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by Mountain House June 12, 2020

Camping During the Coronavirus Pandemic

It’s been a challenging and confusing time for outdoorspeople, these past few months. Well, of course, it’s been a challenging and confusing—and downright scary—time for everybody, and we’ll take this opportunity at the outset to thank all of the healthcare workers, grocery/market employees, and other personnel who’ve truly been on the frontlines during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here’s a very big thank-you from all of us here at Mountain House!

Covid-19 coronavirus.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Currently many of the public lands and other outdoor destinations that were partly or completely closed, or otherwise specially regulated, when the pandemic hit are reopening to one degree or another. Pursued responsibly, outdoor recreation—including, where allowed, camping—is a fantastic means of staying physically and emotionally healthy in the midst of this stressful, “socially distanced” phase. Soaking up some fresh air, spending more quality time with the natural world, finding adventure and inspiration in the great outdoors: Tenting out can be a great way to stay safe (and sane) these days, with hopefully even more, expanded camping opportunities to enjoy in the near future!

Uncertainty has been the name of the game during the COVID-19 era and there’s still an awful lot we don’t know: about the virus, about the timeline of reopening, and about what that reopening will look like. But we thought we’d put together a few resources for planning your pandemic-era camping trip.

A caveat or two upfront: The following mainly applies to the U.S. in its discussion of what campgrounds and camping areas are open, and because of the evolving situation we of course urge you to continue following the guidelines of health authorities and local, state, and federal government officials. You can find the latest information here:

  • Coronavirus.gov
  • CDC.gov/coronavirus
  • USA.gov/coronavirus

Basic Coronavirus Camping Considerations

Woman on walk wearing coronavirus face mask neck gaiter.
Image by NickyPe from Pixabay

The stay-at-home lifestyle of the past couple of months has outdoor lovers pining hard for wide-open spaces and cherished natural playgrounds and sanctuaries, and with summer just about upon us we’re all surely chomping at the bit to pursue our usual camping adventures. These aren’t, of course, “normal” times—we’re not quite back to those yet—so you’ll want to keep a few things in mind as you plan a camping getaway in the near future:

  • Think about camping close to home for now, and/or planning ahead even more rigorously than usual to minimize visits to gas stations, grocery stores, and the like en route.
  • Make sure you’re well equipped and prepared—sharing route information, packing the Ten Essentials, etc.—if you’re camping in a more remote area or backpacking, as you want to minimize the chance you’ll need rescue, given ongoing social-distancing guidelines.
  • Popular campgrounds or dispersed camping areas may draw all the more people this summer given the oodles of unexpected free time many have right now and some major, understandable quarantine-triggered cabin fever. This can make it challenging to abide by social-distancing guidelines, even if everybody’s being responsible and trying to follow them. So consider camping in less-popular places, and stay aware wherever you end up, ready to shift your plans if conditions on the ground are a bit too unpredictable or crowded.

Where to Camp

2 meter social distancing on park trail by trees.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

As we mentioned, many developed recreation sites, from county and state parks to national forests and parks, are starting to ease travel and activity restrictions, though plenty of those remain in effect. Some places that were temporarily closed may be open again, but only for day-use. Developed campgrounds on some lands may still be off-limits, but dispersed camping may be an option. Many chain campgrounds continue to operate. Needless to say, it’s imperative to check with the appropriate local managing agency, department, or company to find out whether camping is allowed and in what form, as well as other rules regarding public access and use.

Along with checking the websites of specific state parks and forests, the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the like, we suggest keeping tabs on this handy and regularly updated roundup of U.S. campground status over at Campendium.

Camping Well Wishes from Mountain House

Camping can be a wonderful way to exercise, relieve stress, and feel connected to the wider world during this challenging time. Follow all health guidelines, make sure you know the most up-to-date regulations concerning outdoor recreation, and be accountable to social responsibility and the public good if you decide to camp. Meanwhile, we here at Mountain House wish you and your loved ones the very best as we all deal with this crisis together!

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