Social Distancing in the Outdoors

Social Distancing

The coronavirus pandemic has made life hard for outdoorspeople. We have to balance our drive to be out in nature with the risk we present to other people (and the risk they present to us).

Now that we’ve started to settle into life with COVID-19, many of us are returning to the outdoors. And wondering how we can both be safe and hit the trails.

We encourage you to get outside. But we also encourage you to be smart. Here are some things you can do to be responsible while you’re enjoying the mountains.

Wear Your Mask

If you’ve been out hiking, mountain biking, climbing, rafting, or otherwise getting out, you’ve probably noticed that there are a lot of people not wearing masks.

Yes, you’re much less likely to transmit the virus when you’re outside. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful.

So keep your mask with you at all times. (A Buff doesn’t quite count, but it’s close. It’ll work, and I admit that it’s a lot easier to put on and take off quickly than an actual mask.)

Wear your mask at the trailhead. Wear it when you’re approaching a trail junction where people are standing. Pull up your Buff when you pass someone on the trail.

Yes, this can all get old fast.

But that’s how we’re going to defeat this thing and get back to normal. Just wear your damn mask.

And if you can tolerate keeping your mask on through your entire outdoor adventure, do it.

Don’t Meet Up With Big Groups of Friends

While some states have seen lowered infection rates, it’s not time to go on big group hikes or get your 10 best friends together for a climbing trip. It’s just not safe yet. If a member of the group has COVID, there’s a good chance everyone will have it at the end of the day.

So resist the temptation to meet up with big groups. While an ideal world would see us all solo adventuring right now, though, I know that’s not going to happen. Instead, be careful about the number of people you hang out with.

Meet up with one person for a hike. Get someone to belay while you’re climbing. Try an epic backcountry backpacking trip.

And be selective with the people you spend time with. We all know people who have been responsible with social distancing and mask-wearing. We all know people who haven’t been so good, too.

It’s going to be tough. But if we want to eliminate the virus and get back to our normal adventuring, we have to make some tough decisions right now. Shy away from the people who haven’t been taking it seriously.

Be Smart on the Trails

People aren’t always the best at ceding right of way or pulling over for other people on the trails. And I get that. If you’re almost back to the trailhead and your feet are aching from your backpacking trip, you don’t want to step aside. When you’re riding flowy singletrack, you don’t want to pull off and lose your momentum.

But right now is not the time.

When you see someone coming toward you on the trail, step as far off as you can (while minimizing the damage to the nearby brush, of course). Turn away so you aren’t breathing towards the person.

It might not seem like this is going to make all that much difference. But it also doesn’t take much effort. So why not do it?

Be Respectful and Understanding

Whether you think that everyone should be wearing a mask at all times or you don’t give a damn what anyone else does, now is the time for patience.

Some people are going to be much less concerned than you are, and that might make you uncomfortable. Or they might be taking their precautions more seriously to the point where they annoy you. Whatever the case, let everyone do their own thing.

Don’t pick fights with people who use different social distancing or mask-wearing practices than you do. Don’t get up in people’s faces if they don’t step off the trail for you or if they ask that you put on a mask before they pass you.

We’re all having a tough time right now. Be patient, practice some restraint, and use common sense.

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About the Author

Mike Hardaker
Mike Hardaker grew up surfing and snowboarding in Orange County and followed his love of surfing to Hawaii before eventually moving to the mountains to concentrate on snowboarding. When not on a board, Mike worked for Snowboarder and later oversaw TGR's online publication. He went on to found Mountain Weekly News where he is still CEO and Editor in Chief.

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