With many people’s more exotic summer travel plans canceled by the COVID-19 pandemic, some families are seeking out simpler vacations close to home. And with summer weather finally here, many are considering camping trips. Camping has always been a way to get away from it all, and by taking some common-sense precautions and planning ahead, spending time in the great outdoors can be a safe option.
Tips for a Safe Camping Trip:
- If you or someone from your party is sick, stay home! If you have symptoms like fever, coughing, or shortness of breath, you should cancel your trip and save your adventure for another day. The same advice applies if you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID.
- Five People or Less. Parks are asking people to keep groups small to avoid crowds, and only camp with members of your immediate family to reduce transmission risk. Now is not the time to carpool or sleep in tents or RVs with friends or family outside your immediate household.
- Practice Physical Distancing. You should maintain 6 feet of distance and use a face covering when you are not able to maintain distance. The National Parks Service has created a handy graphic to illustrate what 6 feet looks like. Please keep a moose antler or grizzly bear away from people outside your household.
- Plan ahead and pack everything you need. Make sure to pack all of your food and bring essentials like hand sanitizer and face coverings. This will also help you to limit the number of stops you need to make on the trip. Let’s face it, the goal of camping should be time in nature, not time running errands.
- Stay closer to home. Parks are asking visitors to consider visiting a park that is closer to them in order to follow state and county guidelines. This will reduce the need for making stops along the way. More isolated communities have smaller hospital systems and are not set up for an influx of visitors.
What about Bathrooms?
Believe it or not, there is a lot of online chatter about campground and park bathrooms. The consensus is that public restrooms in general are riskier spaces for disease transmission, because they are often highly trafficked and poorly ventilated spaces. To reduce risk, visitors are asked to wear a face covering in restrooms and make sure they have a supply of hand sanitizer on hand. Visitors should also avoid bunching up in a line. Some campgrounds are asking people who camp in an RV to use the restrooms in their unit to help reduce traffic in shared restrooms. If you have a self-contained unit with a bathroom and shower, please consider using it.
What about Backcountry Camping?
If you are a more adventurous camper and are used to camping in the backcountry or at dispersed camping sites (camping outside of developed sites), planning is now more important than ever. For backpacking trips, some National Parks are not providing walk-up permits this year, and dispersed camping has been limited in some locations, so you should call or visit the park’s website ahead of time. Some backcountry ranger stations where you might normally get information might also be closed. The Washington Trails Association has created a helpful blog post with links to up-to-date information about wilderness permits.
So while pandemic is causing a lot of challenges this year, enjoy a break outdoors, follow the physical distancing and other guidelines, and enjoy a great camping trip this summer.