Cape Town - If you envision the sweet warm glow of the city lights, a better night's sleep and quality time at a gorgeous campsite, rather stop reading now and opt for a glamping escape.
However, if you just want the excitement and adventure of camping but don't want to be too far from urban amenities, then urban camping is the answer.
As a global trend, many people from all walks of life are finding the urban camping lifestyle an interesting alternative to the backwoods adventure.
The term urban camping - mostly referred to as squatting - carries several meanings, from simply pitching a tent on the sidewalk while waiting overnight for tickets to living a house-less lifestyle.
In most cases, it is something that homeless people, crazies, and drunks do all the time and with that said, there’s nothing really romantic, glorious, or relaxing about it.
But why urban camping? Well, urban camping is, in many ways, seen as a more democratic form of experiencing environments other than 'wilderness' camping.
Like camping on an lonely mountain, camping in a city is not so different because, just like every environment, urban landscapes provide their own unique set of challenges, including noise, privacy and security from people (instead of lions, leopards or snakes).
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Added to that, urban camping is not only accessible by public transportation or foot but its totally free.
Likewise, it generally makes much greater use of items one may already have lying around the house, so one can better avoid having to rent or buy expensive gear.
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 wilderness camping and urban camping. Obviously, some of the biggest differences are the procuring of food, hygiene and safety.
Want to try it out? For those who are adventurous enough, here are a few things you need to know beforehand.
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Legality and Safety
Sleeping on the street is technically illegal in most cities in South Africa and urban camping can be inherently dangerous.
No matter what city you find yourself in, there will always be at least a few crazies, dodgy drug dealers and other criminals roaming the streets at night. To stay safe, it is best to avoid them altogether. If you do run into any of these night crawlers, the best you can do is trust your instincts and be sure not to accept any offers.
Urban camping is free, which makes it a great alternative for budget backpackers. However, if you’re not prepared or aren’t used to it, you’re likely to have a bad night's rest. While you can prepare by educating yourself through research, the only way to really get used to it is to embrace a new homeless persona, have no fear and hit the streets.
Urban camping equipment
One of the few highlights of urban camping is the city's heat compared to a wilderness campsite at night.
However, the night is still going to get chilly so this means that you are going to want to bring clothes that are warm and can be layered. A good packing list should include jeans, a sweater, long sleeve shirt, a windbreaker, socks, and a warm hat or beanie.
Although camping usually requires a tent, urban camping is best done without one. A tent, even if constructed well, becomes a target for the dodgy kind of people and also police. However, a sleeping bag is not a bad idea to have. Other items you may want to bring include a trusty pocket knife, a head torch and a radio.
Where to urban camp
Depending on the city, the streets at night can often be pretty dodgy, to say the least. Therefore it is best to set up camp somewhere that is concealed from the world. A few good spots include alleys and bushes.
However, if you’re looking to sleep indoors, the best option is at the train or bus station. In most cities, just like Cape Town, bus stations are open 24/7 and usually tolerate backpackers for the night. Although this is not technically urban camping, this option is the warmest and safest.
Similarly, if you’re up for it, homeless shelters, police stations and churches, can also make free indoor shelters for the night.
Also it's best to make friends with the local homeless - they will usually let you know what kind of services the city offers and point you in the right direction.
So if you want a relatively relaxed night's rest, without much socialization with night people, the train or bus stations are some of the best options.
What are your thoughts on this, would you realistically try it? Let us know firstname.lastname@example.org
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