If you own a 4WD and are anything like me, you’re probably dying to get out to enjoy nature, the outdoors, and some fresh air again. Lockdown has been really crazy and being stuck indoors for weeks on end with no end in sight can get really frustrating. But does it? What are the laws around off-roading and traveling during the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, and what are our options? All this and more will be discussed in this article.
Always make sure you check the current restriction status with your local authorities and municipality first before heading out to any parks or nature reserves. Isolation levels differ between countries and states so ensure you know what level you currently are on and fully understand the restrictions.
The COVID-19 isolation has been really brutal, both emotionally and physically. It has been a real mental shift for us off-roaders and nature lovers who enjoy the outdoors so much. Simply hopping into your much-loved 4WD and enjoying a break away from the hustle and bustle of the city is suddenly a thing of the past.
When considering off-roading, we have to take into consideration the legalities and lockdown/isolation restriction laws first. The COVID-19 lockdown laws will obviously vary from country to country as well as the isolation levels between states. Make sure you have the latest status since laws and restrictions change rapidly.
But what if you want to plan a road trip from garage to garage or an outdoor trail with no stops in-between? If you think about it, an outdoor excursion into the mountains can really do wonders for one’s mental and emotional health. If done responsibly, it also poses very little threat to anyone or risk of contamination.
So what are the laws and rules? Let’s find out.
Can You 4wd during COVID-19 (Legally)
Let’s face it, a solo drive with immediate family out into the countryside is way safer than a trip to the grocery store, hardware or drive-through since all those activities involve exposure to others and contact with potentially contaminated surfaces. However, if you practice safe and responsible guidelines by remaining inside your vehicle, maintaining a safe distance from other groups, and following all the hygiene and sanitation guidelines, your risk of exposure and contamination is very low.
Below are a few tips to consider when going on an outdoor excursion.
- If you need to refuel, try to pay at the pump to limit exposure.
- Travel with a First-Aid kit or Health pack to be able to monitor temperatures, sanitize regularly and cover your hands and face when needed.
- Eat inside or around your vehicle using disposable plates if you have a built-in camp kitchen or drawer system
- Stay close to your vehicle and do not engage or socialize with other travelers (6ft/1.8 meter limitation)
- Know before-hand which parks, reserves and rest areas are open to the public.
- Ensure you have the necessary permits. Try to pay online and print permits at home if possible to limit exposure.
- Ensure you have signal and communication lines are open at all times.
- Keep the radio on at all times for any emergency announcements
Currently, most trails in the US that are managed and maintained by the state are open for public enjoyment. All track and maintenance operations have been terminated temporarily so if you’re going to do that off-road track, you might get some side panel pinstripes due to overgrown vegetation and foliage. Remember, extended traveling between states and provinces is still discouraged unless it’s deemed critical, or only necessary in the event of an emergency.
Use this link to find out the current status of parks within the US: https://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm
Are Off-Road Vehicle Trails Still Open During COVID-19
Most outdoor spaces like parks, beaches, and nature reserves within the US have remained open to the public. Many Municipal and state-owned parks have announced that even though the campsites within the parks will remain closed to limit exposure and spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), the off-road trails and beaches will still remain open to the general public.
Restrooms and Toilet facilities will remain open and visitors to parks are encouraged to bring along:
- Your own sanitary wipes
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Hand towels.
- Face Masks
No Park fees will be collected until further notice in an effort to limit exposure to COVID-19 and support social distancing laws.
So if you just want to get out and enjoy some fresh air, preferably at a park close to you, you may do so, provided you are responsible and adhere to the above restrictions and guidelines.
If you reside in the US, you can check the status of the closest parks to you here: https://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm
When Will 4 Wheel Driving during Lockdown Be Allowed
The below table gives you a better idea of what each lockdown level will allow and when certain activities will be allowed once restrictions are gradually lifted. Always confirm with park officials/authorities first via email or telephonically, before venturing out.
|Level 5||Level 4||Level 3||Level 2||Level 1|
|Drastic measures to contain the spread of the virus and preserve lives.||Extreme precautions to limit community transmission and outbreaks. Limited activity is allowed to resume.||Restrictions on many activities commercially and socially.||Physical distancing and restrictions on leisure and social activities to prevent a resurgence of the virus.||Most of your normal activities can resume. Exercise precaution and health guidelines at all times. Remain prepared and alert for an increase in alert levels at any given time.|
The biggest question is not whether you should take the drive, but rather how far will you be driving. Will there be a need to refuel along the way, thus risking exposure? Will you be exposed to other groups or people not living with you?
At the end of the day, if you decide to take a drive with only the people you are living with to get some relief of the cabin fever, it’s not much different from staying at home, provided you don’t stop along the way to fill up, or use a public restroom or buy food. Once your trip requires you to engage with anyone other than people you are living with, you immediately are putting yourself and others at risk of COVID-19.
Below is a breakdown by country of what type of travel is allowed during COVID-19 lockdown.
|CDC recommends you stay home as much as possible and avoid close contact, especially if you are at higher risk of severe illness. Going camping at a time when much of the United States is experiencing community spread of COVID-19 can pose a risk to you if you come in close contact with others or share public facilities at campsites or along the trails.||The Australian Government currently advises that Australians must avoid non-essential travel within Australia.||You can travel, but make sure you do it in a safe way. You can travel around the country if you follow good personal health measures.||Before you travel, consider if your journey is necessary and if you can, stay local. Try to reduce your travel. This will help keep the transport network running and allow people who need to make essential journeys to travel.|
Can You Off-Road During Isolation (Dangers)
After being in isolation for a few weeks, one starts feeling a bit of cabin fever, and that natural desire to get out into nature becomes ever stronger. Even though non-essential travel is not recommended, we all know a quick getaway into the countryside is a much-welcomed relief.
If you really can’t handle the isolation any longer and just want to enjoy a scenic beach drive or enjoy some off-road mountain tracks amongst some beautiful flora, you may do so in some US states, provided you abide by the laws of that state. New Zealand is currently on Level 2 Lockdown permitting travel around the country. Currently, all non-essential travel is restricted within Australia. England Encourages limited travel.
A short drive out to the beach or a nature reserve can be a pretty good distraction and much-needed relief for the soul, provided you don’t venture too far. If you remain in your vehicle and don’t require any contact with the outside world, your risk of exposure and infection is pretty low.
Getting out into the open will do wonders for your sanity. Ensure you follow the isolation level laws and regulations of your state and country. Remember, these laws are constantly changing so make sure you get the latest COVID-19 isolation status before you venture outdoors.
- Always maintain a safe and responsible distance between yourself and other individuals not traveling in your vehicle.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Remember to avoid contact with our eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
- Stay at home if you feel sick.