Author Topic: Stealth Camping? Sleep Site!  (Read 5031 times)

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Offline Westinghouse

Re: Stealth Camping? Sleep Site!
« Reply #15 on: January 16, 2024, 06:03:55 pm »
Of 36,000 miles of loaded bicycle touring, the vast majority of which was by free-camping in wooded areas, I have discovered what I call the iron law of stealth camping. The law is this---All day, intermittently, from the road. you see nice places to sleep for one night. They are there in every direction. However, when the sun goes down, when it is time to haul it off the road, and lay it down for the night, there are no such sites to be found anywhere. This law presented itself to me so very many instances. I thought it might be supernatural.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Stealth Camping? Sleep Site!
« Reply #16 on: January 16, 2024, 06:12:20 pm »
Interesting post for me.   I camped at Harris a few years ago and can honestly say, that it is the only state park I was a bit uncomfortable in and it was largely because of the transient population. Fortunately, there were a number of other bike tourists in the hiker/biker site, so I felt relatively safe and didn't experience any problems.  Had I been the only camper around, I would have been a bit uneasy.  Just another symptom of the homeless problem in this country.


In 2022 I cycled part of the pacific route in WA and OR. Somebody gave information for a nice place to set up for one night. I headed out. Later, somebody else told me there were homeless camps in the so-called nice place near a river. With that information, I made a turn of 180 degrees and kept away. After that, it was a search and a find and a night of sleep in a one-person Kelty tent.

Offline davidbonn

Re: Stealth Camping? Sleep Site!
« Reply #17 on: January 16, 2024, 10:53:42 pm »
On public lands in the American West a good bet is to find an abandoned road.  The USFS and BLM are decommissioning a lot of roads.  Usually the process is they go in with a backhoe and dig out a huge trench to block vehicles from using the road.

So if you see a road with a huge trench (usually a few dozen feet from whatever road you are on) you can walk your bike across the trench and ride on a few hundred yards and camp on the abandoned road.  I'd recommend going far enough that you are out of sight of the road you are traveling on (usually not very far in practice, 1/4 mile is probably plenty far).

A similar process goes on in privately held timberlands in the Pacific Northwest, but you'll typically need to purchase an annual permit to ride or camp there.

Also, if you can see a campsite from the road you are riding on, it is a poor choice for a stealth campsite.

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Stealth Camping? Sleep Site!
« Reply #18 on: January 18, 2024, 12:24:33 am »
Yes, the whole idea is to be out of sight. Out of sight of any foot paths, of any and all roadways, of houses from every possible angle.  I would rather sleep in peace than rest in peace.

Offline hikerjer

Re: Stealth Camping? Sleep Site!
« Reply #19 on: January 20, 2024, 08:49:48 pm »
"On public lands in the American West a good bet is to find an abandoned road". -   

I'd agree for the most part. The key is if the road is blocked off. I used to think that when riding a fairly busy road, my best option was to find a small side road that leads off the mail road and find a suitable camping spot somewhere along there.  I came to the realization that maybe this wasn't the best option.  Often, other parties would turn off this side road for the same reason and slowly drive along looking for a place to stop, rest, relieve themselves, drink or who knows what.  I've concluded that in many instances you're better off to pull directly off along a main highway out of sight and uphill, if possible, and out of view of the main flow of traffic where people are zooming along at a high rate of speed and aren't interested in what's along the side of the road. I think you're far less to be spotted in those circumstances.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2024, 08:51:54 pm by hikerjer »

Offline Westinghouse

Re: Stealth Camping? Sleep Site!
« Reply #20 on: January 20, 2024, 10:02:05 pm »

Certainly, drivers tearing along the roadways will not crank their craniums 90 degrees to inspect minute details of motions beyond the bushes and trees. A passenger might be looking. And that is not a problem. I think maybe 1 in 1000 would cause problems for the stealth sleeper. 1 in 10,000 might double back for robbery, or worse. At a site unseen, I would say security is assured. Rest easy.  My nights stealth sleeping are countless. There are no negative incidents to report. That is for the human element. Some really lethal nasty storms caught me unexpectedly, but that is not the topic. Drivers and others keep their eyes forward, on the road, rarely glancing far left or right. Many focus only 200 feet in front of the hood. They do not look upwards.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2024, 10:04:06 pm by Westinghouse »

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Stealth Camping? Sleep Site!
« Reply #21 on: January 20, 2024, 11:43:13 pm »
One piece of advice I try to adhere to concerning stealth camping is to try and stay on the uphill side of the road, all things considered.
Plus at night, headlights are rarely aimed upward of eye level so the various reflective surfaces on your bike & gear are less likely to be seen.

Offline davidbonn

Re: Stealth Camping? Sleep Site!
« Reply #22 on: January 21, 2024, 07:37:08 pm »
You need to be aware that even a tiny headlamp can be visible from an astonishing distance at night.  So best to get out of direct line of sight of nearby roads.  That can be harder than you think and is often impossible for all practical purposes.  So be careful and discreet using a light at night if you are stealth camping.

Even if you and your light are out of the actual line of sight of any nearby prying eyes, if your light illuminates tall trees or a nearby slope it can be almost as bad.

Offline BikeFreak

Re: Stealth Camping? Sleep Site!
« Reply #23 on: January 22, 2024, 04:28:41 pm »
You need to be aware that even a tiny headlamp can be visible from an astonishing distance at night.  So best to get out of direct line of sight of nearby roads.  That can be harder than you think and is often impossible for all practical purposes.  So be careful and discreet using a light at night if you are stealth camping.

Even if you and your light are out of the actual line of sight of any nearby prying eyes, if your light illuminates tall trees or a nearby slope it can be almost as bad.

On my last trip I also realized that using my headlight inside the tent will make the tent "glow" from the outside.

Offline Shmogger

Re: Stealth Camping? Sleep Site!
« Reply #24 on: February 04, 2024, 11:36:42 am »
Hi, I'm brand new here, and I'm planning the Rails-To-Trails cross-country this summer.  I did a solo cross-country bike trip in 2002; now at 55, this will be my first return to bike touring. 

Something that I don't see in this thread is just asking people where to go.  (It's touched on in the tomsbiketrip article, but in re foreign countries.)

On my 2002 trip, I would just roll up to a policeman and ask, "Is there someplace I can camp around here without breaking any rules?"  It always worked, they were always pleased I asked, and sometimes they would even lead me to a suitable place.  The added benefit was, they knew I was there and would let others know it was alright.

I would also stop when I saw someone in their front yard, at a store, etc., and ask them.  Lots of times they would offer to let me camp overnight on their land!

I do recall one time I asked at a church, and the minister was rather cold to me.  Wouldn't let me stay, but told me about a park with a (cement) picnic area.

On the other hand, I did a lot of stealth camping, too.  Don't recall any problems with that, either.  The only time I ever got any guff was from a fox returning to his den in the middle of the night, who let me know I was too close to it for his comfort!

But here's the thing:  It's a much different America today.  People are less friendly and less trusting of strangers, and frankly, I admit that includes me, because half the country has lost its &*^%# mind.  I have to admit, these factors give me pause.

So aside from common sense, like be polite, show respect and keep your mouth shut about things that aren't part of the adventure, I'd welcome any thoughts. 

Kinda answered my own question, I guess ;-) but would welcome thoughts from those who have been out on the road more recently than 22 years ago!



« Last Edit: February 04, 2024, 03:10:05 pm by daniel_skolnik@yahoo.com »

Offline ray b

Re: Stealth Camping? Sleep Site!
« Reply #25 on: February 04, 2024, 04:18:46 pm »
Something that I don't see in this thread is just asking people where to go.  (It's touched on in the tomsbiketrip article, but in re foreign countries.)

  • On my 2002 trip, I would just roll up to a policeman and ask, "Is there someplace I can camp around here without breaking any rules?"  It always worked, they were always pleased I asked, and sometimes they would even lead me to a suitable place.  The added benefit was, they knew I was there and would let others know it was alright.
  • I would also stop when I saw someone in their front yard, at a store, etc., and ask them.  Lots of times they would offer to let me camp overnight on their land!
  • I do recall one time I asked at a church, and the minister was rather cold to me.  Wouldn't let me stay, but told me about a park with a (cement) picnic area.

But here's the thing:  It's a much different America today.  People are less friendly and less trusting of strangers, and frankly, I admit that includes me, because half the country has lost its &*^%# mind.  I have to admit, these factors give me pause.

So aside from common sense, like be polite, show respect and keep your mouth shut about things that aren't part of the adventure, I'd welcome any thoughts. 

Kinda answered my own question, I guess ;-) but would welcome thoughts from those who have been out on the road more recently than 22 years ago!
3 great ways to finding a place to camp. Like you, have used them all,and have rarely struck out.

I don't like the heat, and therefore do a lot of "offseason" camping. I mentioned in a recent community park camping thread, my tendency to check in by phone with law enforcement if I'm camping at the community park (before they check in with me), but as you imply, they usually know all the folks in the area, and can make an introduction to a friendly land-owner, minister, or citizen, if they sense that moving on in the dark is not a safe option. In-person is better, but a lot of small communities no longer have an active police station or sheriff's post, relying instead on shared county services. (Reminder..., do not call 911, unless instructed to by the local number you find on Google.)

And right - no politeness in politics these days; no more enjoyable coffee shop or diner discussions of today's news. (Heck - even my KC Chiefs appearance in the Super Bowl has become a political plot - though as one comedian pointed out, we know it's can't be a political plot; it worked.)

Thanks for the post.
Have fun out there.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2024, 04:34:51 pm by ray b »
“A good man always knows his limitations.”

Offline davidbonn

Re: Stealth Camping? Sleep Site!
« Reply #26 on: February 04, 2024, 10:35:04 pm »
If you are in an area that is so built up that you need to talk to someone about where to camp it probably ain't "stealth camping".

99 percent of my stealth camping experiences have been on public lands in the Western USA and Canada.  The short answer is that you can literally camp anywhere on USFS and BLM land in the states and Crown Lands in Canada if you are not directly observable from a road.  The longer answer is a little more complicated but if you pay attention to signs about closures (and usually they are very well marked and the signs are hard to miss) you will be fine.

Offline BikeFreak

Re: Stealth Camping? Sleep Site!
« Reply #27 on: February 05, 2024, 05:54:38 am »
If you are in an area that is so built up that you need to talk to someone about where to camp it probably ain't "stealth camping".

99 percent of my stealth camping experiences have been on public lands in the Western USA and Canada.  The short answer is that you can literally camp anywhere on USFS and BLM land in the states and Crown Lands in Canada if you are not directly observable from a road.  The longer answer is a little more complicated but if you pay attention to signs about closures (and usually they are very well marked and the signs are hard to miss) you will be fine.

I have bicycled combined 25000 mi in USA and Canada and I have never been able to tell what is USFS, BLM or Crown Land by just looking at the scenery. My biggest wish is that ACA would incorporate that information into their maps.

Offline davidbonn

Re: Stealth Camping? Sleep Site!
« Reply #28 on: February 05, 2024, 09:46:30 am »
I have bicycled combined 25000 mi in USA and Canada and I have never been able to tell what is USFS, BLM or Crown Land by just looking at the scenery. My biggest wish is that ACA would incorporate that information into their maps.

Usually on most any road or trail you might take that crosses into USFS or BLM land there will be prominent and hard-to-miss signs telling you when you are entering and leaving.

If you are into apps and paying for apps, Onx Backcountry ( https://www.onxmaps.com/ ) has tiers which show land ownership on their maps.  And you can download maps and use them when you don't have cell service.

Offline John Nettles

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Re: Stealth Camping? Sleep Site!
« Reply #29 on: February 05, 2024, 10:36:14 am »
I have bicycled combined 25000 mi in USA and Canada and I have never been able to tell what is USFS, BLM or Crown Land by just looking at the scenery. My biggest wish is that ACA would incorporate that information into their maps.
Yes, that would be wonderful!  There are a few websites out there that do show roughly where BLM and USFS land is such as Outly but I know there are others but they may charge a fee.

Tailwinds, John