Whether you're planning a short day hike or an overnighter, half the fun of the trip is in the planning stage. Research hiking trails and wilderness areas thoroughly to familiarize yourself with the natural features, flora and fauna you will likely encounter on your trip.
Study a topographic map of the area you will be exploring to learn the geography, reference landmarks, water sources and alternate trail routes. On a topographic map, the curved, nonintersecting lines represent changes in elevation -- the farther apart the lines are, are the flatter the terrain. When you cross a line on a topographic map, you're either hiking uphill or downhill [source: Falk].
Go online to scout possible sites by visiting destination Web sites, online forums and wilderness adventure blogs. Read anecdotal accounts from other hikers who have visited the area to learn if your planned campsite is actually a bug-infested swamp or an idyllic beach. These insider accounts are invaluable for picking up useful information regarding regional weather patterns, seasonal trail conditions and related local lore.
If this is your first solo camping trip, choose a spot where you've camped with a group before. That way, you'll avoid nasty surprises and ease yourself into solo camping. The more you know before you go, the better your trip will be.