Camping Safety Tips: Here’s How to Stay Safe During Coronavirus

by Shawn O'Neal

Loading up the car with tents, sleeping bags, and cast iron and heading out for a camping excursion is a summer tradition for people across the country. With the coronavirus pandemic resulting in months of stay at home orders and screen-time marathons, the appeal of a few days and nights outdoors is undeniable. With proper planning, camping can be one of the safer activities to consider this season. See below some of the best camping safety tips to practice during the Coronavirus.

Where to Pitch the Tent

First, of the safety tips, review possible destinations with the virus in mind. Check the most recent updates available on COVID-19 in any area under consideration and avoid hot spots. Next, if planning on visiting a campground, contact the operators before committing to a reservation, especially if unfamiliar with the site. Ideally, any candidate will have ample space within and between individual campsites to allow responsible distancing.  

Also, ask about any communal facilities. How many restrooms, showers, and dish sinks are available and how are they being managed to optimize safety? Importantly, some parks and campgrounds have suspended bathroom and trash access due to the coronavirus so plan accordingly. Conditions can change quickly, so remember to confirm the campground’s status before hitting the road. 

An even safer option would be dispersed camping. According to virologist Angela Rasmussen of Columbia University, “the more remote the camping experience, the better.” While national forests and wilderness areas offer greater opportunities for seclusion, they also demand greater preparation and responsibility. With the right gear and planning, a truly remote camping adventure could be one of the safer outings available right now. 

Certainly, any considered destination should minimize the need to make stops along the route. A campsite close to home will mean few- ideally, no- breaks along the drive. By having everything packed and ready, including a full gas tank, interpersonal interactions can be reduced or eliminated. 

What to Pack

A camping checklist is always a good idea in planning an outdoor excursion. In addition to the headlamps and bug spray, a COVID-minded camper needs to pack a complete hygiene kit. Rasmussen recommends sanitizing products like gels and wipes. Camping is inherently dirty and thorough washing is not always easy. Bringing soap and additional water for hand washing could also reduce exposure to potentially contaminated public facilities. Also, be sure everyone has their own face mask. A bandanna is one of the most versatile pieces of camp gear around and can make a decent improvised mask. It’s important that everyone in your party commits to having their mask and hygiene kit on them at all times. Just like a pocket knife or a compass, they can’t help you if you don’t carry them or don’t use them.  

Who to Invite

Professor Rebecca Katz is the Director of the Center for Global Health Science and Security at Georgetown University Medical Center. Katz notes that camping “is least risky from a virus perspective” among common activities this summer. Still, any responsible plan involves eliminating unnecessary exposure to interpersonal contact. “Can you stay 6 feet [or more] from anyone outside your designated family?” questions Katz. 

Keep the group small. If camping with friends or family outside your household, plan on maintaining appropriate distance, even when making smores around the campfire. This means sleeping arrangements should include separate shelters for campers from different households. Extended time in an enclosed tent space is an unnecessary risk.  

Most importantly, consider individual risk factors such as age and health history. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises extra caution for these vulnerable groups among its guidelines for US travelers.

Camping can be a great way to get back outside this summer. With these safety tips, proper care and effort, an outdoor adventure under a vast sky of stars might be just the spacious escape you’ve been craving.

[H/T BuzzFeed, NPR, CDC]

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