Just six days before OutdoorFest this June I was on the opposite coast, in my comfort zone among the sandy beaches and cactus-speckled deserts of southern California. This was the only type of camping environment I’d known. Then I found myself in New York City, with it’s towering skyscrapers and bustling city streets, wondering how OutdoorFest was going to pull off a weekend of camping in the woods.
This was before I met Sarah Knapp, founder of OutdoorFest and pro at getting urbanites to connect with nearby nature. Thanks to her, we had an incredible first experience camping in NYC—here are a few highlights.
1. Experiencing wilderness within an urban environment…it’s possible!
OutdoorFest kicked off just 6 miles from Downtown Brooklyn in Staten Island. Bike, bus, heck—you could even run there if you were ambitious enough. (In fact, trail runners in fest-hosted night race sprinted 5 km at sunset.) Doesn’t sound like much of a wilderness experience, huh? Think again.
Our “urban” campsite spread across an open field surrounded by tall pines and maples trees, a 75-acre green space called Henry Kaufmann Campground. The only sounds we heard were crackles from the fire and the wind whispering through the trees.
2. OutdoorFest as a bridge for first time campers.
Never hiked the AT or pitched a tent at Everest Base Camp? Me neither. But camping in Staten Island was a piece of cake. Even better? Survival skill classes by Outdoor Academy taught us how to use maps and compasses, build fires from scratch, and master backcountry cooking. So anyone who entered OutdoorFest as a beginner certainly left as a novice, prepared for their next big adventure.
3. Live music always sounds better in the woods.
Saturday night concluded with a live concert in the woods. OutdoorFest hosted Bandits on the Run, a three part-harmony trio who sang nostalgic medleys. Bonfire, beers, newfound friends, and telescope-powered stargazing only made the experience more magical. Pro tip: find the astrology junkies. A few at our camp tracked down the moon crater Copernicus for us, which is something I won’t forget soon.
Scroll on for more photos from our weekend in Staten Island:
Watch the full recap video!
Ezekiel and his wife Natalie went on an epic East Coast road trip this summer. Take a look at some of the places they camped along the way!