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Hi @Mountainskybird - I know it can be daunting to start camping for the first time, but first of all, bravo for beginning the process, getting yourself prepared, and making the leap!
You have posted a rather in depth question, so I want to give you a couple of good resources to help you along the way. First, here are some great REI Expert Advice articles about camping: Camping for Beginners, Camping Checklist, and How to Go Camping. These articles will give you some great information about camping, but you can look around REI Expert Advice for any other articles that are interesting or pertinent to you.
Next, feel free to stop by your local REI for some in-person advice. Or, you can also schedule a free Virtual Outfitting appointment where you can discuss your adventures in the comfort of your own home.
Hope this gives you a good baseline! Enjoy your future adventures!
At REI, we believe time outside is fundamental to a life well lived.