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Stealth Camping: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

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Stealth Camping: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Old 05-13-11, 03:40 PM
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thesearethesuns
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Stealth Camping: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

Okay everyone--I want to hear about experiences while stealth camping. Since all these threads about touring dangers have cropped up as of late, I'd like to focus on specific dangers related to stealth camping while on a tour. Share your stories, and tell the rest of us things to watch out for, as well as dos and don'ts. This should be interesting...
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Old 05-13-11, 03:46 PM
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good thread. I plan on stealth camping, as well...and I've asked about it before but I received some mixed reactions. It's referred to as something else. I think "stealth camping" has a negative connotation here. Anyways, I'm looking forward to the discussion on this topic.
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Old 05-13-11, 04:10 PM
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Campsite flooded out in the night, Bavaria , Local Burgermeister of the town
dried me out and family fed me while the storm was messing up the town.

later in same trip, I camped 1st ..then heard the crack of a few high powered rifles, of
Chamois hunters in the Eastern forests of Belgium . I camped close to the highway,
hoping no one would shoot across the highway, one hunter happened by my tent,
he showed me the rifle cartridges they used.. then, at least He knew I was there.
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Old 05-13-11, 04:52 PM
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I'm very interested in this topic as I plan to stealth camp across Canada.
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Old 05-13-11, 04:52 PM
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Oh gosh - where do I start on this one?

It was my very first tour way back in the dark ages. I was a young clueless 20-something wanting to take off on my bike - so I did. My planning was... shall we say, flawed? But I digress...

Due to my poor planning I ended up cycling 97 miles that day, searching for a suitable place to camp for the last 47 of them. All I passed by were fields and fields of onions and sugar beets and corn. And more onions and sugar beets and corn. And more. And more. I was tired; it was around 105 degrees out; I drank around three gallons water. And I searched for a campsite.

Nothing.

Finally - at 97 miles I found a delightful little place. Truly - it was wonderful. A flat grassy spot next to a little creek away from the road and sheltered by an embankment so nobody could see me. I know now that my little spot was the ideal camping spot - and I would be thrilled to find such a perfect place to rest my head at night.

But then? Remember I mentioned above that I was young and clueless? I lay there all bloody night in fear - I just KNEW some mean ol' boogie man was going to come back and find me there. I wasn't afraid that he would attack and **** me. I wasn't afraid that he would steal all my stuff. All I was afraid of was...

...that he would make me get back on my bike and keep pedaling.

After a very sleepless night, I stumbled out of my sleeping bag and packed my bike. Propping up my eyelids with toothpicks I pedaled two miles until I found...

...a campground. With a hot spring.

Yup - a bit of planning goes a long way!
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Old 05-13-11, 05:16 PM
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Originally Posted by nancy sv View Post
Oh gosh - where do I start on this one?

It was my very first tour way back in the dark ages. I was a young clueless 20-something wanting to take off on my bike - so I did. My planning was... shall we say, flawed? But I digress...

Due to my poor planning I ended up cycling 97 miles that day, searching for a suitable place to camp for the last 47 of them. All I passed by were fields and fields of onions and sugar beets and corn. And more onions and sugar beets and corn. And more. And more. I was tired; it was around 105 degrees out; I drank around three gallons water. And I searched for a campsite.

Nothing.

Finally - at 97 miles I found a delightful little place. Truly - it was wonderful. A flat grassy spot next to a little creek away from the road and sheltered by an embankment so nobody could see me. I know now that my little spot was the ideal camping spot - and I would be thrilled to find such a perfect place to rest my head at night.

But then? Remember I mentioned above that I was young and clueless? I lay there all bloody night in fear - I just KNEW some mean ol' boogie man was going to come back and find me there. I wasn't afraid that he would attack and **** me. I wasn't afraid that he would steal all my stuff. All I was afraid of was...

...that he would make me get back on my bike and keep pedaling.

After a very sleepless night, I stumbled out of my sleeping bag and packed my bike. Propping up my eyelids with toothpicks I pedaled two miles until I found...

...a campground. With a hot spring.

Yup - a bit of planning goes a long way!
Someone else mentioned the 7 P's club in another thread, but how could you have known about the camp site two miles away? And doesn't planning the minutest detail sort of take the spirit out of the adventure? I know this guy must be a pro after 14 years, but I'm just playing devil's advocate. Believe me, I know the difference a little foresight can make.
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Old 05-13-11, 05:36 PM
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Good point. When I first "planned" my trip, I figured I would ride 50 miles per day - 200 miles total. It made sense to me. What I failed to realize was that, while my destination of a dam 100 miles away was a fine destination, there was nothing but fields until I got there. And I do mean nothing but fields until I got there. A few seconds of talking to somebody would have helped me realize that.

And - here's the kicker - the campsite with the hot spring WAS MARKED ON MY MAP! I didn't even look at it.
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Old 05-13-11, 05:38 PM
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I've wild(free)camped many times and never had a moments trouble with animals or people. May have been seen, but nobody seemed to care. I consider 'stealth' to be a refined version of wild camping, where extra effort is made to be totally hidden and undetectable. A combo of common sense, art, and science.

I rarely go to the extra trouble required to truly stealth camp. Don't consider behind a rural church, for instance, as 'stealthing.'

The good is it's free and generally available, the bad is it's more stressful, with none of the facilities offered by public campgrounds, plus the nagging fear of detection. The ugly.....I've never experienced ugly while wild camping.
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Old 05-14-11, 12:24 AM
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In Laos a guy came up to my tent with a carbine (AKS-74U or similar) and asked me whether I wanted to sleep in some nearby huts. He was not in uniform and rode a scooter. I like to imagine that he's a drug trafficker, makes for a cool story. I was on a meadow in broad view of the road. Flat ground was hard to come by in those mountains. One night I had to camp with half my tent on the road because I couldn't find flat ground. I chose a location between two switchbacks, for safety.

I stepped on poop while laying down the guy lines for my tent one night in southern Yunnan. Luckily my tent wasn't on the poop. Close call. This is the year after I stepped on poop changing a flat tire. I just can't catch a break with these things.

I slept on a piece of cardboard at a Bangkok suburb gas station after a 215 kilometre day.
I slept on the ground on the side of the road in Guangxi after a riding day that ended at three am; wore full rain gear to keep the mosquitos off my skin; woke up with my face and lips covered in bites. Moral of the story, never be too lazy to set up your tent.

I caught a Malaysian woman watching me showering. Admittedly I was in her back yard, which was a beach side palm grove.
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Old 05-14-11, 04:21 AM
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In Norway there is a Right to Roam so wild camping need not be stealthy BUT there are less wild parts of the country where its almost impossible to find a decent place to pitch a tent.
I camped in a weekend holiday village (weekday, out of season) on solid bedrock between two holiday homes. I pitched late and was gone by 5:30am.
I had to pitch on a small rough parking area by the side of an unsurfaced trail leading to a popular lake. A few 4x4s went past at night which made me nervous.
The worst was a muddy piece of rough ground covered in forestry debris which was vulnerable to flooding, had some beehives and lots of thorny plants.

Norwegians are keep outdoor enthusiasts and if you ask "can I camp here" they answer is either "Yes" or "you can but there is a better place over there"
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Old 05-14-11, 07:57 AM
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Originally Posted by MichaelW View Post
In Norway there is a Right to Roam so wild camping need not be stealthy BUT there are less wild parts of the country where its almost impossible to find a decent place to pitch a tent.

Norwegians are keep outdoor enthusiasts and if you ask "can I camp here" they answer is either "Yes" or "you can but there is a better place over there"
Wow, that's great! I'd love to do a tour in some Right to Roam designated countries in Europe. I just did a search on Right to Roam, and it seems that many countries in Northern Europe seem to have these types of provisions. I think Australia has something similar. I wonder if there are similar laws by state in the US? Anyone know?

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Old 05-14-11, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by thesearethesuns View Post
Wow, that's great! I'd love to do a tour in some Right to Roam designated countries in Europe. I just did a search on Right to Roam, and it seems that many countries in Northern Europe seem to have these types of provisions. I think Australia has something similar. I wonder if there are similar laws by state in the US? Anyone know?
There are plenty of places in the US where it is free and legal to camp on open land. For example California, and I think Arizona has lots of BLM land that is wide open to camping for up to 14 days or something. You don't even have to be stealthy. But it never hurts, just the same. It's all about respecting the land.
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Old 05-14-11, 09:20 AM
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Originally Posted by Thulsadoom View Post
There are plenty of places in the US where it is free and legal to camp on open land. For example California, and I think Arizona has lots of BLM land that is wide open to camping for up to 14 days or something. You don't even have to be stealthy. But it never hurts, just the same. It's all about respecting the land.
You've got that right Thulsadoom! Some of those that have gone before us, not necessarily cyclists, have not been very considerate of other people, the land and environment, but hopefully things are getting better in that respect.

"Right to roam", sounds really good, wouldn't it be nice to have that all over in the U.S.! Stealth camping is an unknown to me, I'm a campground and legal wild land or with permission camper, I sleep better that way. Maybe sometime though.
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Old 05-14-11, 02:10 PM
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I've stealth camped across Canada. You get to know good ways to find spots.
I've found good spots;
-by checking out logging roads, sometimes they lead to an old clearcut site
-in town, behind tourism information buildings. There's nobody around at night and they usually have some nice grass
-campsites that aren't open- I did a trip in October and I stay free at a lot of campsites.
-a baseball diamond is a small town

I usually just camp to sleep. I don't hang out all evening. I ride until dark and them set up my tent and sleep, and get up with the sunrise. It can be a bit weird, especially at first, I was scared. But you put yourself in a situation, and you have no choice but to deal with it. It's a great way to stretch yourself and try something new.

The only problem I've ever had- once a friendly library offered to let me camp on the grass behind the library in a small town (so not really stealth this time). I was awoken by someone shaking the tent, and then apparently throwing things at it. Probably some bored kids. By the time I was fully awake and aware of what was happening, it seemed to have stopped.

All in all, it takes some creativity to find good spots and to be comfortable. I would pay for a camp site now and then when I'd want to shower and have a fire etc... but most of the time, stealth camping is the way to go
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Old 05-14-11, 03:18 PM
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I've done a lot of stealth camping in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan. National and State Forests are great, especially where one can find an old pine plantation or a stealth site near a trailhead/developed campground with shelter or toilets. I also check along snowmobile trails and power line cuts. Power line cuts and substations are easily visible from google earth, and I can usually roughly plan where to camp when figuring a route. Often when biking on a road which hugs a river, one can spot makeshift canoe or boat campsites. Most of the longer bike trails I've been on have had log shelters or lean-tos at intervals. The rules say no camping, but come on - what do you think people are going to use them for?

I've only ever had two negative experiences stealth camping. The first was near Two Habours, MN. The area is more developed then satellite images would lead you to believe, and judging by the proliferation of 'No Trespassing' signs, these people don't like visitors. What land isn't posted private property is steep dropoff into the lake, or roadside rest areas that also prohibit camping. I ended up dragging my bike down the only unposted bit of land I could find, which ended up being a rough trail down into a marsh. I'm not a person who is uncomfortable with sleeping out in the woods, but this place had a feel to it. It was dead quiet all night. Not single sign of life, and it was too dark when I got there to really see much of my surroundings. I had confusing, nasty dreams for a few hours, then packed up and fled at 5am. If I found myself in the same place, running out of daylight again, I think I'd rather just bike through the night.

The other bad experience was at a park in Osakis, MN, on the Central Lakes Trail. The city park didn't have a posted closing time, and I went ahead and I hoped that it was a subtle, unofficial "Wink wink nudge nudge sleep here" for touring cyclists coming down the trail. The cop that woke up me up 2am seemed surprised to learn not only that the trail ran through his town, but that people actually ride bikes on it. He seemed mildly offended to learn that a woman would dare be out and about, alone, after dark. He didn't seem to fully comprehend that anyone would choose to travel by bicycle rather than motor vehicle, or sleep on the ground instead of in a hotel. The whole thing honestly would not have been so bad if he'd just kicked me out, but he wanted to argue and preach at 2am on a cold night with headlights in my face and a swarm of mosquitoes buzzing my ear. He seemed more upset that I was 'endangering myself recklessly' then that I was breaking some unposted anti-vagrancy laws. Eventually he ran out of steam, went back to his squad car and spend about 15 miles putzing around before finally calling his chief of police to figure out what to do about me. Then he came out and told me "something important came up, but I'll be back to deal with you". Of course, he never came back, and I doubt anything 'important' was going in the middle of the night in Osakis. I'm just going to assume the chief of police told him to leave me alone.

The incident with the cop made me a bit shaky about stealth camping for a bit, but both where pretty minor problems, to counterbalance a dozen good experiences. Usually I just find a spot, set up, sleep, and move on in the morning with no drama. The only other time I was 'caught', it was in a town park where a lady walking her dog invited me to come over if the weather got bad. Here is one of my favorite spots, right in town, but hidden by rock formations over the Sauk River:

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Old 05-14-11, 09:49 PM
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Originally Posted by Ratzinger View Post
I've stealth camped across Canada. You get to know good ways to find spots.
I've found good spots;
-by checking out logging roads, sometimes they lead to an old clearcut site
-in town, behind tourism information buildings. There's nobody around at night and they usually have some nice grass
-campsites that aren't open- I did a trip in October and I stay free at a lot of campsites.
-a baseball diamond is a small town

I usually just camp to sleep. I don't hang out all evening. I ride until dark and them set up my tent and sleep, and get up with the sunrise. It can be a bit weird, especially at first, I was scared. But you put yourself in a situation, and you have no choice but to deal with it. It's a great way to stretch yourself and try something new.

The only problem I've ever had- once a friendly library offered to let me camp on the grass behind the library in a small town (so not really stealth this time). I was awoken by someone shaking the tent, and then apparently throwing things at it. Probably some bored kids. By the time I was fully awake and aware of what was happening, it seemed to have stopped.

All in all, it takes some creativity to find good spots and to be comfortable. I would pay for a camp site now and then when I'd want to shower and have a fire etc... but most of the time, stealth camping is the way to go

First off, great thoughts.

To all who have posted. First hand accounts! Excellent. Thanks for everyone posting. First hand accounts are like honey. There's really no way to summarize stealth camping experiences in my book and non-firsthand stories are about as useless as your typical urban myth that people pick to back up their usually extremely limited and unexperienced point of view.

Stealth camping is like pealing back the layers of an onion. Each experience is as unique as life itself. It fundamentally changes a person, it cuts through social norms we've been endoctrinated with since birth. It changes perspectives on the world. It requires and teaches a little faith in humanity or I guess it could destroy it, but mostly I've found only the former, though I like everyone worry about the later. Indeed it has been liberating, fascinating, a whole new frontier of experience. To be able head out into the world ride hard, cover a lot of ground, be comfortable in one's own skin and not needing to worry about where one will lay their head.

But also, I can't ride anywhere now without questioning the viability of every stand of trees for stealth camping. It's odd that way.

I absolutely love the european countries "freedom to roam" ideas. If anyone has any more info on that, particularly loinguisticly... words / memes / phrases / legal references upon which I might research, please do tell.

So without further adeiu.

Weirdest stealth camping spot: an outhouse... did this three times in fact. One at Big Meadows campground last January while touring on Skyline drive and the Parkway. Just happened to be unlocked Two more brand new outhouses on the Great allegheny passage. One on the same trip in january and the other a couple years earlier. All in cases of extreme weather / cold. Noone around. Noone disturbed me any of the three. Extremely off season. In all three cases the outhouses were fairly large even huge and relatively new / extremely clean.

On being spotted: I've been spotted I think twice. Neither time was their any indication the spotter cared. Once was right along the Montour Trail south of Pittsburgh a couple years back (their are now two hike/bike campspots on the Montour Trail) and the other just some random spot in the woods.

Stop before night: I find it ENDLESSLY easier to find good stealth camping spots during the day and try to aim to stop 30-60 minutes before sundown. The problem is you can't tell how visible you are from roads, houses, etc.

Horror story: None. Can't think of one.

Camping near civilization: Once camped right behind a truck off a major highway. Awesome. Suprisingly quiet. Superb facilities! Another time I camped right behind a rest stop on the ohio river. Specifically I realized after stopping it was the site of the Silve Bridge Disaster, topic of the Mothman Prophicies. Suprised and creeped me out actually. Again, quiet, superb services (bathroom / water). Another time I camped behind car wash in a small ohio town. Another time behind a lumber mill in another small ohio town only 50 yards from 1000 of tourists (because I couldn't find the hike/bike campground) near peninsula, OH in the heart of the Cuyahoga valley on the 60 mile canal trail. I've since learned my leason and make sure I know exactly where the camp spots are.

I'm paranoid, but trying to learn not to be: I always make sure I'm completely hidden if not camping somewhere completely legal. Even when I do camp places perfectly legal I worry about attracting the wrong kind of attention or simply being woken by other campers activity. I place a high primium on NOT being awoken in the middle of the night by anyone. I have let my gaurd down some in the past few years, a little, when camping along bicycle trails. One resulted in my being seen by a couple early joggers walkers south of pittsburgh on the montour (mentioned above). They didn't appear to care.

Best resource: My Android phone. The ability to get a sat view of a camps site to make sure I'm not right on a house or some road, or using it to spot potential campsites in more congested areas... or even when I don't want to stealth camp to find resources: campgrounds, motels, etc, etc. Also to mark my location and share it with a select few loved ones in case I suddenly "go missing".

Pine trees: I simply love them. Year round protection from weather. Fuel, soft bedding, clear of underbrush.

camping with permission: I have a friend who swears over the last 10+ years of touring he has always simply asked permission and only been turned down flat once. People at least direct him to someone or some place he might camp. the key is approaching people the right way. Best technique: At least an hour before dark keep an eye out for a farmer / owner working in the yard of a farm house (farmers own land). Approach slowly in a visible manner so they may have time to take you in for who/what you are and won't be put off. I.e. knocking on the door never works because you put people on the spot and they don't see you coming on your touring bike with your gear. -- I've only tried this once. The gentleman walked behind his barn as I approached... the wife defered to him. I obviously put him off even with my attempt at a disarming hello, (he obviously didn't see me coming on my bike as he came out behind his barn seeing me standing in his yard) hence a knee jerk reaction "not here", but as I bid him good day and thank you and turned to go he recovered as he had a moment to reflect, see my bike and take me in... and then by the time I'd taken three steps he changed his tune and suggested a tree line in his field a quarter mile down the road. -- Moral... give people time to see and judge you before inquiring they'll suprise you, it's all about context and circumstance. -- I consider this to be not only a moral high "aspiration", not superiour to or reflecting poorly on non-permission stealth camping... buto giving the world a chance to suprise you and potentially build your faith in humanity. That said, it's not for everyone. I still don't feel comforable doing it as I've done it only once. My friend on the other hand has said it's lead to a tremendous amount of great experiences meeting people and often he's had to turn down hospitality. I'm a very sociable guy on tour, indeed I've been invited to dinner by strangers and actually joined them, but still, I have my hangups. Oh... and I also once stayed at the house of someone I'd only met five hours earlier. But it was an incredible meeting. I not only met them but a whole geat community of creatives / bicyclists and small business people in Roanoke Virginia. Most well met city ever. But yes, I did txt/email my gps coordinates to my loved ones as I do every night on tour. Making so many fast friends in such a cool city was a hilight of touring that will perhaps always stay with me. I'm still in contact with many of them.


Small town Churches? Fire stations? I've heard these are superb places to inquire about stealth camping. I've not yet worked up the nerve to find out. Please share your experiences!?





== favorite stealth camping equipment ==

.1) make some touring cards! ...I always mean to do this and forget, finally in Roanoke in January I was meeting so many cool people and writing down my info so often I just went to the local library and made the lightest business cards ever. Just small scraps of paper (fit 35-50 on an 8x10) containing my name, trip details, photostream, blog, facebook and email addy.) This became a hugely useful tool for bringing continuity to the trip and post trip. Am now in contact with many people I've met along the way. Can be a great ice breaker as well.

1) in summer: Wing tarp with home made "bug bivy" made by sewing a ground cloth to a $35 sea-to-summit bug bivy. Extremely easy/quick to setup. Light. Airy. Bugproof. Versatile.

2) fall/ winter: Also love my bivy in cooler weather. I.E. my January trip down the eastern divide. Unroll and instant camp. Interesting thing though, I discovered it compresses my down quilt and makes it colder.

3) fall winter: down golite 800 fill jacket: the ultimate in luxury, necessity, emergency. Throw it on over your biking clothes at the end of the day as you cool down, moisture pushes out of cloathing, escapes the down well. After eating and setting up camp, perhaps a fire... about 1-2 hours clothes will be dry enough, change into bed cloathes and stuff biking clothes down the sides of airmat inside quilt so will be warm in morning and any moisture will continue to dissipate

4) summer... lafuma synthetic 600 bag, 1lb 4oz.. extremely light and affordable, don't have to worry about destroying it / abusing it to much. Not quite to their 45/55 or whatever it is spec. I nearly froze in it one windy 50 degree night, but still superb for winter use, can be used as a quilt with a foot box, indeed this is almost exclusively how I use it.

5) spring/fall/ winter... golite 800 fill 20 degree quilt. 1lb 8oz if I remember correctly, not 1lb 4oz as they claimed... but then I did get the long so maybe that explains the extra 4oz. Is as good as they rate it. Luxurious. Love it. Versatile.

6) winter... bag layering... took the above two bags and used layered (synthetic on outside since moisture condensation doesn't affect it as much). Got me through some the coldest january nights the appalachians had to offer

7) winter... nalgene of boiling water in the bottom of the bag... genius, simply genius. Boil water, put in nalgene, throw into bag 10 or so mintues before going to sleep at night. Instant sleep will ensue... don't forget a final visit to nature right before turning in.

8) summer... HEET (gas line anti-freeze) + .25oz supercat stove + aluminum foil. Best stove ever. Can fine alcohol sources like HEET, denatured alcohol, etc, etc anywhere and everywhere in the U.S... even so I'm experimenting with going completely wood this year. I just love it, no fuel to carry ever. We shall see how fire even if tiny works with stealth though. Is primary concern. Could be tough.


Seems I've gotten off track with the gear though. Sorry!

p.s. Flickr photo sharing group for sharing your stealth camping experiences: https://www.flickr.com/groups/stealthcamping/

Even if you don't have any photos please feel free to join just so you can find it again. It's a realatively new group by internet standards and could use more contributors.


Related: I've got a ridiculous passion for touring... key topics are...

1) knowlege/skills not gear, adaptation and improvisation over bought "solutions" i.e. bushcraft... the value of knowlege and skill increases over time it is not fixed like store bought solutions which i see often as shortcuts... plus these things cost nothing and weigh nothing... and the returns on knowlege and skill compound and grow exponentially

2) stealth camping... as experienced as I am I feel I still haven't scratched the surface

3) "less stuff. more freedom." a personal motto

4) rough riding "any bike, anytime, anywhere" i.e. https://www.flickr.com/groups/rough-riders/

5) bikepacking / ultralight touring / multi-sport touring (i.e. backpacking + biking, packrafting + biking, skiing + biking) and other forms that become possible as gear weights drop below 10lbs and bike weights drop below 25 or even 20lbs. i.e. https://www.flickr.com/groups/ultralightbiking/

6) touring styles... credit card, UL, bikepacking, classic rack+pannier, retro touring (i.e. three speed?), randoneering, etc, etc. So many influences and inspirations.

7) backpacking light... the backpackinglight.com community huge inspiration

8) MYOG/ DIY gear... to make it yourself is to understand it better, even if you do eventually use a store bought solution, by arriving at it first by your own DIY is to really understand it. Plus it costs less money then to keep buying and selling store bought gear. An example... my wing tarp... I've experimented with different shapes, sizes, cord pull placements and intend to keep experimenting. By the time I go cuben I'll not only know exactly what I want but have the sewing skills to properly alter it with pulls or other to better suit my needs.

9) touring gear in general i.e. https://www.flickr.com/groups/touringgear/
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Old 05-14-11, 10:20 PM
  #17  
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Wow, lots of great info.
A GPS phone!! That would be a very useful tool.

I'll add that a lot of great camping sites are places that are marked "no camping". Obviously, if people were allowed to camp at highway rest stops, you would have fires and parties and garbage. I have no moral problem about setting up a tent, sleeping and waking early to leave, leaving nothing behind.
Once, in Northern Ontario, an OPP cop stopped me at dusk to to make sure I knew where I was going (we were far from anywhere). I explained what I was doing and told him I planned to camp at the rest stop, he had no problem with it.

On one trip I met two cyclist whose strategy was to always approach someone with land and ask permission to tent. That usually worked, and they would also get to refill their bottles.
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Old 05-14-11, 11:00 PM
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This was a very interesting thread, read every word so far, thanks.
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Old 05-14-11, 11:19 PM
  #19  
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This thread made me think of our experience years ago with scaling a fence to get to a place where we could camp. Even now - after all these years and hundreds of nights camping in various places, I think we did the only thing we could have done. Here is the thread from that day: https://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...place-to-camp?
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Old 05-15-11, 12:40 AM
  #20  
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Irrespective of what people on here say, stealth camping it rarely is. I have lived enough "on the land" now to know that people know intimately their surroundings and anything that is out of place. So, I always take the view that whatever I do, I will be seen, even if it's going in or coming out, and that it's almost impossible not to be seen from every angle.

Whatever it might be called in that context, I have engaged in quite a bit of it, although less so in North America compared with Europe and Australia.

(As a note, Australia does not have liberal Right to Roam camping rules, and the shire in which I live and for which I work, for example, technically doesn't allow any camping on its reserves, although we turn a blind eye to those who obviously are peaceful and only intent on staying a night.)

Australia is blessed with many free-camping options outside the big cities and towns. I've found, though, that I need to start quite early to find the "right" location.

Urban camping is a little different, but it's still possible to get a good night's sleep in a shelter for an interchange bench on an Australian Rules football ground, under a cover of oak leaves in a bivvy under next to the entrance of a horse racing track, or on the road reserve of a busy highway to Dover, England (it was pouring rain, I couldn't find the official campground, and I settled for a sloped piece of ground in a thicket of trees with a fence between me and the houses nextdoor).

I also remember running a learn-to-ride bike course adjacent to some government buildings in my home city of Hobart, and seeing a non-cycling guy set up with his sleeping bag and pack -- not once, but several times -- set up in a corner of a car park behind one of the offices.

After a while, you can become quite skilled at picking the clues as to the suitability of a site. Broken glass or other rubbish scattered about, recent footprints or vehicle tracks are clues to areas not as salubrious as you'd like. Knowing how these people behave (that is, they don't roam far from the motor vehicle at night, and then only to pee), so looking a bit beyond over the next hillock might reveal a nice spot.

One spot that I keep an eye out for in hillier country, especially in Australia, is at the top of cuttings for roads and highways. It might be a bit noisy on some highways, but generally, you are high enough not to be seen by headlights, and our road reservations are wide enough and usually have enough trees to create a screen. You might still be spotted by an adjacent property owner.

In France, I discovered that thickets of remnant forest are still there, and I decided quite early on (like, the first day I left Paris) that these would be good locations for free-camping. And they were!

These factors are also reasons why I keep my load to a moderate level -- lifting a loaded bike over logs, or up to the top of a cutting can be hard work and the lighter it is, the better.

We all have fears, but experience does overcome most of them. However, becoming complacent can put one in situations more dangerous or at least awkward than they need be.

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Old 05-15-11, 01:10 AM
  #21  
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In the 80's it used to be that, in France and Spain at least, camping discreetly was tolerated almost anywhere outside the big cities. Even if you were caught unprepared somewhere in the middle of nowhere you could ask a farmer and they would gladly let you pitch a tent in a field. Nowadays it is a little more iffy. Last year in southern France there were cases of police harassment because illegal immigrants from North Africa were camping in small "tent cities". You need to exercise some caution but it is still doable. Just be aware if you haven't done it recently, especially in Summer. The locals are overwhelmed by people from North Africa and East Europe looking for cheap accommodations. Looking the part of the intrepid cyclist and appearing "clean" always helps. Also, if you speak a little French that goes a looong way towards being invited to pitch your tent on a field for a night. Of course, YMMV, especially if you are young and look innocent enough.
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Old 05-15-11, 05:16 AM
  #22  
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Wow, so many great stories, comments, and ideas on this thread so far!


Here's my next big question: How about snakes? Any run-ins with rattlesnakes and the like popping out from under the brush after having found what seems to be a comfy nest to lay your head for the night?

What to look out for? I've heard that areas of fallen trees and rotting wood is a good setting for snakes, any other ideas of how to avoid snakes, or keep contact to a minimum?
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Old 05-15-11, 08:55 AM
  #23  
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Originally Posted by thesearethesuns View Post

What to look out for? I've heard that areas of fallen trees and rotting wood is a good setting for snakes, any other ideas of how to avoid snakes, or keep contact to a minimum?
We've encountered snakes while out for hikes, but nothing while setting up camp. Snakes are just as scared of us as we are of them - and they would way rather slither away than fight.
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Old 05-15-11, 09:39 AM
  #24  
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Originally Posted by mmeiser View Post
Stealth camping is like pealing back the layers of an onion. Each experience is as unique as life itself. It fundamentally changes a person, it cuts through social norms we've been endoctrinated with since birth. It changes perspectives on the world. It requires and teaches a little faith in humanity or I guess it could destroy it, but mostly I've found only the former, though I like everyone worry about the later. Indeed it has been liberating, fascinating, a whole new frontier of experience. To be able head out into the world ride hard, cover a lot of ground, be comfortable in one's own skin and not needing to worry about where one will lay their head.
Well put mmeiser!

All of your post.

I too find myself checking out places to stealth camp when not touring, especially while driving.
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Old 05-15-11, 11:25 AM
  #25  
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Originally Posted by thesearethesuns View Post
Wow, so many great stories, comments, and ideas on this thread so far!


Here's my next big question: How about snakes? Any run-ins with rattlesnakes and the like popping out from under the brush after having found what seems to be a comfy nest to lay your head for the night?

What to look out for? I've heard that areas of fallen trees and rotting wood is a good setting for snakes, any other ideas of how to avoid snakes, or keep contact to a minimum?
I've never had an issue with snakes, but I have woken up to tarantulas under my tent.
They were tucked up right where my body was laying, maybe for warmth. Even though
they're mostly non-aggressive and non-threatening, it was still kind of creepy. I saw tarantulas in every state from California to Texas.
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