Urban Rooftop Camping


Los Angeles Skyline

Tepui Tents Kukenam XLWhen I think of rooftop camping,  I think of these great tents that set up on top of your vehicle.  They get one off the ground and offer quick setup, a flat floor,  a comfortable mattress and heavy duty construction.  Because you are off the ground, you are farther from the little critters that can keep you awake at night and you are safer from some of the bigger critters as well.  I recall a campsite, on the ground,  in Oklahoma where something big kept waking us only to discover, in the morning, bison prints all around … but that’s another story.

Urban Rooftop Camping

In any case,  that is not what this story is about.  This story is about pitching your tent on an urban rooftop (i.e. on top of a building).  It’s not an activity that interests me,  but it is becoming quite popular in some big cities.

New York City

Bivouac NYC

In New York City, the activity has even become a bit of an art form.  Thomas Stevenson is an artist that hosts rooftop campers in the spring and fall.  He provides tents in the form of heavy canvas structures (shown above) and invites people to join him for dinner, the night and breakfast before everyone returns to their daily grind.  Campers bring a sleeping bag and food to share.  No electronics are permitted.  Stevenson provides a kitchen area, a large wood table, library, morning coffee and a restroom – inside the building.  The experience is called Bivouac  and lasts a total of 15 hours. There is no charge to participate, although spaces are obviously very limited, so reservations are required.

Stevenson told DNAInfo: “In the time before air conditioning, it was comfortable for people to sleep on rooftops and fire escapes. But it is more than just that. Even though you are sleeping maybe six feet above where you normally sleep, it is a completely different experience.”


In Amsterdam, Netherlands,  the idea was to create additional lodging for tourists by putting tents on rooftops.  The video below shows a 2011 experiment in urban rooftop camping there.

Los Angeles

The following video demonstrates urban rooftop camping in Los Angeles:


Yes indeed,  you can camp on rooftops in urban areas with a little planning.  While I wouldn’t call it the “Great Outdoors,” it is outdoors and that’s a great place to start.

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