A guide to camping safely around the Northwest this summer
Camping is a great way to spend quality time with friends and family while experiencing the great outdoors up close. Camping can also be a great activity and a resource for self-reflection, stress relief, and connecting with nature. As we continue to navigate a global pandemic, we want to support you in engaging in outdoor summer fun as safely and responsibly as possible. We’ve assembled a short guide to help you embark on summer camping trips while also staying safe and up-to-date with public health guidelines.
Know Before You Go
First and foremost, stay home if you are sick.
Before you book your trip, stay informed on what campgrounds are open near you. By choosing sites close to home, you mitigate the risk of spreading the virus to communities with limited medical resources and older, high-risk populations.
Have a game plan and a Plan B in case your desired campground is closed or full.
Be sure to pack your 10 Essentials for camping and hiking, and add a face covering to the list. Being prepared reduces the chances you’ll find yourself in need of Search and Rescue crews and medical professionals who are currently stretched thin by the pandemic. For these same reasons, consider postponing outdoor plans that include elevated levels of risk. There’s never a good time to get lost or injured (or both) while outside, but this summer could be an especially bad one.
Pack everything that you can at home, from food, water, and sunscreen, to camping supplies, sleeping bags, and proper clothing. By doing so, you eliminate the need to stop along the way to your campground and save some money along the way. Pack a cooler or ice chest for your food, and store food in your car, a bear can or a bear bag overnight to avoid attracting animals.
#RecreateResponsibly: REI and a coalition of nonprofits have banded together to create an easy-to-follow recreation guide to help you recreate safely, including a tool kit that you can download and share with others.
The list includes an important step to take while outside: Build an inclusive outdoors – be an active part of making the outdoors safe and welcoming for all identities and abilities. We appreciate this step and encourage you to take it to heart as you share public lands with others in search of recreation, rejuvenation, and fun outdoors.
Regional Research Resources
Plan your trip ahead of time! What worked in years past may not work this summer. Many parks and campgrounds have made changes due to COVID-19 to keep you, fellow campers, and staff members safe. Refer to the land manager’s website and social media accounts for the latest information.
Oregon State Parks has issued special COVID-19 guides for day-use and camping that have several resources on how to plan your trip and what to expect while camping this summer. You can check the status of State Park campsites in Oregon, here.
If you are looking to visit or camp along the Columbia Gorge, you can see what recreation sites are open here. For additional information, you can visit the Ready, Set, Gorge! website to learn how the Gorge is preparing for visitors and how you can prepare and care for your upcoming camping trip.
If you decide to participate in dispersed camping, meaning camping at sites unsupported by campsite infrastructure such as trash cans, bathrooms, showers, reservable spots, etc., there will likely be more preparation and state guidelines to reference. Before you go, contact the land manager directly to find out where you are allowed to camp. Washington Trails Association has published a guide to best dispersed camping practices that may be helpful to you if it’s your first time or if you need a refresher.
Leave No Trace also offers key principles to follow if you are camping outdoors, especially if you are engaging in dispersed camping. Read the seven principles and be sure to follow them throughout your camping trip.
There will be very few, if any, restroom or trash facilities as you embark on your dispersed camping trip, so it is crucial that you know how to dispose of all waste responsibly. For further tips on how to properly dispose of waste, read here.
What to Expect
Be prepared for some letdowns. Some sections of campgrounds may be temporarily closed and there may be limited availability on certain activities or utilities around the site. Some restroom and shower facilities may also be limited or closed, firewood and ice may be less accessible, and there may be campfire restrictions in place due to both fire danger levels and limited firefighting staff available. Accepting that a trip will not turn out as planned can be difficult, but please abide by posted closures and rule changes.
Be ready to follow public health guidelines such as wearing a face covering in public places, keeping a six-foot distance, and washing your hands often. The rules and guidelines may vary from state to state, so be sure to double-check what you need to follow and bring in order to keep you and others safe.
Camping, much like everything else this year, might be complicated. But that doesn’t mean it still can’t be fun! Provided you follow your state’s COVID-19 restrictions and guidance, we encourage you to plan a trip and connect with nature. At Columbia Land Trust, we want you to have the resources and tools to be able to participate in outdoor recreation as safely as possible. By being prepared and knowing before you go, this year’s camping trip may be the best one yet. Happy camping!