Safe Camping Practices During COVID-19

If you’ve been cooped up in quarantine for a while now, you’re probably dying to get back outdoors. This is doubly true if you’re a diehard camper. Nearly 85% of Americans plan to road trip this summer, and searches for camping are the highest they’ve been since 2011.

Now that the country is reopening, you might be wondering if it’s safe to get back outside and enjoy the great outdoors again. 

The virus is far from gone—in fact, cases in the United States are much higher than they were a few months ago. Still, restaurants and other public facilities are reopening (with safety protocols in place). 

You might think camping is a virus-safe activity, being relatively isolated in the wilderness. That’s true, for the most part. The CDC suggests that outdoor transmission is rare and activities such as camping can be safe as long as social distancing guidelines remain intact. 

Let’s talk camping during COVID: what to consider, how to stay safe, and where to go. Here are some common questions and answers about safe camping practices in the age of COVID-19.

Campsites are opening back up in my area. Does that mean I can camp again?

Yes and no. Look into your state or county’s protocol as well as the guidelines offered by the campsite you plan to visit. If they advise against visiting public areas like campsites, pump the brakes! 

If the campsite you plan to visit is open, be sure to take all the proper safety precautions. Visit the CDC website to review COVID-19 safety best practices.

Should I “social distance” differently outdoors?

You should take social distancing just as seriously outdoors as you do indoors. Since the virus is airborne, it’s easy to think it won’t spread as easily outside in the fresh air. Regardless, you should not get within six feet of another person. The best way to social distance while camping is to go alone or with someone you live with.

Do I need to wear a mask outdoors?

Wearing a mask is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs. In the event that you come in contact with someone else who is infected or touch an infected public surface, a mask can prevent the virus from entering your system. Masks not only limit the spread of germs in and out of your mouth and nose; they can also serve as a good reminder not to touch your face.

If you plan to exercise on your camping trip, wear a waterproof mask with breathable fabric to exercise. Some prefer to wear a gaiter for being active.

Where can I find out about trail closures and trail event cancellations?

If you plan to hike on your camping trip, there are many resources you can use to find out about trail closures and trail event cancellations. 

The Trek offers helpful info on park closures that may affect your hiking plains.

For cancelations of events related to the National Trail System, check out the Partnership for the National Trail System website.

American Trails shares useful info on state park trail closures.

Check out the website or social media feeds of your local hiking club or local parks and recreation department for updates.

Washington Trails Association, Leave No Trace, and Outdoor Alliance offer guides for responsibly getting active outdoors during the age of COVID-19.

What else can I do to stay safe?

Here are a few more best practices for staying safe on your next camping trip:

  • Take hand sanitizer with you. Sanitize before and after the use of public restrooms and other trail facilities. Wipe down surfaces in shared bathrooms as a courtesy to others.

  • Keep hikes short. Longer hikes mean more use of facilities and more stopping for breaks. It’s best to keep moving to prevent the spread of germs.

  • Visit campsites during unpopular times like early morning weekdays to avoid crowds.

  • Bring your own water bottle, and don’t make use of public water fountains.

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