By Carley Clegg
My boyfriend and I recently went camping shortly after Colorado lifted the stay at home orders. We discovered a few helpful tips to think about while camping during the coronavirus pandemic. This is my advice on how we stayed safe. Please note: your state, county or town could have regulations in place that make camping illegal still. Use your judgement and do your research while deciding if you should go camping during the coronavirus pandemic.
How should I prepare for camping during the coronavirus pandemic?
Shop at your local grocery store or bring what you have.
Shopping at your local grocery store will limit your exposure to any new germs and spare those in the small communities you are heading to. Or if you are like me, you probably have a box of mac and cheese stuffed in the back of the pantry that will make a great camp dinner with some kielbasa and veggies. Our go-to camp recipe is tin foil packages of meat, potatoes, carrots, onions and cream of *anything* soup.
If you are traveling to a rental site to pick up your van, consider scheduling a pick up order at a nearby grocery store. Kroger, Safeway, Walmart, Target and more grocery stores offer pickup options. This could be a great way to plan your camp meals and hit the road faster!
Bring all your water.
Pick up a couple of water jugs to bring your own water. Fill them in your bathtub or with a hose at home. I recommend water jugs with an on/off value. Bring at least 3 liters per person, per day. Bring more if you plan to clean dishes or have a pet. Luckily, the campervans have a small water tank and it will be full when you pick up your van. I suggest bringing drinking water still.
Make ice at home, if possible.
We prefer to freeze jugs of water or water bottles instead of buying bags of ice throughout a trip. Wash out plastic milk or orange juice jugs, fill the jug almost to the top and freeze for a day. Now you have a cold cooler without the mess of loose ice or running to the gas station for more. If you’re renting a van, you won’t need ice! All of Escape’s campervans have solar powered drawer fridges!
Bring a first aid kit for you and Fido (AND CHECK IT!)
I cannot stress how important this is!! By keeping yourself safe, you will keep the local search and rescue team, paramedics, firefighters, police officers and park rangers safe. We pack multiple first aid kits depending on where we keep them and what we would need them for.
Luckily, on our last camping trip we only pulled out the first aid kit in our truck when my boyfriend had a headache. But we didn’t have any pain medicine that he wasn’t allergic to! If you buy a pre-made first aid kit, be sure to learn what is in it and if YOU have everything YOU need. You can buy first aid kits for pets now, too. Hopefully you won’t need these, but they could come in handy!
Pick lesser visited areas and have a back up.
It is becoming more and more common to see a popular trail closing because of overcrowding at the trailhead. Please try not to visit those areas! I use the app AllTrails to find trails or areas that are “lightly trafficked.” It is even better if the trail is labelled on a detailed map, but not online anywhere. Or call the local chamber of commerce or tourism association and ask a local where to go. They have insider knowledge! If you pull up to a busy trailhead, drive a bit farther and see if you can find one that is less busy. It will be an adventure!
Download maps ahead of time.
Find an app that allows you to download maps. We love OnX, but it is pricey. Sometimes I find PDFs of maps from the BLM or National Forest online too. Better yet, get a paper map or a road atlas! Every van rented comes with a road atlas. Best to know where you are going so that you don’t have to ask for directions.
Check fire bans and emergency alerts at the state, county, city and park level.
On our camping trip, I had checked for a fire ban in the county we were heading to. When we pulled up, there was a stage 2 fire ban sign posted by National Forest Service! We were disappointed, but we cooked our dinners over a camp stove instead of on the fire. All Escape campervans have a propane stove. Usually stoves are allowed even in a fire ban, but make sure to check the local regulations. Be mentally prepared not to have a campfire!
What can I do to stay safe while camping during COVID-19?
Read all posted signs.
When you are driving into a camp spot or trailhead, make sure to stop and read every sign you come across. We picked a different camping spot on our trip because of a piece of paper taped to a cattle guard. The note said search and rescue would take hours to respond because that community didn’t have enough resources. Not to scare you, but the local authorities might physically post a warning that isn’t online anywhere. It is best to read those.
Be prepared to poop in the woods and leave no trace.
It’s almost a guarantee that vault toilets, bath houses and picnic areas will be closed in the area you are headed to. Bring a small garden trowel, toilet paper and a trash bag. Leave No Trace explains the best ways to do this.
Create a hand and dish washing station.
Two small bins work great for dish washing: one with hot, soapy water (and a sponge!) and one with cold water and a tablespoon of bleach. In a pinch, two gallon sized zipper sealer bags work well too. Remember to properly dispose of the dishwater. And that water jug with the on/off value? It makes it so much easier to wash your hands with soap. Or wash your hands in the pump sink of a campervan! So simple!
Pack your trash out.
You should be an expert at this all ready! Grab a few kitchen trash bags as you’re packing your own kitchen kit or bring them along if you are renting one of Escape’s. Make sure to toss out all of the trash prior to dropping off the van.
On our trip, we strived to be as self sufficient as possible and avoid other people. I did have masks and hand sanitizer ready if we needed it. Thankfully, on our three day trip, we only saw one other couple! I felt very safe while we camped and am so thankful we had a chance to get outside. Escape’s camper van rental locations are beginning to open up across the country. It’s a great opportunity to beat the cabin fever and get out safely!