What it’s like to go camping while socially distancing

Illustration of two people wearing masks and seated around a campfire
Sakura Cannestra/Senior Staff

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Camping is a great way to enjoy the summer months and the great outdoors. It can also involve sharing a space and a bathroom with multiple strangers. This makes it difficult to socially distance and stay safe during this pandemic. Precautions have to be taken if you want to have a safe camping experience. It’s still possible, though, to have a fun time despite the extra effort needed. At least, it still was when I went camping last weekend, even with the extra precautions.

The nice thing is that socially distancing while camping doesn’t change much. Usually, a campground has multiple separate camping sites, one of which you either reserve ahead of time or grab when you arrive (depending on the campsite). These camping sites have plenty of room, so you don’t have to worry about being too close to the people at the site right beside yours. For most of your camping trip, you probably won’t have to worry about social distancing. It can be a nice way to forget about the pandemic and social distancing stress, at least for a little while.

You do have to remember that there’s a pandemic going on, though, when you go to use the restrooms. This is because nearly every campground has bathrooms that are shared by multiple campsites, or rather, the people staying in those campsites. All those strangers will be touching the same doorknobs and toilet seats, which does pose a risk. Therefore, it’s necessary to take safety steps ahead of time, such as using disinfectant wipes to touch surfaces or using gloves. It’s also a smart idea to use hand sanitizer after using the restroom, but that’s a good idea for any restroom without a place to wash your hands even when there isn’t a pandemic going on.

It’s also a good idea to wear a mask while going to the restroom. There may be people walking about around the campground or just close to the path in their own campsite. It’s the same logic for why you’d wear a mask while going on a walk outside. The mask will help protect you and them just in case you come closer than 6 feet and in general.

My family and I took all of these precautions on our camping trip on Mount Pinos. It’s a place with plenty of trees, dark skies at night and dry, clean air if no one has a campfire going. The trip was a positive one. Just being up in the mountains was a nice change of pace from sheltering in place at home. It was also clear that my family wasn’t the only one with this idea. The campground we stayed at was almost completely full, with probably a few hundred people scattered throughout. It was all the more reason to be careful about social distancing and to take other precautions.

Something is relaxing about sitting in the shade and reading a book, despite everything. The birds chirping and the occasional mountain breeze help contribute to that calming atmosphere. Your biggest worry becomes the fact that within a half-hour, the shade will have moved, and you’ll be in the sun again. When that’s your biggest worry, it really does feel like a summer vacation.

The dark skies were one of the main highlights of the trip. At night, there are so many stars visible that it takes my breath away. Even the Milky Way was visible, stretching across the sky. With a short walk from our campsite, comet Neowise was visible to the naked eye. It was a point of light above the hills with a stream of fading light making its tail. If you have never been outside in a place that truly gets dark at night and looked up at the stars, you’re missing out on an incredible and wondrous experience.

Camping can be an enjoyable experience that hasn’t changed even though there is a pandemic. However you decide to spend this summer, do your best to keep yourself and others safe. Do your research, take the proper precautions and have fun regardless of whether you are outdoors or still sheltering at home.

Contact Zachariah Nash at [email protected] .