No matter where you live on Planet Earth, there is a pretty good chance that you are experiencing at least some of the effect of a lockdown, whether it is mandated by your country, state, city, or even if you are making the smart move and enforcing it all on your own. In times like these, staying put can be a difficult task, especially for those of us who are used to spending our free time in the great outdoors.
In the last month or two, we have been getting a lot of questions regarding the Coronavirus pandemic and how it affects the way that we as outdoor enthusiasts are handling it all. Some of the most common questions include;
- Can you go camping during a quarantine?
- How can you stay safe in the wilderness during a pandemic?
- Are there any safe ways to spend time outdoors in this time?
As a courtesy to our dear readers, as well as anyone that has stumbled across our site looking for answers to such as these, we have put together a brief guide on Camping During Quarantine, so adventurers the world over can stay safe through all of this while not missing out on their favorite pastime.
No Matter What: Practice Social Distancing While Camping, Hiking, or Exploring
In this guide, we are going to go over a number of specifics related to the topic of camping during these uncertain times. We will provide information about local regulation as well as what all the health experts are saying, but no matter what you decide to do, staying safe is about practicing social distance.
It can be easy to think that the easiest way to achieve social distance is by disappearing into the forest for a few days of good old fashioned camping, but the thing is, you are likely not the only person who had that idea.
Because the wilderness can feel so remote, it might be easy for campers to forget about the safe social distance regulations that are designed to limit the transmission of this vicious virus. So what is physical distancing anyway? It’s pretty simple. Just make sure you are keeping about 6 feet of space between you and other individuals. If possible, wear a mask when interacting with larger groups. Avoid touching other people altogether, especially if they are not members of your direct family.
For more complete information on how to social distance like a pro, check out the CDC website.
Q: Can I Go Camping During a Quarantine?
First things first, let’s talk about the main question on everyone’s minds. As lockdown orders have spread across the country, more and more people have had to stop going to work, stop going out to eat, and basically stop all things that were a part of their everyday lives. This much is understandable: if we are going to get through this and “flatten the curve” so to speak, then social distancing is the best path forward.
But what about camping? Isn’t there enough social distance out in the wilderness? The answer to this question is that it depends. It depends on a lot of factors actually, and that is precisely what we’re here to talk about.
Getting There: Travel Restrictions Across the U.S.
While it is not very likely that state highways or interstates will ever close down due to the Coronavirus pandemic, it is important to do your homework before leaving the house. Because gas stations can be a particularly dangerous place to go when it comes to virus transmission, it’s best to make as few fill-ups as possible.
Many local cities and governments have made changes to county road access in these times, so it is possible that you will encounter a detour or closure on the way to your camping destination.
Keep in mind that some cities and states are being much harder hit than others in terms of transmission rates. When you combine this with the fact that some of these hotspots are not under any kind of quarantine, the chances of someone giving you the virus (or you giving it to someone else) go up exponentially.
Airports and bus stations should be avoided at all costs as these are some of the most dangerous places to be. If you can’t help yourself and simply need to get out there (we get it) than try to stick close to home. Or consider an epic weekend of backyard camping (more on that later).
How to Stay Safe When Camping During the Coronavirus Pandemic
No matter what secluded spot you decide to go, there are a few things to keep in mind when planning any kind of travel during the pandemic:
- How is the COVID-19 situation in the area where you are headed?
Always start with a bit of research. While it is very unlikely that national highways and interstates will ever close as a result of the lockdown, local municipalities may have released their own specific lockdown orders. These efforts are meant to protect the people so it’s a good idea to not only know them but respect them.
- Is the place you’re headed even open?
Like we said above, take a few minutes to check on local conditions, restrictions, regulations, and even non-mandatory recommendations. Not only will it save you a drive if the park you’re going to is closed, but it can help you plan a safe trip where no one gets sick.
- Are other people going to be camping with you?
Take a moment to think about the other people that might be joining you on this trip. If they are members of your immediate household and you have already been quarantining together, then the chances of transmission are quite low. However, if you are inviting Uncle Joe from two towns over and his friend Bob, the chances of transmission (in either direction) go substantially up. Consider leaving Uncle Joe out of this trip, and sticking with people that you have already been spending time with.
- Will there be other people around where you plan on camping?
Don’t assume that your hidden camping spot in your favorite national forest is going to be completely free of people. In times like these, a lot of folks start getting the itch to get outside and get some exercise. So even if you are confident that you are headed somewhere secluded, be prepared to interact with people. This means that masks and gloves are a really good idea no matter what.
- Is anyone in your camping group at high risk of severe illness due to COVID-19?
Even if you have been quarantining together as a family for a month, if someone in your group is at high risk for getting severely ill from COVID-19, then it’s best to not leave the house at all. High-risk factors include older adults or anyone with any type of chronic medical condition
- What are the “hidden” risk factors of traveling during a pandemic?
Whether you’re headed out camping or traveling for work or for an emergency, there are certain dangers that you need to pay close attention to. Gas stations and grocery stores are particularly dangerous, even if you are pulling in to just pump a few gallons. Wash your hands often. Many gas stations even have hand sanitizer at the pumps.
Always have a mask on you in case you need to interact with someone directly. In terms of camping, things like bait shops, outfitters, and camping stores are probably going to be closed, so you will need to pack appropriately from the beginning.
Camping Restrictions across the US
The first thing that you need to do is lookup any local restrictions and regulations that might apply to you based on where you live. Your state webpage can tell you whether or not the national and state parks in your area have closed due to the virus. In many states such as Colorado, the state parks continue to remain open for use, but they have closed all the camping and day-use facilities out of an abundance of caution.
Meanwhile, Rocky Mountain National Park is closed altogether, making it impossible to even visit until further notice.
While restrictions like these are in place in many areas around the world, it varies from state to state and in many cases from municipality to municipality. One of the big drawbacks here is that almost all the developed campgrounds are going to be closed. This is because things like shared bathroom facilities, picnic tables, and things like that can actually spread the virus, even in areas with dispersed camping where there is more space between individual campsites.
Sometimes, you don’t have to go very far to have a weekend of awesome camping and relaxation. While pitching a tent in the old backyard might not seem that exciting of a concept at first glance, it can actually be a fun, engaging activity for families, or a romantic affair for couples.
Because backyard camping is the absolute safest way to camp during these times, we’ve put together some ideas for making your at-home campout a wild success:
- Create a Unique Campground Space
Get creative with it! It’s not like you have to carry your gear very far, so why not setup every tent you have? Depending on the weather it might also be a fun time to try to build a tipi out of a blanket, or a cabin out of cardboard. Pop-up shelters can be turned into fantasy castles, and simple sunshades can turn a spot of grass into an outdoor lounge area
- Embrace the Convenience of Yard Camping
Think about it: you don’t have to pack the car, buy a new cooler, or haul all that food with you. When you are backyard camping, all the conveniences of home are right there at your fingertips. Instead of trying to emulate the spartan experience of camping in the woods, all yourself the comforts that you could never get out there. One example: bust out the Christmas lights and string them over your new backyard campground for a magical experience that your kids will never forget.
- Make an Outdoor Movie Theater
If you have a big tent, and extension cord, and a bunch of blankets and pillows, then you can turn any backyard camping experience into an incredible cinematic experience. Choose movies that are fun to watch outside, or family classics that you haven’t seen in ages. Don’t forget the popcorn.
- Build a Fire Ring
As long as it is not restricted by your town or county regulations, you can take advantage of the lockdown to finally build that family fire pit in the backyard. It can be as easy as digging a hole and making a circle of rocks around it, but as any Pinterest search will tell you, homemade DIY firepits can get a lot more interesting than that. If you’ve never had your own backyard fire pit, then you don’t know what it feels like to have all the joys of camping for only a few hours, then sleep in our own comfortable bed.
Stay Safe During Coronavirus Lockdowns
Form our team to your family, we hope that you will stay safe during these uncertain times. While we certainly understand the desire that exists in the adventurer’s heart, this is really not the best time to be traveling or spending time at campgrounds.
If you do decide to go out, pay attention to local regulations as well as the CDC safety recommendations that looked at above. Avoid travel centers and campsites, and maintain 6 feet of distance at all times.
What we would really love is if you decided to stay at home and make s’mores in the backyard, and pour over your map collection planning the first big adventure that you’ll take when all this blows over.