Stealth camping is the act of secretly camping in a public or private area (sometimes legally – sometimes illegally) and moving on the next morning without being detected.
Stealth camping is an excellent way to not only find free places to camp, but is also a great way to discover excellent campground locations, get a good night’s rest in a quiet location and secure a night’s lodging away from the hustle and bustle of other people, animals and vehicles.
In this article you will find my 50 best tips for stealth camping anywhere in the world. Be sure to watch the video below… and at the end of the article I encourage you to submit your own stealth camping tips or stories in the comments section.
Camp above any nearby roads or trails. People tend to look down more than they look up… and climbing uphill is difficult, so it is less likely that others will come looking for you if you are up high. Plus, from up high, you can look down on others who might be approaching your camp.
Use a brown, green or earth-toned tent to blend in with your surroundings. Camouflage works wonders when it comes to stealth camping.
Cover your tracks. Be sure to cover up or hide any foot prints or bicycle tracks that might lead people to your campsite. Even broken branches can lead a person to your camp, so try not to disturb the nature surrounding your stealth campsite.
Don’t make a fire unless you absolutely have to. Smoke and light from a campfire attracts attention.
Look for animal tracks in the area and avoid camping in locations where moose, bear, wolves, racoons, skunks and other animals may frequent or use as sleeping locations.
Don’t make camp on the other side of a river, estuary or canal. These sources of water may flood overnight and cause you to get stuck.
A dirt road will turn to mud overnight in a rainstorm. Be sure you have an exit strategy for the following morning.
Be quiet. Don’t draw attention to yourself by making a lot of noise.
Don’t camp in an area where you might easily be discovered by dogs. A dog on a walk with his or her owner will quickly give away your location.
Know how to set up and break down your camp quickly. Sometimes speed is your best ally.
You are your own source of rescue. If no one knows where you are and you get sick, hurt yourself, or otherwise get into trouble, you are the only one who can get you out of the situation. This is one of the most dangerous aspects of stealth camping.
Know what the law is. Each country treats stealth camping differently. It’s totally common and acceptable in some parts of the world, and totally illegal in other parts. Do you research before stealth camping to avoid being harassed, fined or thrown in jail.
The best time to find and set up a stealth campsite is just before it gets dark. If you set up camp too early you might be discovered by people who are still out for the day. If you set up too late, on the other hand, you could find yourself trying to pitch your tent in the dark.
Avoid pitching your tent in the dark. Not only can you not scout out the location of your campsite as well when it is dark, but any flashlights or headlamps you might use will give away your location.
Break camp early. Wake up, pack your gear and hit the road before most people are even awake or outside.
Leave your campsite in the same condition it was in when you first found it. Pack out all trash and make it look as though you were never there. This benefits both you and future stealth campers who might come after you.
The harder it is for you to get to your campsite, the less likely it is that other people will find you. People are generally lazy and will usually give up before navigating to difficult locations.
Don’t camp on the other side of large fences or gates. Even thought the fence/gate is open now, it might be locked in the morning. You don’t want to get trapped inside a fence or gate and then be unable to escape. Plus, you might also be climbing into a cage of some kind with a bear, mountain lion or other dangerous animal (This happened to me once. I jumped a fence and found myself inside a cage with a mountain lion).
Be able to call or signal for help if you get hurt, sick, etc. Carrying a flashlight, mirror, whistle, cell phone, or satellite phone might be a good idea.
The best stealth campgrounds aren’t always the most scenic. The goal is to blend in – not to stand out.
Don’t use lights at night unless you absolutely have to. Lights attract attention and can sometimes be seen from several miles/kilometers away. If you must use your light, use it for only short periods of time and in short bursts (like a firefly).
Sometimes (but very rarely) the best hiding spot is right out in the open where people passing by will think, “I guess you are allowed to camp there?”
Never get caught. Never.
If you do get caught, play dumb and/or if necessary, offer to leave. There is no need to get in trouble for stealth camping. Simply pack up your campsite, move on and find somewhere else to spend the night.
Be willing to change camping spots if after a short while you realize the campsite you picked out initially is unsafe or in a location where you might be discovered.
For a speedy getaway, don’t use a tent. Instead, just sleep on top of your sleeping mat (under the stars) or consider the use of a compact bivy sack.
Don’t camp in an area that could be flooded with people early the next morning. Just because the place is empty in the evening doesn’t mean it will be empty when you wake up the following day.
The larger your group, the more likely it is that you will be discovered. Groups take up more space and make more noise, thereby attracting more attention to themselves.
Don’t camp in areas where there are “Private Property” and “No Trespassing” signs. Not only will you not have the excuse of saying you didn’t know you were allowed to be there, but these are generally areas where people, land owners and the public alike are on the lookout for stealth campers like you.
Use shadows to your advantage. Hide in dark spaces – under trees and bushes (for example) where you are not easily spotted.
Avoid camping in places where children might play. Not only are kids good at climbing into small spaces and building forts in and under trees, but if they do find you they will surely run home and tell mommy and daddy about the strange person they saw camping in their play spot.
Sometimes simply asking if you can camp somewhere is the best approach. Don’t be afraid to ask locals, land owners and even the police where you can find a good place to camp for the night.
Don’t camp in a place that could flood or fill with water. This includes dry riverbeds, empty swimming pools, drainage ditches, etc.
Don’t arouse suspicion. Don’t let anyone see you going to or leaving from your campsite. If you must be seen, be seen on your way out of the campsite – just as you are leaving. By then you are already on your way and there is little anyone can say or do if they discover what you’ve been up to.
Wear earth-colored clothing to blend in with your surroundings. Change your clothes, if necessary, before you even begin looking for a stealth campsite for the night.
Remove all lights, reflectors and white, light or flashy material from your tent, bicycle, backpack or other gear so as not to be detected by flashlights or passing automobile headlamps.
Beware of landmines, animal traps, quicksand and other hidden dangers that exist in some parts of the world.
Keep an eye out for hunters. Know when hunting season is and stay out of areas where you might be mistaken for a deer, bear, bigfoot or other such animal.
Watch out for surveillance cameras that might be mounted in the area. A camera that catches you coming or going from your campsite might be all it takes to get you in a serious heap of trouble.
Avoid areas frequented by geocachers. Many stealth campsites are located in the same areas that are frequented by these GPS treasure hunters. Learn more at www.geocaching.com.
Get over your fear of the dark. Stealth camping doesn’t have to be scary. Worrying about animals, bigfoot, ghosts or other creatures that go bump in the night will only add to any anxiety you might have about your stealth camping experience.
The more practice you get with stealth camping, the easier it becomes. Finding places to sleep each night becomes easier, because you know what to look for… and you’ll begin to relax and enjoy the experience the more you do it.
Avoid camping in areas covered in large amounts of poo. This means avoiding areas that are frequented by cattle, sheep, goats and other farm/herd animals. The animals could quickly inundate your campsite and the animal’s tender/herder will easily spot you.
All the regular camping rules still apply. Avoid camping in the wind. Don’t camp under anything that could fall on you in the middle of the night. Sleep on flat ground. Hang your food if animals are in the area, etc.
Don’t set up camp right away. Find a spot you think might be good and then wait a little while. Scout out the location. See if anyone walks past. Notice what animals are in the area. Listen for other campers that might be in the area. Note the wind direction, etc. After you are sure that this location is a good place to settle down for the night, then go about setting up your campsite.
Know your way out. Be sure you can find your way from the campsite back to the road or trail that you came in on. If you wake up in the morning and the ground is suddenly covered in snow, for example, finding your way back the way you came might be extremely difficult. Use a compass or a GPS if necessary to find your way back to the road/trail.
Keep moving. Never camp in the same place twice (or for very long). The longer you stay in one location, the more likely it is that you will be caught or that people in the area will object to your choice of campground.
Camp in an area where even if you are discovered, people won’t mind you camping there. This usually means avoiding abandoned buildings, behind people’s homes or businesses, public places where people or children or present… and instead camping in forests, desolate beaches, wild valleys, etc.
Don’t feel guilty when you stealth camp. Stealth camping usually isn’t illegal. Most of the time, stealth camping simply means that you are camping in a wild, undeveloped, unfenced area in an attempt to get some sleep, remain out of sight and experience a peaceful night in a wilderness situation. Don’t feel like you are committing a crime (unless you are) just because you’ve decided to stealth camp.
Have fun. Remember that the whole reason you are camping in the first place is to have fun, enjoy the outdoors and get a good night’s rest. If you aren’t having fun and generally enjoying yourself, you’re doing something wrong.
Now it’s your turn! What other tips, ideas and suggestions do you have for other stealth campers? Leave a comment below with your feedback or some stealth camping stories of your own.
124 thoughts on “50 Stealth Camping Super Tips”
Hi, thanks for the tips… mine is
Don’t camp anywhere near a Lake in Scotland, UK, in summer, the midges are a nightmare, although they have the added bonus of making you set up and pack away your tent in double quick time 🙂
A great tent I purchased for camping is Made for stealth. Issued to British special forces. Low profile earth colors, quick setup…the SnugPac..Ionosphere
Be aware of “posted” or “no trespassing” marks other than actual signs. For example, purple paint, or other colors, on trees is allowable in many states in lieu of signs. Know the laws in the states you’ll be travelling through.
Great stuff, Darren! I wrote up a similar list at https://www.kansascyclist.com/camping/StealthCampingKansas.html … a few additional items:
– Purple paint on fenceposts or trees is another common (and legal) way to mark private land.
– Do not camp next to a road, no matter how isolated it seems. Minimum-maintenance roads are sometimes “party spots” for local folk.
– Don’t disturb or damage any property, livestock or field crops you encounter.
– Be careful of cooking any food on a stove. The smells can give you away, or attract hungry wildlife.
– Do not stealth camp during hunting seasons! However, if you find yourself in the woods at dawn with gunshots nearby, it might be best to just hang tight for a couple hours, if you’re reasonably well-hidden. Early morning is an active time for wildlife, and hunters, but activity usually tails off by mid-morning. When you do move, wear bright colors, preferably “hunter orange” to avoid being mistaken for wildlife.
More details would be interesting. For example you say “don’t camp where you might be discovered by dogs”. How am I supposed to know? Same for other animals such as bears, racoons or whatever. Thanks for the great article.
This September I bicycled the Adirondacks in NY state. My plan was to camp at state parks but, because of government cutbacks, many were closed. A parks employee that I came across said that the parks dept allowed campers in the closed parks. They preferred for you to camp nearest the road but, otherwise, it was okay. Most of the parks were by a lake. Beautiful opportunity for free camping with a view.
Especially when setting up your campsite in the dark, be careful to mark the direction in which you entered and, if possible, point your bike in the direction in which you plan to leave. There’s nothing like getting yourself lost before breakfast to ruin what could have been a good day on the road.
That’s a good tip Rick about leaving your bike pointing in the direction you want to head out in the morning. My tip would be to stop and set up camp as soon as you start feeling tired. When you’re exhausted you start making careless moves, get lazy, start losing track of gear, leave things behind the morning you take off, and may even hurt yourself. Maybe this advice only applies to people my age, in their 40s
While bicycling the Blue Ridge Parkway this summer I found that, with 50 pounds of gear, 20 miles a day was about all I could manage. Finding a location to stealth camp was difficult at best as the BRP follows along the ridge of the mountains. One side was a steep drop off while the other was straight up!! Finding a camp sight that was somewhat level, hidden and not prone to flooding was difficult at best. I did find that I was well prepared from reading your book!!! A sight was found and a good nights sleep was had. I woke in the morning surrounded by about fifteen deer!!!
Don’t camp between a road and a railway line, as I did. Terrible night sleep, especially when a late night train passed by.
Don’t get in the back of a truck to sleep, even if you think it’s too late for anyone to drive away. Luckily I took my bike in with me and was ready to go when I woke up to a totally different landscape. This was in Greece where drivers drive in the cool of the night. I had been driven across Corfu. Also rivers near any coast may be in the tidal zone, check tide tables. Sometimes beautiful, sandy beaches are that way due to tide action.
Or better yet, don’t camp in the back of a truck if it’s not yours! I bet that’s one heck of a story to tell at the bars…
“Avoid camping in areas covered in large amounts of poo.”
It’s all about the swarming, crawling, biting FLIES!!!
Don’t “stealth camp” in the grand stand of the local high school football team. The cops kicking
you out at 1:00 AM in the morning and sending you down the interstate highway (even though that
is illegal) ruin your night’s sleep. Avoid sleeping on a concrete slab (gets very cold at night). Carry
some form of identification while on tour. Cops teasing you for not having a driver’s license can get a bit irritating. Never camp on abandoned clay baseball infields (an absolutely waterproof tent floor was the only thing that kept me dry … and acted as my first waterbed). Strangely, being sick as a dog
and running a very high temperature that night … the waterbed saved my tour. Most importantly, there
is almost always someone to get permission from to stay in the area. Quite often, permission
comes with free food, a shower or good times shared with friendly people. It can also save you
from camping in a spot that you have to abandon later on.
Interesting Point. But my Experance was “If you ask you have Lost” More often as getting invited. But 3 times that happened to me also in the US: Once I was allowed to sleep in a Trailer and an 2 other time in Hotels. Same in Belgium. In China I did not ask and was twice escorted to an local Hotel the Goverment paid for “We not let sleep Visitors Outside” Well that was in the month before the 2008 Olympics.
More on my Daybook (Linked Website, mostly in German)
Hi Darren,I did quite alot of stealth camping while riding the euro velo 6 and the only problem occurred in Romania when 2 farmers showed up in the early am. and were a tad upset as I had set my tent in the middle of the access road.I had arrived very late and level ground was very scarce so…………In the end they left the car and carried on by foot.I found your tips to be spot on and if one sticks to your guidelines then a pleasant experience will almost always be had.
Thanks for the reminders. On my pacific coast ride in aug./ sept 2012 i did not do any stealth camping but, on the next tour starting in February i plan on stealth camping as much as possible. keeping cost down and a much longer ride are 2 main reasons. thanks again
Good tips there, especially Have Fun!
I’ve wild camped a couple of times in the UK, always been fine even though its illegal, usually found a little coppice and made my way in to the middle, cleared a space for my tent and hey presto, camping heaven.
Once wild camped in France down a farm track, thought it was nice and secluded untill club music started up from somewhere and i realised i wasn’t as isolated as i thought, ear plugs are a must!
Easier way is to come to Baltic’s and in most places you can just put up your tent and enjoy the nature. And as state owns more than half of the forests (and there are over 50% of territory covered by forests) it is easy to find place to put down your tent.
If you are out in flat country with little vegetation for concealment, and you don,t want to be too far from the road, try to camp on the inside of a bend or corner of the road, not the outside. Your camp site won,t be illuminated by vehicle headlights as they shine more to the outside of the bend, no matter which way they are traveling. Carry a piece of hessian or burlap to drape over your laid down bicycle. It doesn,t weigh much or take up a lot of room. If possible, face or point your bicycle in the direction of your next days travel as an early morning indicator, so you don,t back track.
Very good tips. Anytime I do camp behind a business, I’m out of that spot SUPER quick…just making sure I’m leaving BEFORE the posted work hours (usually used USPS locations). Stealth is where it’s at!
I “stealth” camped very successfully in the Italian Dolomites last summer (even August in the height of the tourist season.) Many fine camp sites although had to be sure I was near a water source. Luckily, villages with morning coffee and pastries were not too far away.
I’ve had the occasional opportunity to stealth camp over the years. Your very first tip is one of my own favorite strategies – camp at an elevated position. (Plus, it’s just good form: your undetected presence shouldn’t distract others enjoying the area. Not to mention that inclement weather makes lower positions a bit dicey!) I carry a very lightweight bivy sack that is a ridiculously weenie-ish weight of something like 12 oz, is dark green, and has a pretty low profile. One literally sinks into the woods at night!
One small story I’ll share: many years ago, well after dark settled around me, I scrambled through some brambles and located a clear, flat area – perfect for a tent I thought, and a good fifty yards from the road. I set up quickly and just as quickly went to sleep, comfortably resting in what I imagined was the end of a cow pasture. I awoke the next morning to the sound of an airplane landing nearby. Turns out that I was camping on a grassy rural airstrip! Lesson learned: check your map for landmarks!
The Early Morning Cyclist
I would suggest a bit of planning ahead. End your rides in locations that lend themselves better to camping. With online maps and routing services, this can take much of the guesswork out.
Do you have any kind of a list of countries and the legality or illegality of stealth camping?
My wife says that stealth camping is illegal in Hungary, but since she worries about everything, I am not convinced that it is actually illegal here. Only my son and I go bike touring (and camp along the way). We have stealth camped a lot in Hungary, Austria, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia and Germany a lot, but always respect people’s property and are sure to stay well hidden.
So far, no real problems – but some drunk partiers approached our camp once in Italy. That was a bit unnerving! …thankfully they left. Another time, in Slovenia, a farmer spotted us on the far side of his field and “happened” to take his dog for a walk right past us. He did not say a word, just kept going. Apparently he was satisfied that we were not a danger to his crop.
You say one should get up early, before the world wakes up. Ya! …with a teenager? No. It has been better for us to find a truly secluded place where we could roll out after my son has gotten all the sleep he wants. Yes, crack of dawn departures are idea if the goal is to insure not being detected.
On the second night of a two state bike trip I was forced to sleep under some large bushes located between a Denny’s restaurant and a truck stop of some kind. This is because I miscalculated the amound of time is would take me to get out of the city of Portland, Oregon. I was too tired to go on so I slept in those bushes without being detected that night. Actually, I remember I slept like a baby under the stars in my sleeping bag only. That made it easy for me the next morning to roll up my bag to the bike and take off.
Thanks Darren! As always, good stuff! Keep at it.
I did a four month amble across the U.S. two years ago (west to east) including western Canada and stealth camped about 85% of the time. All your tips are spot on. I wouldn’t trade camping for a motel unless absolutely necessary. The other option is couch surfing which I did 4 or 5 times and had wonderful hosts. I let my blog for this ride expire but I think you can see a map of my ride on google maps here. https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF&msa=0&msid=
Thanks for the post.
Choosing good colors for your gear that blend in with the background is helpful when you buy. Greens, blacks and browns are good. I have some yellow panniers that really stand out and I have to hide them quickly in my tent vestibule when I make camp.
Camping close to public toilets can be useful for during the night if you need the bathroom. For the same reason, avoiding camping next to rivers and streams is also a good idea. In New Zealand where I live, the Department of Conservation (DOC) recommend not urinating or defacating within 50m of any streams or rivers, so that you don’t contaminate them.
If you have to defecate near your campsite, do it discretely and cover up your mess so that it cannot be seen, wont be dug up by animals and will biodegrade well. Dig a whole a least 4″ deep and use actual toilet paper or flushable wipes. Some baby wipes don’t break down well, avoid those and use the flushable type instead. One of the friends I’ve made while cycle touring has trained himself to only need to defecate when he cycles past public toilets. Unfortunately I’m a once a day, in the morning kinda guy. So I’ve learnt to be discreet and bury it well.
To find good stealth camping site, spend time consulting your road or tomographic maps. One of my favourite tricks is finding local walking tracks on the maps, following them for 500m-1000m and then pitching camp on the side of the trail. This often takes me away from the main roads and people rarely pass through during the night. In NZ most walking tracks are maintained by DOC and camping is generally permitted on the side of those.
Hope that adds to your tips.
Stealth-camped several nights while riding through counties Norfolk and Suffolk England this past summer. On one occasion, I jumped off a highway into a farmer’s field concealed by tall shrubs along the road. I slept under the stars during a rare but magnificent clear night. Another favorite was sleeping in a church grave yard; I made sure to leave early enough before any churchgoers meandered by in the morning.
We were cycling in eastern Oregon and stoped in a town called Plush to get a beer and watch some of the Olympics. After two beers we were far too drunk to continue and elected to camp in the nearby park. We couldn’t find a position with enough concealment, but later figured that we should hang the hammocks- hang em’ high! So, we placed the hammocks up and out of view (concealed by branches) and were left alone all night to sleep it off. Obviously, we figured out that beer when it’s over 100 degrees and you’ve been Amex by the sun for days he alcohol will hit you much quicker. Now we know and make better arrangements!
I’ve read a lot about stealth camping, and I find a massive contradiction in the topic of bicycle concealment that I am interested in your perspective on, since four years ago (http://bicycletouringpro.com/the-secrets-of-stealth-camping/) you mentioned to cover the reflectors on your bicycle.
I ride with a lot of scotchlite material on my bicycle, from my Ortlieb Panniers to reflective tire sidewalls to stickers on my rims to spoke clips and more. Contradicting your earlier advice, based on what I see from your website today you make no effort to conceal your bicycle at all. Instead, you prop it against a corner of the tent so you can feel it if it moves. It seems like a little too little too late for theft (if you’re already asleep!), but it doesn’t address visibility at all.
Locking a bicycle that is under a cover seems like an exercise in futility, so I understand your wisdom not covering it, and I can’t seem to find an example of a bike cover that specifically addresses visibility, with a lot of examples allowing the tires to peek out the bottom. Since I ride with a Brooks saddle, I don’t want to leave my bicycle out in the weather, and I think several hours without a hot butt on it but not exposed to bad weather would tend to prolong its service life. This leads me to sheltering the bike under a special compartment in a tent for the bike, and I can find several examples that look like good candidates, but absolutely no examples of photographs as proof it’s possible. And further still, no examples of other people actually doing this (well, there’s this: https://www.fahrradbibliothek.de/img/fotos/uebernachtung-zelten-fahrrad.jpg)
Obviously you use the MSR Hubba. Have you tried the “Gear Tent” that MSR makes to attach to it? Do you think such a thing would fit a bicycle? Have you heard of any other tents made for, or made possible for this purpose?
My remarks about covering or not covering your bicycle reflectors are not necessarily a contradition. It’s just that I am talking about two very different types of stealth camping situations.
In some instances, where you are near people and or the road, you may want to cover your reflectors. In other situations, you are in remote areas where there is little or no chance of someone finding you in your camp… and in these instances, there is no need to hide your bike or cover your reflectors, etc.
You see? It just depends on the situation.
As for why I lean the bicycle up against the tent, that too is situational. I don’t always do that. Just sometimes.
I do that when there is little else around to lock the bicycle to, so I lock the bicycle to one of the tent poles. And because a bicycle lock can easily be removed from a tent pole, I also lean the seat up against the exterior wall of the tent so that if, when I am in the tent, I could feel anyone messing with my bicycle or its lock from the inside. You don’t really NEED to do this. It is just a little extra something that I do to help me keep an eye on my bicycle even when I am inside my tent.
As for covering your bicycle at night, you will eventually find that carrying a cover of any kind is really not worth it. If you insist on covering your saddle, just put a plastic bag or something similar over the seat at night. But there is no need to put the bicycle in the tent with you at night or to purchase an extra tent shelter just for your bicycle. I know it sounds kind of nice to have the bike in your tent with you at night, but it is unnecessary. As long as you lock your bicycle up outside near your tent, that’s usually all you really need to do.
One thing you can do is lock the rear wheel to the frame with a ulock. Doesn’t stop theft per se. But it does make it impossible to ride away with. I do that at a certain convenience store in my area. Just lock the rear wheel to the frame in view of the store doorway while keeping it out of the way. Nobody messes with it.
Get a US military surplus rain poncho (woodland camo) and throw it over the bike. presto, no see it in the dark.
What about a tent that uses the bike to keep it up? Sure it will take up some room inside the tent but it certainly solves the reflector problem many of us have. And keeps leather seats way from needless rain. It may be possible to anchor a tarp somehow to a bike outside the tent. Sort of a lean-to design. But then your bike is outside, exposed to the elements. But at least no one can take it without your shelter collapsing!
You mean a tent like this one? https://bicycletouringpro.com/mehler-adventure-trans-alp-bicycle-tent/
I didn’t like it. Basically a piece of junk.
TQ , i enjoy your reports so much and hope to continue learning from your experiences. Malaysia Cyclists.
Stealth camping can be safe and kind of fun, but don’t put to much stress on ‘needing’ to do it. I rode across North America and while I did do a lot of stealth camping, I also often would ask people if they would mind me throwing a tent down on their lawn. It’s a little bit of a weird getting used to asking that of a stranger, but if you’re respectful and friendly, the answer is usually yes. Often, asking results in much more, food, a shower, even a bed? Hell, one time they insisted on doing my laundry FOR me. This is without even mentioning the amount of fantastic people I’ve met along the way.
If and when you do need to stealth camp, it’s simple. Just use good common sense. Look at what’s around you, pay attention, keep to yourself, be respectful. If you’re on any sort of lengthy trip, you’re bound to have a few bad encounters with weather, animals, people, but that’s just part of the trip. Use your head and you’ll be fine.
35 years ago I rode my thumb across North America. Now I tour on my bike. Same deal. When looking for a spot to sleep, never I mean never, enter into a conversation with the authorities about where to sleep. They will also give you the most narrow and conservative answer they can. It is their job! As far as the authorities are concerned, it is don’t ask, don’t tell. The cops who see you riding through their town know you and your bike are not a threat, ( at least for 60 year old me). Just keep a low profile, scout out where it looks quiet and safe to sleep, and wait till dusk to return to your chosen spot.
I would LOVE to hear details about the mountain lion thing, when you ended up in a locked cage with him. Encounters with lions/bears is my biggest concern about stealth camping (depending on the area, obviously). Not that I worry about it.. I get that statistically it’s unlikely.. I just wish the possibility somehow didn’t exist, lol.
Well, you don’t have to worry about lions or bears if you only travel in certain parts of the world (parts of the world where those things simply do not exist). I’ve been bicycle touring for almost 13 years now and I have seen 3 bears in that time (they all ran away from me just as soon as we saw each other) and 2 mountain lions (1 was in a fenced-off area in Peru that I accidentally jumped into) and the other was a total fluke on a back road in Virginia. You really shouldn’t be that afraid of those kinds of things. You should be aware that these kinds of animals exist in the wild, but I don’t think you should necessarily be afraid. That’s why I say in this article that stealth camping (and camping in general) gets easier the more you do it. You might be kind of afraid of animals and things that go bump in the night at first, but after a while you become totally comfortable camping in even the most remote environments.
#101 Be Male. Glad to see a couple of women have commented here on successfully stealth camping, but surely the risk factor is significantly higher for women if they are found out by drunken men.
In most parts of the world, being male actually makes you MORE likely to be randomly assaulted by a stranger. A drunk man is more likely to get into a brawl with another man than they are to attack a lady. Statistically.
I was accosted by 2 drunk women years ago.
Best tip above is:
Sometimes simply asking if you can camp somewhere is the best approach. Don’t be afraid to ask locals, land owners and even the police where you can find a good place to camp for the night.
That is not stealth camping silly goose! That goes under the category of “touring.” Also, what happens if that backfires? Example given: it is dusk and you ask a local about a spot to sleep. The local is friendly, but cannot think of a good spot. What happens if friendly local calls the local police about a wandering person looking for a free camp spot. Now you have to bike out of town, and actually stealth camp. Worst case is a cheap motel, but the dirt in the woods are usually cleaner.
I also recommend that if you are exploring a new town or city that you scout out a camping spot first, that way if you do have to set up in the dark you already know where you are going.
Bring bug sprays and bite creams as you will often run into spiders and other nasty biting insects when you are off the beaten track
Tent repair kits are a must, not much worse than a damaged tent and no way to get it fixed in the middle of nowhere when stealth is key.
I also pack a small 8x8ft camo tarp to cover my bike, it not only helps protect it from the elements, it also helps to keep one of the most noticeable items from giving you away.
Interesting information. Many years ago, we were looking for a campsite and having no luck. We finally approached a policeman in a small town in Montana. He quickly told us there were none available because there was an event in a nearby town. Seeing our tired faces, though, he directed us to a parking space on the street near the jail. He then told the jailer to leave a back door unlocked for us! Those clean restrooms seemed like such luxury. He even clued us in to a small restaurant for an inexpensive breakfast. There are nice people out there.
Wonderful article and following comments here.
From cycling in Asian countries where people generally lack English, I realized one mega important aspect that scores massive points when having to deal with them. Know some vocabulary in their language! Words like “sorry” and “excuse me” are situational relaxers and, not to mention, are strongly appreciated by locals in most situations. Since these countries are densely populated, people running across your “ninja camping” location is far more likely but not to be feared. Confusion and staring is the most common reaction followed by “What is that thing?” in reference to your ride.
In these places, one of the better areas I’ve found to camp are temples. Theyre safe, usually in beautiful locations, are everywhere, and frequented by friendly people.
I call it hobo’n and it makes me feel extremely free like when I hitched around in the ’70s. I like the inside of the curve idea, didn’t think of that. If hassled say that you couldn’t make it to a regular place to stay and had now choice. Litter is a give away for a teen party place. Women should have mace and a plan for threats. Stealth camping is a fun part of touring, I often find a better place minutes after breaking camp. The anticipation of staying where I please and being so free turns those wheels into wings.
i think the most important advice here is dont feel guilty. . . . your not breaking or stealing anything. most people even cops will inderstand
I enjoyed your article. I prefer to spend the night in a campground so that I can have a fire and just relax, but I also stealth camp when necessary. Since I do a lot of biking on rural bike trails, I found the easiest stealth camping is to look for a secluded level spot just off the trail. When the railroads first put in the rail lines, they usually included a generous right of way on either side of the tracks. When the rail lines get converted to bike trails, these right of ways usually remain so you can usually find a comfortable place to camp that’s not on private property. I’ve also camped in rural cemeteries, which tend to be secluded and beautiful; they also frequently have water.
women who stealth camp should make like a duck I reckon. it has multiple false passages in case of unwanted advances. Here is story of a 39 year old swiss woman who was ganged raped in India recently.
Don’t forget to re-cover the ground with leaves and branches that you cleared when setting up camp. Try to remember that only a fool thinks he owns a mountain, so **** them!!
Before setting your camp, spot the nearest Cemetery, there is often drinkable water there(in Europe). Yeah! Cooking, cleaning your broken body and cleaning your only pair of socks is a lot easier.
Wonderful article, great feed back:)
Thank you! I expect to head out to the US Southwest, where open and legal (and free!) camping is easier, but I want the freedom to camp in the East, too. There’s a lot to see.
I’ve wanted to hike/bike across the US now for quite some time. But I’m having trouble figuring out the best approach to some fundamental aspects of my travel.
1) How do I avoid wild animals? I remember once walking down a long country road where I encountered a pair of feral dogs a few hundred feet away from me. They weren’t agitated, but were curious enough to get closer and closer. I had nothing to fend them off and was saved by a rare semi-truck that happened by and scared the dogs away.
2) Where do I sleep for free? I will likely spend every waking hour walking/cycling or resting. I don’t envision myself spending much money on any necessities, food, and water or lodging, otherwise the trip will be cost prohibitive. In my research I’ve found out that kindness of strangers aside that sleeping in public is fundamentally illegal.
3) How much water should I cart with me? I expect that much of the terrain I plan to traverse is either, open country road, outright desert or miles of woodland with nary a sign of civilization which means that I will likely need enough water to hold me over for a few days.
4) Anything I should absolutely carry? I want to travel light. The less I carry the closer I will be to my ideal experience. But I don’t want to be caught without a necessary tool that my survival might depend on.
5) Where do I research off-road cross country trails? I would like as much of the trip as possible to be off road. I’ve noticed from past experience that walking on paved roads tends to highlight the wasteful, dirty, throwaway nature of humanity rather than the beautiful expanse of this country that I want to experience. Nature trails are not exempt from this of course but they do tend to expose me to more of what I want to see.
Thanks for any input.
This was not a bike trip, but a few years back five of us bivy camped above treeline (where the tree’s stunt out growth at a max of 6 feet) in the presidential range of New Hampshire. We left two people at camp (uphill and about 300′ off the trail) and three of us continued to the summit. On the way back to camp we were noticed by caretakers from an AMC Hut. They asked if we were hiking down in the dark, as it was already twilight, we said…Uh, yeah! The next morning we hiked down to the base where we were met by a Ranger. He informed us that three of us fit the description radioed to him the night before of people thought to be camping above treeline.. We owned up to camping overnight but said we thought it was legal below treeline. He informed us that it is, below treeline, and that the AMC people had scoured the area they thought we camped in but could not find a trace of were we may have have camped or exited then re-entered the trail.. He sent us on our way with a warning not to camp above treeline then said with a grin, I wish everyone could camp without leaving so much as a footprint.
We used my red filtered flash light after dark, It doesn’t harm your night vision as much and emits no radiant glow, it also does not travel as far.. It’s a 2 AA-cell battery crook neck light with an old school incandescent bulb, not one of the modern retina toasting handheld lighthouses.These lights are copies of military 2 D-cell lights, they come with the filters but are much smaller/lighter than the originals. They can still be found in many army surplus stores. They have a low lumen rating and the red lens filters it down even more. Its good to have one of these when stealth camping, try not to aim it horizontally or up, only at the ground and use it sparingly. We broke camp at first light, spoke in whispers, and made sure to not leave a mark anywhere. We even raked the pine needles with our fingers and a fallen branch to rough and fluff them where they had become matted from bivy sacks and walking. Happy trails everyone, hope to not see you. ; ) wink,…
I am a landowner with acreage that borders the FLT and several scenic rural roads in Upstate NY. Is there a way of “marking” a stealth camping friendly location without actually putting up a big sign? I’m thinking of something akin to the old hobo signposts from the depression era.
I’ve thought of doing something similar myself Brogan. It might just be the way you trim the brush in the area or something like that? There is a certain type of stealth campsite that I look for. I can just tell by the way the trees, grass and bushes are shaped whether or not it is a good place to camp or not. Maybe that’s all that needs to be done to secretly market a stealth campsite? – just make it look private, but inviting all at the same time?
Wow, that’s a great idea . we should have a symbol marking friendly man camping area.
I fear that the more we talk about stealth camping, the less stealthy it will be. Just ride till you’re tired, sleep in an inconspicuous place, and get up and go early in the morning. No big deal. But a lot of fun!
This isn’t exactly Stealth but it certainly is free & legal. Almost anywhere across the U.S. or Canada now a Wal Mart is bound to be along your route somewhere. Most of them allow RV’rs to stay overnight. I’ve stayed on green areas around the stores & never been hassled. There is the added bonus of Bathrooms, Supplies, Water & Fast Food but check to make sure the store you will be passing allows RV’s to stay.
In the south, stealth camping will get you a trespassing charge. Any and all land whether posted or not are considered private according to state law. Don’t do it.
In the south of what? What country are you talking about?
In the Southern United States. No “Posted No Trespassing” signs are necessary in many states down south as most of the land is privately owned.
Can someone just invent a tent that looks like a giant, rock boulder! I have toured the perimeter of the United States, and here are my thoughts.
Be able to stealth camp in any circumstance. I am not saying be risky, but adaptable. I would test my skills sometimes. Avoid rich neighborhoods. Dogs are super important. If you hear a dog, don’t camp. Think like a cop. If you were a cop, where would you look for stealth campers? Avoid drunken homeless types. This will eliminate some areas like Walmarts, but not all the time.
Get to a point where you don’t plan a spot, and be able to find a spot at dusk. Avoid public parks, schools, private property…cemeteries are great. Churches without daycare can be a good backup. I have learned to sleep by trains, so train track areas are good. Having an alarm clock makes the most difficult place possible.
Know how to setup and break down camp in the dark, pouring rain, and with swarms of insects. Mosquitoes cannot bite you if you wear a jacket and pants, even in hot conditions until your tent is set up. Perhaps cooking food an hour before dusk, and then look for a camp spot. And again, avoid rich people areas. Google map bike paths, and you can usually duck into the trees by a long bike path. Dog walkers will be a threat here, but I have not had a problem.
Darren, I am just curious but it might make a very interesting chapter in your series of articles. It has been my limited experience to have never had a problem camping overnight. I was asked once to move – That is the extent of my problems. I am just curious if the sentiments expressed for all this caution & warnings is in part due to the paranoia that seems so prevalent in Americans. (Sorry, not meaning to offend but this is my experience with a majority I have met.)An article from readers relaying their run ins with Police, property owners, drunken hooligans etc. would give us an entertaining but also real world exposure to problems encountered wild camping.
I think you are partially correct Glen – about the American thing, I mean. But only partially.
I think things vary depending on where you are planning to “wild camp” in the world… and to which extent you wish to take your “wild camping” endeavors. What “wild camping” might mean to you, might be very different to me – based on where I’m traveling in the world and what my goals are for the wild camp that night.
For example, I might be camping in a part of the world where camping is not necessarily common and probably not punishable in any kind of way, but that doesn’t prevent me from trying to camp in an area I won’t be discovered. True… if I were discovered, it might not be a big deal. But avoiding troubles with the law or local land owners is not my goal when I wild camp most of the time. I wild camp to have a secluded area to myself. I just want to get away from other people and not be bothered. So I go to extra lengths to ensure I have a quiet, peaceful night.
I think it is something that varies from person to person. I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to say that Americans are paranoid or something like that. It’s just that the situation varies from person to person, place to place, depending on what your goals are, etc. Does that make sense?
Glenn, I have been homeless in America for about 2 years now. By choice. Everything I own is carried on my bike. It is illegal to be homeless in America. Homeless shelters are rotten to the core. Churches do not share their land with the homeless. A police officer told me “it is not legal to be homeless, and it is not legal to be homeless.” I am not offended by your comment, but challenge you to be homeless for a long period of time in America. Consider Norway, Sweden, or Finland for example. Humans have a right to sleep for free in the woods. I would not have to stealth camp in those countries. I would simply camp. I believe I have that same right in America. My final point would be this. Of all the experiences a person has stealth camping, how many are technically legal? This is why a good stealth camper has no problems. They must get to a point where they accept the terms, and adapt without paranoia.
I think that is a good explanation Darren & my statement of course was not meant to imply all Americans are Paranoid. We sure seem to be living in an oppressive society though where enough individuals can make you wonder what they are so uptight about. Your approach of course reduces the chance of running into those characters that just might have a problem with our freedom to travel & enjoy life. Maybe I have been lucky so far.
I don’t know that we are more paranoid, however we could be considered that way as a whole I guess. I think a lot of that comes from the very litigious society we live in today. I don’t know about overseas but here, we have a strong legal industry. By that I mean we have attorneys that love love love to bring lawsuits. Many property owners, myself included, have had problems with folks trespassing onto someone elses property, getting “hurt”, and then attempting to recover money from the property owner for the “injury”….even if you win your lawsuit, you are still out for court costs, attorneys fees, etc..it’s just easier to have a ruloe of evicting trespassers.
Hi Pete. You said, “I don’t know about overseas but here, we have a strong legal industry.”
Where exactly is “here?” I don’t think you said where in the world you are talking about.
Fortunately Americans are still one of the most giving & generous people in the world. It’s a shame some people take advantage of that quality.
In Virginia, and I think most US states, it is not necessarily illegal to trespass. Trespass simply means being on someone else’ private land. If you are notified in some way that the landowner doesn’t want you on their land – adequate signage, or being told directly – then remaining on the land could be illegal. But there’s no need to feel guilty about stealth camping on unmarked private land.
And you would be wrong. Doing research a few years ago only one state in the union allowed it. I’ve looked but can’t find my original notes.
Stealth Camping Laws in the United States vary greatly by state. The laws can even vary at a more local level. Click the state below to see the information we have on your state. You should also try and find laws pertaining to your county or township.
The reason most stealth camping goes back to the Revolution and the King owning the all land and doing as he pleases with it. This was one reason for private land ownership. This is also why we have large tracts of land set aside for camping.
Another reason about the ills of stealth camping is illegal activity. Many pot growers and meth labs use booby traps to protect themselves and their illegal operations. These traps are usually lethal. Years ago when I grew up as a dairy farmer back in the 70’s, the agricultural coap warned all farmers in the state of this activity. There were several incidents with these traps. Every farmer at that time went on their property armed-another reason not to stealth camp. Yeah I know, shooting at someone is illegal as is murder . But is your life worth stealth camping?
I don’t understand why hammocks aren’t mentioned more often! They are light, easy to set up and take down, keep you off the ground and dry, plus away from various critters. They’re comfortable as comfortable on a comfortable day in comfortable town. And if you can’t find a couple of trees, then use it as a bivvy-bag. DD Hammocks, for example, do a range for every location and terrain. Hammock + tarp = perfection.
Thank you! Very good tips! 🙂
Where are those photos with the big glaciers taken, #3 and #10, and how do I get there by bicycle?
Great article! Many tips and sharing with great pictures! Yeah the most important enjoy wild camping and respect the nature and people. Thanks for writting this man!
I’ve taken to hammock camping. Which means I can camp on a steep slope, in a swamp or very uneven ground.
You’ve got a lot of anger in you Tom. 🙁
What is your problem? Why are you so upset? Calm down.
Wild camping or stealth camping a really vital part of cycle touring! Thanks inviting people to try this out!
I stealth camp when hiking thru an area, which means trails and many many trees. I camp with a hammock and tarp. Easy set up and tare down. Very stealthy.
Thanks a lot for posting. Great in detail.
Or you can go to sweden and camp, and not be stealthy about it. Here you have the right to camp anywhere (privately owned forest or not), as long as its no to close to someones home, a military installation or in a cultivated field (and your only allowed to stay 1-2 nights in the same place, but you could then move 50m and camp there). Your even allowed to build a fire, and pick berries and mushrooms. Building a fire is now always allowed, depends on the weather, if its to dry. But you’re always allowed to use a small propane stove.
I apologize if this has already been said but I didn’t see it. If you do need to use a light when it’s getting dark or already is dark use a red light. Red light doesn’t travel as far and is harder to see from far away. Still try to use it minimally and have it as dim as possible. There are flashlights you can buy with a red light setting.
Some of the best places i found for stealth camping in the U.K. were Roundabouts, that have plenty of trees and foliage for concealement especially in the summer months.
While stealth camping is wonderful, I enjoy interacting with the locals as I travel through an area. In over 700 nights of camping, I can still count on one hand the number of times I have been denied permission to camp. Often the request to camp has been answered with an invitation to come in for a cup of tea or a beer. Sometimes a bed is offered.
I don’t quite get the point of stealth camping. Just camp in the forest or at the beach. No one can tell you anything. Maybe some places cut all the trees and/or sold all their public land off. But that’s pretty crazy to me; I feel sad for the people who live there.
Sometimes you don’t have a beach or forest available. If you’ve ridden all day and it’s gonna get dark, you need to find a safe place to stay. This is the reason for stealth camping.
Avoid gorse in areas where gorse burning is prevalent. Though it provides great cover, and gorse burning is often illegal, farmers often ignore the law as it is so hard for the authorities to prove who set a fire. You are far better off in such area to ask a local farmer if they know of a good place to put up a tent for the night – don’t ever say “camp” as it will put them off – they think you will want to stay longer. Same way explain you are “on holiday”, not “travelling”. Make sure they know you are on your own and not part of a group. Anti-Traveller laws impact on our trips and country people can often be suspicious of people if they think you might be a Traveller.
a number of years ago when traveling across America I would sleep on top of haystacks and just lean my bike on the haystack side away from the road. I never had a problem with it. As an added plus, my sleeping bag always smelled like fresh hay 🙂
The ‘best’ camping spot we ever found was in a commercial forestry area in Australia and about 200m from an access track. A guy in an RV thought it might be a good spot too and walked straight toward us armed with his toilet roll. Poor guy nearly stepped on me and must have been the only person in a 10 mile radius. Knew a Kiwi who stealth camped in Paris by jumping walls into posh gardens; he would kip until ejected by the consierge the next day.
Once when driving (not biking, but still…) I was exhausted and decided to sleep with no tent but sleeping bag on a college campus. In the morning campus security found us. They were very cool about when we told them we did not want to end up in a ditch. Oh no wild animals but the automated sprinklers did wake us up.
Thank you for all the suggestions, Darren, and for the helpful comments from others (except the crazy angry rancher guy who wants to run us over). Just completed a bicycle tour in the Lofoten Islands in Norway and they also have a law that you can camp anywhere (public or private land) as long as it’s 150 meters from a building or cultivated land. Unlike (some of) the States, camping was easy, pleasant and safe and drivers were courteous and passed carefully for the most part. Just have to deal with the tunnels and bridges! My suggestion: always clean up after yourself and pack out your trash including toilet paper as I’ve seen way too much used toilet paper across Norway, Iceland and the States (not just from bicycle tourists). Another tip for stealth camping and for bikepacking is to camp under Blue Spruce trees as they keep tent condensation down and are supposed to create a bit more heat. I have yet to use that advice, but heard it from a bike packer on the Colorado Trail. Thank you.
These tips and replies finally answered some of my questions about bike touring.
I am in the USA, Pacific NW, and have been thinking of a bike road trip for a while (I rode to work for about 10 years, so did not feel like riding for fun or adventure on vacation).
I’ve always wondered where to sleep, knowing $60 – $200 a night for a hotel would be prohibitively expensive, and be a bit lame. Also campgrounds would be awful, especially if traveling
alone: 20 feet away in the site next door families with young kids staring at the lone “homeless man”, or obnoxious college kids partying…
I have traveled extensively in the USA and other countries. The USA has become a very dangerous place in large areas; a lot of crowded, angry, poverty, and wealthier people becoming less tolerant to the sights and smells of all this poverty.
It is only going to get much, much worse – crowded and poor.
An unshowered, unshaven cyclist on a road trip, looks about equivalent to a homeless man; many of them are now seen on bicycles with their belongings strapped on in various manner. So those of us only on holiday may be less welcome than in the past.
I hear you, really. Each one of us cyclists is an ambassador to this form of recreation and travel / commuting, we should be very considerate to non-cyclists: drivers and hikers. Unfortunately, roads were made for cars – literally, the auto company executives pushed for the US highway system as a way to sell more cars. So very little provision, safety for cycling; too bad because it is a great way to travel. I can understand the irritation that non-cyclists have toward us, about the elitism some of us project. We should always at least slow down a lot when coming to a stop sign, just to show an attempt to obey rules, and wave friendly if we do annoy anyone.
Please understand, when you are cycling, many times you physically feel so good, you tend to think everyone else feels good. The good feeling makes you friendly, so you see all others as good friends. We forget how awful life can be at times, how awful one can feel: health problems (sorry about your eye), marital problems, economic anxiety, higher taxes, lower wages…this is unfair, that is unfair, politicians etc… and then…”some danged fool is pedaling in the middle of my road!”
But really, I’d say most road cyclists that one will see, are among society’s most respectful, polite members; compare to snowmobilers and motorcross in screamin’ machines (the 2-stroke ban never took place), big truck 4x4s tearin’ up the mud and shootin’ stuff, or just good old fashioned drunk college brats… Compared to some, we are pretty tame. And Tom, we’d love to bring you along on a ride.
Don’t forget to remove that giant (MSR) advertising logo from your tent!
Cool and humorous article, thanks for sharing.
Such an inspiring article. Thanks for sharing this post.
Once “emergency camped” in rural cemetery (all hotels full) in central Florida. No moonlight. Midnight to 5:30 AM. (Broke camp before daybreak.) Lots of fun and safe. No one looking for you there.
I camp in cemeteries. The neighbours are very quiet!
Stealth means unseen, unheard, unsmelled. No fire, no cooking, no smoking, cold rations. No music, firing guns, banging, loud talking, flashlight. Natural colors only, no unnatural shapes such as bikes, tents, they should be concealed. If you can’t do without your coffee and smokes, go camping by all means, you’re just not stealth camping. Leave no trace. In stealth camping, invisibility and not being detected is your objective, your presence is unknown. Challenge nature and other humans. Be well.
I tried stealth camping on a bicycle trip from Florida to Minnesota. My issue that I ran into was that I was a newbie and learned a lot by trial by fire. One big issue that I had was water. I was biking during a heat wave in August, not the best time. I wanted to camp off the road a couple times but I was running low on water and needed to keep hydrated so I went to the nearest hotel which was 20 miles away. Do you have any suggestions or good resources to better plan for finding sources of water? (Smart phone were just starting out so I didn’t have one at the time and road maps weren’t too helpful)
Don’t camp on shorelines in your tent: streams, lakes, rivers, oceans… Who wants to go to some shoreline and see tents? Pull back. Check out Ray Jardines books on stealth long-distance hiking… Very low-impact. Great Stuff. Master Chang says, “Soft.” Great stealth advice I think.
Sleep on your left or right side, keeps you from snorring when verry tired ( at least I do snorr then,,)
I read a blog about a lady who was biking cross country then up to Alaska. She thought cemeteries were the best place to sleep. Claimed she was never bothered.
I have had to stealth camp a couple times out of necessity, but I always feel uneasy about it. I guess it’s the unknown that makes me nervous. Most of the time if you tell people what you are doing they are ok with it as they would rather you be safe than run you off and put you in danger. People are generally good.
“Stealth camping” is sleeping in a location that is not a designated campsite, in secret. Other names for the practice include “wild camping”, “guerrilla camping”, “ninja camping”, “free camping”, or “dispersed camping”. As the name implies, when you stealth camp you do so quietly, in a secluded and protected location.
Never tried stealth camping before but like the adventure of it . Would be fun to camp next to other but know they cant see you . ever been shot at for trespassing
No. You shouldn’t be shot at… because no one is supposed to ever see you camping if you do it right. And… you probably shouldn’t camp in a place if you think you might be shot if you are discovered camping there. Only camp in safe places! Stealth camping doesn’t have to be illegal. It is perfectly legal in many parts of the world.
Thanks for these tips! I really love camping and stealth camping is very interesting to do to make camping more adventurous. Blend with nature and feel the wilderness!
Great list! I’ve always wondered if it was better to carry a tent, or a few ponchos to use as a tarp next to a tree. As it has a smaller silhouette and easier to take down quickly. It probably depends on how long your trip is but it’s difficult to say with all the factors that weight in.
I am new to “stealth camping” but I’m intrigued. My husband has done it a few times; I”m learning.
Thanks for the tips & Safe travels!
Great advice – Thanks. My partner & I rode from Istanbul to Luxor. Somehow we worked out the up hill of the road camping trick in Turkey, a few hammock nights up high wincing bikes up in the MIlli Parks. Don’t sleep in abandoned huts on jettys – We woke to being loaded onto a boat bound for Crete! – had to sneak off the boat with our bikes – pretended we had every right to do so. Syria was more difficult as there were lots of areas with land mines off the road but locals always took us home before we could even look for a camp site. Egypt was ok but halfway up the NIle, a number of tourist busses were getting shot at so we took the train. Once at Luxor, we (as artists) were adopted by local artists & slept on their roofs. Each village round that area had a welcoming party & roofs to sleep on. We took lots of local kids on sketching trips & my partner took their mothers & older sisters. In Vietnam outside the main cities, my partner was always captured by the local girls & we always had a floor to sleep on. You do have to look out for land mines still though.
Thank you for the useful tips! I’m an avid stealth camper, I’ll be taking my kids this time for camping in woods. Hopefully, it’ll be a fun experience for them and a stress free experience for me.
How sad that Americans have to hide and act is if you were a fleeing criminal, just to enjoy nature and pitch a tent. In Norway/Sweden we are by law, with very few exceptions, allowed to put up a couple of tents over the night, also on private property.
I was doing some research on “scamping” and came across this article. Great article, and great comments. I thought I would recommend a trail, the Katy Trail in Missouri, and share a “stealth camping ” experience, if you can call it that. My wife and I rode this trail 4 years ago in July. We parked at Amtrak Kirkwood and took the train to Sedalia. Tickets are only $5 extra per bike, and $5/day to park the vehicle at the station. Cheap! We got a hotel in Sedalia and started on the KT the next morning. What a beautiful ride! I wish Amtrak went all the way to the west end of the trail. I mapped out a 50ish mile per day route. The first afternoon I realized that once we had reached Rocheport for dinner, we would have to travel back west quite a ways to hit the campsite I had planned on. I really didn’t want to do this, and the next option was quite a ways down the trail. I asked the waitress at the local restaurant we were eating at if she knew of a place we could pitch a tent. She said she wasn’t familiar with the area, but I could ask the restaurant owner. He came over to our table and said, “Are you just looking for a place to pitch a tent?” I responded yes. He said, “Come outside with me.” We walked to the corner and he said, “You see that house two blocks down on the right? I own that house, and I’m remodeling it. No one lives there at the moment. The property stretches out for quite a ways back to the creek. You’re more than welcome to just pitch your tent back there somewhere. No one will bother you.” I was nearly speechless. We thanked him profusely, and did exactly that. Other than relentless mosquitos while setting up the tent (rain gear works great for this!), the place was perfect. It warms my heart to meet people like this. It sounds like several of you have had a similar experience. Anyone traveling central Illinois (near Peoria), you’re welcome to camp on our property. Pay it forward!
As for the Katy Trail, night two was at the Katy Trail Shelter in Tebbetts. Amazing place at only $5/person, with hot showers. Night three was at a local ball park (Community Club Park) in Marthasville. Again, $5/person, with hot showers. Day four we rode back to the Amtrak station in Kirkwood, loaded, and headed home. This has been one of our best bike trips so far, and intend to repeat it in the future.
I intend to ride the Grand Illinois Trail this summer (500+ miles). Much of the overnight stays will alternate between official campgrounds along the trail and an occasional hotel/motel for a shower and laundry (especially in the Chicago area). The last overnight will be after an 82 mile ride from Joliet to Bureau Junction. I can’t find anything in Bureau Junction for an overnight. I’m thinking time to stealth camp. If anyone has ridden this, and has any suggestions about Bureau Junction, I’d appreciate the feedback. Cycle on!
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