Is It Safe to Camp and Hike During COVID-19?

For months, we’ve stayed close to home in an effort to stay safe during the

coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. But as parks begin to reopen, outdoor enthusiasts may be ready to hit the trails and camp under the stars. The question is, how do you decide whether it’s safe?

The experts say:

Outdoor activities are preferable to indoor ones because fresh air dilutes the virus. But try to find places to hike and camp that are not densely populated.

“There are plenty of places to go hiking and camping where you see very few people, so those could be good choices,” says Emily Sickbert-Bennett, PhD, director of UNC Medical Center Infection Prevention.

Factors to consider:

–  Who are you hiking with? It’s best to stick to people in your household, and to avoid crowded trails and campgrounds.

– What will you pack? While it is not necessary to wear a mask while hiking if you maintain physical distancing, bring it with you in case you can’t stay 6 feet away from others.

– Where are you going? Make sure campgrounds are big enough to allow for adequate spacing between tents and campsites. Avoid destinations that have an especially high COVID-19 rate or have seen a recent spike in cases.

How to stay safe:

If you need to use a public bathroom, try to get in and out as fast as possible, wear a mask and be sure to wash your hands. If you are considered high-risk, such as people older than 65 or those who are immunocompromised, consult your doctor before heading out.

In addition to physical distancing and wearing a mask when you can’t stay 6 feet away from others, avoid sharing equipment, and be sure everyone in your group has a reusable water bottle. Pack enough masks so that you can always have one at the ready and carry hand sanitizer for when you can’t practice frequent hand-washing.

For the latest information on COVID-19, visit the CDC website and the UNC Health COVID-19 Resources page, and follow UNC Health on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.