Ah, the Great Outdoors! There's no better place for an economical, invigorating vacation. Whether you choose to hike by day and stay in a cabin at night, camp from your car or take your backpack and disappear from civilization for weeks, the Internet is full of information that will help you plan a safe and satisfying getaway.
Whether you're a first-timer or a veteran outdoorsperson, be sure to bookmark GORP, a.k.a the Great Outdoor Recreation Pages. You'll find information on planning a trip and choosing your gear, and forums where you can get advice from other GORP users. At AllExperts.com's Hiking/Backpacking/Camping forum, experienced campers and hikers who've backpacked through Pakistan, Pennsylvania and everywhere in between, will answer any question you might encounter during your planning.
The first step is to decide where to go. The United States is filled with stunning National Parks and State Parks, cozy county campgrounds and comfortable, convenient commercial locations. ReserveUSA and ReserveAmerica, sponsored by the National Recreation Reservation Service, are great places to start. Search by state for campgrounds, cabins and day-use areas, or narrow your search by specifying features and amenities - in most cases, you can make a reservation online. Many locations require a permit and these sites can help you determine whether you'll need one for your trip. As far as trails, thebackpacker.com has a database of trail recommendations, and Hiking Trails Source lists over 500 trails for walking and backpacking in 50 countries. At the American Hiking Society, you can order a free "Hiking the U.S." trail map and tip sheet.
Once you've picked your location, it's time to start packing - no other activity is as crucial to a successful trip. It's no fun when your stomach is rumbling and you discover you forgot to pack matches. Camping Basics and The Camping "How To" Index, both part of About.com, will help you brush up on pitching a tent, making a bedroll and other skills that will help your adventure go smoothly.
If you'll be carrying your campsite on your back, a good packing job is even more important. The Lightweight Backpacker is loaded with tips and information to make that load on your back a little easier to bear. And if you need to do a little shopping before your trip, be sure to check out the recommendations at Hiking and Backpacking. Of course, nothing ruins a hike faster than a blister - check out How to Choose Hiking Shoes and Boots to be sure that doesn't happen to you.