- Camping is safer than most vacations you can take during the pandemic, but it is not risk-free.
- Dr. Sandra Kesh, an infectious disease specialist, told Insider campers should call campgrounds ahead of time and ask about their cleaning routines.
- Once you're at the site, you should still wear masks and keep a six-foot distance from people outside your immediate group.
- Skip showering if it's a short weekend camping trip to avoid high-touch areas like a public restroom.
- Bring supplies like disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and gloves to keep you and your fellow campers clean.
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Camping is one of the safer vacations you can take during the pandemic, according to Dr. Sandra Kesh, an infectious disease specialist and Deputy Medical Director at WestMed — but visiting the great outdoors is not risk-free.
"The appeal of it is that you're outdoors and you're not congregating with too many people in one location," Kesh told Insider. "The problem is that because it's outdoors — and I've started to see this happen — people let their guard down."
Though it's easier to get space from people outdoors, Kesh said people tend to engage in a riskier activity when they go outside, like speaking to people face to face, taking masks off, and getting within six feet of other people.
"The risks then start to accumulate," Kesh said. "It's not that 'if I do this then I will get COVID' — it's a cumulative risk. Those risks pile up and that's when I think there's potential for people being more exposed."
Before you plan your trip, call the campsite and ask how they clean their public areas
Kesh said it is important to call ahead to understand how the campground is operating during the pandemic before planning your trip.
"Ask them 'what is the campground doing above and beyond what they normally do,'" Kesh said. "There should be plenty of soup water and basics. For the traveler, it's really incumbent about us to call ahead and not be shy about asking these questions."
Making sure that the campgrounds have measures in place to prevent crowding is also key. While some parks like Yosemite plan on putting rules in place to reduce the number of people in the park, not all campsites will do so.
The more people you're around, the more likely you are to be exposed to the coronavirus.
Camp with your 'safety group' — people from your household or people you trust have been social distancing
According to Kesh, you should only consider camping with your 'safety group.' That's the people you live with and people you know have been following proper social distancing tactics.
As cities and states begin to loosen their restrictions around lockdown and open back up, your friends and family might begin seeing more people outside of their homes. That means you can camp with people outside your household, if you are sure that they have not engaged in risky activities.
If someone you are considering going camping with is seeing many people outside of their homes, you might want to reconsider your trip.
Importantly, if anyone in your household has been sick or tested positive for the coronavirus, you should stay home and cancel your trip.
You can use a public restroom but take precautions, and bring supplies
Kesh said public restrooms are risky, as they are a high-touch area, but still might be the best way to wash your hands at the campgrounds.
If you need to wash your hands and a public restroom is the only option with running water, make sure to bring your own paper towels to dry your hands, as the air dryers are many campsites that can actually spread germs by blowing droplets into the air.
"The amount of viral spread from using the air dryer is significantly higher than using a paper towel," Kesh said.
Bringing disinfectant wipes to wipe down high-touch areas like faucets and bathroom stall door latches and wearing latex gloves as you disinfect can help reduce your chance of keeping germs on your hands.
If you take a shorter, weekend camping trip, consider skipping using the public shower to reduce your risk of exposure. But if you absolutely have to use the shower, wear shower shoes and clean off the high touch areas like hot and cold handles using a disinfectant wipe and latex gloves.
Be sure to use caution when peeling off the glove after you're done.
Wear a mask around people who are not in your immediate group and keep six-feet apart
When you get to the campsite, wearing a mask is still important — especially if you are around people outside of your "safety group."
Avoid common spaces like picnic tables, barbecues, and fire pits if they are crowded. If you cannot maintain at least six-feet of distance, you'll risk exposing yourself or others to germs.
"Every step towards more people in the same space increases your risk," Kesh said.
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