Kids and Nature

The BAWT Mobiles Come to Town

July 29, 2009

The BAWT mobiles are in town, and they mean serious wilderness business. With the help of City Car Share and the local nonprofit Bay Area Wilderness Training (BAWT), Bay Area youth organizations can now reserve vans to transport children for field trips and campouts.

“It is unique and has a ton of potential to be replicated around the country,” says Kyle Macdonald, founder and chief executive officer of BAWT, which specializes in getting urban kids into the outdoors.

Projects such as Bay Area Wilderness Training and GirlVentures are among the groups that have taken advantage of the new BAWT mobiles, saving thousands of dollars that trip leaders would otherwise spend on rental cars–if they were allowed to use them at all.

Indeed, the arrangement with City Car Share, which provides car-sharing at over 200 Bay Area locations, came only after a long battle with automobile insurers. This is the nation’s first car-share designed specifically for transporting youth participating in educational programs.

In the past, teachers who needed to drive kids on trips couldn’t be covered either by their personal auto insurance or their employers’ coverage. That made renting vans difficult or impossible.

BAWT received a grant to purchase two vans for its own wilderness trips, and then approached City Care Share about a partnership to make those vans more widely available.

“We still own the vans. It’s a really collaborative effort,” Macdonald said. “We don’t know how to manage a fleet of vehicles, so we relied on City Car Share, because that’s what they do.”

These vehicles will especially benefit kids whose parents wouldn’t otherwise be able to take them to day camp or on other trips.

“It’s an example of community sharing at its best to have two nonprofits [City Car Share and BAWT] join forces to provide resources to other nonprofits and communities at large,” says Sarah Heath, program manager at GirlVentures, a group that takes girls ages 11 to 14 on wilderness trips. “It’s a world of difference for us to just grab them when we need them,” Heath said. “It’s so much cheaper when you consider the insurance and the gas, which is included.”

“We use them for our summer courses, which are 14-day expeditions,” Heath said. Last spring, GirlVentures used the vans to take a group of girls to Pinnacles National Monument to rock climb and backpack. “The BAWT mobiles sat seven people each and held their gear, so it was ideal.”

The van purchases were funded by the San Francisco Department of Children, Youth & Their Families, the Bothin Foundation, and the Cleo Foundation.

To find out about reserving the vehicles for your group, visit

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