How To Practice Social Distancing While Camping
In light of the current coronavirus pandemic, we’re all trying to figure out how to do the things we used to do in a safe, responsible manner. Undoubtedly, some activities will be off-limits for a while, including sports games, concerts and fairs. But one thing we’re all realizing together is that the outdoors are still, in part, a safe haven. And camping may be one of the best ways to enjoy them.
But just because an activity occurs outside doesn’t make it virus-proof. We’ve watched as cooped-up residents have flooded city greenspaces and swarmed public parks, putting thousands in too-close proximity to one another. We don’t necessarily blame them — fresh air and sunlight are vital to good health and mental well-being, but it’s best to soak it up in the vast wilderness rather than the city park.
If you’re planning to head out for a camping trip as a break from the stressors of quarantine life, it’s crucial that you do so in a responsible manner. Remember, if we all enjoy nature responsibly, the parks won’t be forced to shutter, and we can all take advantage of them throughout the summer and fall. Here are the best ways to practice socially distant camping.
Before You Go
Before you head out for your camping trip, you need to do a couple of things to make sure you’re set up for a safe, responsible trip.
- Feeling Sick? Stay Home — The number one rule of parks and recreation during COVID-19, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is this: DO NOT visit a park if you are sick or were recently exposed to a person with the virus. There are zero exceptions to this rule. If you feel sick, you and anyone who has come in contact with you should self-quarantine until you know you’re well.
- Check with the Parks — Before you do anything, make sure to check with the parks department or campground to ensure that it’s open. Specific places may also have specific rules, regulations and limitations in place to help prevent the spread of the virus. For example, some campgrounds are keeping their bathhouses closed, so those may not be the best places to go tent camping at this time.
Social Distancing Rules While Camping
1. One Site Per Family or Individual — Your campsite crew should be the exact same as your quarantine crew. The only people you should be sharing a tent, campsite, picnic table or camp chair with are the people who you also plan to go home and live with after your trip. You may camp with friends or family members who live elsewhere, but they should have their own campsite and tent.
2. No Sharing Food, Gear or Coolers — If possible, ensure that each member of your group has his or her own set of camping essentials. Everyone should have a headlamp or flashlight, a sleeping bag, a pillow and a camping chair to themselves. We also recommend packing one cooler per family unit or individual, and, of course, not sharing any food or drinks. When it’s time to get together for dinner or a campfire, have each individual bring their own chair and resist the urge to swap.
3. Space Out As Much As You Can — The six-foot rule still applies, even in the middle of the wilderness. Space your tent and camping chairs at least six feet apart from one another for the duration of your trip. This even applies around the campfire.
4. No More Than 10 People Per Group — Smaller groups are better when there’s a fast-spreading virus out there, and it’s generally best to stick with the people who live in your household. You may invite others, but as a general rule of thumb, keep your camp crew to under 10 people. By this, we mean 10 people in total across all tents and campsites. In other words, you don’t want to be regularly socializing with more than nine other people during the entire course of your trip.
5. Disinfect Upon Arrival, Disinfect Upon Departure — We still aren’t sure how long the virus can live on certain surfaces, so treat the campground like you would any other public place during this time. Bring disinfectant wipes or spray with you and thoroughly wipe down the picnic table and bathroom facilities before use. Remember to avoid spraying any harsh chemicals directly onto any plants or into the air and always properly dispose of the trash. We recommend not borrowing or renting gear at this time, but if you decide to do so, make sure to spend extra time thoroughly disinfecting before use.
6. Skip the Group Facilities — It should go without saying, but try to limit access to any public facilities at the campground or trails, including pools, hot tubs, grills, playgrounds, public fitness equipment, showers and even benches. This is one scenario where going the primitive route — i.e., no bathroom or shower facilities at the campground — may be beneficial, albeit a bit inconvenient.
7. Play No-Contact Games — Just because you have to stay six feet apart doesn’t mean you can’t still play some fun games! Skip the cards, football or catch and instead turn to old-school options like charades, 20 questions or bingo. Spend your game time telling stories or holding a campfire concert instead of playing sports or board games.
Responsible Camping in the Coronavirus Era
If you’ve decided to head out for a socially distant camping trip, you’ve got the right idea. Get away from people, enjoy the peace and beauty of nature and forget about the pandemic, if only for a couple of days. However, all campers must do their part to stop the spread of coronavirus by maintaining a safe social distance and following all CDC guidelines. This will ensure that we all stay healthy, happy campers, no matter what.