Tag along with Teva Explorers and travel bloggers The Mandagies as they navigated expert health and safety recommendations to plan a lakeside camping trip. Words and Photos by Berty and Emily Mandagie.
And just like that, it’s summer! This has simultaneously felt like the longest and shortest year yet, likely because everything we have known about normal routine has taken on a new meaning. Usually, by this time in the year, Berty and I would have already logged a few camping trips in the books.
However, we’re entering into the camping season a little differently this year, with a little more thoughtfulness and consideration.
We just came back from a recent camping trip in Idaho with our friends, and put the Recreate Responsibly practices into play, taking care to limit close face-to-face contact with others along the way.* If you are hoping to soak in some sunshine and breathe in that fresh air this season too, we’re sharing our experience on how we planned our camping trip according to CDC guidelines and encourage you to do the same as you get outside.
It was important to us that we assess the risks for ourselves, listen to the experts, and take extra precautions to protect others along the way. We hope this post can encourage you to make the right decisions for you and your household this camping season!
*When we went on the trip, our area was in Phase 2 (no more than 5 people gathered outside a household), but be sure to check with your local guidelines before planning a similar trip!
The Hurricane XLT2 in Chara Bright White.
1. We chose a campsite close to home
For this camping trip with our friends, we decided to check out a local campground instead of traveling far. Usually, we try to find a far off and exciting location to camp, but this year we decided to check out more local spots to stay closer to home.
Choosing a campsite close to home (less than a 2-hour car ride distance) reduces unnecessary public interactions. We were able to fill up our car’s gas tank once nearby our house and packed items like cloth face covers/face masks, hand sanitizer, and wipes (to use when soap and water weren’t available to wash our hands thoroughly) to ensure we were helping to protect ourselves and others when out in public.
Here are some tips for finding places to recreate close to your home:
*Reserve a spot ahead of time, and find the right camping location for you! Here’s a breakdown of different types of campsites:
- *Public: State parks and National parks. Find all of these and more on The Dyrt!
- *Private: Private property open for advanced reservations. Try Hipcamp for unique and fun spots!
- *Dispersed: Free areas in National Parks, forests, and BLM land. Read our handy guide to finding dispersed campsites near you!
*Call ahead to find out if your location is open (because many are closed at the moment). Did you show up and it’s too crowded? Come prepared with a nearby Plan B location!
*Don’t have the ability to stay anywhere overnight? You can also consider checking out your local state parks’ day use area, or local hiking trails for a fun day trip instead.
“The Terra Fi 5 sandals functioned flawlessly in and out of the water! We loved hopping on and off the paddleboard and canoe between hanging out on the beach. They are a summer match made in heaven!”
2. We recreated with a small group
To help us practice social distancing guidelines while outside, we decided to camp with a small group, two of our friends (a couple that also live together) and us!* These have been the only friends we’ve visited for the season, but we were still careful by driving in separate cars, not sharing items, keeping distance between things like chairs and beach towels, and washing our hands often. We each took our state’s stay at home orders very seriously in the early season and made sure to limit our exposure to other groups before the trip. (CDC recommends staying home for 14 days after contact with a person who has COVID-19.)
The four of us didn’t take up much space, and we were able to distance ourselves from other campers in the area, as well as in uncrowded public spaces like the beach. Camping with a small group who we knew were taking similar precautions as us was a great way to foster deeper conversations and get a much-needed mental break from everything going on. We spent hours chatting by the fire!
*Note: States and counties have different guidelines for who you are recommended to recreate with. Please follow your local and state officials’ guidelines!
3. We planned ahead and gave extra thought about what to pack
When considering going camping during this new normal, it’s essential to give some extra thought to packing and planning. Are the items you bring helping you practice physical distancing and limiting exposure to other people?
For example, to reduce the number of stops we were taking on the way to our campsite, we decided to get creative with the food we were packing and how we were cooking it. Instead of stopping by the store on the way to the campsite and cooking group meals, we each shopped our pantries and brought our own groceries. We packed dry goods and leftovers from our fridge so that we could reduce the amount of contact we had with others along the way. It was fun to think outside the box and think of inventive meals that were also individually cooked!
Here’s one of our easy camping meal recipes:
Tin Foil Dinner Recipe:
1. Add diced potatoes, onions, carrots, butter, spices, and optional meat of choice on to a sheet of tin foil.
2. Wrap up all the ingredients so that it’s sealed tight.
3. Place wrapped tin foil on top of campfire coals, being careful to wear a fireproof glove to protect your hands.
4. Let foil sit on the fire for 10 minutes, and flip over for another 10. Afterward, carefully remove from the fire and open to check and see if the potatoes are done.
5. When satisfied with the level of done-ness, remove from fire, unwrap, and enjoy!
4. We engaged in low key activities
On a typical camping trip, Berty and I like to plan at least one epic hike, sunrise send, or capturing the sunset on the edge of a cliff somewhere. Well, because this season is not-so-typical, we opted to play it safe with our activities this time around. We traded hiking boots for Teva water sandals and decided to spend the weekend chilling by the water.
Quick-drying and all-terrain friendly, the Terra Fi 5 Universal sandals in Canyon Calliste Green.
Choosing to engage in low-risk activities allows search and rescue teams and local health clinics to save their resources for the people who need it most!
Some low-risk activities could include:
*Paddleboarding or canoeing around the lake. (We have lots of experience with watercraft so this is a low-key activity for us and we still make sure to always bring a life vest!) These activities made it easy for us to stay more than 6 feet apart in the water too, since we were on separate watercrafts.
*Having a picnic by the beach.
*Taking a walk around the campsite or choosing an easy local trail.
*Playing socially distant lawn games like cornhole (no swapping bean bags!)
The Hurricane XLT2 sandals in Chara Dark Olive, finished with earth-friendly Unifi® recycled polyester straps that stand up to abuse while keeping plastic waste out of landfills.
5. We packed in and packed it out
One of the most important practices we can put into action now is packing out everything we brought in.
Doing so has a lot of benefits: it provides a clean space for the next campers after us, it prevents animals from coming into close contact with humans, and allows camp hosts to spend more time cleaning and maintaining high-use public areas instead of picking up after us.
Make sure to pack extra garbage bags, and consider bringing a paper bag, too, for recyclables. When packing up, we double-bagged the garbage, loaded up the recycling, and disposed of them properly when we got home.
If you are hoping to go camping on BLM land, national forest space, or any other dispersed camping, packing out your garbage is extra important! During this season, a lot of facilities have limited staff to care for forest-service bathrooms and garbage cans, so taking your trash home is a really easy and effective way to help prevent garbage overflow!
Berty wears the Universal Trail sandals in Dark Olive.
We had a lot of fun on our last camping trip, and we will continue to put these tips into practice for the rest of the season. We hope these tips could help you feel confident in planning your own camping trip!