Author Topic: Success rate finding a tent camping spot  (Read 2125 times)

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Offline brhoward

Success rate finding a tent camping spot
« on: February 19, 2020, 02:09:30 pm »
What's the experiences of finding an ok church, fire station, police station that will allow a tent for an overnight stay? My thinking and limited experience has been that with a day or even a few hours notice, it's usually ok. Or you can get a local referral even.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Success rate finding a tent camping spot
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2020, 03:52:18 pm »
I usually free-camped in wooded areas. I would not have thought to do it that way.

Offline brhoward

Re: Success rate finding a tent camping spot
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2020, 04:31:27 pm »
Would be great if I could get this 3-wheeled monstrocity of a trike (pulling a burley) off the road far enough to not be seen.  I've spent a night or four at Churches and also some volunteer, unmanned firestations before. Problem is finding the contact person on short notice.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Success rate finding a tent camping spot
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2020, 04:42:27 pm »
I have never used them. I have no intention of ever doing so. In general, in some areas, police, firemen and other municipal workers engage in questionable, unconstitutional, illegal activities. They are not your friends. They are not my friends. I would not camp with or by or near them. Suit yourself. Many cyclists have used them for camping. Everything went well from what I read.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Success rate finding a tent camping spot
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2020, 05:20:27 pm »
For churches and fire stations listed on the ACA maps, my experience is excellent. They almost always let me sleep inside.

For other churches that I have just approached when I got there, my experience is mixed. In many cases, there won't be anybody there; I call the number on the sign out front; if nobody answers, I leave a message; the call usually isn't returned, or isn't returned soon enough to do me any good. If you happen to find somebody at the church (e.g., the pastor, the cleaning lady, etc.), your chances of success are much better. More often than not, they let me stay. Anybody but the pastor usually has to check with the pastor first. I did spend an hour at one church, they called the pastor and the pastor came to the church just to tell me no; that was odd. In many other cases, the pastor has said yes. I usually end up sleeping on a couch in the bible-study room or day-care area, or on the gym floor.

I have just camped without permission when I couldn't find anybody to talk to. It has almost always worked out fine. I've slept on the porch of a NFS office, and they invited me in for coffee when they arrived in the morning. I've pitched my tent behind a police station and they didn't bother me, even after they noticed me there in the morning. I slept in the park across the street from a police station, and they brought me food and firewood when they saw me over there. I've slept in many city parks and left a note on the bathroom door asking them not to lock it for that night, which they have always honored.

There's always a few uncomfortable moments when you do something like this, because you don't know how they're going to react.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Success rate finding a tent camping spot
« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2020, 05:56:05 am »
How easy it is to find a place to sleep varies.  I find in the middle of the country in smaller towns it has been super easy and I have had 100% success rate at finding a spot to camp.  I don't usually bother with permission and more often than not just stay in a local picnic area.  I typically buy some food/supplies or at the very least something to drink in the general store or mini mart and ask if I am likely to be run off or arrested if I spend the night in the town park/picnic area.

In towns large enough to have a police department I might check with them, but more often than not I an in towns to small to have local cops.  If I am on and Adventure Cycling route I'll use their recommended spots where possible.  If all else fails I'll camp out of sight somewhere.

I pretty much never call ahead or do more than improvise on the spot and it always seems to work out okay.

In larger towns or cities I'll generally get permission to stay somewhere, get a room, or travel past the city to stay elsewhere.

Offline bobbys beard

Re: Success rate finding a tent camping spot
« Reply #6 on: February 22, 2020, 05:51:33 am »
I usually try to find a covered spot in some woodland etc, just off the road. There are often hunting areas too. I’ve met a few hunters while trespassing on their property and they’ve always been fine with it.

RV parks were brilliant (in the South at least). I lost count how many times people let me stay at one for free and let me use their facilities. Many campsites (especially in California) will have a hiker/biker rate, which is always peanuts.

Other times I’ve not been so lucky. The military base south of Washington DC wouldn’t let me ride through one time and it was starting to get dark. I found a hotel just off the freeway, but it was fully booked (or more likely I suspect I smelled like I’d been riding for a week without a proper wash and would scare the other customers) so ended up spending the night in a police lay-by. Had no problems there though and was up with the dawn and on my way.

Offline staehpj1

Re: Success rate finding a tent camping spot
« Reply #7 on: February 22, 2020, 09:30:29 am »
RV parks were brilliant (in the South at least). I lost count how many times people let me stay at one for free and let me use their facilities.
That has not been my experience.  I have found a few RV parks that were okay, but they were the generally ones that also allowed tent camper so not strictly RV parks.  Pure RV parks were almost always likely to turn me away.  There were a few rare exceptions.

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Many campsites (especially in California) will have a hiker/biker rate, which is always peanuts.
Oregon too.  I liked the ones in Oregon even better in fact.  I rarely ran into hiker biker sites in other states though.

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Other times I’ve not been so lucky. The military base south of Washington DC wouldn’t let me ride through one time and it was starting to get dark. I found a hotel just off the freeway, but it was fully booked (or more likely I suspect I smelled like I’d been riding for a week without a proper wash and would scare the other customers) so ended up spending the night in a police lay-by. Had no problems there though and was up with the dawn and on my way.
Military bases have gotten that way in the last 20 years or so.  I won't count on riding through them at all unless you specifically know they have a policy that allows it.

I think the east coast is just generally more difficult to deal with and you are more likely to need to resort to stealth there.  Also campgrounds are likely to be crazy expensive in my experience when you do find them there.  For the most part I have avoided the east coast other than as a necessary part of coast to coast trips.

In my experience west coast state parks are awesome and the middle of the country has amazingly friendly folks that tolerate you camping in places like picnic areas and church yards at least in rural small towns.  The south isn't bad either, but most of the east coast is more of a pain.

Offline bobbys beard

Re: Success rate finding a tent camping spot
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2020, 10:48:28 am »
I second your east coast experience. I started my trip in New York and followed the ACA maps to st. Augustine. Although I met more than my fair share of lovely people, the east coast in general was a complete contrast to the rest of my trip and I did a lot more stealth camping there. When I did find campsites, they were often no cheaper than a motel room.

One thing I did find on the east coast was that independent motel owners were, with very few exceptions, would give a much lower price if I asked how much for a room if I pay in cash.  Often got $10 or more off the quoted price. I tried this in other areas and was met with much disapproval!

Offline David W Pratt

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Re: Success rate finding a tent camping spot
« Reply #9 on: February 25, 2020, 03:33:10 pm »
What a great opportunity for posters here to pool our experiences. And for someone (not I) to do the work of maintaining and updating a list of bike friendly campable places. 
Last Summer, on the Erie Canal Tow Path, I came across a little church in Sprakers, NY, that was more than happy to host cyclists.  They even had laundry facilities.  They are about 21/2 miles West of Canajoharie.