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Natural Awakenings New York City

Rooftop Camping In the City? Here’s a Checklist

By Joshua Hodge

Urban camping has been popular in New York City for a while now. Experiencing the great
outdoors within the urban jungle is an exhilarating and unique experience. Great views of the city and an open setting provide a welcome respite from conventional hangouts.

Generally, rooftop camping is fairly inexpensive—although there is no dearth of options in the
city, and you can get an urban glamping experience for a pile of money. A few years ago, W Hotels offered an outdoor glamping suite in Manhattan. The best-known name for rooftop camping in New York City is Bivouac Project, from artist Thomas Stevenson. Bivouac locations are chosen carefully and usually lie within walking distance of a subway.

While there are plenty of commercial options available for urban camping, there’s always room to forge your own way. Rooftop camping is a great introduction for people who are new to camping and setting up shelters. It can be a small, comfortable step for those who want to camp in nature but can’t bring themselves to take the plunge. Before you head to the rooftop, make sure you have the basics covered with this urban camping checklist.

Get permission.
Make sure you’re allowed on the roof! If you plan to camp on a roof or terrace that you have
access to, fantastic. Otherwise, ask for permission. Even if you have an apartment in the building, ask first so that there are no misunderstandings or problems later.
Get a tent. You’ll need a modern, freestanding tent that doesn’t have to be staked in. A three-to-four-person tent will be comfortable for two people. If you have more than two people, it might be better to get more tents rather than a larger tent, which can be tough to manage on a rooftop. I’d pick a good-quality waterproof tent. Rain on a rooftop isn’t as big a problem as rain at a campsite—if bad comes to worse, you can simply head home. But why let it be a problem when you have access to good tents?

Gather accessories.
Even if you’re camping on your apartment’s rooftop or terrace, gather everything you might
need. Constant runs to the apartment are distracting and suck the fun out of the experience. Bring in comfortable seating like couches, cushions or chairs, as well as air mattresses, sleeping bags, yoga mats and similar items. You can’t have a campfire, but that’s a small price to pay for the experience. Pack some food and a cooler, and consider using an electric barbecue to get your camping experience rolling. As for other food items, it’s better to cook them at home and bring them along. Or order some—you’re in New York City!

Plan activities.
You’ll need some ways to spend the time, and watching Netflix won’t cut it. Plan for activities
like cards, music and board games. If all else fails, there’s always beer and conversation.
Enjoy the rooftop experience.

Rooftop camping is an excellent way to blow off steam. Enjoying the outdoor experience in an urban setting can feel paradoxical, but it’s delightfully satisfying.

Joshua Hodge is the editor of DeepBlueMountain, a website dedicated to camping resources,
tips and reviews.