Canvas, canoe or tin-tipi–all will provide shelter–each is appropriate to styles of outdoor living. Your age, health, finances and interests will help you choose which is best for you. But, before you spend a dime other than on entrance fees, day-trip and ask questions, tour the sutlers’ tents supplying goods geared to each venue, and then buy recommended books for your interest–buckskinning/rendezvous, historical reenactments [Medieval, F&I, RevWar, Regency, Civil War, etc]. Subscribe to organization interest groups online–yahoo groups, facebook. Once you have read everything, now is the time to slowly begin acquiring the basics, but only just. After you attend your first event in the field, you will return with new ideas because you’ve actually used what you have, found what you still need, and have had others answer your questions and offer tips on how to do what you want more efficiently. Now you know enough to create your own stamp of individuality.
You have two choices: recreate a historical character and everything he or she would have used or had access to [here is an opportunity to volunteer at a local site]; or just have a great time enjoying camping as they would have lived [rendezvous]. You will end up spending thousands of dollars over time–don’t waste money on unusable or period incorrect items just because you find them for sale in a sutler’s tent at camp or a trade fair.
Chat forums abound for every interest and members are happy to offer advice and share how to do and make your own kit items from guns to gourmet meals using heirloom varieties you’ve grown to eat in camp. Cookbooks can be found in google books or your library for period recipes and equipment acquired to win those camp cooking contests using your campfire or the site’s bake oven. It’s amazing how little food has changed in several hundred years.