Here is what Baby's-R-Us calls the "must haves" of diapering items:
Practical issue: Cloth or plastic? If you google this you will find a ton of information, in my experience, these issues are the most important and the most rarely mentioned--
The main pro of cloth: The average baby who wears cloth diapers will potty train a year earlier than the average baby who wears plastic diapers (because the baby has made the brain connections of going pee and being wet. Babies who wear plastic diapers pee and since they don't feel anything, often never realize something is happening). It is not absolutely necessary to use cloth diapers in order to potty train a child at a young age.
The other great thing about cloth: Because the diaper is wet, poops are very easy to clean up. In a plastic diaper, all the moister gets sucked down and you are left with sticky grossness on the baby's but that takes a dozen wipes to wipe up. With cloth diapers, you often only need one wipe.
The main pro of plastic: The majority of Americans use plastic diapers which means baby clothes are made for the slim butts of plastic-diaper wearing babies and not the bulky butts of cloth-diaper wearing babies.
What I did: My baby wears cloth diapers at home and plastic when we go out or travel. He has only ever had a hint of a diaper rash and the only time I ever had poop escape his diaper was when he was wearing a plastic one. We have a diaper service so I cannot comment on whether cloth diapers are worth it if you also have to wash them. I will update this post as time goes on.
[Update 1: I almost gave up on cloth diapers after about three months since the diaper covers did not seem to be water proof. Both the Thirsties and the Bummies covers had the problem of losing their waterproof-ness after a very short time even when never washed in hot water. Once I started using the Grovia covers, I started to love cloth diapers again.]
[Update 2: By the time my baby was nine months old it was clear to me that he understood when his diaper was wet and dry. He only cared that his diaper was wet and wanted to be changed around 30% of the time though. Twice now he has let me know he has a poopy diaper by crawling to his changing table when I ask him if he needs his diaper to be changed.]
BABY WIPES & TRAVEL WIPES
What I did: I use Seventh Generation and Earth First wipes.
What my parents did: Wipes didn't exist yet. They put dirty baby butts under running water in the sink!
Practical issue: If you get your baby used to room temperature wipes he will be used to it. If you get him used to warm wipes he will get used to that, come to need warm wipes and freak out if your wipe warmer breaks or you forget to bring it with you when you are out and about.
This is a personal preference item.
What I do: I slip a diaper, changing pad, a travel packet of wipes and a ziplock bag into my purse. (The ziplock bag is in case I am going somewhere that does not have an appropriate place to dispose of a diaper, I can put it into the bag and dispose of it later.)
BABY CHANGING MAT
This is a personal preference item:
What I did: I have three Kushies delux flannel changing pads that fold easily, can go with me anywhere and wash easily.
DIAPER RASH CREAM / DIAPER OINTMENT
Practical issue: Diaper rash is caused by your baby sitting in his stools for too long so if your baby gets a lot of diaper rash, instead of slathering toxic things onto his butt, change his diaper more often or consider switching to cloth as cloth diapered babies get less diaper rash.
Possibly toxic! The best cure for diaper rash is fresh air and sunshine. Your first line of defense should always be naked time outside. When that is not possibe--
What I did: I was given four bottles of various diaper rash creams at my shower and I have only ever used it a few times. My favorite is the Weleda because of how it smells.
DIAPER PAIL & DIAPER PAIL REFILLS OR DIAPER GENIE WASTE BASKET
Practical issue: I have used a million differnt kinds of these in my decade working with children and I never found one that didn't smell. The solution that worked best was never a fancy contraption but rather a simple one that was easy to clean.