Traveling in a COVID-19 world

The health and well-being of our travelers, our guides and the communities we visit is always our top priority. For more than 30 years, we've worked tirelessly to exceed the health and safety expectations for every trip we run. That continues today, as we adjust our programming and policies in response to COVID-19.

Updated September 14, 2022

We modified our policies based on guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

REI requires all Experiences participants to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination OR negative test result taken within 72 hours (about 3 days) of the program start, along with a valid government-issued photo identification.

Based on current CDC masking guidance, REI employees are required—and customers are encouraged—to wear masks while indoors in counties designated as high COVID-19 Community Level by the CDC. Masks are optional indoors in areas with low or medium COVID-19 Community Levels. We will continue to require customers and employees to wear masks when in transportation, in alignment with CDC transportation guidance.

See below for participation requirements.

Vaccination & Testing Policy

Each participant must produce valid photo identification along with either proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test result. Those who do not provide this information per the stated requirements at the start of an REI program will be unable to participate.

Vaccination Guidelines

Participants are considered fully vaccinated two weeks following the second dose in a two-dose series such as Pfizer or Moderna, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine such as J&J/Janssen. Review the CDC guidelines for vaccination here.

Acceptable forms of proof of full vaccination include:

  • A photo or hard copy of the participant’s CDC vaccination card or other official immunization record from the jurisdiction, city, state, or country where the vaccine was administered, or from a healthcare provider or other approved immunizer who administered the vaccine, that provides the person’s name, vaccine brand, and date of administration
  • A photo or hard copy of an official vaccination record of a vaccine administered outside the United States for one of the following vaccines: AstraZeneca/SK Bioscience, Serum Institute of India/COVISHIELD and Vaxzevria, Sinopharm, or Sinovac

Negative COVID-19 Test Result 

Those choosing the testing option are required to produce a negative result from a COVID-19 antigen or molecular test no more than 72 hours before program start.

The following are acceptable as proof of a negative COVID-19 test result:

  • Printed document (from the test provider or laboratory)
  • An email or text message displayed on a phone or electronic device from the test provider or laboratory
  • The information provided should include name of person tested, type of test performed, and date of negative test result.

Proof of Identification 

Participants 18 years of age and older must present a valid form of photo identification, such as a driver’s license or state-issued identification card, a military identification card or a passport or passport card. Photo ID is not required for those under 17 years of age who are accompanied by an adult.

Health & Safety Protocols

Health assessment

Participants, guides, and instructors are asked to perform a health screening prior to the event, evaluating any possible COVID-19 symptoms or exposure. On the day of the event, participants will again be asked about any symptoms or exposure and may have their temperatures checked. We also require all employees to complete a health check for COVID-19 symptoms before each shift and to stay home if they feel unwell.

Face coverings

For the safety of our guests, guides and instructors, CDC-recommended face coverings will be required at various times throughout each experience. Fully vaccinated guests will still need to mask up in certain situations. While being worn, all face coverings must fully cover the nose and mouth. Face coverings made of mesh or other loosely knit fabric are not permitted.

Sanitized vehicles and equipment

In our vehicles, high-touch surfaces are sanitized frequently during the trip, and the entire vehicle gets disinfected between groups. Gear and equipment intended to be used by one person for the duration of the event will be issued on an individual basis. Everything gets cleaned and disinfected after each event, or will be regularly sanitized throughout, depending on its use.


For overnight trips, tents will be assigned for the duration of each trip and cleaned upon their return. Solo travelers interested in our “single, willing to share” option must provide proof of vaccination.

Contact tracing

If REI is notified that a member of a program tested positive for COVID-19 we will follow CDC guidelines and contact all participants.

Social Distancing

Small group sizes

REI classes and day trips have always been designed for smaller groups. Because of the pandemic, we are also offering private group bookings.

Our Wilderness Medicine courses with NOLS have a maximum class size of 30 people. Class time is spent indoors and out, often within 6 feet of other students. NOLS supplies KN-95 masks for all participants to wear during class.


While inside REI vehicles, we require masks for all guests in accordance with CDC and local health guidelines. We will gladly provide a clean mask in case you forget your own.


Two weeks following the second dose in a two-dose series such as Pfizer or Moderna, or two weeks after a single-dose vaccine such as J&J/Janssen. Review the CDC guidelines for vaccination here.

Our knowledgeable guides offer field-tested backpacking advice and introduce you to the history, flora and fauna of the Smokies.