How to Get Outdoors Responsibly
Does anyone else feel like the world has turned upside down? Maybe you feel a push and a pull. Our coveted outdoor spaces are slowly opening up during this pandemic. You want to get out and breathe some fresh air, slip into something other than your PJs, and maybe just sweat it out a little.
Us too! Right now the world feels (and is) confusing. Is it okay to visit your favorite climbing haunt? Can you get out and paddle? What’s really considered okay to get out and do? We are going to break down a few ways to get outside during these weird times while staying responsible during this time of crisis.
Check With Local Restrictions
Before you set foot in the outdoors, be sure that you’re actually allowed to do so. A lot of states, counties, and towns have their own restrictions. Some restrictions are simply guidelines, some are enforced by fines.
An area may be welcoming local tourism while your own town is under tighter rules. If that’s the case, go with the area that has the stricter movement policies.
Always think about your actions before you head out. Never engage in any activity that’s restricted, recreate in closed spaces, or visit spaces that are asking for out-of-towners to stay away.
Assess Your Tolerable Risk
Perhaps you’ve been eyeballing a specific objective that’s a step up from your normal abilities. First, kuddos, that’s awesome! However, this might not be the year to rush head-on into a risky objective.
Take an honest look at your risk. If you’re engaging in activities like climbing, scrambling, biking, or white water, consider not going. Alternatively, choose something well within your ability – preferably something you’ve done before so you’re familiar with the area.
Everyone’s level of risk is different. Some climbers may feel comfortable with lower-rated routes, while others may feel the activity is too risky. When it comes to outdoor recreation during COVID-19, there is certainly a grey area for what is “allowable” and what isn’t.
Take some serious time during planning to assess if the activity you are going to engage in might result in a rescue situation. Most search and rescue teams are seriously strained and if they have to come bail you out, they have to quarantine afterwords. Think critically about whether your outdoor experience is worth the risk.
Do the Distance Dance
If you do decide to get outdoors, be sure to do the distance dance. Social distancing and wearing a mask help slow the spread of disease. Doing both of these things while you’re out and about help you get outdoors safely.
Only recreate with people in your household and avoid crowded areas. Here are a few ways to stay distanced while you’re outdoors:
- Stay at least six feet apart from others. If you can’t, be prepared to wear a mask. Can’t do your activity with a mask? Consider not doing it.
- Be prepared to go home. Seriously. If it’s crowded, have a backup plan or go home and save it for another day.
- Always wear your mask if you have to stop and get gas. Better yet, if there are no travel restrictions in place, only travel as far as you can on a single tank.
- Don’t go outside if you’ve felt sick at all. Wait until you’re symptom-free for seventy-two hours. Even though it might not be COVID-19 don’t recreate because this is a weird disease. You really can’t be sure.
- Avoid touching high-touch areas. Use a cloth or glove to grab doors, gas pumps, and other things.
Get There Early
With so little entertainment options, more and more people are turning towards the outdoors. The biggest piece of advice we get from our pros is to recreate at odd times.
Avoid crowded areas by not going to your favorite spots on the weekends. Get up and do your thing with the rising sun to avoid crowds. Go out on a weekday and spend your weekend working instead. Get creative with avoiding busy times and places.
Think About Others
Remember, it’s not about you. In fact, the whole world is navigating this weird, strange thing together. Always consider others when you’re out. Passing by someone on the trail and can’t get out of the way? Throw on your mask. Consider not doing something if it feels sketchy. Here are a few other ways to think about others while getting outside:
- Avoid gateway communities that aren’t ready for visitors. These small towns may be our favorite places, and we might want to support their small businesses. But if they want visitors to stay away, consider making an advanced purchase (gear, reservations, anything) instead.
- Don’t travel to get outside. Stay local instead. There’s plenty around you that you probably haven’t discovered yet. Keep the challenge fun by opting to bike to your favorite local trail.
- Practice Leave No Trace. This pandemic is not an excuse to trash the outdoors.
- Ask how your activity could negatively impact others. Is there a consequence should something go wrong? Who are you impacting by going to a certain location? What is the level of risk to those around you?
Overall, it’s okay to get outside right now. In fact, it’s great for your mental (and physical) health. Think beyond just your normal objective, and remember, your actions have an impact. Choose adventures that have minimal risk, minimal contact, and maximum fun.
Words by Meg Atteberry
Photos by Roxy Harbitter
About the Gear Tester
Meg Atteberry is a full-time freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Her mission is to empower others to get outside and have an adventure. She loves a sunny crag and delicious trail snacks. When she’s not wordsmithing you can find her hiking, climbing, and mountaineering all over the world with her fiancé and adventure pup, Nina. To learn more about Meg, check out her blog Fox in the Forest. She’d rather be dirty than done up.