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Old 07-29-10, 05:32 PM   #1
spooner
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Question about stealth camping

I've tried to read as much as possible on stealth camping. There is one particular guy blogging over at crazyguyonabike that is pretty much a master at stealth camping. I've read other websites dedicated to the topic and I think I have a fair understanding of what it entails.

However, one thing I can't quite figure out.

If I leave out in the morning at 8am with the hopes of getting my miles in by 2pm. When should I stake out my stealth campsite?

I can't really make camp at 3pm can I? That's a little obvious even if I find a decent site off the road and with some brush around.

I could try to spot out a site around 2pm - then head up to the next town - check it out - then double back for the stealth site around dark.

I can't quite figure out the whole afternoon timing thing.
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Old 07-29-10, 05:41 PM   #2
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I am not sure which blogger on CGOAB you are talking about but a lot of tourists like to get a good chunk of their millage done before it gets too hot in the afternoon. I think stealth camping will emphasizes this because its generally better to leave early in the morning before the sun comes up or just after to avoid detection.

I think a lot of tourists, me included like to ride till around 12-2pm and stop for a long lunch, rest, tourist attraction until it cools down a little. That could mean 12-3 or it could mean 2-5 or just an hour for lunch. If you are stealth camping the best time to start searching is about an hour or so before sunset. This way you can see what the campsite will look like during the light of the day should you decide to sleep in and also that there might be buildings near by that you may not have noticed if you tried to camp when its already dark.

I don't think too many people set up stealth camps at 3pm. I think you just gotta find some place to take a rest and get some more miles in later.
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Old 07-29-10, 06:15 PM   #3
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I once "stealth camped" after dark in Slovenia. In the morning the farmer's wife had mowed all around our tent with a scythe, never said a word. Not exactly stealth.

If you start asking people where you can camp when you get close to where you want to stop, you might get an invitation to camp in their yard, etc. People are mostly pretty nice if they're not being taken advantage of.
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Old 07-29-10, 06:45 PM   #4
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If you start asking people where you can camp when you get close to where you want to stop, you might get an invitation to camp in their yard, etc. People are mostly pretty nice if they're not being taken advantage of.
+1 Many, many times I have had people offer me places to stay. One of the real advantages of traveling by bike is the opportunity to meet people. I suppose it helps that I have obviously put a lot of effort into checking out the area in they live which some people find flattering.
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Old 07-29-10, 06:46 PM   #5
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Carbonfiberboy wrote: "If you start asking people where you can camp when you get close to where you want to stop, you might get an invitation to camp in their yard, etc. People are mostly pretty nice if they're not being taken advantage of."

+1 That worked great for me last month on a 1000 mi ride from KCMO to GA.

Spooner, I agree the whole stealth camping thing can get a little confusing. I've been doing this thing called 'bicycle touring/camping for 30 years. I actually had to ask someone what 'stealth camping' was! To me, it has always been just biking and camping.

However, I will admit it isn't as easy as it used to be. Some places (like the Katy Trail in Missouri) don't want you camping on the trail. For safety, the parks department would rather you camp in a campground. I simply can't afford that.

Like Carbonfiberboy said, if you ask, most people won't mind if you pitch a tent on their property. Remember the rule...pack it in, pack it out.

As far as your question of when? I usually ride from sun up to just before sun down. Somewhere around dusk I'll start looking for a nice quiet place if I haven't scored a place by asking around first. I also have a rule to cook/eat before I start looking for a camp spot. That way if I do have to sneak, I don't have to worry about fixing dinner, too.

Hope that helps some.

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Old 07-29-10, 07:21 PM   #6
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I agree that people make the idea of stealth camping more complicated than it really is. I had never heard the term before I started hanging out here at the Bike Forums. Basically, the idea is simply to find a spot to sleep somewhere. If you are in a remote area and find a great spot back in the woods or desert and feel comfortable hanging out there from 2:00 on, then do it. If you are in more populated areas with a higher risk of being found, don't stop until an hour or so before dark.

In Baja, California, we had to kill some time waiting for Grandma to arrive so we found a dirt road and went back a km or two , then pulled off that road and set up camp - stayed there 2 or 3 days then moved on to find another spot to hang out for a couple days. Nobody ever found us even though we were there 24 hours per day!

In the eastern US, stealth camping is much more difficult. The area is more populated, but the dense undergrowth in natural areas makes it more of a challenge to find a spot to set up a tent. Can be done, but it's more of a challenge.
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Old 07-29-10, 07:52 PM   #7
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I have had diff experiences as well, have asked people if they minded if I camped on their property with no problems (a Basque farmer in Spain, using my not so great Spanish), have had people invite me to sleep in their camptrailer instead of putting up my tent (Bretagne, France) and a few times just set up tent where I had to (but once didnt like it, as cars came by in the night, and you worry about drunk young guys being jerks...not the case, but didnt sleep well nonetheless)

best one, was in the Pyrenees, on a hillside by an old abandoned church, edge of a small very quiet village/ski resort, in the morning got woken up by the tent moving, stuck my head out to see some grazing cows and some horses had just wandered down from up on the mountainside and were nibbling our tents. Was rather funny, and they hung around the whole time we were packing up, trying to taste the saddle bags etc. I really loved biking the Pyrenees, very pretty landscapes, very cool passes and views, and the horses/cows memory is one that sticks out.

in the end, I always preferred a campground, for the shower the most, even if pretty basic, but once in a while your planned day goes differently, or a given campground is no longer there or whatever so you improvise. Being a guy definately is less of a worry for this sort of thing I realize.
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Old 07-29-10, 07:59 PM   #8
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I am not sure which blogger on CGOAB you are talking about
Probably Allen E. Stokell:

http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/stealthcamping
http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/stealthcampingpix

Neil
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Old 07-29-10, 08:06 PM   #9
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I am not sure which blogger on CGOAB you are talking about
This guy has been on the road for nearly 900 days. He once camped behind a church only to realize in the middle of the night that he was very close to some train tracks.

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I settled upon a stealth site behind a Jehovah's Hall where I was certain they wouldn't witness me. Unbeknownst to me it was twenty yards from an active railway line. From deep within a dream, I felt the ground tremble and heard the terrifying rumble of a train bearing down upon me. One-hundred-ten decibels of air horn ripped through my head. In my confused state of semi-consciousness, I thought surely I must be too near the tracks. As preposterously illogical as it was, it sounded as if I was actually on the tracks. The train roared by, my heart pounding in its wake. It was an adrenaline rush I hoped never to repeat. I thought back to the register girl from earlier in the evening. Well, it hasn't been boring for me.
From reading his journal entries it seems that a good deal of the time he isn't settling into his stealth camp site until late.

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As far as your question of when? I usually ride from sun up to just before sun down. Somewhere around dusk I'll start looking for a nice quiet place if I haven't scored a place by asking around first. I also have a rule to cook/eat before I start looking for a camp spot. That way if I do have to sneak, I don't have to worry about fixing dinner, too.
Good info.

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I agree that people make the idea of stealth camping more complicated than it really is. I had never heard the term before I started hanging out here at the Bike Forums. Basically, the idea is simply to find a spot to sleep somewhere. If you are in a remote area and find a great spot back in the woods or desert and feel comfortable hanging out there from 2:00 on, then do it. If you are in more populated areas with a higher risk of being found, don't stop until an hour or so before dark.
This is how I figured it would go. I do plan on asking around while passing through towns saying, 'I'm passing through and looking for a place to camp for the night. Tomorrow I'll be off for....' I've read how this strategy allows the person you're talking to to feel assured that your camping is just a one night thing. Also, it seems that asking a local police officer might be a good idea (they wouldn't steer you wrong would they?) or even at a church. I guess any point along this one of the people could offer to put the rider up for the night.
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Old 07-29-10, 08:24 PM   #10
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+1 Many, many times I have had people offer me places to stay. One of the real advantages of traveling by bike is the opportunity to meet people.
Last August I was in Pendleton and asked a lady for advice for where to spend the night. She offered to let me stay in her yard. After setting up, I started talking to her neighbor. After some talking, we realized that we were both Tlingit Indians, maybe the only two within a couple hundred miles. Turns out, his uncle was my uncles Godfather. He hooked me up with dried fish, and other food. Great times.
Probably my favorite touring memory.

Not to get too off topic or anything. Just thought I'd share. Every other night of that trip I stealth camped. Usually settling in around dusk.
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Old 07-29-10, 08:33 PM   #11
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When I do it, I am normally still moving as dusk approaches, I just look around for a place to tent and pop in. I have done more of it while hiking or MTBing that road cycling, where the middle aged property owner in me gets me pretty uncomfortable. When hiking or MTBing in built up areas, one is often at the back of people's properties, and it is really easy to see where a tent would go. When road cycling one is often at the expensive end of things. I think it helps to think small, one isn't looking for a campground, potentially a very small cubby hole in around a few trees under a structure, up a little knoll, anywhere one won't be seen. It can almost more easily be in a town than the rural areas since towns have lots of public areas, while rural areas can be 100 percent owned by adjacent householders, and in populated rural areas there can be the 1 acre lot with two large dogs syndrome. Bug proof tent a must.
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Old 07-29-10, 08:57 PM   #12
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check out and join WSL and share hospitality (if able)!

issue resolved (or significantly reduced) and you get a shower after riding all day~!
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Old 07-29-10, 09:28 PM   #13
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Have you been camping at all yet? Have you gone on a weekend tour to test things out for yourself?

You'll very quickly discover that there are no set formulas for touring. You've got to be flexible and ready to just go with the flow.

In one place, you may indeed be able to set up camp by 3 pm ... in another place, you might need to wait till dusk. Go with your instinct.

And although you are planning to do most of your riding between 8 and 2 ... that's a nice goal, and may happen some of the time, possibly even most of the time, but there will likely be days where that just does not happen for one reason or another.

When I toured Australia, we started with the plan to be on the road by about 9 am, ride 100 km in 6 hours including a short lunch break, and get into camp by 3 pm. That rarely happened. The terrain was so steep and hilly, I was off and walking half the time and we usually got into camp no earlier than 5 pm. Then when we got to Queensland, it was so hot, we changed our touring pattern all together. We'd be up and on the road by about 6 am, ride till about noon, stop in a town or at a beach until about 4 pm (during which time we would eat our "main" meal), and then ride for a couple more hours, grab a quick snack and go to sleep.

A lot of it depend on terrain, weather, and what's available.
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Old 07-29-10, 09:36 PM   #14
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+1 Many, many times I have had people offer me places to stay. One of the real advantages of traveling by bike is the opportunity to meet people. I suppose it helps that I have obviously put a lot of effort into checking out the area in they live which some people find flattering.
I have defined why I like touring so much. It is the people I meet. When I show up in their town fully loaded with my visibility vest on they figure out I am not there to **** and pillage and ride out of town at 12 MPH.

Soon we are talking about touring, mileage and where I come from and where I am going, and their towns history and being. I then often get invitations to stay at peoples homes as a result.
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Old 07-29-10, 11:13 PM   #15
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I usually ride in the morning, take a longish siesta in the middle of the day and ride again 'til dusk.

If it's not raining, just sleeping in your bag is much "stealthier" (and IMO safer, although I've been flamed here for this opinion before)... and you get to nod off while gazing into the depths of the universe

I don't ask people for a place to stay, I'll either be stealthy or find a campsite...
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Old 07-30-10, 12:07 AM   #16
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Before camping on a church property, please ask for permission first. The church has to live with its neighbours and if the church yard gets the reputation as a free campsite, some of those neighbours may take issue. This is especially true in an area where a lot of transients pass through. Churches are likely to be receptive to your requests and if they cannot accommodate you on the property, you will probably get some good suggestions of other places for free camping. You may even get an offer to stay in someone's home.
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Old 07-30-10, 04:27 AM   #17
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Nobody ever found us even though we were there 24 hours per day!
Somebody found you, but didn't took care. That's my experience with stealth camping. The people are not as bad as the news tell us.
I think that my stealth camping nights are rare that nobody knew that I was in the area.
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Old 07-30-10, 05:45 AM   #18
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First let me say my experience is with the US.

I recommend not getting all hung up on the term "stealth camping". On our Trans America we camped for free more than half the time and never used stealth once. We stayed in small town parks, at churches, or even in someones yard. Sometimes we got permission, and sometimes we just assumed all was well and set up camp in a town park early enough that we could move on if asked to. If the town is large enough to have police I usually ask them. If not I try to get a feel for whether there is likely to be a problem by asking the clerk at the general store when I am shopping. I am likely to say something like "do you think I will get run off if I pitch a tent for the night?"

In the east there is more likely to be a problem. Ditto for some places on the west coast. In the middle of the country there is generally no problem finding a place to camp for free. In Oregon and California there are often hiker/biker sites for something like $6. They are very nice and I recommend them over hiding out in the woods on someone's property.
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Old 07-30-10, 05:56 AM   #19
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Yup... a refresher course for those of you who have forgotten (or were never familiar with) Wheaton's Law:

"Don't be a dick."

It's so simple and easy to ask someone where a good place to camp in town is, and people are so friendly and likely to give you a place to stay that there really is no excuse for not doing so. And as was pointed out before, if you ask someone at the church if you can set up your tent in their back yard, you have a nonzero chance of them upgrading your night to someone's house, complete with bed, warm shower, laundry, great conversation, and possibly dinner!

We've all been taught since we were little to never, ever talk to strangers, and I think it's had a horrible effect on our relationships with each other as adults.
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Old 07-30-10, 07:45 AM   #20
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In Oregon and California there are often hiker/biker sites for something like $6.
Here in Australia there are some "bush campgrounds" which are pretty rustic, but are free. I stayed in one ... it consisted of grassy areas where a person could pitch a tent with a few picnic tables scattered around and a long-drop.

This is the one I stayed at ...
http://www.wildwalks.com/camping-in-...ping-area.html

Some of the rest areas also allow people to stay for up to 48 hours. Those rest areas have grassy sections for someone to pitch a tent, and a fairly basic toilet block.

In the UK, farmers can get a campground certification which will allow them to collect a bit of money in exchange for a bit of land on which to pitch a tent. Some were more formal, complete with toilet blocks with showers, others were more rustic (no facilities). When I was there, the usual amount was about 5 pounds which wasn't bad for a campground in the UK.


Rather than calling it "stealth camping", I prefer to call it "bush camping" or "wild camping" or "free camping", and if you do a search on those terms, along with the country you're travelling to, you'll find some ideas.
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Old 07-30-10, 07:48 AM   #21
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This guy has been on the road for nearly 900 days.
900 days isn't a tour, it's a hobo lifestyle.
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Old 07-30-10, 08:42 AM   #22
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"if you ask someone at the church if you can set up your tent in their back yard, you have a nonzero chance of them upgrading your night to someone's house, complete with bed, warm shower, laundry, great conversation, and possibly dinner!"

Spoken like an extrovert. I don't want to meet these people, I just want a place for my tent. I don't want an upgrade to threir miserable life stories. There isn't anything wrong with a little rest on a patch of ground if nobody sees, and in many cases it is legal, depends on the country. I am currently in a province where there is essentially a right to hunt. People can hunt any private property, unless it is posted, in which case the owner can't hunt it either. Not sure what that says about stealth camping, but it shows they aren't all that concerned about strangers with guns...
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Old 07-30-10, 11:06 AM   #23
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SantaMaria PP1, geez you must be fun to travel with

"their miserable life stories".....glass is less than half empty outlook , oi vey.
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Old 07-30-10, 11:24 AM   #24
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SantaMaria PP1, geez you must be fun to travel with

"their miserable life stories".....glass is less than half empty outlook , oi vey.

ROFL.. I can kind of relate to what he is saying though guess it depends on the person. I would find it very uncomfortable to take a shower or eat at a strangers house. Probably a good way to get over shyness though.
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Old 07-30-10, 11:39 AM   #25
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900 days isn't a tour, it's a hobo lifestyle.
I sure envy him to have that much time for touring. I sometimes have to revise my obligations, to see if they are really that and to then convince myself to come home.
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