We usually don’t camp in May – weather is unpredictable and the black flies can be unbearable. However, when Governor Sununu announced that campgrounds were allowed to open as a part of Stay at Home 2.0, my husband suggested we go. A combination of grieving over lost trips and a desire to break the stay at home slump made us both ready for a change of pace. We are very comfortable and family camping with our young children – age 2 and 4 – but this time we would have to be more strategic. Here’s my advice for family camping during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Choose the right campground
NPR recently released experts take on the relative risk of various summer activities. Fortunately, camping is rated a “low risk activity” as long as you take precautions. I’ve shared before my favorite campgrounds for families who tent camp. State campgrounds offer dish washing stations, showers, and washrooms. However, spending time in public restrooms and around strangers to wash dishes and brush my teeth seemed like another opportunity for disease transmission – and also raise my anxiety level.
This time, I looked at the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) campgrounds. These are beautiful campgrounds but usually only offer an out-house style bathroom with no running water. A spring or water pump supplies water if you need to fill up but other than that, there are little to no amenities. We chose Covered Bridge Campground. It was a great location for pandemic camping – large sites, mostly tent campers, near the Swift river, and plenty of places to bike and hike. I booked reservations online. Other great WMNF campgrounds in the Whites include Jigger Johnson, White Ledge, and Basin campgrounds.
Pack everything AND the kitchen sink
In the past, we’ve relied on campground amenities and washrooms to do dishes, brush teeth, and take showers. This time, I wanted to avoid other people and shared spaces as much as possible. I’ve posted my pack list in the past, but social distancing made me add a few new things to the pack list:
- Hand Washing and Dishes – I purchased two 7 gallon water jugs with spouts and used two storage tubs as the collection sinks (image below). We used them to wash hands, do the dishes, and give the kids sponge baths at night. Check if your campground has a place to dispose of waste water. If not, follow Leave No Trace guidelines to dispose of this water properly in order not to attract wildlife or pollute waterways.
- Bathrooms – My husband and I felt comfortable practicing smart hygiene in the outhouses. But our 2 and 4 year old? I wasn’t willing to try. I brought a training potty that they’d used for potty training and tucked it behind the tent for privacy. The kids never went in a public restroom. We also saw some campers with their own adult tent bathroom!
- Masks- We brought masks although rarely needed them. My husband had one interaction with the host to check in but that was it. Although they aren’t medical grade, we like wearing our buffs while hiking. It’s great for skin protection, bugs, and also a quick pull up when passing large groups in the campground or trail. They also come in kids sizes.
Avoid crowded areas
While out of state visitors are not encouraged to be recreating in New Hampshire, trailhead parking lots told the true story. Out of state plates filled the lots and lined the roads of popular hiking trails. While I totally understand the pull to visit favorite summer spots (believe me – I’m really missing my Maine beaches right now), I encourage families to stay close to home and in their own state for now. If you decide to visit a popular trailhead, I suggest an early start. We visited the Champney Falls trailhead at 8 am and were one of only three cars in the lot, but by 10 am when we returned at least 40 cars were there! We saw multiple groups of eight or more on our hike – and masks were rarely used. People of high risk for COVID complications should be aware of this and avoid these areas completely. Pull out the trail map and seek out some lesser known trails.
It was way less stressful than expected
Our family camping during the COVID 19 pandemic was just what we needed. We unplugged, relaxed, and exercised in nature over the long Memorial Day weekend all while following CDC guidelines. My four year old sobbed as we pulled away and has been asking to camp since!