Photograph by Chase Jarvis, Getty Images
Photograph by Chase Jarvis, Getty Images

What you need to know about camping now

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By George Stone, TRAVEL Executive Editor

Should you go camping this summer? The short answer: Sounds fun! But the longer answer—in this season in which nothing is simple—is “definitely maybe, but only after determining that your outdoor outing will not contribute to the spread of COVID-19.”

Sigh. August used to be so easy.

We worked with reporter Aryana Azari to offer safety tips, secrets, and everything you need to know about sleeping under the stars. “Camping has evolved quite a bit since the time of William H.H. Murray, who is considered to be the popularizer of modern camping in the U.S. after his 1869 bestseller (the first guidebook for recreational camping), Adventures in the Wilderness, launched an outdoor craze,” Azari told us. Her article points to present-day camping resources, including the website The Dyrt, which are seeing huge spikes in interest among would-be campers, many of them first-timers.

Spoiler alert: You will not be the first person to discover the wilds this summer. In a recent article about the challenges schools are facing as they aim to reopen, National Geographic’s Michael Greshko cites a CDC report on a COVID-19 outbreak among attendees of an overnight camp. “It says that 44 percent of people at an unnamed overnight camp in the state of Georgia—260 of the 597 campers and staff—have tested positive for COVID-19,” he writes. The camp required staff to wear masks and took disinfecting precautions, but did not have proper ventilation in buildings or require campers to wear masks.

Situations like that either make you want to hide under your bed or head for beautiful and isolated camp sites any way you can—as a tent camper, car camper, backcountry camper, RV camper, or even a glamper. The allure of the outdoors is real—and you should follow it. Our article offers tips on where to camp, what to bring, what to eat, who to bring, and how to keep safe (be sure to practice social distancing from bears, for instance).

While some U.S. national parks are experiencing record-breaking tourism, many less-visited spots are not. “Lake Clark, North Cascades, and Great Basin all have low visitation numbers when compared to their popular neighbors—Denali, Mount Rainier, and Zion, respectively, though it is worth noting that even the most popular of national parks are experiencing a drop in numbers right now,” Azari writes. “Using the data available on the virus to see where cases are rising is crucial to making decisions on where to avoid and where to go.”

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Today in a minute

Not so fast: The MS Roald Amundsen was one of the first cruise ships to resume operations. Now it has a COVID-19 outbreak, with 41 tourists and crew members testing positive, the BBC reports. Hundreds more passengers are in quarantine and awaiting results, the ship’s owner, Hurtigruten, says. The cruise line has halted all its other cruises. The stricken ship is docked in Tromso, in northern Norway.

It’s not easy, but ... at least 34 countries and dependencies are allowing Americans in, as of Monday, we’ve discovered. That’s not saying that there aren’t health requirements or quarantines, or aren’t places the State Department would discourage you from visiting. More nations, at least at this point, plan to open later this month. Here’s the list.

EU opens arms, but not to U.S.: Australians and Canadians now can visit the European Union countries after those nations were judged to have COVID-19 under control, Reuters reports. American tourists are not welcomed, given numbers of deaths from the virus and persistently high number of new cases. In related news, Japan welcomed travelers from Hawaii, which has a relatively low COVID-19 rate.

Euroscream: Take out your frustrations on 2020 by literally screaming at a mountainside in Iceland. Or a waterfall. How? Go to Iceland’s Looks Like You Need to Let It Out site, choose an Icelandic location, and scream into your computer, Fast Company reports. Speakers will broadcast your scream to, say, Snæfellsjökull, a 700,000-year-old glacier-topped volcano, or Skógafoss, a cliffside waterfall. Your curator, for journalistic purposes of fact-checking, screamed near the eastern town of Djúpivogur. (Yes, I feel better now.)

Your Instagram photo of the day

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Celebrating the trek: Buddhist pilgrims wearing masks against the sun and dust take selfies at the Drolma La, the highest point—nearly 18,500 feet—of the holy trek around Mount Kailash in western Tibet. Also known as Kangrinboqe, the peak is sacred to four religions. Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Bönpo—all make 35-mile pilgrimages on a path around its base, rather than climbing it.

Subscriber exclusive: Water crisis looms as South Asia’s glaciers shrink

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The big takeaway

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City of fright? At one point, France looked it had beaten the coronavirus, at a cost of 30,000 lives. But the stubborn virus has ticked back into French life in recent weeks, despite the consistent mask-wearing (scofflaws face a $150 fine) and the omnipresent hand sanitizer. Museums have restricted, timed entry; Parisians are biking where they might have taken public transportation; and restaurants are open (above), albeit keeping customers socially distanced. Amid the still-lively cafés, Christine Spolar writes for Nat Geo, “France also realizes the coronavirus danger has not passed."

Overheard at Nat Geo

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A fascination for creepy crawlers: When photographer Anand Varma was a kid outside Atlanta, he’d get lost studying beavers, frogs, or cottonmouth snakes alongside a creek behind a shopping center. “There’s crazy wildlife, behind the mall,” Varma tells Nat Geo’s Peter Gwin on the latest episode of our podcast, Overheard. Out of school, Varma combined his interest with photography, with striking Nat Geo images of a hummingbird’s tongue (above, slurping nectar), a vampire capturing a mouse, or a zombie parasite. His career started as an assistant to a photographer, squeezing in caves closed to the public, finding creepy crawlers. “This is opening new worlds to me,” Varma recalls of his early assignment, “hidden, mysterious, awesome places."

In a few words

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The last glimpse

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Pack it up! If you like slow and immersive travel, in very small groups, Matt Stirn may be speaking your language. The photographer and writer recalled a past “pack trip” into Wyoming’s Wind River Range in a way that inspired envy from your curator, even if I weren’t pretty much boxed in during this COVID-19 thing. Stirn, rubbing it in, wrote that one morning, upon waking up to a tin cup of coffee and a plate of eggs and grilled trout caught the day before, “our only task was to watch the sun rising over the mountains. We would need the energy—later in the day we would hike to see a glacier along the Continental Divide.“ OK, here’s the story.

Related: How bike and walking trails are dealing with new crowds

This newsletter has been curated and edited by David Beard, and Jen Tse selected the photographs. Thanks for reading!