It's the perfect time for a backyard campout. (Adobe stock image)

Camping During Covid

By Nushin Huq

Between 2 Pines Magazine

As the school year ends but social distancing precautions continue, people are flocking to outdoor spaces to escape, connect with nature, and find peace. 

 

Parks are opening up but parents want to keep their family and others safe. It is possible to safely plan a family camping trip this summer, but follow government and health official guidelines.

 

Location, Location, Location

 

The first step in planning any camping trip is to pick a location. This summer, stay local. Yellowstone National Park might have been on your bucket list, but if you’re in Texas, you might consider a local state park instead. Many popular national parks are located in rural areas, and experts worry that if a large number of visitors come, COVID-19 cases could increase and overwhelm the local health care system. Plus, if you travel a long way from home and your family member becomes ill, it will be a difficult trip home. 

 

Make sure whichever park you choose, you find the latest information on hours and reservations. Not all parks are reopening at the same time. Some camps have reduced the number of camping permits, and some are implementing a reservation system for entry into the park. 

 

For example, Rocky Mountain National Park, one of the most visited parks in the country, will be using a timed entry system as a crowd-control measure, the National Park Service, or NPS, recently announced. The best advice is to check with park websites.

 

While obvious, it is worth repeating--if you or your family member is sick, stay home.

 

Stay Really Local

 

If you’ve never been camping, it’s a great time to do a practice run in your own backyard. Staying as close as possible to home is a good way to get your feet wet. If you're camping in the backyard, you can go inside if the weather turns bad. 

 

Hang outdoor lights, roast marshmallows on the grill, try a new camping recipe or play a camp game. When things get back to normal, you’ll have practiced your new skills and be ready to go. 

 

Pack In, Pack Out

 

If you decide to decide to go camping further away from home, make as few stops as possible to limit contact with people. Take all your supplies, personal protective equipment and food with you so you don't have to stop at any stores once you get to your destination. 

 

Don’t forget leave no trace principles, which means when visiting an outdoor space, you leave it as if you were never there. Make sure you pack up and take out whatever you bring into the park. Many parks have reduced staff, so trash pickup and restrooms access will continue to be limited, NPS said. So take your trash home to dispose. 

Speaking of Restrooms

If you travel far, you might have to stop for restroom brakes along the way. Watch out for high touch areas. Try not to go into a stall right after someone has used it, wait a couple of minutes. Avoid drying your hands using blow dryers. Also, check park website to see which facilities are open. 

Don’t Try New Things

 

While it’s always fun to try new things, save that difficult hike or new outdoor activity for a future trip to avoid injuries, NPS advised in its recreate responsibly guidelines.. This will allow first responders, parks and communities can focus on pandemic response rather than your broken ankle if you get injured. 

 

Keep Your Distance

 

Keeping your distance is a cornerstone rule of wildlife watching, but this year that means camping only with members of your household. Try to hit the trails early in the morning when crowds are low, or hike less popular trails. Keep a face covering with you. That way, if your party reaches a part of the trail where social distancing isn’t possible, you can cover your nose and mouth, the National Park Service said.

 

Again, it’s important to remember leave no trace principles and make sure that going off the beaten path doesn’t mean going off the trail. Only hike on marked trails to minimize impact and protect the park.

In the end, families will have to decide if going on a camping trip this summer is right for their families, but if they go, it's important to follow guidelines so everyone has a safe and enjoyable trip. 

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