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  1. #1
    eternalvoyage
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    Stealth camping: other strategies, and pitfalls to avoid

    Most discussions of stealth camping cover the basics well enough (Ken Kifer's site does a good job).

    There are some other points, though, that rarely get mentioned.

    Not long ago, I was stealth camping on the far side of a field. The land sloped down at the edge of the field, and then leveled out. Parts of the level area couldn't be seen from anywhere else. It seemed almost perfect.

    I did have the thought, though, just before going to sleep, that it seemed like just the sort of place that local youths might choose for making out.

    And sure enough, I was awakened (shortly after falling asleep) by some laughter and horsing around. They were just around the bend a bit, maybe forty feet away. The girl seemed to have had a few, and the guy seemed to have a lot of staying power. It was somewhat amusing at first, but then I couldn't get back to sleep. In the end, it went on for hours, and I finally gave up hoping they would leave soon. I left. They seemed a bit surprised, but continued more or less uninterrupted. I ended up with very little sleep, which doesn't help the quality of the next day.

    So, that's one thing they don't tell you about.

    Another: Sometimes pot growers find the good, hidden places too. They are also stealth-minded. It can be awkward if you are discovered near a growing area. (This has actually happened.)

    There are probably some other things to avoid as well, and some other points about stealth camping that are not always covered. If anyone else has any experiences or ideas along these lines, it would be interesting to hear more.

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    I once camped during a rainstorm in the living room of a "haunted house" on a back road, hoping that the rain would deter visitors. At midnight a couple of carloads of giggly teens arrived and entered the dark house. I sat up in my sleeping bag and said "Hi!" and they all saw their lives flash before their eyes as they screamed and tumbled out the door.

    A lot of the fun of camping -- "stealth" or otherwise -- is learning how to read and deal with the landscape. You get better at choosing sites, better at relying on fewer gadgets to stay comfortable.

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    Agreed.

    You need to think like the other people in the land. If the whole situation just opens up for you, path gently downhill, clearing, etc... assume others will respond to the same cues. If You don't want to share the land with them, try to be a little contrarian. Any fisherman or hunter whether trying to figure out the game or avoid the competition will have a feel for this kind of analysis. This also has to do with your security. If you are worried about that consider that people who might harm you are going to zone in on the places where they can meet people...

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    Walmart bike rider gpsblake's Avatar
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    It's easy enough to figure out if the land you are going to stealth on has been used by humans recently. Garbage and paths are an easy tell. I guarantee you, if it's a local place that the youths hang out, you'll find beer cans and all sorts of other crap. Move on to a better spot that show **NO TRACE** of human activity if possible.

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    Grumbly Goat Bushman's Avatar
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    silence and earth tone clothing or camo to match the flora are your friend. Limit the use of lights, or use a red filter. Better yet use a keychain red LED and shield the lens. Limit or eliminate the use of fire, use heat tabs or self heating MRE's instead. Ditch the noisy nylon covered sleeping bag and use a warm (and silent) wool blanket instead. For shelter, lay the bike down and drape a tarp (greenish or camo) over the bike and yourself.

    keep it quiet, ultralight wieght and simple.
    You ride a bike, we GET IT, no need to rant about it or look down on others....its JUST A BIKE...get over yourselves.

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    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    think hovel, hideyhole, thickets, not open spaces.

    also, over the tops of little hills away from the road. and gated fire roads. Behind brush piles on clearcuts.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

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    Senior Member tcmers's Avatar
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    Have those of you that stealth camp regularly had any experiences trying to gain permission to camp? I'm somewhat mixed on the whole stealth camping thing. I've asked and been granted camping access on many farms, church grounds, etc. over the years. Never felt the need to hide out. We have a home on several acres. At one end of our property is a nice wooded area with a pond. A perfect place to camp. If I were approached by a group of touring cyclists, I would most likely give them my ok to camp there, as well as offer up a meal and a shower. On the other hand, if I were to take a late night run with the dogs (something I do fairly often) and found people camped there without my knowledge, they would be promptly escorted from the property. I guess I'm curious more than anything. What is the motivation behind stealth camping?

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    For me at least, it's not about hiding or not asking. I've asked to camp many times, and with rare exception folks say yes and the experience is good.

    Sometimes, though -- especially if you tour without much of a script -- you wind up in a place where you'd like to camp but there's nobody around to ask. Or there are people to ask, but it's an uncomfortable place to spend the night. That's when it's valuable to be comfortable with the idea of melting into the landscape for the night.

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    Grumbly Goat Bushman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcmers View Post
    Have those of you that stealth camp regularly had any experiences trying to gain permission to camp? I'm somewhat mixed on the whole stealth camping thing. I've asked and been granted camping access on many farms, church grounds, etc. over the years. Never felt the need to hide out. We have a home on several acres. At one end of our property is a nice wooded area with a pond. A perfect place to camp. If I were approached by a group of touring cyclists, I would most likely give them my ok to camp there, as well as offer up a meal and a shower. On the other hand, if I were to take a late night run with the dogs (something I do fairly often) and found people camped there without my knowledge, they would be promptly escorted from the property. I guess I'm curious more than anything. What is the motivation behind stealth camping?
    #1 is Safety. If you have ever experienced being swarmed in a regular campsite by other campers, assualted and your gear thrown onto the fire, you'll understand why some stealth camp. Others do it to save money, and by "stealthing" no one knows they are there. Yet others do it for the seclusion and peacefull sleep, away form the noise of highways, trucks, campers, boom boxes etc.
    You ride a bike, we GET IT, no need to rant about it or look down on others....its JUST A BIKE...get over yourselves.

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    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    I stealth camp because I'm usually off in the sticks anyway and finding someone to ask permission from is a bit difficult. its' simply better to be hidden from prying eyes versus camping where any passerby can sees ya.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

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    Junior Member Krystal's Avatar
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    I have thought of stealth camping... do any of you know women who do it? I live in South Carolina and go bike camping most weekends. Out Friday and roll in Sunday late afternoon. I am getting tired with the Park System... Must reserve two days, loud!, packed if by a Lake. RV's etc... National Forest parks are better. I have to say though "it's hot!" and at the end of a days riding a shower seems a little more then a perk. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
    Krystal

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    Grumbly Goat Bushman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Krystal View Post
    I have thought of stealth camping... do any of you know women who do it? I live in South Carolina and go bike camping most weekends. Out Friday and roll in Sunday late afternoon. I am getting tired with the Park System... Must reserve two days, loud!, packed if by a Lake. RV's etc... National Forest parks are better. I have to say though "it's hot!" and at the end of a days riding a shower seems a little more then a perk. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

    Hy Krsytal! although i'm sure that you can defend yourself properly, and have appropraite situational awareness to that matter, i would be a bit concerned for your personal safety if stealth camped alone. Specifically, should an incident arise, would anyone hear you yell for help or be able to find you?

    again, i'm not saying that you or any woman cannot defend themselves, just saying the above scenario is possible.
    You ride a bike, we GET IT, no need to rant about it or look down on others....its JUST A BIKE...get over yourselves.

  13. #13
    eternalvoyage
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    Quote Originally Posted by Krystal View Post
    I have thought of stealth camping... do any of you know women who do it? I live in South Carolina and go bike camping most weekends. Out Friday and roll in Sunday late afternoon. I am getting tired with the Park System... Must reserve two days, loud!, packed if by a Lake. RV's etc... National Forest parks are better. I have to say though "it's hot!" and at the end of a days riding a shower seems a little more then a perk. I'd love to hear your thoughts.
    Josie Dew is an Englishwoman who has stealth camped in a variety of countries. She has written about it in her books. Her first book is many people's favorite. Amazon.com has more information.

    If you are in areas where you are very unlikely to be discovered by others while stealth camping, your safety is higher.

    I agree that there are special concerns for women, and that having some kind of effective self-defense capabilities makes sense. Pepper spray is one possibility.

    That and good stealth calls, and sound judgement.

    ***************
    Strangely enough, though, I keep hearing statistics cited that say that men are far more likely than women to be the victims of virtually all categories of violent crime.

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    Walmart bike rider gpsblake's Avatar
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    Hello Krystal, nice to see another person from the Palmetto state in here. I honestly can't answer your question because I'm a guy but I've never had a problem stealth camping in South Carolina. I hate organized campsites because of the noise. However one journal I read that was written by a female who stealthed camped her entire trip across the US, up to Alaska, and back again might give you some answers or some level of comfort.

    http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/?...oc_id=430&v=QF

    She is from North Carolina I believe. Therre is a contact button and you can leave a comment on her message board and perhaps she'll respond.

    The key to stealth camping is making sure you get a site off the road, out of sight, without traces of human in the area (garbage, noise, fences etc).

    Good luck!

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    Senior Member Newspaperguy's Avatar
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    I've done some stealth camping, but it's been on Crown land (government or public land) on back roads and away from settlements. I can be within sight of the road and yet almost invisible if I'm behind the trees. The only time someone might see me is when I'm packing up or unpacking. The ground sheet I use under my tent is a blue tarp which is visible.

    When I'm doing this kind of camping, I'll go out of my way to leave no signs of my presence. I'll just pitch my tent, spend the night and leave the next morning.

    Perhaps stealth camping is the wrong term to use. If I know land is privately owned or if I see the No Hunting or No Trespassing signs, I'll look for another place to stop for the night.

    This is simply about showing the kind of respect to the land and the owners that I'd like to receive.
    Life is good.

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    Junior Member Alfonzo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Newspaperguy View Post
    I've done some stealth camping, but it's been on Crown land (government or public land) on back roads and away from settlements. I can be within sight of the road and yet almost invisible if I'm behind the trees. The only time someone might see me is when I'm packing up or unpacking. The ground sheet I use under my tent is a blue tarp which is visible.

    When I'm doing this kind of camping, I'll go out of my way to leave no signs of my presence. I'll just pitch my tent, spend the night and leave the next morning.

    Perhaps stealth camping is the wrong term to use. If I know land is privately owned or if I see the No Hunting or No Trespassing signs, I'll look for another place to stop for the night.

    This is simply about showing the kind of respect to the land and the owners that I'd like to receive.


    Yea I do the same thing when Im out touring.

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    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcmers View Post
    Have those of you that stealth camp regularly had any experiences trying to gain permission to camp?
    I prefer to almost always camp in plain sight and with permission. I don't have a desire to stealth camp, but I will in a pinch. It just is not usually necessary, so I don't.

    As far as safety goes, it would seem safer to be in plain sight in a small town than hiding somewhere in the bushes and out of sight. That said I feel pretty safe either way.

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    Large and in charge emperorcezar's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
    #1 is Safety. If you have ever experienced being swarmed in a regular campsite by other campers, assualted and your gear thrown onto the fire, you'll understand why some stealth camp.
    That sounds like there's a story behind it?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
    Hy Krsytal! although i'm sure that you can defend yourself properly, and have appropraite situational awareness to that matter, i would be a bit concerned for your personal safety if stealth camped alone. Specifically, should an incident arise, would anyone hear you yell for help or be able to find you?

    again, i'm not saying that you or any woman cannot defend themselves, just saying the above scenario is possible.
    The whole point about stealth camping is that hopefully there will be no one around to make you scream for help And the same question applies to a man as well.

    It's worth pointing out that being in a campground does not necessarily protect you from the 'baddies' either. Just ask the two young women who were attacked in NZ. Just hope you are not in the wrong place at the wrong time and perhaps consider taking a self-defense course or carrying some pepper spray for that unlikely situation. That's a good move even if you never stealth camp.

    Dervla Murphy springs to mind as the classic example of a woman who's stealth camping and been in many other adventurous solo situations before, for decades now.
    We blog about bike touring, with reviews, tips and cycle touring podcasts at Travelling Two

  20. #20
    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
    #1 is Safety. If you have ever experienced being swarmed in a regular campsite by other campers, assualted and your gear thrown onto the fire, you'll understand why some stealth camp. Others do it to save money, and by "stealthing" no one knows they are there. Yet others do it for the seclusion and peacefull sleep, away form the noise of highways, trucks, campers, boom boxes etc.
    I have never had any of these things happen to me in a campground. I'm pretty sure I can't think of another example of such things happening...well until now that is. Sounds like you just had a day of bad luck. I stealth when it gets to late to make it to a good campground. I also stealth when I'm an area that has little or not services. I like doing it from time to time for the quite it provides and of course saving a little money isn't bad either.

    When I do stealth camp I go out of my way to not be seen. I also don't make camp until dusk and I'm up and gone with the sunrise. I leave no trace behind as well.
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  21. #21
    imi
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    I stealth camp a lot, but only with sleeping bag and tarp. I have a tent but use it only when in organized campsites.

    A tent is often much more visible than a person in a dark green or black bag.

    You will be much more aware of your environment when just in a bag (even when sleeping, your hearing and sense of smell still work) , but this ability gets blunted from sleeping indoors (and in tents as the walls and roof give a false sense of security). Your ability to detect danger and defend yourself is thus much greater. Inside a tent you're basically unaware and helpless, not good imo...

    Practice getting out of your bag quickly, don't zip up all the way, may sound silly but believe me you can get VERY quick at this... If the opening is wider than your shoulders you can jump up and the bag will fall around your feet... I have had cause to do this in earnest a few times, and the effect is quite scary

    If it rains you can wrap yourself in the tarp... In periods of extended rainfall I find organized campsites and put my tent up

    +1 on laying your bike down and covering it with a tarp (doesn't have to be so large)

    Oh and trust your feelings... If it don't feel right, find somewhere that does, sometimes theres no conscious reason why, but your instincts should be trusted imho...

  22. #22
    family on bikes nancy sv's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcmers View Post
    I guess I'm curious more than anything. What is the motivation behind stealth camping?
    For us, it feels like asking permission is placing a burden on the person. Here we are - a family with two little kids - asking to camp on their property. Even if they don't feel comfortable with it, how can they say no? We put them in a very awkward position by asking. Don't get me wrong - we still ask a LOT. But if there is a perfect spot for heading back in and hiding, we will do it.

    It also depends on how tired we are. If we ask, 95% of the time, we end up having a meal and conversation with the owners - which we love. But - those days when we are dog tired and just want to set up the tent and sleep... well, having a meal and conversation is not what we want!
    WE DID IT! Our little family of four cycled 17,300 miles from Alaska to Argentina! The trip of a lifetime for sure. www.familyonbikes.org

  23. #23
    imi
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    I hear you Nancy... I find there is a sense of freedom sleeping in a secluded spot on this planet of ours, so I very rarely ask permission to stay on someone's land, makes me feel like a "guest".

    I don't particularly like the term "stealth camping", I'm neither being "stealthy", just finding a quiet secluded spot, and not "camping", just sleeping in my bag under the stars... knowwhatImean?

  24. #24
    call me T.J.
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    Quote Originally Posted by tcmers View Post
    We have a home on several acres. At one end of our property is a nice wooded area with a pond. A perfect place to camp. If I were approached by a group of touring cyclists, I would most likely give them my ok to camp there, as well as offer up a meal and a shower.
    tcmers: how is someone to know that those woods and that pond belong to you? If you're riding along and come to a wooded area, unmarked and unfenced, whose permission do you obtain?

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    ah.... sure. kayakdiver's Avatar
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    Well in Washington state if you don't have permission it's called trespassing if your on private land. You also don't have to post your land with signs. It's your job to ask permission of the landowner.
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