Opinion: The Importance of Wearing a Mask in the Outdoors

Sierra Marty, Staff Writer

Mask wearing in the outdoors during the COVID-19 pandemic is a phenomenon that I believe people tend to ignore. It seems as though many people think masks are only necessary to wear inside places such as grocery stores, gas stations or schools — outdoor spaces are places where you can get away from the fabric imprisoner.

But what about when you’re participating in popular outdoor sports and find yourself in a crowd with other enthusiasts?

On a recent trip to Escalante this past September, I was hoping to escape from the virus. However, my group and I found that trails were crowded beyond belief and most people weren’t wearing masks or covering their faces. When we hiked Calf Creek Falls, I must have passed two or three hundred people. While the intention was for us to go out and hike socially distanced, we were probably in more danger than we would have been at a mall, despite the fact that we brought masks along with us.

On tight trails, you can’t socially distance from people. You might be within fewer than six feet from individuals, and you can’t possibly know whether they are carrying the virus. Not having a mask on can further increase your risk of catching COVID-19.

The NPR article “Masks And The Outdoor Exerciser” notes that unless you can be sure you won’t come within 12 feet of people on your outdoor excursion, you should wear a mask. This applies to hiking, backpacking, running, trail running or any other outdoor sport you partake in.

Another reason why you should wear a mask or at least have one on hand to throw on when you encounter people is that you never know if you have been exposed or might be carrying the virus yourself. It is important for us outdoors enthusiasts to set an example and make sure that we aren’t spreading the virus within the outdoor community. There are many people in high-risk categories who utilize the outdoors; we must be mindful of everyone’s health and well-being.

Ultimately, COVID-19 has significantly impacted the outdoor community. It has become an escape for the millions who are working from home — there is an increased number of people out on the trails and more people than ever are learning new outdoor sports. The NPR article “‘We Had To Get Out'” reports that places like national parks are seeing a huge increase in visitors. It is crucial that we protect ourselves so we can protect others, and so we can continue to have access to and feel safe in the outdoors.