Author Topic: Stealth Camping?  (Read 11709 times)

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Offline AThhiker

Stealth Camping?
« on: February 02, 2008, 01:21:27 pm »
After reading a number of journals I notice that everybody either stays in a motel, campground or public park.  Doesnt anybody stealth camp?  While backpacking I am used to hiking until I drop and any flat spot will do!

Is there a reason why cyclists do not do the same?  Is trespassing the problem?  Surely there must be enough open spaces where that is not a problem.

Offline staehpj1

Stealth Camping?
« Reply #1 on: February 02, 2008, 03:35:00 pm »
I think it depends on where you are touring and a lot of other factors, but here is my take on it.

1. For me there has to be a need to stealth camp before I will.  If there is a suitable place to stop with permission and cheap enough or free then I don't see a reason to stealth camp.
2. The people we meet in the places we stop are part of the reason we tour.  Hiding in some secluded spot isn't what I tour for.
3. I don't want to carry a lot of food or water, so when possible I camp near where I buy my dinner.
4. Since I almost always can find a place to stay with permission, I almost never stealth camp.
5. When on an established route like the Pacific Coast Highway, or the TransAmerica route.  it is nice to stay the same place as the friends we meet along the way.  This Summer we made some good friends and camped together with them with some regularity.
6. It was fun to meet other travelers in camp who were traveling in a different manner.  On our last trip this included, in addition to other bicycle tourists, a lot of motorcycle tourists, some Harley folks at a biker festival, a Swedish guy (Bjorn) who was running across the country unsupported, and other interesting people.

Offline DaveB

Stealth Camping?
« Reply #2 on: February 03, 2008, 01:55:00 pm »
You can't equate backpacking with bicycle touring unless you are MTB touring.  Backpacking is done on public land and is nearly always away from other people and their property.  You are generally out of sight and out of mind.  

Bicycle touring is done on public roads but most of what you are near is private property and certainly in the public eye. Unless you are riding through a National Park or National Forest or similar you will be on someone else's property.

Offline rcrampton

Stealth Camping?
« Reply #3 on: February 08, 2008, 08:45:07 am »
I wonder the same thing. For me I try to get a good wash-off each night. If I can do it in the last town I'm in and take it easy until I get to camp, I'm going to try to camp in the woods with complete solitude.

If I have to go to a campground due to lack of woods or to get a shower, I'm fine with that.

It seems to depend on who I travel with. By myself you'll rarely find me in a campground, but with many others I find they are more comfortable staying in a sanctioned campground.

Funny, when traveling around the West there has always been more space for camping than I could ever need but water was tough to find. In the East there's water everywhere but I have a tougher time finding public property.

Offline raybo

Stealth Camping?
« Reply #4 on: February 08, 2008, 11:05:16 pm »
This page at lists 6 links to stealth camping information.  Three are about stealth camping in Europe or Scotland.  The rest are about stealth camping in general.


Visit the on-line bike touring archive at
Visit the on-line bike touring archive at

Offline johnsondasw

Stealth Camping?
« Reply #5 on: February 09, 2008, 05:35:48 pm »
I've done a lot of stealth, or what we call "commando" camping.  Sometimes, we've had to do it because there was no place to camp and it was getting very dark.  I can camp anywhere, as long as I can get enough clean water to bathe.  I don't even care if it's hot or cold water.  Imust admit, though, that being 59 now, I will pay for the amenities of a campground or even motel with hot showers.

May the wind be at your back!
May the wind be at your back!

Offline jnorth

Stealth Camping?
« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2008, 01:20:40 am »
most folks want their wireless internet, flush toilet + shower and convenience store nearby.
also they are not willing to go for miles at a stretch self-supported.

Offline jan404

Stealth Camping?
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2008, 08:03:19 am »
I used to stealth camp 90% of the time when hiking or cycling in Europe. Its sometimes even legal (e.g. in scandiavia) to camp on private property (as long as you stay away from houses)! I don't need much comfort just some flat area and in the afternoon I fill up all the water I need for the night. And I have to say the most beautiful campsites were always infoffical ones...

However, I wasn't sure when I planned my ride in the US. We have that impression in Europe that in the US you get shot first and then asked what you are doing ... ;) And after a german girl, who did the pacific coast a copuple of years ago, told me, that one night they had the barrel of a gun pointing into their tent one night, that confirmed my prejudices.

Well to cut a long story short: on my ride I camped most of the time on undevoloped campgrounds of the USFS  or similar. Although that was expensive. I didn't know in the beginning that I was allowed to camp on public land anyway, and still one has to identify it... and I was in bear/mountain lion country most of the time...

I camped once behind a fire dept. but asked on of the guys working there first, I felt not extremly comfortable and hoped I would be asked before being shot, and as I am still writing, it worked. Well nobody was asking...

A couple of times I asked people if I could camp in their gardens, and except for one case I was allowed to. This sometimes ended up in an invitation for dinner and what was even better a shower... I have to say I encountered an extend of hospitality that was far beyond my expectations...


Offline JayH

Stealth Camping?
« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2008, 08:46:55 am »
Hi Jan , et al. sorry to hear about your gun barrel experience, that must of been freaky.  

It's hard to really pinpoint or to give an blanket answer like you're all wrong, we're all nice and friendly to don't do it, you'll be shot.  All people from all walks of life, social structures, class structures are different... there's a lot of false stereotypes like all NYC folks are nasty, we get the same false impression of Parisians and perhaps all French people in general over here in the US.   there's always a few things that you can do to minimize the wackos out there like asking.  And when asking, make sure he/she understands that you are a cyclist.. Surely, the bike has an implied meaning of not being a nutcase and probably helps break the ice, so to speak.

Another, is perhaps look up warmshower organizations, like

In fact, as a member, I hosted 2 parties of fellow bike tourests in northern NJ who were both on their way to NYC last year.  I let them sleep in  my living room and take showers, help them with routefinding to NYC and fed them.  I think I got more out of it then they did as it is always fun meeting other biketourers. is not the only one out there but it goes a bit back and seems to have a good member base.

Hostels are generally fairly inexensive and as you may know, camping at USFS sites are good but they typically exist in national forests and stuff, not everywhere...

If you do stealth camp, I've found that hammocks are usually fast to setup and fairly stealthy and can be pitched in typically more places than tents do and most can be pitched on the ground if you have to. bivy sacks are also small and packable and allow for quick access to it...


Offline nicholu

Stealth Camping?
« Reply #9 on: February 23, 2008, 09:07:14 pm »
i almost exclusively stealth camp. this is because i usually cannot afford the high fees of campgrounds 15$ and up. i've done work/trade at campgrounds, but this is not always possible. travelling in the eastern united states forces me to be creative, because nearly all the land is privately owned. i've more or less settled on the following stradegy:

when it starts to get toward evening i start looking for bridges. this is my favorite place to camp, because under a bridge i don't need to pitch a tent! usually, there are established 'unofficial' fire rings under bridges anyway. so the community is often tolerant of the practice. next i look for woods, often next to streams or rivers because this is usually undisturbed land. i always look for land that is not marked as "private property" or "no tresspassing", because clearly the land owner has strong opinions on the matter. next i look for patches of unsigned and unfenced land adjacent to the road, but with places to hide. for instance: thick woods, gullies, or fallen trees, i'd rather not invite interactions in the dark with neighbors. often i look for land where it is not clear who owns it, this makes it more likely that no one takes a strong interest in the land.

i will ask for permission as a last resort, but in my experience people dislike being directly asked "can i sleep on your lawn?". usually i ask: "do you know a good place i could roll out my sleeping bag?". very often i get good tips on where to camp out and sometimes invitations to camp on their lawn and sometimes dinner!

stealth camping in towns and cities is harder. and i find myself in towns and cities only when its dark because i couldn't find a decent place in the outlying areas to camp. i head first to public parks, hopefully near a river or stream with a bridge or sometimes a baseball dugout. then i look for graveyards, and as a last resort: churches. i made the mistake only once of camping next to a church on a saturday night (i lost track of the days), i expected hostility but instead got invitations to go to church. when i've been "caught" stealth camping 90% of the time it was next to a church, always they are polite even if they aren't totally happy with the situation. that's why its my last resort.

stealth camping has been very successful for me and i think the key is to avoid putting people in an uncomfortable situation. i've never been "caught" aside from sleeping at churches or public parks, but an offer to leave is the first thing i always say.

Offline psemler

Stealth Camping?
« Reply #10 on: February 28, 2008, 06:24:07 pm »
I never heard this word before. Anyway, I rode cross-country in 1986 through the North. I just about always did "hidden" camping. I like it. It saves money. I buy food at 5 or 6 in a town. Then I cycle until I don't see anybody and select a hidden spot. In the morning I am gone at 6am.
I am going cross-country this summer and have no qualms about doing this kind of camping.
I have enjoyed reading the posts. I will consider churches and schools.
when I went in 1986 I made my own crazy route.

I am wondering- are there friendly folks on the western express and trans-amer who allow camping?