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Get Out! Fall Exercise Tips for Fresh-Air Fun

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Fall is prime time for fresh-air fun, so let's move. To look like a natural, not a newbie, as you hit the trail, court, road, or lake, follow our oops-proof guide.

Take a Hike

Play Nice with Mother Nature: When you're tramping where the wild things are, it's best to practice this do-not-disturb policy.

  • Say hello. The sound of snapping twigs got you spooked? Stop, listen, and look to size up the situation, says Kary Sommers, a field instructor and marketing manager for the National Outdoor Leadership School. "Then call out 'Hello,'" she advises, to scare off any skittish creatures. "Most animals are more scared of you than you are of them and will probably run away when they hear or see you," says Rebecca Bear, an outdoor programs and outreach manager for REI.
  • Try not to be a home wrecker. "Don't urinate in the bushes," Sommers says. "You could disturb a bee's nest or anger an animal who lives there." Better to find a clear patch.
  • Leave no trace. Pack up any rubbish, including used toilet paper -- put that in a ziplock baggie -- to toss in the trash later.

How to Pimp Your Backpack: If you're trimming a fat pack for a simple day hike, here are 10 key items that you don't want to leave lying on your living room floor, according to outdoor pro Bear.

  • Map
  • Compass
  • Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  • Food (one and a half pounds -- like seeds, nuts, dried fruit, and dry-cured meats -- per person)
  • Water (32 ounces per person)
  • Extra layers (especially rain gear)
  • Flashlight
  • First aid kit
  • Matches
  • Knife

How Not to Look Like a Poseur: In the woods, what separates the women from the girls is who can make it home using an old-school compass when the reception on her GPS gadget goes poof. Grab a map and practice how to be the former, Bear advises.

  • Step 1: Mark your map. Plot out a short jaunt in your local park with a starting point (A) and an endpoint (B). Now, study the map to pick a path. The best route is rarely a straight line, but let's assume that here it is.
  • Step 2: Pull out your compass. Align the straight edge of the compass on the map along the line you wish to follow from point A to point B.
  • Step 3: Find true north. Keep the compass steady atop the map and turn the compass dial until its north mark is aligned with north on the map. (Look for the mini compass printed on the map to be sure).
  • Step 4: Place the compass in your palm. Hold it so that the needle is pointing north and the arrow printed on the compass base is pointing away from you. You are now facing in the direction you will go.

For more detailed how-to videos, go to rei.com and click the Learn tab.

Get Going: Check out trails.com for hikes near you. Don't have a hiking buddy but are reluctant to go solo? Alltrails.com offers group trips nationwide that you can join to make your adventure more social; the service also allows you to filter routes by location and difficulty. Get extra familiar with your chosen trail by cross-referencing it at nwf.org/naturefind, which also provides info on the best and most popular paths near you.

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