The COVID-19 pandemic has cancelled most travel plans and kept many people at home, but it’s also forced many people to get outdoors and explore Manitoba.
Rick Shone, the owner of Wilderness Supply, says 2020 was a season like he’s never seen before, as COVID-19 caused the demand for hiking, camping, and other outdoors equipment to skyrocket.
“We certainly could not have planned for what happened at the start of the summer,” Shone told Global News.
“We’ve seen so many new customers. So this summer it was a lot about educating new outdoors people.”
Shone says the interest remains, even as the weather gets cooler.
“We generally slow down a little bit after the September long weekend, but after after people went back to school in mid-September, we’ve already seen a pretty good uptick in people coming through the store and looking to take advantage of the nice fall weather that we have,” he said.
Shone also says he’s already seeing increasing interest in winter outdoors equipment, including snowshoes and cross-country skis.
The increase in hiking is a reason why the Trans Canada Trail chose to launch the ‘Great Canadian Hike’, a national challenge to encourage people to get outdoors and explore Canada’s trail systems over the month of October.
“We can really see, in an important way, that trails are really having a moment right now and that people’s access to nature via our trail system is huge right now,” Trans Canada Trail president and CEO Eleanor McMahon said.
A survey in June by the Trans Canada Trail and Leger showed that trail use was up about 40 per cent. A number McMahon says has likely increased.
“It doesn’t seem like much, but it’s fairly significant,” McMahon said. “Especially when you consider that when we took that survey, a lot of the trails were still closed.”