For the vast majority of campers around the world, stealth camping is something unavoidable because eventually, everyone will get into a situation when you’ll have to sleep somewhere outside an official campsite. In this article, we’ll go through all the needed stealth camping information every stealth camper has to know to stay safe and continue their journey without a problem.
What Is Stealth Camping?
Stealth camping, simply described, is stopping for a sleep somewhere where you shouldn’t do it. Most of the time, locations used for these purposes are neighborhoods, different parking lots like hotels, hospitals or medical centers, restaurants… This term can be used for basically any type of unintended sleepover. It can be done in a vehicle or on foot.
Is Stealth Camping Legal?
Most of the time, stealth camping is completely legal if you respect local rules. However, this is not the case for every location and the rules can differ from place to place. Also, stealth camping laws can be divided into two groups:
-Criminal laws are used when someone ends up trespassing a forbidden area or stealth camp somewhere it’s not allowed.
-Civil trespassing laws are used when someone stealth camps on private property and causes some damage.
Stealth Camping Tips And Suggestions
Here are some of the most important tips, tricks, and suggestions for every stealth camper:
Learn The Laws And Rules
If you’ve made a plan and you know your stops before your journey begins, make sure to learn all the information regarding local laws and regulations. If you know the name of a specific location you’d love to stealth camp at, read their rules before your trip.
However, if you haven’t planned to but find yourself in a situation where stealth camping is the only option, try to use the internet to learn all the information available.
Best Time To Arrive And Leave
The time of your arrival and your departure can seriously affect the success of your stealth camp. Like anything with the word “stealth” in it, stealth camping is best and safest when done during the dark. That’s why you should do your best to park anytime after 9 PM and take off before the clock reaches 6 AM. This way you’ll most likely avoid any unwanted attention and leave before someone decides to visit you.
Make Sure The Place Is Perfectly Clean
Do your best to keep everything as clean as possible. Most of the time attention is drawn by dirtiness. That’s why you should do what you can to wash your car as often as you can, clean the inside of your vehicle, and also make sure you and your other companions have all you need for personal hygiene. If you worry about the age of your vehicle, don’t. As long as you do your best to keep it clean and in a good shape, it won’t draw anyone’s attention and jeopardize your stealth camping by sending police to your doors.
Protect Your Privacy
Tinting your vehicle windows or installing window curtains should be next on your “to-do” list. With regular windows, it is quite easy to see what’s going on in the inside of a vehicle which makes sleeping far from pleasant. By installing one of these two you’ll significantly improve the privacy in your vehicle. However, before you do these, make sure tinted windows are allowed in the area you’ll be visiting as a stealth camper. If they are allowed, then tint your windows and enjoy sleeping without having to worry about any curious passer-by watching you sleep.
For additional privacy, use as dark-colored beggings as possible. You could also hang a sheet between front and back seats, and last but not least, use a window sunshade, place it across the front windows and you’ll be able to enjoy your stay without a problem.
Make An Escape Plan
Most of the time you won’t need it, but having an escape plan can sometimes be the most important thing about your safety. There is a few stuff you should do to make sure your escape plan will work:
-Learn how to get to your driver’s seat as soon as possible.
-Keep the key somewhere where it will be within a hand-reach.
-Place 911 on speed dial, so you can react if someone tries to break into your car.
Map The Area
If you go stealth camping somewhere you’re not familiar with, you should print out the map and learn the area so you know where to go if you have to reach a certain point. This will also make the escaping way easier.
Although a rarity, sometimes police, security, or any other authority will come and knock on a window. If it does happen to you, do your absolute best to avoid any type of conflict. Don’t explain anything, don’t find any type of excuse, but listen to their command and do what they want you to do. Most of the time the only thing they’ll ask you to do is to start your engine and move away from that place. Stay polite, do your best not to make anyone angry and you’d most often be able to go away instantly.
Don’t Stay At The Same Place For Too Long
If you stay somewhere for a few hours, nobody would mind. However, if you park your vehicle and don’t move for a longer period, you’d most likely end up drawing attention sooner rather than later. Move across the city and find a dark spot on the street, park there, and move in the morning. Constantly switching between quiet neighborhoods, hotels, restaurants, or empty building parking lots will allow you to stay in the city for as long as you need to.
Even as a stealth camper, you’ll still have to take care of your hygiene to make sure you’re healthy and clean. Public restrooms can be used for this purpose. Before you decide to stay in some area during the night, make sure you know where the nearest restroom is so you can get ready for sleeping. It is good to find someplace where you can take a shower, but if not, brushing your teeth will do the trick for a short period.
Also, a public restroom is a place where you can go to the toilet. Whatever you do, don’t do those stuff near your vehicle or you’ll most certainly gross locals out.
Try To Limit Your Water Before Bedtime
Drinking water before you hit the sacks may result in waking you up in the middle of the night with the urge to go to the bathroom. Although this is not a problem when you’re at home, it can seriously affect your stealth camping. To avoid it, limit the amount of water you consume and you’ll lower the chance of having to go out in the middle of the nighttime to pee. Another option is an emergency toilet in the shape of a bucket with a lid.
Pick Safe Areas
Before you decide to spend a night at some location, make sure that the location is safe. Some pointers you can use to determine whether that area is safe or not:
-Lots of cars parked nearby
-A calm neighborhood without much traffic
While it is obvious why you should avoid areas with a high crime rate, going to an upper-class neighborhood can end up in a cop visit because they most likely won’t approve of you being there.
Avoid Using Devices With Bright Light
Keep your devices on as low light settings as possible. Light can easily be seen on a parked vehicle during the night. If you can’t sleep and want to read or do anything on your laptop or phone, set the light setting on the lowest and cover it and yourself with a blanket – or even two, but if possible, do your best to avoid using it altogether.
Stealth Camping By Foot
Stealth camping can also be done on foot, with your tent and other camping gear.
Choose High Camping Location
Do your best to set the tent above any trails or road. This way you’ll be able to observe any possible intruders while you’ll remain hidden.
Blend With Surrounding
You’ll have to use a tent that will help you camouflage the easiest to hide away from others. The best options are green, brown, or gray tents.
Cover The Tracks
Covering your footprints or other traces will help you stay hidden from anyone. Do your best to break as few branches as possible or to limit overall nature disturbance.
Watch For Animals
One of the main dangers for any stealth camper is running into wild animals. Make sure that there are no animal traces before you set your camp up.
Try to keep your volume down. If you make noise you’ll draw attention to yourself, so staying quiet is essential.
Practice Camp Set Up And Break Down
Sometimes you’ll have to act as quickly as possible. Setting the camp up fast can bring you extra time to rest while breaking it down quickly can even save your life.
Not many things draw more attention than flashlights in the dark. You’ll limit the need for these by setting your camp up before the dark.
Leave The Campsite Clean
Make sure you’ve left the campsite in the same condition it was before your arrival. This means you should bring all your trash and remove any traces of you being there.
The Harder To Reach The Better
If you’ve had to work hard to reach a certain place, then you’d most likely be safe.
Make sure you have a first aid kit and a survival kit with you on your journey. Remember, during stealth camping, you’ll be mostly on your own and you’ll depend solely on yourself, so if anything goes south, you’ll have to solve it by yourself.
Do whatever you can to avoid getting caught. However, if not avoidable or you’re caught by surprise, always stay calm and don’t get into argument because it may only make the situation far worse. Say you’re sorry and offer to leave. Most of the time this should be enough, especially if you haven’t done anything wrong other than trespassing.
Wait Before You Set Up The Camp
Once you find a location that looks perfect, don’t set your camp instantly. Wait to see if there will be anyone passing by, watch for possible animals and their traces, try to find if there are other campers around. If you’re positive it is the best place to stay, set your campsite up and rest.
Don’t Be Shy To Ask
Although stealth camping is about staying hidden, sometimes it is best to ask someone for a recommendation. You may as anyone – from locals to local authorities about unofficial campsite suggestions. You could also ask the owner of the land you’re about to trespass can you sleep there.
Remove Anything Shiny
If you have any shiny objects, like mirrors, flashlights, etc, remove them from plain sight or cover them with something. Otherwise, you risk getting caught by someone thanks to the fact that shiny objects are easily spottable under the light of the flashlight.
Follow Regular Rules
Even in stealth camping, all the camping rules apply. This means you should keep your campsite clean and leave it in a good shape after you take off, make sure to keep your food away from your campsite, don’t camp under the trees… The only difference is the fact that, as a stealth camper, you want to stay hidden.
Learn About No-Cook Meals
You’ll have to eat something, but because you won’t be able to start a fire, check out these no-cook meals. Or learn how to build a smokeless fire. And another option is to learn how to forage.
Don’t Forget About Fun!
The main reason for camping is to have fun. Don’t forget it!
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Stealth camping is one of the most thrilling, challenging, yet rewarding outdoor activities. It can be risky and dangerous from time to time, but by following this guide it shouldn’t be as problematic as it sounds. Just relax and enjoy your time out!
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