Camping During the Coronavirus Pandemic

June 4, 2020

Categories: COVID-19, Health, Safety, Travel Tips,

U.S. campgrounds are open.

Good news, right? Families are able to make domestic adventure travel plans for the summer. Fuel is relatively inexpensive right now. And being outdoors can be safer — experts say that coronavirus does not spread as easily in well-ventilated outside areas.

It’s a delicate balance — the desire to explore the great outdoors versus the unwanted risk of coronavirus contagion. But as the air warms and the trees green, adventure travelers will want to leave the four walls of their home and set up their tent or park the RV under the wide blue sky.

“Outdoor activities – like individual or small group camping – have a lower risk of coronavirus exposure than indoor activities,” said Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue. “By avoiding the three C’s, confined spaces, crowds and close contact, you dramatically reduce the likelihood of contracting the virus.”

If you are preparing for an adventure in the great outdoors, here are a few considerations from the experts at Global Rescue.

Planning and Pre-planning

To make sure your camping trip proceeds as planned, you are going to want to research, call, plan and call again to get the most up-to-date information.

“Campers need to be aware of all the campsite’s restrictions, recommendations and rules — and how they are being enforced,” said Harding Bush, associate manager of operations at Global Rescue. “The whole trip could be ruined by relying on old and incorrect information. You may not be allowed to enter a campground because you aren’t able to comply with the rules.”

“The same rules and safety guidelines for travel apply to camping,” said Jeffrey Weinstein, medical operations supervisor at Global Rescue. “Don’t relax your safety precautions just because you are outside.”

Know the Risks

Before you pack up the tent, know that “going camping at a time when much of the United States is experiencing community spread of COVID-19 can pose a risk to you if you come in close contact with others or share public facilities (like restrooms or picnic areas) at campsites or along the trails,” according to the CDC.

Although you may be keeping yourself safe, not everyone is abiding by the rules.

“Travelers should expect other travelers to not follow the appropriate precautions,” Weinstein said. “Do your due diligence and plan your safety strategies for communal areas.”

Stay Local

As Outside magazine suggests, if you’re able to abide by the rules for going outdoors during the pandemic and have access to legal, open areas to camp, you could consider camping in your local community.

Global Rescue also recommends staying local to start, so you are familiar with the resources available and near medical services if needed. This limits car travel, which has its own risks of exposure — making stops along the way for gas, food or bathroom breaks can put you and your family in close contact with asymptomatic spreaders of the virus.

Choose the Location

As restrictions ease, you will feel more comfortable looking outside your immediate community to a different state and different types of camping. The National Park Service breaks down the types of camping available: backyard, close to home, in a car, with an RV, or in a remote area.

National parks are a great option for campers and you can check online to see which parks are open and if there are any alerts or road closuresYou may also want to go online for entry passes and national park camping reservations, which helps parks, like Yosemite National Park, limit daily car traffic. Some parks have limited camping facilities which are booked months in advance. 

Even if the park is open, public facilities — park buildings and restrooms — may remain closed to limit exposure to the virus. Roads for vehicles, trails or certain areas of the park may be closed as well. You’ll want to research what is available well in advance.

Local and national forest preserves offer wooded or semi-wooded sites for camping. Wearing a mask and social distancing are required, even out in the open. Some sites will be monitored by regular patrols. The Forest Preserves of Cook County, one of the oldest and largest forest preserve districts in the United States, offers a non-emergency police number to call if you see groups congregating or visitors not following social distancing guidelines.

Botanical gardens offer camping opportunities as well. The Chicago Botanical Gardens in Illinois offers one-night family camp-out adventures. Other fun options include the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens in California and the Ho’omaluhia Botanical Gardens, a 400-acre rainforest park in Hawaii with 15 weekend campsites.

Check State Regulations

Each state has its own rules, regulations and safety requirements. Changes may happen while you are traveling, so you’ll want to stay ahead of any restrictions, stay-at-home orders or mandated quarantines. Plan to keep checking for updates as you travel.

Global Rescue in-house experts are closely tracking all of the latest restrictions and reopening measures in a daily intelligence report. You can sign up to receive a daily email alert when updates are made.

Ask About Social Distancing Guidelines

If you do decide to travel across state lines, make sure the campground or RV site meets or exceeds the Social Distancing Guidelines set by the WHO and CDC. Every accommodation should be 6 feet (or 2 meters) apart.

When you call to make a camping reservation, ask about availability — you’ll want to confirm the campground or RV site isn’t crowded. Inquire if there is a remote check-in option.

And don’t be afraid to seek another option if you encounter a crowded trail or campsite.

“If you are not able to maintain social distancing, you need to leave,” Weinstein said. “Coronavirus is still a threat even if you are outside.”

Other Suggestions:

  • Pack alcohol-based hand sanitizer (at least 60% alcohol or 70% isopropyl alcohol) and keep it within easy reach.
  • Bring a face covering — mask, bandana, scarf — to wear in public places.
  • Pack extra non-perishable food in case restaurants and stores are closed.
  • If there is a bathhouse or common area, ask how frequently it is being disinfected. You may want to consider bringing your own cleaning supplies.
  • Maintain social distance even in the great outdoors. Don’t shake hands and use other non-contact methods of greeting people, like a hello wave or an elbow bump.
  • Plan your visit at a not-so-busy time, perhaps avoiding holiday weekends.
  • Sign up for a travel protection services membership from Global Rescue so you’ll have access to medical evacuation, security extraction, travel intelligence and assistance services designed to assist and protect you when you are away from home.

“Sunlight, heat and humidity lower the attack rate of the virus,” Richards said. “Camping, by its nature, is typically a semi-solitary activity that occurs outside. It’s one of the safer ways to kickstart your summer travel plans.”


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