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  1. #1
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    Where do you camp?

    I wonder if most of you go to places specifically for camping or simply look for a place when it gets late?

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    Just looking for a place is typically called "Stealth Camping". I see no problem with it, but some people on this forum are very against it and basically think it's stealing because someone owns the land. Unless it's crown land, etc.

    I'd prefer campsites, but some are just too expensive, or too far out of the way. I do things on a budget and always have. Motels are just too expensive for me unless I'm desperate.

    To be more clear. I'm all for stealth camping it if you leave the place exactly how you found it. No fires, no trash left behind, etc. If it says no tresspassing I'd skip it, if there is a big fence, I'd skip it. If it's developed in some way, I'd skip it. If it's just a forested piece of land where you can pitch a tent, go for it.

    Some people complain that you cant leave it as you found it because you leave footprints, etc. To them I say, don't be foolish. I'd do no more harm than if a deer walked in the same place.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by k9power View Post
    I wonder if most of you go to places specifically for camping or simply look for a place when it gets late?
    I've usually planned my night stops. The only time I've not had a place to stay was in Trappe, MD, last summer, when the nature center outside of town I'd been promised wasn't what I'd been promised. I wound up camping in the back yard of a town councilman, although I was going to start knocking on church doors. Regardless, I was going to ask rather than just squat on someone's land.

  4. #4
    Galveston County Texas 10 Wheels's Avatar
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    May 3 to 13 caming trip. 578 miles 8 riders

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    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Ask first then do whatever you have to do. Example of what happens when you ask: We stopped in Riley, OR on a cross country trip 3 years ago. There is an RV park/store/gas station and a post office. That is the town! The temps were running about 105 F. We stopped in the store and talked to the owner. He told us he lets cyclists stay there for free. It has a nice green lawn, an oasis in the middle of the Oregon High Desert. He also let us use his shower. He let us hang out in the air conditioned store and taught us to play cribbage. Later, we met two guys in Yellowstone who took the same route we did, and we started talking about Riley. They stealth camped behind the post office in the sage brush, no water and no showers; and no cribbage lessons!

    There are a lot of places to stay in rural communities: city parks, county parks, fairgrounds, RV parks , public land and real campgrounds. It gets a little dicier in larger cities.

    It never hurts to ask.

  6. #6
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Most of the time I plan to stay in campgrounds or hostels on my tours. Most towns have them ... at least in the places I've toured. Occasionally I've found myself in a place where there isn't camping available and have had to bush camp, but that's a fairly rare thing.

  7. #7
    Senior Member chrisch's Avatar
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    I prefer campsites simply because of the shower.
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  8. #8
    Senior Member Cyclebum's Avatar
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    I prefer camp grounds because of the tables and showers, and there is no worry about being "discovered." OTOH, I won't pay much for these privileges either, so often wild or stealth camp, sometimes just outside parks. Then will pay the small day use fee if I need any of the services offered inside. Usually hit a motel every 6 or 7 days, usually on my day off.
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  9. #9
    Senior Member bktourer1's Avatar
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    You could try warmshowers.org and stay with other cyclists.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Thulsadoom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by k9power View Post
    I wonder if most of you go to places specifically for camping or simply look for a place when it gets late?
    Both. Sometimes I'll stay at campgrounds, sometimes I stealth camp, occasionally I'll get a motel room. Sometimes I'll ask around, sometimes I won't. Warmshowers is a great option.

    It always depends upon the situation. Finding places to sleep is all part of traveling. An experienced traveler gets pretty good at finding the best places.

  11. #11
    Senior Member staehpj1's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by a1rabbit View Post
    Just looking for a place is typically called "Stealth Camping".
    Not exactly. I most often look for a place where I stop, but generally do not resort to stealth. There are lots of free places to camp without the need for stealth. During the 73 days we were on the Trans America we stayed free more than half the time and never needed to resort to stealth. Most of the times we did pay we were in inexpensive sites or negotiated a discount.

    In the rural US, I typically stop in little town parks where they are available. There is often an outhouse and a picnic pavilion. Often there is running water. In the West and the plains this has worked out well. I can't say how it would work out in the east. Some of the larger town parks even have bathrooms and a pool. The bigger and more developed the park the more likely you will need to ask permission. If there is a park manager ask them, if not the local police can often help.

    National Forest land allows dispersed camping on most of it's land. State forests often do as well.

    Ask around and you will usually find a place that you can pitch your tent for the night. Asking store clerks, wait staff, local police, librarians, folks you meet, and clergy will usually turn something up.

    If you use an Adventure Cycling map there is usually places that will host you listed on the map, at least on the more popular routes. If you are unsure about how to find your own places to stay using these maps helps to get you used to where you are and are not likely to be allowed to stay. Once you have a feel for that and some self confidence it is easy.

  12. #12
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    "Stealth camping" is a term that has received much use on this website with which I disagree strongly. The term "stealth" implies a degree of furtiveness and, possible, illegality which is wholly inappropriate. The idea that a person who is simply trying to find a place to sleep is committing some illegal act is not acceptable - because it criminalizes homelessness, among other things.

    There are other, perfectly good, terms which have existed for some time - "random camping" and "dispersed camping" are used by public lands agencies. In the United States it is trespassing to pitch your tent on someone's land by the road side - in many European countries it is not, provided that you are only there for the night and leave no imprint.

    Here in the U.S. there are many, perfectly legal ways to pitch your tent without violating any laws and without paying. Here is a list - -

    U.S. Forest Service lands
    Bureau of Land Management lands
    State forests - varies by state
    State game management lands - varies by state
    Fishing access sites - varies by state
    Public right of way - varies by state

    For an example of the latter item - you can bike a mile off a paved highway on a dirt/gravel county road in Kansas and pitch your tent and have a quiet, undisturbed evening. Fishing access sites are also good since they are just off of rural roads and often have a portalet

    Of course, to "random" camp rather than "stealth" camp requires a little bit of knowledge and preparation beforehand. But with computers at every small town library - you don't have to have a micro notebook. The nice thing about "random" camping is you don't have to wade deep into the weeds and wait until dark.

  13. #13
    Senior Member SweetLou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
    In the United States it is trespassing to pitch your tent on someone's land by the road side...
    No, it's not.
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  14. #14
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SweetLou View Post
    No, it's not.
    Proof?

  15. #15
    Senior Member Thulsadoom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
    "Stealth camping" is a term that has received much use on this website with which I disagree strongly. The term "stealth" implies a degree of furtiveness and, possible, illegality which is wholly inappropriate. The idea that a person who is simply trying to find a place to sleep is committing some illegal act is not acceptable - because it criminalizes homelessness, among other things.

    There are other, perfectly good, terms which have existed for some time - "random camping" and "dispersed camping" are used by public lands agencies. In the United States it is trespassing to pitch your tent on someone's land by the road side - in many European countries it is not, provided that you are only there for the night and leave no imprint.

    Here in the U.S. there are many, perfectly legal ways to pitch your tent without violating any laws and without paying. Here is a list - -

    U.S. Forest Service lands
    Bureau of Land Management lands
    State forests - varies by state
    State game management lands - varies by state
    Fishing access sites - varies by state
    Public right of way - varies by state

    For an example of the latter item - you can bike a mile off a paved highway on a dirt/gravel county road in Kansas and pitch your tent and have a quiet, undisturbed evening. Fishing access sites are also good since they are just off of rural roads and often have a portalet

    Of course, to "random" camp rather than "stealth" camp requires a little bit of knowledge and preparation beforehand. But with computers at every small town library - you don't have to have a micro notebook. The nice thing about "random" camping is you don't have to wade deep into the weeds and wait until dark.
    Everything is relative to the situation. You can quote legalities all day, but I would imagine that you, your moral self, probably breaks several laws every day. Saying that all stealth camping is trespassing and therefore illegal, and therefore bad in general is way too broad a brush stroke.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Proof?
    In Wa at least.. If it's not posted and not fenced it's not illegal in forest land. I was proven wrong with the actual statute about a year ago. I'm not going to look it up.

    Each state has it's own rules though.
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  17. #17
    Hooked on Touring
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thulsadoom View Post
    Everything is relative to the situation. You can quote legalities all day, but I would imagine that you, your moral self, probably breaks several laws every day. Saying that all stealth camping is trespassing and therefore illegal, and therefore bad in general is way too broad a brush stroke.
    People like you make me question why I ever bother to post on this website.

    There are zillions of legal places to camp - and yet there are also lots of lazy people who would rather just stick their tent or hammock on someone's land - thus giving all touring cyclists a bad name. Not to mention, they also feel it incumbent upon themselves to badmouth people who do try to be prepared. Likewise those who insist that it is not trespassing to camp on private land. Hey - I would like to camp anywhere I wish, too. But I have this bad habit of acknowledging reality .

    I live in the rural West. I choose not to participate in search and rescue given the number of idiots who need to be rescued - and at significant cost. I have seen an unprepared hiker die at Grand Canyon. I know a ranger who quit because she was tired of all the unprepared people she had to rescue. Camping is similar - ignorance is not an excuse.

    Given all the information that is out there and that is readily available - if you cannot be prepared - then don't bother to leave your living room.

    PS - Thulsa, you said that I said -
    Saying that all stealth camping is trespassing and therefore illegal, and therefore bad in general is way too broad a brush stroke.
    I said -
    "The term "stealth" implies a degree of furtiveness and, possible, illegality which is wholly inappropriate."
    Which includes the verb "implies" and the qualifier "possible" - even set off with commas.
    Sentences have greater meaning when you real ALL of the words.

  18. #18
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    Stranger, Danger.

    When I said "Just looking for a place is typically called "Stealth Camping"." I used the word "typically" simply because it's how it's come to be known through forums and websites, for the most part. I'm not saying it's the correct term, it's just the current word used by many to describe camping without fees. I use it so people can do searches more easily for a specific interest. Right or wrong, it is what it is.

    Anyhow, this might get long, and some of you won't see how I'm tying this together, or you'll think I'm full of crap. lol.

    It's funny, if we look back a couple decades this never would have really been an issue. People have become way to concerned about legalities, mostly because of fear, that it borders on ridiculousness. When some of us were young, or our parents were young they had men living in the forest who would come out every so often to sell what they could and get some supplies. Others who just walked for years without any solid destination, making camp when they found a suitable place. These people were treated very well for the most part and offered shelter, breakfast and dinner many times. This is not even 50 years ago when my mom was a child.

    Then you go back to when I was a kid, in the 80's and as a teenager in the 90's.

    In the 80's we used to go camping all the time in the warmer months, by "camping" I mean car camping. Almost any nice weekend we'd head out to a site. We paid for our sites, with that came free firewood, free showers and bathrooms and a whole lot of fun. Throughout our trips we'd meet people who were traveling by foot very occasionally, sometimes we'd meet cyclists or people with tent trailers or vans who were traveling North America. Some of them without money, doing odd jobs when they found them to get some money to further their trip. At that time I can remember being about 7-9 years old and spending an entire day away from my parents playing with friends I met, not once did they have to worry about who might snatch us. We lived in BC (Canada) and camped there.

    Then we head into the 90's when we bought some land in the US to go to on weekends, it was not so much camping anymore but it was fun. Now we had a 23 foot trailer and a deck, with a shelter covering the trailer. The lake was a walk down a path for about 10 minutes, to another side was a clear-cut where I'd go shoot my pellet ***. I loved the wilderness and would spend time hiking through it, making my own trails and luckily never being eaten by anything, though two friends and myself we were stalked by a cat at least once. We'd go hiking, and canoeing, and climbing on our own, sometimes we'd camp out by the lake or in the forest, never a worry from parents other than if we had food and water. Perhaps they should have been more aware of wild threats though. Now when we met people traveling on a budget they seldom camped anywhere except designated spots. People had started getting too worried about who that "homeless guy" was camped on the side of the road somewhere. Seemed people felt that if you don't have a car then you must be poor, and if you're poor you're obviously a threat to everyone.

    A little further into the 90's and I got my license, that meant camping with my friends away from home a little more often. Occasionally we'd go on a bike trip now too, we'd toss on our packs and head to a camp site, the same sites I visited as a child. Now the fee was enormous, like 25 bucks a night or something. And for a week long trip that is pretty expensive for a teenager. Now we did not even get firewood and the showers were closed half the time. So we started camping in the off season, 8 bucks a night, now showers, even if it rained the tree canopy would tend to keep us dry, if not we could pile into the back of a pick-up. Now danger signs were everywhere, be careful of this, careful of that. No camping except in designated spots. Pay an extra 5 bucks for this service, another 12 for this one. Danger, Danger, Money, Money. Danger brings in money.

    Between the 80's and the 90's the freedom that was still somewhat there when I was a kid, to camp where you wanted (though not as free as it was back when my parents were children) had the gap close considerably! Not only was that gap closed but the profit desired by business owners, provinces, states and anyone else who could make a dime seemingly sky rocketed within the "camping industry". Sadly around the same time more and more crimes against children and adults alike were being reported around north America, what I mean is reported for all of North American to see, not just where it took place. (I can't speak for the UK, etc.). Parents started being more scared during the 80's and 90's to let their kids go out, started worrying more about every middle aged man they saw being a predator or a serial killer, thus raising their children in constant fear of strangers. Now the children of the 90's and onward are sheltered more than ever before, even I shelter my own child many times more than I ever was and it's not a bad thing, it's just sad the way things have gone, kids don't usually get to be kids now. A large part of this is fear induced by media, CNN especially covers anything and everything that will tug at heart strings and drives home the fact that anyone you see could be hiding deep dark secrets that you don't want to know about. Which leads to....

    The "stranger, danger" term, the heart strings tugged on by news stations who report terrible crimes for all to witness, the scary neighbor everyone thought was normal but turned out to be otherwise. These are the things that drives many peoples fears of that lone cyclist (or whoever) pitching a tent somewhere they would never consider, and if they'd not consider it then it must be a threat.

    What does it matter anymore today who owns some land than it did 50, 60 or 70 years ago? Absolutely nothing except fear, and greed, and laws that were made for those two reasons that people hide behind without understanding. Anyway you flip it it's either people are scared, or greedy. End of story.

    Did that make any sense? I sure hope so.


  19. #19
    Punk Rock Lives Roughstuff's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by k9power View Post
    I wonder if most of you go to places specifically for camping or simply look for a place when it gets late?

    I rarely stay at a formal (pay) camping site any more. I head for the hills/green areas on the maps, and look for farmland/pasturelands, and wild camp (occasionally on private land asking for permission. State parks and forests, fishing access, railroad rights of way (noisy!); high tension areas; churchyards, graveyards. Sometimes behind rural restaurants (agree to have breakfast in the AM!); volunteer fire departments; rivers usually have open banks that are suitable for camping.

    My rule is out-of-sight, out of mind.

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    In many states in the US, stealth camping is NOT trespassing. In Massachusetts, you are NOT trespassing if you are on unimproved, unenclosed, unposted land and you leave when asked by the owner or owner's agent. This is a common law right dating back 380+ years in these parts, excercised by countless generations of fisherman, hunters and travellers.

    You do not give up your rights simply because you are riding a bike instead of carrying a *** and hunting.

    Here's the exact Mass law:

    "PART IV. CRIMES, PUNISHMENTS AND PROCEEDINGSIN CRIMINAL CASES


    TITLE I. CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS


    CHAPTER 266. CRIMES AGAINST PROPERTY


    Chapter 266: Section 120. Entry upon private property after being forbidden as trespass; prima facie evidence; penalties; arrest; tenants or occupants excepted


    Section 120. Whoever, without right enters or remains in or upon the dwelling house, buildings, boats or improved or enclosed land, wharf, or pier of another, or enters or remains in a school bus, as defined in section 1 of chapter 90, after having been forbidden so to do by the person who has lawful control of said premises, whether directly or by notice posted thereon, or in violation of a court order pursuant to section thirty-four B of chapter two hundred and eight or section three or four of chapter two hundred and nine A, shall be punished by a fine of not more than one hundred dollars or by imprisonment for not more than thirty days or both such fine and imprisonment. Proof that a court has given notice of such a court order to the alleged offender shall be prima facie evidence that the notice requirement of this section has been met. A person who is found committing such trespass may be arrested by a sheriff, deputy sheriff, constable or police officer and kept in custody in a convenient place, not more than twenty-four hours, Sunday excepted, until a complaint can be made against him for the offence, and he be taken upon a warrant issued upon such complaint.

    This section shall not apply to tenants or occupants of residential premises who, having rightfully entered said premises at the commencement of the tenancy or occupancy, remain therein after such tenancy or occupancy has been or is alleged to have been terminated. The owner or landlord of said premises may recover possession thereof only through appropriate civil proceedings. "

  21. #21
    Senior Member Doug64's Avatar
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    Why would you have to "stealth" camp if it is above board and legal? If all the pro-stealth arguements are true, why do you have to sneak into the campsite, hide your tent and use camouflage face paint? If it is your legal right to be there just because someone says you shouldn't, then why hide? I agree with the other posters that most people who say they are stealth camping are really primative camping or are camping in a dispersed area and not an "official" campground.

    Stealth:
    1. The act of moving, proceeding, or acting in a covert way.
    2. The quality or characteristic of being furtive or covert.

    FWIW Dept: One of the reasons I chose not to use any ACA routes on my ride across the US is that when our route interected the Trans AM, people were a lot less receptive about letting us camp. I attributed some of this to the large number of cyclist on the ACA routes; but also attribute some of the ill feelings toward cyclists to those hearty souls who who went before us and were true stealth campers, screwing it up for the rest of us. I think it comes down to respecting other people and their property; not whether it is Tresspassing with a capital "T" or a small "t".

  22. #22
    Senior Member SweetLou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka View Post
    Proof?
    I have given proof many times on these boards. Just look up any post I have made about stealth camping. The only state that it is illegal is Wisconsin. That is because of a judge's bad ruling and hopefully this will someday be over turned.

    How about some proof that it is trespassing?
    Last edited by SweetLou; 05-17-10 at 10:32 PM.
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  23. #23
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    Around here if you are asked to leave and do not leave you are trespassing. If you cross a fence line or a fence with no trespassing signs or trees which have one side covered in red paint you are trespassing, these signs signal basically the owner's lack of consent, don't even deliver the mail or knock on the door.

    If there is no such sign or lack of consent you'll be ok under law - as long as you leave when asked and assuming the property owner isn't a the type who decides to get violent.

    The thing about not asking is that you have plausible deniability... but if no trepass signs aren't posted everywhere then the chances are that you aren't approaching the waco compound and may meet with success.

  24. #24
    Senior Member SweetLou's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
    Why would you have to "stealth" camp if it is above board and legal? If all the pro-stealth arguements are true, why do you have to sneak into the campsite, hide your tent and use camouflage face paint? If it is your legal right to be there just because someone says you shouldn't, then why hide? I agree with the other posters that most people who say they are stealth camping are really primative camping or are camping in a dispersed area and not an "official" campground.

    Stealth:
    1. The act of moving, proceeding, or acting in a covert way.
    2. The quality or characteristic of being furtive or covert.

    FWIW Dept: One of the reasons I chose not to use any ACA routes on my ride across the US is that when our route interected the Trans AM, people were a lot less receptive about letting us camp. I attributed some of this to the large number of cyclist on the ACA routes; but also attribute some of the ill feelings toward cyclists to those hearty souls who who went before us and were true stealth campers, screwing it up for the rest of us. I think it comes down to respecting other people and their property; not whether it is Tresspassing with a capital "T" or a small "t".
    That's fine, you don't have to stealth camp. I do. That is how I choose to camp. I do it because I don't want to be seen or bothered. I like the solitude and peacefulness. I'm sorry you don't like the law. There are many motorists that don't like the laws that allow me to use the roads. Should I stop using the roads because some motorists don't like it?

    If you don't want me on your land, there are ways to keep me out. I respect this. I will never camp where it is illegal. I won't even camp if it is questionable. The right to travel is not the right to travel only if you pay or ask permission from others.

    When I am out and about, I don't want timetables. I don't want to worry about getting to my campsite in time. I don't want to beg or borrow a place to sleep. I'd much rather just ride along and when I find a place for the evening, stop.
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    I like camping with access to drinking water and bathrooms, and I don't mind paying for them. It's a trade off, as campgrounds are usually noisy and often have some kind of unpleasantness - people, animals attracted by food, campfires, generators - but it's a trade off that I usually choose.

    If I can, I'll choose a forest service campground in a nice setting over an RV park, but you don't always have that choice.

    I've camped a few other places - behind a bar in South Dakota, on people's lawns a few times, in city parks a few times. I actually really dislike the city parks, I don't feel safe in them, even in very small towns. Maybe that's a factor of being female and solo. These experiences have usually been of necessity, not choice.
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