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Stealth camping while touring. What's you strategy?

Old 09-29-13, 07:12 AM
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bikeguyinvenice
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Stealth camping while touring. What's you strategy?

For those of you that camp in areas that might not be authorized camp sites, what's you strategy? I've always wanted to do a tour through parts of the western U.S. and there are plenty of areas where a camp site might not be close by at the end of a riding day. So do you just wait until after dark and ride to an area off the road and pitch the tent? Or do you have more elaborate techniques to hide your camp site? I was thinking of some camouflage netting might be useful for breaking up the profile of a campsite.
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Old 09-29-13, 07:25 AM
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If you do a little preparation, you need to do little to no "stealth" camping - - esp. in the West.
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Old 09-29-13, 08:43 AM
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Here are 8 links to information about stealth camping.

Not all of them deal with your question, but several do.
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Old 09-29-13, 10:19 AM
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All you need for successful stealth camping can be found in Raybo's links. 'Course, I can't let Raybo have the last word, so...

Wild camping is anything that's free. Stealth is a hidden wild camp.

I do more non hidden wild camping than stealth. Small town city parks mostly, in or behind abandoned buildings, behind a road side business with owners permission, state right-of-ways when some privacy is available, etc. Fact is 99% of people who might see your camp don't give a flip. Too busy with their own lives, and have no desire to deal with a bum on a bicycle. Yeah, some bored cop may say "No", but that is extremely rare.

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Old 09-29-13, 05:00 PM
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I generally ride until just before dark and find a place with varying degrees of success. Only once did I "hang around" until people left, on a bike trail on Puget Sound on a weekend. I often look ahead on the map and try to time my arrival into National Forest or BLM land. Then I might hang around a cafe or library in a town, or adjust my pace accordingly, faster or slower. Sometimes I'll ride into a USFS campground or picnic area, get water and have a picnic (sometimes get an invitation to share a site and meal from a curious car camper), then ride to the next USFS road and camp there, legally, for free. Very occasionally I'll camp at a day-use area like a highway rest area, illegally and stealthily, only if no other options exist.
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Old 09-29-13, 05:23 PM
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Here's some things I always look for:

-Golf Courses
-State and National Parks
-"Green" areas on Google Maps Satellite
-Railroad Tracks (always empty land near them, bad property value)
-Highways (same thing)
-Lakes

When I stealth camp, I arrive at night and leave at sun-up. Only problem I ever had was when I accidentally camped on Indian Reservation land in Canada, but the Mohawks forgave me when I explained I was from the US.

I set up my hammock and then cover my bike and reflectors with a big dark green tarp. My backpack (with my most important stuff) is used as a sleeping pad for my legs in the hammock.

One time, I stealth camped on a dirt bike track. Cape Cod had slim pickings. 10/10 for the spot.

Last edited by mdilthey; 09-29-13 at 07:31 PM.
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Old 09-30-13, 07:20 AM
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Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
If you do a little preparation, you need to do little to no "stealth" camping - - esp. in the West.
+1. Wonder if the OP knows that it's perfectly fine to camp in most areas of National Forest land even if there are no established U.S.F.S. campgrounds.
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Old 09-30-13, 10:34 AM
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IF - There's lots of info out there for someone who looks. As a college instructor, I had hoped that the internet would have promoted this; yet, it seems that people (of all ages) simply want someone to give them the answers. Not only can you camp freely throughout most National Forest Lands if more than 1/2 mile from a developed site - but you can also do so on BLM lands. Granted BLM lands are more austere. Although this general rule does not apply to state lands, there are countless fishing access sites and wildlife areas that permit dispersed camping.

I have consistently opposed the idea of "stealth" camping for two reasons -
1. There is no need to do so in much of North America.
2. It implies illegality and the need to hide.
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Old 09-30-13, 12:41 PM
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The only time i have stealth camped is when i've run out of options. Usually at the wrong end of my own poor judgement. My strategy is to ask for permission to camp.

That said, there are exceptions - usually wilderness areas where there is no one to ask. This hasn't happened to me very often. And i'm a wuss when it comes to deer ticks. Which eliminates most of the northeast United States during touring season.

Everytime I pass a failed corn crop ( which i totally don't get why it has failed to be harvested) I've wondered about it's stealth camp possibilities. Once a row or two back you are lost to the world. it's getting mowed anyway so nothing to hurt. You've got built in bedding and maybe dinner!

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Old 09-30-13, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by tom cotter View Post
The only time i have stealth camped is when i've run out of options. Usually at the wrong end of my own poor judgement. My strategy is to ask for permission to camp.

That said, there are exceptions - usually wilderness areas where there is no one to ask. This hasn't happened to me very often. And i'm a wuss when it comes to deer ticks. Which eliminates most of the northeast United States during touring season.

Everytime I pass a failed corn crop ( which i totally don't get why it has failed to be harvested) I've wondered about it's stealth camp possibilities. Once a row or two back you are lost to the world. it's getting mowed anyway so nothing to hurt. You've got built in bedding and maybe dinner!
Just hope the farmer doesn't get an early, before-dawn start on his combine work the next morning. You'd probably be mowed over and the farmer wouldn't even know it...
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Old 09-30-13, 02:14 PM
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I was going to mention BLM land. I thought the same rule applied, but I wasn't certain. I have only stayed at developed campsites on BLM land. Stayed at a very nice on in Divide MT. Right next to the Big Hole river. Fresh, cool drinking water. Clean vault toiletes. And the host gave us free firewood. All for $6 for the site.

Fishing access places are other good spots. I stayed at a couple out west.
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Old 09-30-13, 02:56 PM
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I absolutely adore stealth camping and I laugh in the faces of those who are offended by the mere mention of it. What kind of a world is this that a traveller has nowhere to rest without paying? Some of these campground want nearly as much as a hotel just to flop down on a small piece of ground.

My strategy is to use a bivy sack. I move in under cover of night and leave early, leaving no trace.
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Old 09-30-13, 04:03 PM
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I only have pity for those who fail to understand that by stealth camping, they are taking an activity that should be open, natural, and free - and putting it into the realm of illegal and wrong. Not only are they painting themselves into a corner, but everyone else, too. Of course, Andalusia has 16 times the population of Wyoming in 1/3 the area, but hey, what do I know about wild camping?
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Old 09-30-13, 05:16 PM
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Originally Posted by bikeguyinvenice View Post
For those of you that camp in areas that might not be authorized camp sites, what's you strategy? I've always wanted to do a tour through parts of the western U.S. and there are plenty of areas where a camp site might not be close by at the end of a riding day. So do you just wait until after dark and ride to an area off the road and pitch the tent? Or do you have more elaborate techniques to hide your camp site? I was thinking of some camouflage netting might be useful for breaking up the profile of a campsite.
When I get within about 10 miles of "I am burnt", I start looking for farmhouses and/or farmers riding in pickups. I simply let them know that I am a bike tourist going through the area and would like his/her permission to put up a tent and promise to not cause any problems nor to have any open fires.

I don't remember ever being turned down...and many, many times was invited in for a home cooked meal, nice cold beer(s), and lots of good conversation. One farmer did insist that I stay in their fenced in yard because he was aware of packs of wild dogs that have been downing his animals of recent. I accepted his offer of a double 12gauge and box of shot shells. Turns out I was able to help him out by taking out 3 of the mangy, snarling creatures that attempted to chew through the fence about 3am. Ended up staying away the rest of the night...

/K
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Old 09-30-13, 08:56 PM
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As a frequent stealth camper in some of the most populated, suburban areas of the northeast, I do NOT suggest stealth camping in a corn field.

I can think of few more dangerous places to camp.
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Old 10-01-13, 07:34 PM
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Look for a place well before dusk, at least an hour or two before. Look for land that has no development or no interest in development if you can. I always do the "dog" test, meaning I will listen for a little while to see if I can hear a dog barking. If you can hear a dog bark, the dog can hear you camp. Respect NO TRESPASSING signs or other marks which imply trespassing. Illegal camping in state or national parks is a very bad idea. Camping on Native-American land is a horrible idea.
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Old 10-03-13, 02:49 PM
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Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
As a frequent stealth camper in some of the most populated, suburban areas of the northeast, I do NOT suggest stealth camping in a corn field.

I can think of few more dangerous places to camp.
can you expand on this please?
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Old 10-03-13, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
As a frequent stealth camper in some of the most populated, suburban areas of the northeast, I do NOT suggest stealth camping in a corn field.

I can think of few more dangerous places to camp.
Ok, I'll expand.

#1 . Getting lost in cornfields is a real thing. You can become disoriented and end up walking for a half mile in the wrong direction. You won't starve to death, but you'll be wandering for a while. Actually, you might starve to death. A lot of corn produced in the U.S. is a strain with maximum starch for animal feed and corn syrup. I don't think humans can process it. I digress. That's like a 2/10 on the danger scale.

#2 . The reason every single corn stalk in the United States is the same type, and the crop isn't decimated by a capitalizing bug who eats this type of corn, is because they spray gallons of pesticides on cornfields to keep the insect population down. You don't know their schedule; you could end up sprayed with something designed to kill biologic life. 6/10 on the danger scale.

#3 . Threshing machines. Farmer Tom wakes up at 4AM. Do you? 10/10 on the danger scale.

Don't sleep in cornfields, or any fields for that matter. It's a really bad idea.

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Old 10-03-13, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by gpsblake View Post
I always do the "dog" test, meaning I will listen for a little while to see if I can hear a dog barking.
My dog is deaf, and doesn't bark. Where is your test now?!

Camping on Native-American land is a horrible idea.
I agree. I did it by accident once, though, and didn't get ambushed.
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Old 10-03-13, 03:01 PM
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Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
Ok, I'll expand.

#1 . Getting lost in cornfields is a real thing. You can become disoriented and end up walking for a half mile in the wrong direction. You won't starve to death, but you'll be wandering for a while. Actually, you might starve to death. A lot of corn produced in the U.S. is a strain with maximum starch for animal feed and corn syrup. I don't think humans can process it. I digress. That's like a 2/10 on the danger scale.

#2 . The reason every single corn stalk in the United States is the same type, and the crop isn't decimated by a capitalizing bug who eats this type of corn, is because they spray gallons of pesticides on cornfields to keep the insect population down. You don't know their schedule; you could end up sprayed with something designed to kill biologic life. 6/10 on the danger scale.

#3 . Threshing machines. Farmer Tom wakes up at 4AM. Do you? 10/10 on the danger scale.

Don't sleep in cornfields, or any fields for that matter. It's a really bad idea.
thank you for this.
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Old 10-03-13, 03:07 PM
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Sure thing!
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Old 10-03-13, 06:26 PM
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Originally Posted by mdilthey View Post
My dog is deaf, and doesn't bark. Where is your test now?!



I agree. I did it by accident once, though, and didn't get ambushed.
If the dog doesn't bark then he isn't likely to bark at something he doesn't hear. FWIW I use a similar test, also the can I see any lights. I have also stealth camped in places right in the middle of town. My favorite are in the fringes of roadways where the overpasses cross, especially if they are wooded. I choose the ones a couple of miles out of town, less likely to run into homeless folks that far out.

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Old 10-03-13, 10:09 PM
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I camp out of the way to avoid interaction with others - for safety reasons mostly - and I call that stealth camping. It is not illegal where I camp so those that think it implies such are incorrect in my case - and possibly others. One can be vulnerable in the middle of the night, miles from no where, whilst asleep. I'd rather people not know where I am. I sleep better that way.

I've not had an issue that I can remember in 40+ years of camping, but I still sleep better knowing I cannot be seen.
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Old 10-03-13, 10:43 PM
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Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
I only have pity for those who fail to understand that by stealth camping, they are taking an activity that should be open, natural, and free - and putting it into the realm of illegal and wrong. Not only are they painting themselves into a corner, but everyone else, too. Of course, Andalusia has 16 times the population of Wyoming in 1/3 the area, but hey, what do I know about wild camping?
I worked in the Star Valley and other parts of your state back in the 70s and I stealth camped all the time. It was easy there because there was so much open space. It requires more skill over here because of the population density but it can be done.
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Old 10-04-13, 12:11 AM
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the sheep in the pastures are accommodating.. they have not developed a taste for Nylon.
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