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Camping is the ideal fall activity, but the logistics can be daunting. Do I have the right gear? Is this the ideal location? Do I have all the capacity to stay safe? We've got the full low-down.

October 08, 2015

As the air turns crisp, nine-to-fivers’ daydreams are changing from beaches and pool parties to hikes and fall foliage. Unfortunately, a beach trip is a relatively easy undertaking in comparison to the equipment and information needed to pull off a successful camping trip. 

So how does a weekend warrior tackle his or her first hiking experience? Read on:

Rent Gear Instead of Buy

Renting gear is a great, because if it turns out you hate camping, you will not have dropped upwards of $1,000 on tents, sleeping bags, and propane grills. Most outfitters offer a wide range of products tailored to your group size and terrain. 

Major retailers REI and EMS are great resources for rentals. They offer everything from tents and camping stoves to Nordic skis and snowshoes, which can usually be reserved and picked up within days of your departure. 

Other options: OutdoorsGeek.com, LowerGear.com and peer-to-peer rental site GearCommons.com. These sites are best for trips planned well in advance. 

Map Your Hike

Start by deciding the length and difficulty of your hike. A general rule of thumb is that 1.5 miles per hour is a safe and attainable speed for relatively flat terrain. Then search for popular hikes near your chosen destination. 

The Popular Trails feature on Trails.com is a favorite resource. If you’re headed to a national park, check out the National Park Service website for a wealth of info, including hiking trails and top attractions.

It's also worth having at least one copy of a paper trail map, which often are available at local outdoors shops. These are great for drawing out your route—and come in handy when cell service fails.

Find Friends

This might seem obvious, but sure to bring at least two friends along for the adventure. Camping is not only more fun in a group, but it’s significantly safer.

Prioritize Light

Give yourself extra time to hike, find your campsite, set up and cook. 

The importance of daylight cannot be underestimated, but it’s equally important to bring lanterns and headlamps for seeing at night. Rent these or check out REI for an affordable selection. 

Be Redundant With Your Safety Measures

Bring a portable phone charger; you'll want to be able to make a call in case of an emergency.

Other must-packs? Sunscreen, a poncho, bug spray, and small survival kit. It's also probably worth investing in pepper spray and a flare gun, which are available for less than $30 each.

Pack a Hike-Appropriate Novel

Although most of your time will be spent soaking in the outdoors, it’s always a good idea to have a novel on hand for relaxing in the sun. Our favorite novels for outdoor inspiration right now are Wild by Cheryl Strayed, A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, and—a classic—The Travels by Marco Polo. 

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