How to Urban Camp

Traveling anywhere, and want to save money or can't get hotel reservations? Perhaps you just want the excitement and adventure of camping but don't want to be too far from the urban amenities. Urban camping is the answer to that. As a spreading trend all across the world, many people from many backgrounds, cultures, and tax brackets are finding the urban nomad lifestyle an interesting alternative to the backwoods adventure. The term "urban camping" (also referred to as "stealth camping" or "guerrilla camping") itself carries several meanings, from simply pitching a tent on the sidewalk while waiting overnight for tickets, to making s'mores in the city park, to living a house-less lifestyle.

To learn how to become an urban camper is simple, but it does take a little planning, and a few tips to help differentiate between back country / wilderness camping, and urban camping. Obviously, some of the biggest differences are the procuring of food, hygiene, safety, and of course this affects what equipment to bring.


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    Determine the proper site for your urban camping adventure. Will you be traveling through many towns and cities or just one? Do you have friends there? Is there a large or small population? What is the crime rate? Be sure you have a good idea of the environment your venturing into and plan accordingly.
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    Pack up everything you will need for the time you are staying. Pack extra food in case something goes wrong or you are delayed. Of course, you don't really have to pack any food at all; you are in the city. Pack just like as if you were camping in the woods as almost all the same things will apply, save for money and a bus pass. And since it's usually not a good idea to start a fire in the city park or on the sidewalk, be sure you bring along a compact camping stove if you plan on doing any cooking.
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    Go on your trip and start your adventure. Move out of your house and on to the streets! Pack your bag or your car and head to the city! Do you have an idea of how long your camping adventure will last? It's good to plan ahead. Although this may sound like common sense, it's surprising how many people can forget small things like their toothbrush or band-aids.
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    Find out how many miles you traveled at the end of the day, and plan for the next day.
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    Find lodging at night. This can mean anything from a city park to a sidewalk, a patch of undeveloped land, creek areas that run through town, parking lots, or anywhere else in the urban environment. Of course, the two most important factors when choosing a spot will be noticeability and safety. Try not to get woken by the police, sprinkler systems, tweekers, drunken bums or muggers. If possible, have people stand watch at night to guard your stuff. Or you can try to hide your stuff, but it's best of all if you are hidden yourself.
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    Arrive at your destination and restock provisions, and get ready for the return trip.


  • Follow the basic requirements for it to be urban camping:
    • Long enough for it to be "camping" or "squatting."
    • You are completely self-sufficient. No hotels, shopping, or transportation. You pack everything you will need. Water can be an exception because all your needed water bottles will weigh a lot.
  • Showers! You probably did not consider that. If you have a membership in a gym that extends to the area you are going to and has some along the way, you can use their showers. If you don't have that, you can sneak into pools and shower there. Make sure to watch your stuff or lock it up. Public restrooms work fine for everything else. If you're really adventurous, you might try bringing along a Pocket Shower to take a quick, 10 minute shower in the park!
  • Pack as lightly as possible. Worried about emergencies? Luckily, pay phones do exist in urban settings, and cash is lighter than a cell phone! (However in the long run you may run out of coins. Cell phones generally allow emergency calls no matter if you have paid service or not. Using a cell phone with wifi based calling apps, like Vonage or TextFree, may cut down on hunting down an active pay phone and wasting money if you already have a smart phone. If you are in a suburban smaller town, pay phones are usually gutted out and inactive, so don't count on this.)
  • Military ration packs, which are lightweight, easily prepared, high-calorie, and fairly tasty, can be purchased from surplus stores for around $12 per pack. Each should contain an entrée, drink, snack, dessert, and some condiments and cutlery. Some sort of heating device and a pot will be required. Boil the entrée to heat it up, then open it and eat with the provided cutlery. Simple!
  • Don't forget to bring your common sense. This will always help you to prevent or solve many problems.


  • Do not try this as a method of transportation for a business trip, unless you are a professional stunt man, actor, activist, musician, artist, busker, juggler, buccaneer, gypsy... oh hell, you know who you are.
  • You will be crossing streets a lot, so watch out for cars.
  • Sleeping on the streets may make you look homeless. But hey, if done right and with style, can make you look cool too.
  • Do not bring "junk food." It does not give you enough energy. Consider carefully your dietary needs and what foods will do best for you.
    • Some ideas are trail mixes (consisting of different nuts, chocolate, dried fruits. You can buy or make your own.), instant potatoes, peanut butter and crackers (if you can make your own, it will taste better and be better for you), applesauce, and plenty of other things.
    • Look up what ration packs are made of and plan your own!
    • Keep hydrated.

Things You'll Need

  • A good travel pack, such as an army pack or wire frame hiking pack.
  • A good sleeping bag and a foam mat to sleep on.
  • A small tarp can come in handy as a barrier from dirt and as a cover
  • A Hammock can help you find comfy, hidden places to sleep in that you wouldn't otherwise be able to.
  • Socks, socks, socks, and underwear (there's nothing worse then a chaffing underside while hiking the city all day).
  • Extra jacket, and at least one extra pair of clothes.
  • A fold-a-stove with stove pellets and a small camping pot for food.
  • Take a metal spoon and fork and bend the tips of the handles around a key ring
  • Extra water bottles
  • Dry food is the best idea if you have cooking supplies. Avoid canned foods--they can weigh you down more than they're worth.
  • A Sharpie marker for leaving your mark and making signs.
  • Assorted tools will be very, very useful. A Leatherman works great for untying chain link fences to access illegal but safe places to sleep. Pry bars are good for accessing abandoned buildings, but are heavy. Needles and thread can mend clothes.
  • A map for the bigger cities

Each person

  • Hiking backpack, make sure it is nicely framed with lots of pockets. Waterproof packs are a must as well.
  • Bedding (sleeping bags).
  • Jacket for morning and night.
  • list of known soup kitchens in the area(optional).
  • Extra clothing.
  • ONE thick plastic water bottle. Nalgene bottles are recommended because they are shatter-proof--you can refill it at water fountains, which doesn't count as cheating.
  • Gym membership, and combo lock for lockers (to use showers).
  • Paper and pencil, to write down ideas, poetry, stories, or just to doodle. Experiences should inspire the imagination.
  • Hat (optional, but extremely recommended).
  • Walking stick (optional).
  • Small, legal, non-ranged personal weapon for self-defense. Pocket knife, extensible baton, pepper spray and stun guns all would help prevent mugging. Although these are legal in some countries, they do look suspicious, so don't go around saying, "Look guys, I got a stun gun!" because that could get you arrested.
  • Wallet, purse, ID, passport.

For the party to share

  • Map
  • Some cash and change for emergencies (need to use pay phone, run out of food, etc.)
  • Groups supply of food (can be spread out through groups backpacks or carried by one strong person)
  • Method of telling time.
  • Musical instrument. Although this isn't a necessity, it will aid in gathering extra cash for your party to share. Try a harmonica, being as they are small and easy to learn. Create your own style!
  • Basic first aid equipment

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Categories: Lodging