How are you changing your backpacking plans or practices as a result of COVID-19 restrictions?
I've had one actual instance where it affected me. I was scheduled to help lead a beginner's trip of 15 people plus 3 leaders. Last week (about 3 weeks before the trip date) I notified the leader that I was considering withdrawing. I had 3 concerns: 1. At age 70, with Type II diabetes, I was in the higher-risk demographic. (My wife is also in that demographic, so if I accepted the risk and took the trip, I was, in effect, forcing her to accept a risk she wasn't comfortable with. That wasn't fair.) 2. My granddaughter was attending class at a university near us; they had closed the dorms and converted all lectures to on-line, but hadn't determined what to do with labs (as a nursing student, several of her classes included labs.) I wanted her to have the option to stay with us if the university decided to continue the labs in person. If I went on the trip, then found out I had been exposed, I would have eliminated that option. 3. The group came from across Ohio and Kentucky. We had no way to determine, ahead of time, where they had traveled or what other exposure they might have had to the virus.
A couple of days later, I had decided not to participate; before I could let the leader know my final decision, two other things happened. He got an email from the other assistant saying she was withdrawing because her son and daughter-in-law had confirmed cases, and she had been exposed by babysitting her grandkids within the previous 14 days. Then the state of Kentucky announced that all planned group activities at its state parks were cancelled (we were headed to one of those parks.)
So, for groups, there's the consideration of group size, and information about exposure potential by group members. I could think of some on-trail risks (beyond hand washing and not sharing GORP) that groups would have to consider, too: Are you sure you want to put the group in close quarters by using a shelter or sharing tents? Speaking of shelters, even if there's room to spread out, you don't know who used it last night. (Maybe that troop of Scouts whose school hadn't been closed yet?) It certainly hasn't been cleaned and sanitized today! What about that van you're going to stick everyone in for the 6-hour trip to and from the trailhead? Come to think of it, is carpooling really any different? Will you need to spend a night in a motel (assuming they don't close those) or a hostel (which might be closer quarters than a motel)? What about the restaurants you plan to stop at? (Don't plan on doing anything more than going through a drive-thru in Ohio right now.)
Going solo could pose most of those same questions. So, for now, I've decided to do solo trips in nearby locations: less than 4 hours drive time from me, with dispersed camping allowed (don't want to end up in a small designated campsite with those Scouts!), and won't use shelters. If I'm near a city (and in Ohio, I probably would be), and we don't have information one way or the other about transmission in streams, I may consider putting out a couple of water caches rather than rely on filtering - and might not even trust the water fountains at the few trailheads I might cross.
I don't think I'm panicking; I'm trying to reason my way through all this and weigh the risks rationally. Am I overreacting? I hope so.
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
Just a thought--water filters do not remove viruses, so you may want to use chemical means. Or, better, double treat (both chemicals and filter)--chemicals often don't kill the parasite cysts (giardia, etc.), but they do zap the viruses where filters won't.
My backpacking days are over, but I do plan to car camp some relatively wild places this summer. I can hardly wait; I'm already getting cabin fever with this "social distancing" routine!
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey
Right now we're holding off on a trip to Death Valley until things settle down a bit (both with the virus and the weather). After that, it will all depend on the snowpack.
on the one hand, being isolated from other people seems like a really good idea--so more backpacking. On the other hand, if we're 17 miles from the trailhead and begin to show symptoms, that would be ugly.
Meanwhile, we're taking walks around town, where we spotted this wildlife, clearly worried about COVID19:
Loc: Torrance, CA
Most of my plans are out the window, but I have been thinking about taking my family camping/backpacking to social distance, get some exercise, and get out of the house and decompress. I worry reservations in a campground will get canceled or we will be too tightly compressed to prevent cross contamination. I also worry the trails will be too crowded to properly social distance. This is California and a lot of people are outside taking hikes for many of the same reasons I listed above. I took my kids for a hike down some cliffs to the ocean last weekend. There were an awful lot of people there
Loc: Portland, OR
My plans at this stage of the year are always pretty loose, but even before this pandemic I was contemplating backpacking in some unusually remote places in Oregon this summer. I have thought some about the risks I'd be running if I were hiking solo a couple of days from a road/trailhead and came down ill, but if I am asymptomatic at the start of a hike I think the risk is something I could accept. That could change with new information.
By July the dimensions of this outbreak should be much clearer and the risks easier to assess accurately. I'd be a fool to think any plans I make today would not be obsolete by the time the high trails are snow free. All I can do now is play around with different scenarios and hope for the best.