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How to Go Camping Without a Car

How to Go Camping Without a Car


One of the best things about living in the city is the accessibility of public transportation. Having a car in a city is a hassle, expensive, and just not necessary. I was excited to reduce my carbon footprint significantly when I sold my car, which the EPA estimates at around 4.6 metric tons annually. But not having a car makes it very difficult to get to the middle of nowhere. So if you don’t have a car but are dying to get out of the hustle and bustle keep on reading.

Rent a car: This is the most obvious answer, but there are more options than you think. Yes you can rent through traditional rental services, but the sharing economy has caught on as well. Apps like ZipCar and Turo allow you to borrow cars at competitive prices compared to rental companies. The more friends you can pile in for the next camping trip, the more affordable it becomes. (To learn how to make those friends, see my blog post on “How to make outdoorsy friends in a city”)

Find a friend with a car: A lot of my camping trips out of DC have happened this way. As long as your friends enjoy the great outdoors, it shouldn’t be too hard convince them to let you tag along. Check out the link I mentioned in the previous paragraph.

Extend the limits of public transportation: The metro can only take you so far. Try to find connections to buses or shuttles that run directly to parks. You can also look for routes that run to towns with access to regional trails. A great example is Harper’s Ferry. It’s accessible by Amtrak and is the halfway point of the Appalachian Trail. From the AT, you can turn off on plenty of local trails.

Camp less, but CAMP BIG: My greatest adventures have all happened since I moved to DC. With all the money you save from not owning a car, you can put that aside for your adventure fund. My most recent trip was out to Glacier National Park with my father for 1 ½ weeks of backpacking. Getting to the airport is easy in a city, but be sure to check TSA for a list of camping equipment you can bring. (For example, bear spray is prohibited even in checked bags, so plan ahead!). Also, you may have to rent a car, but try looking for other options first. Many airports near National Parks offer shuttle services from the airport to the park as well. Just plan your logistics well in advance and you’ll be set when you get there.

Join a club: This is a great way to make like minded friends, but it can also be your ride to some serious exploration. Many times, these clubs will organize trips and will offer transportation. It will also help you find places in your area and possibly bring you to a newer, more intense level of exploration. Search regional camping clubs and a few results will likely pop up. The American Alpine Club has many regional chapters you can investigate as well.

While places of wild isolation can be difficult to get to without owning a car, it’s not impossible. Hopefully with some of this info you’ll be able to figure out how to make that sweet migration to the mountains.