Even if you're not usually into travel or the outdoors (I mean, you're reading this so you probably are, but I digress), camping has likely been on your mind since the COVID-19 crisis began. Based on what we know about the virus, it seems that camping could be a way to get away from home and feed the travel bug in a responsible way. Plus, camping is usually much more affordable than a hotel or trip to theme park or metropolitan area, which is a bonus in this time of uncertainty. But along with this idea comes a slew of questions: can I still find a campsite at this point? What if I get there and it's crowded? Do I need to wear a mask? We've done some research and thrown together a few tips and links that will hopefully be helpful to you if you're looking to camp in the United States.
There Will Be Homework
I know, I know! I just said we would do the research for you, and we did! We just can't do all of it. Before you make a plan to go camping, you'll need to make sure the place you have in mind is open to the public. Park closures are kind of all over the place at the moment. You'll need to check the park or campsite's website for closure information. Luckily there are a few search tools out there to help you quickly find the parks or campsites you're looking for.
Parks: For national parks and recreation areas, use this search engine on the National Park Service website. To find your state's park webpage, visit this site where Reserve America has them listed.
Campgrounds: There are lots of tools to help you search for campsites like recreation.gov, booking.com, or Hipcamp. Hipcamp is especially useful right now, because they have added verification for whether or not the camp host is following safety protocols for COVID-19.
Have a Plan B & C... and Maybe Even D.
It is really hard to make plans right now; I'm sure this hasn't escaped your notice. Closures, travel restrictions, and guidelines around the pandemic seem to be constantly changing. But camping is totally doable if you can be flexible! Make a campsite reservation if you can. Have a few first come, first serve campsites on the backburner to check out if the reservation falls through or an unexpected closure occurs. It would be a good idea to consider dispersed camping as well.
This goes double for your trip itinerary. Hiking trails, fishing areas, and points of interest can become crowded. If you cannot maintain 6 ft. distance with those outside of your camping party, you should pass. Have options available. Pick out a few spots or activities that you can check out if your first choices are too crowded. The park websites I mentioned earlier are a great resource for this kind of planning.
Lastly, make sure you have stuff you can do back at camp in case of sudden closures or crowding. Uno, anyone?
Keep the Party Small
While I'm usually a big advocate of the saying, "go big or go home," now is not the time for that. Stick to camping with those in your household. If you are determined to go camping with folks aside from the ones you interact with on a daily basis, consider separate campsites.
No one should come into your campsite that isn't a member of your party and don't forget to maintain 6 ft of distance when using or waiting for camp facilities.
BYO Toiletries (And I Mean ALL of Them)
It's always good to come prepared, but right now you should use extra caution when using bathroom facilities. It would be good to bring things you might normally rely on the campsite to supply. This extra step will help prevent any potential spreading of the virus and will also safe you some trouble if the campsite is missing any supplies. Consider bringing your own toilet paper, hand towels, and soap.
On that note, hand sanitizer is a must! Even if it's something you don't normally pack- bring a lot and use it liberally.
To Mask or Not To Mask
The answer is: Mask! I don't think there is a single person stoked about having to wear a mask everywhere- I certainly am not! It goes without saying, but follow rules and guidelines set by the campsite or park regarding face coverings.
A good rule of thumb is to have a mask (or a buff is a good alternative) on hand and ready to wear if you can't maintain 6 ft distance between yourself and anyone outside your camping party.
Speaking of masks, you can grab this sweet Vacation Races one from our store.
will there be camping at smoky mountain half?
Hi Johna – There will not be race-sponsored camping at the Smoky Mountains Half Marathon.