Camping in COVID-19 Times

Tips for Camping Trips This Summer

After a few months of staying indoors because of the coronavirus, the quarantine-weary in Washington and Idaho finally may be able to head out on camping trips. But camping, like other outdoor activities, isn’t going to be the same this year.

Campers should be willing to do considerable research, take extra caution, pack plenty of extra supplies, abide by new requirements and be ready to alter plans on a moment’s notice.

When, where and how you can camp may be confusing and dependent on everything from the state and county requirements to whether the campsite is on private, state or federal land.  

If you are planning to go camping, here are some tips to keep in mind.

Plan and Reserve Ahead

Because of the pent-up demand for getting out of town, Anna Gill, communications director for the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission, advises potential campers to make reservations online well ahead of time and avoid first-come, first-served camping areas.

“We want people to make sure they have a spot and, at the same time, limit the interaction between staff and customers,” says Gill.

To avoid having to stop and shop in small towns, where stores may be closed or have limited inventory, bring everything you may need with you. That includes toilet paper, food, ice and ice chests, soap, sanitizer, hygiene supplies, water, batteries, face coverings and gear.

To accommodate physical-distancing requirements and state-imposed restrictions, be prepared to find pools, common areas, playgrounds, visitor centers, showers and restrooms closed or operating with reduced hours.

For those new to camping or who might need a refresher, do as much research as you can before you head out, especially if you are planning to camp with children or in an unfamiliar area.

Get Up-to-Date Information

In Washington, state recreation lands opened for day use in early May. On June 1, campgrounds reopened, but only on state lands in the counties that are actively in Phase 2 of the governor’s four-phase Safe Start plan. To get more information and make reservations, check out these resources:

Idaho

In Idaho, all 30 state parks closed to camping in March, but remained open for day use. Under the governor’s Idaho Rebounds plan, campers were welcomed back to the parks as of May 30.

Group camps and shelters in Idaho state parks are being opened on a case-by-case basis. And restrooms and shared-use facilities are getting enhanced and more frequent cleaning. But for now, campground showers remain closed because of the difficulty in keeping them up to the cleaning standards set by public health experts.

As of June 1, many campgrounds in National Park Service (NPS) sites in Idaho, such as the Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve, are reopened. But camping at NPS sites in Washington state remains off limits. Rules and restrictions are shifting, so find your park and check for updates before you head out.           

Private Campsites

There are plenty of private camping sites in Washington and Idaho that offer tent, RV, cabin, yurt, Airstream trailer, teepee, treehouse and glamping stays.

These sites also must abide by their respective state reopening plans. Many are open now, while others are updating their opening dates and amenity offerings daily. Again, be sure to check websites or call ahead for the status of a specific site before leaving home.

Have Fun

Yes, there are lots of rules, restrictions and unknowns when it comes to leaving home this season, but with planning, a sense of adventure and some flexibility, a camping trip can be a great experience.

“We want people to come out and have a good time but also to know things will be a bit different,” says Craig Quintana, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation.

“Camping is a high-touch thing, but it will need to be a little less tactile than in years past. On the upside, being outdoors in fresh air is a perfect antidote to same-four-wall fever.” 

–Written by Harriet Baskas

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