One of my friends recently enjoyed a weekend camping with her family.
When I asked her how it went, she stressed how wonderful it was to camp during this pandemic.
She said to me, “It was like nothing was going on in the world and everything was back to normal. No news. No wifi. Peaceful.”
Even though it can be an excellent escape, camping during a pandemic is not “business as usual.”
If you can find a place with no camping restrictions and you choose to go camping, please camp safely and cautiously.
It is important to do these things not only for your own safety, but for the safety of everyone else you might encounter.
Here are my suggestions:
• It is always important to do your research. Check for any restrictions on camping or travel, as well as any restrictions for any campground you intend to visit.
Knowing the expectations of where you are headed will pay off greatly. However, be patient because the situation changes daily.
It is critical that you double- and triple-check all applicable resources as close to departure date as possible.
• Make sure you plan ahead at home. During this time, it is critical that you prepare before heading out on your camping trip.
Fill the gas tank, grocery shop, and get all the resources from your hometown that you’ll need before you hit the road.
Many rural areas don’t have the medical infrastructure to care for their residents in the event of an outbreak.
If you’re an unknown carrier of COVID-19, you can spread it to service workers in these towns.
That quick stop for the bag of marshmallows you forgot could lead to serious problems for the area you are going to camp in.
So, make sure your supplies are in order before you depart.
• If you must interact, do it safely. Yes, sometimes we make mistakes and forget something.
If you do need to interact with others to get gas, food, or other important supplies along the way, please wash and sanitize your hands before and after interacting with anyone.
Also, wear gloves, sport your face mask, and practice social distancing wherever you go.
If you are anything like me, you have a mask, Clorox Wipes, and hand sanitizer in your vehicle at all times anyway.
A little pre-planning goes a long way during a global pandemic!
• Use your brain and avoid risky behavior. It is so important to avoid dangerous activities during this time. Responsibility is key.
This is no time to have one too many adult beverages and fall into the campfire, or decide to jump off that big rock for fun!
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So, while Billy is getting his broken arm taken care of, the rest of the family is stuck in a hospital parking lot waiting it out.
As we have heard time and time again, “You really don’t want to be in a hospital right now, if you can avoid it!”
So, if you are going camping during COVID-19, play it safe and lessen the impact on limited healthcare resources.
• It’s time for less socializing and more staying put. Camping during COVID-19 also means a lot less socializing.
Once you find a campsite, stay put so you don’t spread germs. I know that one of the joys in camping is making new friends and visiting with fellow campers, but now we live under different circumstances.
Play it safe and keep a healthy distance. Stick with the people you are camping with, or simply go solo.
• Avoid the crowds. If you see full parking areas where you plan to camp, that is a clear sign of overcrowding.
And, let’s be honest, crowds defeat the whole purpose of “social distancing.” When our shared outdoor spaces, including campgrounds, become too crowded, that can lead to closures.
So, avoid the crowded areas and opt for more remote and secluded camping sites. After all, finding solitude off the beaten path can make for a memorable and peaceful experience.
• Be prepared to pack out your trash. Expect the possibility of limited staff and service.
In many parks and natural areas, trash and recycling bins may not be emptied as often or at all.
If you do not go prepared to pack out your own trash, this can result in overflowing trash that can harm wildlife.
Instead, pack your trash and recyclables out with you all the way home. Be responsible and care for the land that cares for you!
• Privately-owned campgrounds are an option. Beyond our public lands, many privately-owned campgrounds are open and do have availability and guidelines in place for campers.
Garrison’s River Resort in Steelville is open for business with the following guidelines: “We’re asking all campers and floaters to maintain a 6-foot distance from those not in their party, and only 10 people will be allowed in the campground store at a time.”
Beyond those basic guidelines, Garrison’s also offers these thoughts for our readers: “Always bring sanitization items such as hand sanitizer and wipes in case you’re unable to use soap and water.
“Do your best to space yourself out from others, especially since that’s probably why you’re camping in the first place. Lastly, have fun! Use your time camping to unwind while still staying safe.”
• If you aren’t comfortable leaving home, consider backyard camping. Don’t forget, good old-fashioned backyard camping isn’t that bad, especially now!
Why not tap into your childhood memories and make new versions of them in your own yard? Depending on where you are, it may not be the same as the “great outdoors,” but it gets you outside under the stars.
• Grab those camp chairs and light a fire in the fire pit! Make some s’mores, put on some tunes, and remember the magic of camping is the opportunity to spend quality time by ourselves, or with our family.
An added bonus to backyard camping is that if you forget something at home, your supplies are not far from your tent!
(Michelle Turner lives in Union, Mo.)