Disabled Camping 101

Camping is good for the soul. But it can also be tough on our bodies, especially for the disabled. Whether it’s mobility issues or chronic health problems that impair everyday life, the great outdoors presents some challenges.

But disabled camping has become easier! Countless campgrounds and national parks have implemented new ways to accommodate wheelchair users, the visually impaired and other issues to allow everyone to enjoy being out in nature. While it takes some additional planning and extra steps, camping with disabilities is entirely possible. Here are some disabled camping tips that can help you get started.

Find a Disabled-Friendly Campground

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is responsible for creating laws and guidelines for disabled individuals, such as ramps, accessible bathroom stalls and ADA-compliant parking spaces. However, you can also thank them for handicap-accessible campsites, too. When searching for a disabled-friendly campground for wheelchair access, look for sites that offer paved surfaces and are close to bathroom facilities.

When it comes to the facilities themselves, make sure they meet your needs and government-regulated accessibility standards. A bathroom with a textured concrete ramp can offer assistance to wheelchair users and others with mobility disabilities. Trails are also another factor to consider. Seek out campgrounds that offer paved trails or boardwalks.

Whether you have visible disabilities or invisible ones like chronic illnesses or epilepsy, it’s essential you find a park or campground that makes you feel welcome and allows you to get around safely and comfortably. Always double-check with the owners or rangers to verify what disabled access is included in specific facilities, such as handrails or a pool lift. And since many beautiful campgrounds are situated in rural areas, it’s wise to ensure medical facilities are close by.

Bring the Right Gear

The proper gear can improve a camping excursion for anyone. But disabled camping requires a few more thoughtful, well-planned touches.

For starters, look for spacious tents designed with tall doors that allow you to enter and exit effortlessly, without crawling or stooping. Some campgrounds even offer house-like structured yurts and bell tents to accommodate wheelchairs and those with mobility issues. You can also find sites with extended picnic tables to pull up a wheelchair for meals instead of sliding into the benches.

When it comes to bedding, make it easier to get in and out with a supportive tall air mattress or a raised camp cot. It not only adds a bit of luxury as if you’re glamping, but it means you won’t have to sleep on a ground pad.

Check if the wheelchair or assistive devices can be retrofitted. For instance, mobility aids can be temporarily customized with features such as thick tread tires or extra wheels that can cover rougher terrain, pebbles and roots spread throughout a campsite.

While there are many basic camping essentials you need, such as a headlamp or cooler, you may want a rooftop cargo carrier to make extra room in the car to accommodate a wheelchair and other necessary items.

Prepare Meals Ahead of Time

disabled camping tips

The last chore a disabled individual wants to do while camping is to hit up the local store for groceries. Instead, do yourself a favor and prepare meals ahead of time. Especially if you have dietary restrictions that go hand in hand with your disability or chronic condition, it’s important to make a plan of nutritious meals to give you energy on your camping trip and keep you satiated.

Better yet, try no-cook camping meals that remove all the hard work, allowing you to grab an on-the-go snack when hunger strikes. As a backup plan, research local grocery stores near the campground that are ADA-accessible and offer disabled-friendly facilities.

Remember to Rest

Make an itinerary for activities you’d like to do, but remember to take it easy and rest whenever necessary. While the campground might have an indoor pool with a lift where you can spend a few hours, make sure to bring some activities and hobbies from home, too, for relaxation and recharge back at the site. Pack a few books or bring along card games to play with the family.

Ready for your camping adventure? Visible or no, if you have a disability, you can still enjoy being out in nature. Check out Good Sam Parks and Recreation.gov, setting a search filter for disabled-friendly campsites and accessible campsites that are paved, along with other features.

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