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 August 3, 2021

We have modified our policies based on the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on July 27, 2021.

The revised guidance states that individuals who are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus should resume wearing masks in public indoor spaces while in areas of substantial or high transmission as defined by the CDC.

Based on that guidance, we are strongly encouraging fully vaccinated customers to wear CDC approved face coverings when indoors with REI. Our guides and instructors are now required to wear face coverings when indoors with others outside of their household, regardless of vaccination status.

Anyone over the age of two (or as specified by local authorities) not yet vaccinated must continue to wear CDC-approved face coverings when indoors with REI.

If permitted by local authorities, we won’t require customers and employees to wear face coverings when outdoors, where physical distancing can be maintained.

We are asking our community to help us create a safe environment for all. Read on for details about the specific changes we've made in response to COVID-19 and the latest CDC guidelines.

Health & Safety Protocols

Health assessment

All travelers and guides will participate in pre-trip health assessments as well as ongoing health assessments while traveling. If a person needs to cancel their trip due to illness or potential exposure prior to departure, they can do so without financial penalty.

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 thoroughly cleaned between groups. Gear and equipment intended to be used by one person for the duration of the trip will be issued on an individual basis. Everything gets cleaned and sanitized after each trip, or is regularly cleaned throughout, depending on its use. Guests should also bring their own personal hand sanitizer and use it regularly while on the trip.


For lodge-based trips, we will closely assess all accommodations for appropriate sanitation. When camping, tents are assigned for the duration of each trip and cleaned between every departure.

Dining and food preparation

Guide-prepared meals will follow food-handling guidelines and be served by the guides, rather than self-serve or family style. When dining out, we will ensure adherence to local requirements, and accommodate travelers' seating preferences and level of personal comfort to the best of our ability.

Contact tracing

If REI is notified that a member of a trip tested positive for COVID-19, we will follow CDC guidelines and contact all participants. We will not share the identity of the individual.

Social Distancing

Small group sizes

REI has always exclusively offered small group travel. With groups no larger than 16, and in many cases fewer, we are able to easily manage interactions and tread lightly in the communities we visit.

Appropriate spacing during activities

Whether on the water, on the trail, on bike or on foot, guides will support physical distancing for unvaccinated participants. The bright side: more space between people makes it easier to bask in the beauty of the surroundings.


While inside the vehicle, we'll require masks for all guests in accordance with CDC and local health guidelines. We'll also have clean masks on hand for guests to wear in case you forget your own.

Protecting Local Communities

We'll closely assess the risk to every community we visit, and avoid traveling to the most vulnerable communities until it is appropriate to do so.


For the safety of our guests, our employees, and the communities we visit, CDC-recommended face coverings  will be required at various times throughout each trip. 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.

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