Is it Safe to go Hiking in Times of Social Distancing and Coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Posted on 03/23/2020 at 12:00 PM by Tom Swegle
How to Avoid Cabin Fever While Practicing Social Distancing
Spring has sprung in many parts of the United States. Typically, this is a time when hardcore hikers and campers are planning weekend getaways around time on the trails. At Outdoor Joe’s, a few of our followers have asked if it is safe to keep hiking. Cabin Fever (a feeling of depression, irritation, aggravation, and frustration stemming from being cooped up for extended periods of time) is real and many are starting to fight it. We're here to help.
If you find yourself following the advice of medical professionals and the World Health Organization (WHO) by social distancing or self-quarantining, we have good news: succumbing to cabin fever isn’t your only option.
If you’re a nature lover who needs to interact with the great outdoors, you may not have to worry about staying stuck inside as long as you remember key advice about staying safe.
Things to Consider Before You Hike
Before setting out, plan ahead.
- If you have shortness of breath or cough, stay home.
- Wash your hands and avoid touching your face.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm, not your hands.
- Avoid touching any surface with your hands including benches, tables, slides, etc.
- Avoid Public parks- they may not offer enough space for proper social distancing.
- Do your homework- Not all parks are open so research will prove to be helpful.
Plan Your Hiking Team
Most experts typically recommend avoiding hiking alone. This is still true now, even with social distancing practices, so plan on taking someone with you. Social distancing should still be practiced on trails but does not include those you live with, according to the WHO.
Coronavirus Hiking Do’s and Don’ts
Many people have found that working from home and having school canceled has meant more true quality time with their kids. Kids often love the great outdoors so if you’re running out of in-home activities, take the kids hiking! If you have roommates or other adults that live with you, it’s a good idea to take them with you, but perhaps take separate vehicles.
Plan to meet up with friends or family that do not live with you. Unless they are in your (very tight nit) close personal circle, it is best to only take hiking adventures with those you live with for now.
Take lots of water and stay hydrated. Also, examine your hiking bag contents. Make sure to include a first aid kit and sanitizer!
Don’t count on public restrooms, ranger stations, or park buildings being open. Touching surfaces in public spaces then touching your face is a great way to spread germs, including COVID-19. To help slow the spread, many parks have closed facilities so don’t plan on refilling a water bottle or using a restroom.
“In Italy, officials have closed parks, gardens and play areas, and prohibited jogging and other outdoor leisure activities, which will now only be allowed in the vicinity of people's homes. In other areas, uncrowded parks and neighborhoods are still considered a fine option for fresh air.” – CNN.com
Bring bug spray and snacks (like you typically would)!
Don’t leave anything behind. The phrase “Take only pictures and memories and leave only your footprints behind you” often found on hiking trails and campgrounds couldn’t be truer. Many areas are ecologically fragile, meaning small changes may cause large effects, but in times of COVID-19, if you are unknowingly a carrier, your trash could hold the virus for much longer than you realize- spreading to anyone who might come in contact with it. After you eat, remember to use sanitizer and do not share your food or drinks!
Stay local but take lesser-traveled trails. Try to avoid tourist hot spots. Though many are closed, people are people and don’t always make the best choices. If you should come across other hikers on the trails, try to stay at least 6 feet away from them for their safety and yours (this includes in parking lots).
Going to your favorite hiking get-away during off-peak hours may be a good idea also.
Don’t ignore posted signs. If something is closed, it is closed for a reason- most likely for your safety. Having a back-up plan may save time and give you alternate places to venture…
Have a back-up plan! If you arrive at your hiking spot and realize that it is very busy, go somewhere else.
Finally, Stay Safe!
Plan on using extra caution. Emergency responders and medical personnel are extra busy right now so avoid poisonous plants, taking unnecessary risks, or taking any trails that are beyond your skill level. Even if you are with your kids, now is not the time for showing off. They’ll remember the adventure fondly regardless, trust us!
For the latest information on COVID-19, be sure to visit the WHO website.