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Thread: Stealth Camping

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    Reading Rocks!!! david.l.k's Avatar
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    Stealth Camping

    I have Beyond Backpacking by Ray Jardine. This book is chock full if info, but what most apeals to me is the concept of stealth camping. When one "stealth camps" you intentionally avoid established sites, with their compacted ground, marauding animals aclimated to human presence, garbage, dust, soot, etc. You do not cook at a stealth site so you won't attract animals. The system of movment involving stealth sites goes a little something like this. Wake up break camp at first light and start moving, when you find a nice place to cook stop and have breakfast, keep going at an easy pace stopping for breaks when wanted. In the late afternoon, stop for dinner by a water source, wash your clothes, you, your dishes, etc before filling up on the water you will need for the evening/night and the following morning before carrying on till near dark, at this point find a stealth site, set up your shelter and go to sleep.
    I was curious if anyone has applied a similar technique to cycle touring. Note that this system works best if you snack a lot. I use the NOLS bulk packing system which incorporates a large amount of snacks (no lunch just breakfast dinner and trail food).
    Also I'm getting a hennesey hammock soon which I would think would make the system work even better, no need to find a flat or clear space, just 2 tree's the right distance apart. This system apeals to me because it makes the most of day light allowing you to put in a lot of moving time, and not have to muck about in camp at night, just set up shelter (or hammock) and go to sleep.

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    Senior Member stokell's Avatar
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    How did this post escape my eyes for so long?

    I must have been on tour. Anyway, yes stealth camping while touring is much like you say. I find that I do snack a lot and have a large breakfast and lunch and a smaller supper. I find it makes for a more restful night.

    I simply can't imagine stealth camping without a hammock and the Hennessy does a fine job in warm weather. I hate to promote my tour diaries, but there is info on the site on how to extend seasons to the shoulders with your Hennessy.

    Have you been out yet?

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    SisuMess
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    i've 'stealth camped' probably close to 300 nights! it is a nice experience if you leave no trace...prepare to be caught and booted eventually though...as for food..i eat when i'm hungry.
    that is an excellent book. it was one of my main sources for my LD hikes. i was superlite weight and became obsessed with it.

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    Senior Member bronskcloosper's Avatar
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    where do you stealth camp? just anywhere?

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    SisuMess
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    anywhere....hopefully just out of view, close to where you begin your next day, and near a water source is a plus

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    Walmart bike rider gpsblake's Avatar
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    Stealth camped every single day I have ever toured. I always honor NO TRESPASSING signs and any fence. I would avoid stealth camping near schools, prisons, and the Mexico border. Listen for dogs, if you can hear them fairly close, move on. Secure your food from critters like Racoons and mice. If your tent is big enough to get on your knees, bring in a pee jar, it will save you from fumbling around outside your tent in the dark. Lay your bike down or cover it up so the reflectors don't shine back to the road. And from what I have heard, if you are caught stealth camping along the Blue Ridge Parkway, they will almost treat you like a criminal.

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    Just another one of those things people have always done that now has a catchy name, T-shirts, and multiple websites.

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    I have stealth camped here in the west, but some areas are totally fenced and posted no trespassing by ranchers for cattle grazing - pisses me off since it is frequently BLM land. Dam cattle and their piles are everywhere out here. Be careful washing dishes near a water source - not a good idea, make sure to dispose of any waste in a hole a good distance away from the stream or lake. By the same token, make sure you filter all water except possibly in very high alpine conditions.
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    Senior Member Alex L's Avatar
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    Probably we all have a different motivation to stealth camping. Somebody use one as a spare version to spend the night if it is difficult to find a public campground or a hotel, others simply like to do it.

    I feel freedom when I just ride my bike and my tent is with me, without any worry about where I will spend the next night. We are so often restricted in our routine urban life by various stressful duties that we need sometimes just to cast all of them with all this “comfort life” away, for a while. I think the wild camping is the best way to do it.

    My parents have a small summer house in the suburb of Moscow, but sometimes I like to spend a summer weekend night after cycling in a wild forest in my tent.

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    In Memory of One Cool Cat Blackberry's Avatar
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    I mixed stealth camping with traditional camping and youth hostels on a 5,000-mile European tour a number of years ago. I found that in Greece and Italy, local farmers didn't want us to camp--They invited us to stay at their homes with them! In more affluent areas, people weren't quite so friendly, but one could often camp in relatively plain sight--on soccer fields, in parks, etc. The important thing was to use common sense, leave a small "footprint" and to be open to goodness.

    I do recall in Ireland, that I would buy a loaf of their wonderful soda bread sometime in the morning, and keep hacking away at it to get me through the day.
    Dead last finish is better than did not finish and infinitely better than did not start.

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    Dead Men Assume...
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    Some interesting locations I've "stealth" camped have been:

    A. In the ruins of Shobak castle.
    B. Wadi Rum where T.E. Lawrence once roamed.
    C. On the roof of an abandoned post office at the bottom of a huge wadi.
    D. In front of a Turkish gas station. (hey, they insisted!)

    I've never stealth camped in North America.

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    I avoid stealth camping in urban, higher crime, areas..... Around Seattle isn't a good choice. Out in the sticks, however, it's a good option. I wouldn't plan on doing it every night of a tour, however. Unless that tour was in a really unpopulated area.

    Try asking permission if possible. You won't be turned down much and it is the right thing to do. Plus, you'll meet lots of nice folks. Be perpared to pay something to camp. Most bike paths, like the Katie Trail, are lined with small businesses that cater to bike tourists. Depending on the prices, I'd try to stay at local *offical* campground and add so money to local economy. Stealth camping can make the local population angery at you becuase they have went to the trouble of setting up a nice camping area for you and what you to stay there (and pay $ to do so).

    It's the same in Europe. You can get into trouble with the police if you don't use common sense.

    When you bike tour, you are a guest of the locals. Try to fallow local rules and customs.

    I road across Montana once, camping under local access underpasses under the freeway. Didn't even need a tent. But that was a in a super low population area were people are believe in doing whatever the hell they want. Eugene Oregon is a different story

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    Senior Member stokell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tacomee
    I avoid stealth camping in urban, higher crime, areas.

    Try asking permission if possible. You won't be turned down much and it is the right thing to do. Plus, you'll meet lots of nice folks. Be perpared to pay something to camp. Most bike paths, like the Katie Trail, are lined with small businesses that cater to bike tourists. Depending on the prices, I'd try to stay at local *offical* campground and add so money to local economy. Stealth camping can make the local population angery at you becuase they have went to the trouble of setting up a nice camping area for you and what you to stay there (and pay $ to do so).

    It's the same in Europe. You can get into trouble with the police if you don't use common sense.

    When you bike tour, you are a guest of the locals. Try to fallow local rules and customs.

    I road across Montana once, camping under local access underpasses under the freeway. Didn't even need a tent. But that was a in a super low population area were people are believe in doing whatever the hell they want. Eugene Oregon is a different story
    Let's just define stealth camping here. Stealth camping is camping secretly in a remote area, away from buildings on un-improved land that is not fenced or signed as private property. Gypsy camping is camping for free on the side of the road in full view, or with permission on someone's land. Wild camping is camping out in the open in very remote areas where there are no official campgrounds.

    Getting permission of any sort is not stealthing. If someone knows you're there it cannot be stealth camping. If you get caught you are not stealth camping.

    I agree campsites are always the best choice. The problem I find is they are often inconvenient to get to, full of Winnebagos and often with no trees. I use a hammock and recently I was turned away from a campsite because I was told I could not camp in the forest. I must be on a tree-less campsite.
    Last edited by stokell; 05-28-06 at 03:54 PM.

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    You need a new bike supcom's Avatar
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    Ken Kifer was a huge proponent of stealth camping and much on the subject can be found on his website: www.kenkifer.com

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    Stealth camping is often more practical in the city. There can be lots of land that is not apparently claimed, river valleys. areas around bridges, golf courses. Certainly the land between cities can be a piece of cake for the stealth camper, but It can also be never ending private property with a lot of eyes.

    Camp grounds suck. Interesting to hear the hammock gets turned down, that was being broadly dennied last year.

    I've never done it, but a lot of camp grounds are just asking to be stealth camped next to, while you saunter in and use the facilities. The camp sites often suck, but the showers are sometimes better than home. The local utility has been handing out waterless showerheads, while the local park has these plater sized shower heads.

    I'm guessing Che blew the stealth camping definition towards the end there.

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    never did "stealth" camping until last tour 2004. introduced, and educated, by an 33 year experienced tourer of this concept. we set camp under community gyms, in school yards, stadiums, and in baseball dug-outs. i could not get the social "courage" to "California Shower" but will work on this concept (with larger towel) on future tours.
    this type of camping is good for small groups (2 or 3 max), or solo.
    personally, i prefer taking a shower at the camp site (where my tent is set) at the end of the day with a place to make dinner (and breakfast the next AM) but agree that once in a while "stealth" needs to be done!

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    My general rule about bike touring in general is not to do any harm to the place were I'm visiting. I really try to fallow local rules and customs because I see myself as an ambassador for cycling.

    Camping on private property without permission is generally frowned on.

    So I always ask. I would like people to ask if it was my land. Yes, I've been turned down, but most of the time, I either get a yes or directions to another, more socially acceptable, campsite. Remember, that as a tourist, you're a guest.

    I guess I don't constantly stealth camp because I understand that although it can be done most of the time, it wouldn't be option if EVERY biker and hiker did it every night.

    This doesn't mean I still don't ride well into dusk and set up camp in some forgotten corner and ride out with the sunrise. I just pick my spots. It's maybe easier to stop for a beer at some local roadhouse and learn that the *unoffical* camping spot for the locals is on the river just down the road. Or pay some dirt farmer $12 to camp at some little campsite he's set up because farming isn't a great way to make a living anymore.

    Too many cyclists miss out meeting the locals-- buying food at Safeways and stealth camping isn't a good way to make new friends.

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    Senior Member stokell's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tacomee
    Camping on private property without permission is generally frowned on.

    Too many cyclists miss out meeting the locals-- buying food at Safeways and stealth camping isn't a good way to make new friends.
    I'm not sure where you are coming from, but where I live much of the land is owned by the 'crown'. I'm not sure Queen Elizabeth needs to be contacted for permission each time I camp on her land. As for other land , if someone goes to the trouble to inform me that I am on private property by fencing or posting a sign, I will honour it.

    As to the latter comment; I tour and stealth camp for the solitude. I follow Leave No Trace principles, so I ask is my footprint big enough to shop at Safeway or make new friends?

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    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    Stealth camping sounds so adventuresome, so green, so cheap, but in the USA it is almost always trespassing. And... if everyone did it, there would be havoc reeked on the country side. To avoid this, someone should invent something to remedy this, let's call it a campground where you could camp and it would be legal, and for a fee, you would get a shower, water source, tent site, a place to meet others with the same interests, it would be fun.

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    Quote Originally Posted by gregw
    Stealth camping sounds so adventuresome, so green, so cheap, but in the USA it is almost always trespassing. And... if everyone did it, there would be havoc reeked on the country side. To avoid this, someone should invent something to remedy this, let's call it a campground where you could camp and it would be legal, and for a fee, you would get a shower, water source, tent site, a place to meet others with the same interests, it would be fun.
    california had a great idea (if not still in effect). they have (had) "hiker/biker" sites that a hiker or bicycle tourist could camp for $ 2.00. this was back in 1982. local state (nj) camp sites here are $20.00 a night, no verbal "thought" applied for hiker/biker allowance. "stealth" may be another way to go on extended tours!

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    Thighmaster
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    Would there be havoc? If everybody stealth camped, would anybody even know?

    Stealth camping is very close to the ideal ethic of camping. "Leave nothing but footprints". If such ethics were more widespread, would No Trespassing signs be as common?

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    Banned Bikepacker67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregw
    Stealth camping sounds so adventuresome, so green, so cheap, but in the USA it is almost always trespassing.
    If it ain't posted, it ain't trespassing.

    Stop being such a square... half the fun of biketouring is being OUTSIDE the mainstream touron mentality.

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    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bikepacker67
    If it ain't posted, it ain't trespassing.

    Stop being such a square... half the fun of biketouring is being OUTSIDE the mainstream touron mentality.
    Tell that to the farmer with the shotgun or the local law enforcement.

    I tour for the pure pleasure and relaxation, for me personally, hoping not to get caught at something I know is illegal, is neither pleasure or relaxing.

    I like campgrounds and the jumbo RV folks who populate them, give them a chance, they are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. Just because their mode of travel isn't a bike and a tent, doesn't mean they are not out to see all the same things you are, just in their own way, be open minded. Hiding in the woods, trying not to get caught, for me is not fun.

  24. #24
    Older I get, Better I was velonomad's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gregw
    Tell that to the farmer with the shotgun or the local law enforcement.

    I tour for the pure pleasure and relaxation, for me personally, hoping not to get caught at something I know is illegal, is neither pleasure or relaxing.

    I like campgrounds and the jumbo RV folks who populate them, give them a chance, they are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. Just because their mode of travel isn't a bike and a tent, doesn't mean they are not out to see all the same things you are, just in their own way, be open minded. Hiding in the woods, trying not to get caught, for me is not fun.

    +1

    If someone knocks on my door and wants to camp in my yard. I will help them pitch thier tent and feed them supper.( a few people here have camped in my yard) But if I caught you stealth camping in my woods I may not call the sheriff but you will certainly be leaving!.

    As for camping in the parks with the big RV's I have had some great times with the RV'ers most of them are retired so it is like having your grandparents around. I have had RV'ers I met in campgrounds the night before come looking for me on the road the next day to fix me lunch.

    I have toured a lot and I have never had or wanted to steath camp. There is a lot of good people in the world that will let you stay on thier land if you just ask

    When you make your list of things to bring on your tour, put social skills near the top.

  25. #25
    Senior Member gregw's Avatar
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    "When you make your list of things to bring on your tour, put social skills near the top."

    I like that one!!

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