Camping essentials often include, but are not limited to; dry firewood, a fully stocked cooler and all of the fixings to make S’mores around the campfire with your family and friends. But, in recent changing times, a new item has been added to your camping essentials list. This item in the past was not even thought to be brought, much less crucial. Any guesses? You’re right… a face mask.
The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the ways in which we have traveled this past year- between trips being cancelled, avoiding virus hot-spots and working actively towards staying safe and healthy, we are definitely not traveling the way we used to. According to the KOA North American Camping Report, 78.8 million camping families exist in the United States. With that number only increasing by the day, camping as a whole is becoming the new American pastime, and we can see why! Between avoiding crowded airplanes, to taking a shot in the dark on your Airbnb being properly cleaned and sanitized, camping is not only the cheapest way to travel in the 21st Century, but arguably the safest.
Not only does spending more time in nature help avoid the ever-looming pandemic, it is also believed to be a way to naturally boost your immune system. Nature seems to have all of the ingredients to help generate a healthy immune system, mind and body. By providing free, open spaces, fresh air and hopefully minimal to no cell phone reception, it is the perfect mix to fuel happiness and health.
Mother Nature’s influence on our health is no new concept. In fact, in 1982 Japan coined the term Shintin-Yoku, otherwise known as “forest bathing”. Forest bathing is a way to describe taking in the forest through our senses and reaping the positive benefits from doing so. So, listen to the birds in the morning- their song truly is for you. Breathe in the rain, bask in the coolness of the shade a tree may provide- it’s good for you!
Enjoying nature and camping to its full extent really only requires one thing: the proper planning. Creating a list to prevent forgetting supplies, meal prepping and researching and booking campsites in advance are a few ways to ensure your camping experience is one for the books. In order to adjust into “Corona camping”, a few other steps are suggested.
Pre-pandemic, less than 20% of our American brothers and sisters spent time outside of their homes and in the great outdoors, according to the Outdoor Industry Association. This number has nearly doubled since the report was published in 2015. Now, news is coming out that summer campground bookings, in both 2020 and 2021, are spiking at an all-time high. Booking a campground in advance has never been more of a necessity than it is now. On top of the shortage due to popularity, a lot of campgrounds have restrictions on visitors depending on their location. As of right now, most South Dakota campgrounds remain open without restrictions, but New York state on the other hand, has more restrictions than most other states combined. Reduced capacities in New York State campgrounds, social distancing and a mandate for the use of face masks when you are not actively social distancing are just a few of the new restrictions put in place in 2021 for camping in NYS.
There are many places and ways to book a campsite, one of the easiest being Recreation.gov . Recreation.gov is a reservation website that represents over 10 federal agencies that are responsible for managing public lands, National Parks and the U.S Forest Service. You are sure to find a campsite here that suits your adventure plans. As the campground access situation remains fluid, be sure to check restrictions and requirements put in place at the campground you are traveling to before you leave your driveway and make reservations whenever possible.
Another way to plan in advance for camping during the Coronavirus pandemic is to check with your campground on their camp store hours, their bathroom usage and regulations and if garbage disposal will be available. Camp stores may have reduced hours, or even may be closed and bathroom access and garbage disposal is not always guaranteed if that particular campground does not have the resources to clean and sanitize to reach CDC guidelines. According to the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, burning your garbage is never an option, under any circumstances. So, the trademark rule of “take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints”, still applies. Bring an extra stock of garbage bags, and leave room in your vehicle to take your trash with you.
Camping and the great outdoors have a new appreciation and respect now that we are limited to what we can do for fun. We cannot control the outcome of the Coronavirus, but we can control our camping experience. Stay safe and enjoy forest bathing in all of its glory!