website, and many outdoors stores sell them. I personally would avoid the National Geographic 1:100k maps unless going into an area that is already very well marked.
I seal all of my maps with proper map sealant to waterproof them, then I stow them in quart sized ziploc bags.
A map is useless without a compass. We grew up in a very flat area where shooting azimuth was nearly impossible, so I never used a lensatic compass. Now that we're more familiar with mountainous regions, a lensatic compass would be beneficial but we haven't purchased one yet. Whichever type of compass you get, make sure it's of high quality and precision, and most importantly, make sure you know how to use it properly! There are hundreds of great resources online for how to use a compass properly. Do some digging.
First off, we'd like to remind everyone that no matter how amazing your GPS is, it is never a replacement for a good map and compass! Too many people think that is the case, and then their batteries die, they lose reception for an extended period of time, or experience some other form of technical failure.
That said, a GPS can be an excellent addition to any outdoors navigation experience.