Solar eclipse tourism helps spike camping gear sales as people flock to Oregon

A bright red "Open" sign hangs in the front window of Last Minute Gear, a camping supply store in San Francisco's Mission District.

It's Wednesday - a day when the store is usually closed.

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"We are overwhelmed with eclipse-goers," said store manager James Dong, who was busy sifting through paperwork and rifling through sleeping bags on his day off.

A 10-hour drive north of San Francisco, the Oregon Eclipse festival is drawing campers from all over the world for the weekend leading up to Monday's total solar eclipse - and many
of them are stopping here to stock up before they get on the road.

"Tent, sleeping bag and pad," Dong said. "Those three items are the only items you need to get any camping trip started." And they're also the items that Sports Basement, just up the street, can barely keep in stock.

"We're near out of two-person tents," said rentals and camping manager Tyler Jones. "We still have larger tents."

He showed us the growing pile of reservation slips left to be filled - and the growing mountain of gear waiting to be picked up. Every so often, a customer would arrive to take some of it off his hands.

"Where are you headed?" he typically asks.

"Up to Oregon," is the invariable response.

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Though they're all headed to the same place, the travelers are coming from all over - including halfway around the world.

"There was an eclipse like five years ago in Australia," said Joshua Moore, who's from Melbourne.

He and Anna Maria Flynn didn't know each other yet - but they were both there. Now, they're headed to see Monday's eclipse together.

"The eclipse itself... it's kind of like unity," Flynn said. "The sun and the moon are coming together."

Moore and Flynn are also coming together with a contingent of friends from Australia who they'll meet when they arrive at the festival - travelers who've come from far and wide for good reason:

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"This only happens once in a lifetime, or in this case, maybe twice in a lifetime," said Turner Kirk as he picked up a propane stove, a cooler and a giant water jug.

Kirk is a veteran camper, but many viewing the eclipse say they're novices.

"It's an unusual activity (for me)," said Ivana Martinez, who's from Washington, D.C. "This'll be my second time (camping), and it's only been at festivals." But those who love the great outdoors say the eclipse is the perfect event to make a camper out of anyone.

"The people who've never camped before, they're just really into it," Jones said.

On the day of the eclipse, we'll bring you live coverage on TV and online. Click here for other ways to watch this rare event in the Bay Area.
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