How To: Stay Connected to the Outdoors While Practicing Social Distancing

Get tips from our super volunteer Skye Stoury about ways to restore your soul by staying connected to the outdoors while practicing social distancing.
Skye Stoury Skye Stoury
Hike Leader & Super Volunteer
March 20, 2020

Our Mountaineers outdoor community is lucky in that we often de-stress by getting outside. As social distancing becomes the new norm for the next month or so, de-stressing is more important than ever. With many of us working from home right now, fresh air, physical activity, and a break from the digital world can make a huge difference and improve mental health. Here are some tips to practice social distancing in the places we already love to play.

Before you go out on any trip, be sure to heed the advice outlined in the COVID-19 and Trip Planning blog and check in with The Mountaineers COVID-19 Response page to asses whether the trip is a good idea and to read the most recent guidance for activities.

Also, be mindful of the resource-strain you may cause when entering smaller communities. Try to stay local, but if you go outside your city, make sure to reduce your circle of influence. That means don't make stops in communities you are passing through. Bring what you will need with you so you don't need to stop at any stores in the area you are recreating. As the WTA so thoughtfully put it in their post Hiking the the time of the Coronavirus, "In order to protect our community and ourselves, it's important to be discerning about when and how we choose to leave our homes." 

If you do decide to go on a (close to home) trip, be mindful of the distance you're traveling, carpool only with people from your household, limit your party size if you are meeting up with people, keep your distance from others, and remember to leave your trip plan with someone back home, especially if you go out alone. And don’t forget to pack your Ten Essentials. 

Below are a few ideas on ways to get outside during this time. And all these activities can be done with only one or two partners, some even on your own.

Create your own backpacking meals

Get ready for spring and summer backpacking by creating your own meals. Prepackaged meals are great, but can be hard on digestion, and if you're in the backcountry for more than one night, sometimes you just want something a little easier on your stomach. Here are a few ideas to get started on prepping your own meals:

  1. Think of foods that you can boil on your camp stove and that will last long term
  2. Use dried or freeze dried foods, you can even dry your own with a dehydrator
  3. Store in zip lock bags and label them so you can grab and go when ready for a trip

Some of my favorite meals my partner and I made last summer were:

  • Angel hair pasta with dehydrated tempe, we then added olive oil with garlic salt as our sauce
  • Burrito bowls with minute rice, taco flavor TVP (freeze dried veggie meat), dried black beans, taco seasoning
  • Ramen noodles with dried veggies and tofu, you can even use dried miso packets, some already have freeze dried tofu in them

You can find lots of good ideas in Dirty Gourmet, published by Mountaineers Books. 

Plan a backpacking trip

You can head out on a backpacking trip this weekend, or wait for warmer weather and plan your spring/summer trips now. If you enjoy snow camping, there are so many options right now, many that you will have all to yourself. WTA has great suggestions, but you can also look at maps and find where backcountry campsites are.

And remember to apply for summer backcountry permits now. Many overnight spots in the North Cascades require permits that you have to apply for, while other places like the coast, you can walk up and get your permit the day of. Camping and/or backpacking is a great option for a weekend trip when you need to get out of your house for a few days.

Organize your gear room/closet

Photo by Nate Brown.

Use your extra at home time to organize your gear room or closet. When everything has a place, it's easier to grab what you need for your next adventure. You can organize different activities into separate bins, and/or have peg boards to hang all of your climbing gear. If you don't have a dedicated room or closet for your gear, get creative on ways to have it look like decorations on your wall. Who doesn't love seeing all of your cams hung in order of size on the wall?

Last year Nate Brown shared his gear room transformation with Mountaineer magazine, so hop on over to that post for drool-worthy inspiration. REI also has a great blog on more suggestions for organizing gear. 

Remark your gear 

Photo courtesy of Weigh My Rack.

Another great option if your gear is already super organized is to re-mark all of your hard goods. With climbing season approaching, you don't want to mix up gear with your partner on trips. Take the time now to mark all of your carbiners, cams, and even your ice ax with nail polish or colored tape. Just remember to use three colors so you don't have the same markings as someone else. 

Discover new adventures from your home

Whether you need to stay home during the work week, or don’t want to venture out at this time, there are still things you can do at home to get you excited for spring and summer adventures. If you are not already a CalTopo wiz, now is a great time to play around with maps and learn how to use the website. They have so many customizable features like slope shading and even sunlight analysis.

Gaia is similar and a great GPS tool while in the backcountry. And as a plus, Mountaineers members get a free year of Gaia Premium. You can find information on how to redeem your free year here.

Support local

With events being canceled all over the city, all of our local nonprofits, including The Mountaineers, need your help. If you have even just a few dollars to donate to your favorite organizations, it goes a long way. And if you can’t, you can show your support in other ways, like purchasing a pack of Kick Step IPA beer from Ghostfish so that 10% comes back to The Mountaineers, or purchase books from Mountaineers Books. You get awesome and inspiring books to read while at home, and you are supporting The Mountaineers. There are so many books, definitely something for everyone in our community.

While you are at home planning your next trip, order beer from Ghostfish Brewing Company and have it delivered right to your door. And if you order the Kick Step IPA, 10% of proceeds are donated to The Mountaineers! You can purchase Ghostfish beer for home delivery in the greater Seattle area through both Esquin Liquor/Drizly and Marina Market.

Practice mindfulness

Another way you can be helpful without making a donation is to be understanding. Many events, activities, and courses are being postponed or canceled, and you can make it easier on staff and volunteers by being flexible and understanding when needing to reschedule.

You can keep getting outside even while practicing social distancing. Do so in a healthy and mindful way, and keep being a steward for our wild places. Social distancing doesn’t have to keep us from enjoying the outdoor spaces we love. Just make sure to practice leave no trace while you are out and avoid crowded and popular trails. Stay healthy and enjoy your time outside!

All photos by Skye Stoury unless otherwise noted.


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