Stealth camping: It’s about respect (5 tips)

Stealthing under a shelter

Stealth site under a shelter

There are times when you’re traveling you don’t make it as far as you needed (or perhaps you made it farther), and you become stranded with nowhere to sleep and you begin to feel uneasy. There is always a safe place to sleep if you do it properly.

Stealth camping – Stealth camping is when you sleep in an unorthodox location. It could be in a deep ditch, behind a rock, in the woods, or… well… you get the point. These ideal stealth camps are found most everywhere, but there are things to know before you throw yourself and your bike into a ditch to sleep… here are 5 tips to help you successfully stealth camp.

1. Don’t trespass on private property – ask permission from the owner

You do not want surprises in the middle of the night when trespassing on property… I don’t just mean a pissed off landowner; I’ve read a blog about someone who got kicked out of their camping spot because a herd of sheep came to gnaw on their gear (and them).

2. Don’t eat / cook in stealth camps

Normally you would know if you’re going to have trouble down the road finding a place to sleep, and you should eat your last meal of the day away from your camp. Eating in a stealth camp (even a great one) can attracted unwanted company throughout the night and longer. Who knows, someone else might want to use the area for their own stealth camping in the near future… the last thing they want is to set their tent up on your spilled oatmeal or your camp dish suds.

3. “Leave no trace” (i.e. be respectful)

This goes for all camping spots (even paid spots). “Leave no trace” means what you bring in you must take out. It should look like it did when you arrived there. If it’s obvious you’ve been there you may ruin the spot for future travelers who might need to use it. Don’t act homeless, act like a traveler.

3. Be invisible

If you’re going to be camping in places which have a higher risk of being seen it’s best to reduce your beauty rest to the darkest hours of the night. Ideally, you should not be able to see the road or any cars driving by. If you can see them, they can see you. It’s important to know there are many reflective patches and strips on traveling gear and tents so just because it’s dark around you doesn’t mean you won’t shine when a car passes.

5. If you’re caught

Explain your situation. Honesty is rewarding. Sometimes the person (possibly a police officer) would allow you to sleep there, help find a different place for you nearby, or let you stay in his yard. I’ve never had a police man kick me out of a spot, but I have had one check on me in the morning to make sure I was fine through the night.

Please note: I do not promote illegal activity. Stealth camp at your own risk and realize it is illegal in places. I’ve put together these guidelines so people are safer when stranded between destinations in the dark.

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6 responses to “Stealth camping: It’s about respect (5 tips)

  1. Stealth camping is amazing! I have found it much more enjoyable than the effort of deviating/finding a camp spot. It simply allows you to stop where you drop and stay on your route. I have camped in some amazing places rough camping and find it more natural. It is definitely a bit nerve-racking the first few times but once yo build up confidence you start spotting potential spots everywhere. I definitely promote it -although it is good to check the laws of the country you are in. It is illegal in Italy however I have never had any trouble only smiles camping rough there and in other places.

    • It is amazing. It’s such a great way to reduce the cost of touring. There were a few times I would be stealth camping on some pretty bad slopes along the Cassiar HWY in Canada; it was fun sliding to the foot of my tent with my in-tent gear… haha. It really brings an even more amazing experience to touring. I would promote it on my blog, but I don’t want to be responsible for someone out there who isn’t respectful to their camp, is caught, and points towards me.

      • And with that being said… I always point other cyclists to good areas when they are traveling in an opposite direction of me…… I edited the entry to say “I do not promote illegal activity”, because I do promote respectful stealth camping.

      • It’s the best experience! Allows you to immerse yourself in a trip and is much more hardcore as well. I’ve not heard many bad stories wild camping, I think being on a bike gives off a good image of well-being and not causing harm. I have woke one morning when we were camping outside a hydro power station and there was a man there who had come to check what we were doing but it was all smiles and he wished us good luck on our trip. Cycling simply spreads happiness 🙂

  2. Great tips! I remember when I toured around Lake Superior 30 years ago in September, most of the parks were already closed for the summer and I had to resort to stealth camping. I was reminded of that trip when I read your last post. It was unfortunately the part about sleeping under bridges, not the part about getting cheered on by young ladies!

    • Haha. I don’t have anything against sleeping under bridges. I was about to one night, but a passing car stopped and the guy invited me to pitch my tent outside his ice cream shop.

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