The world of camping is changing, and this year alone, we’ve heard of so many unusual and exciting ways to enjoy it that we’d never heard of before.
Stealth camping is one that’s been gaining a lot of attention, and as its name suggests, it’s the act of camping without being noticed.
How do you go stealth camping? Stealth camping is more commonly done in urban areas where it’s harder to go unnoticed but it is possible to go in the wilderness as well.
The goal of this camping mode is to not make a scene or let anyone realize you’re there, which requires some effort in blending in, not leaving a trace, and knowing how to move stealthily as you do.
If you’ve tried just about every form of camping there is and want to see if all the fuss about stealth camping is true, this guide can get you started.
We cover it all from the basic essentials to the most popular apps that’ll help you, so check out our beginner’s guide to stealth camping.
What is Stealth Camping?
Stealth camping is the act of camping or parking somewhere overnight with the aim of not being discovered.
You can stealth camp on a public campground, in the backwoods, and even in urban areas, with the only limitations being what you’re prepared to do to not be found.
The motivations for stealth camping depend on the person, with some people choosing to camp stealthily because they enjoy the solitude and others trying to avoid being caught because they might be parked illegally overnight.
Whatever the reason, the main purpose is to not have anyone know that you’re doing it, which requires a lot of work.
Stealth camping is generally done with some sort of vehicle, whether it’s an RV or a regular car, but it is possible to use a tent or tarp as well.
As long as you can do so discreetly and try to follow the local laws as best you can, there aren’t many limitations on how to stealth camp.
The Benefits of Stealth Camping
Although one of the lesser-known styles of camping, more and more people are jumping on board with the stealth approach.
If you’ve been considering stealth camping but aren’t fully convinced, these are some of the benefits that others love:
A lot of fun: Stealth camping can be a whole lot of fun and if you’re looking for a way to bring some enjoyment back into your outdoor adventures, it’s the way to go. Whether it’s sourcing out the best spot to camp or trying to sneak around while you go about your camping business, it makes you feel sort of like a secret spy.
Presents a challenge: The thrill of trying to not get caught while stealth camping is a huge drawcard of this style. Although it’s not as relaxing as being set up somewhere in a public campsite you’re allowed to be in, there’s no denying that the challenge of stealth camping is attractive to some.
Saves money: If you’re looking to dodge fees and fines, you can partake in some stealth camping. Although it’s not always legal or advisable, there’s no denying that you’ll save some cash if you’re parking and camping somewhere without being seen.
Offers solitude: Those wanting to camp without being noticed in an effort to get some peace and quiet will love going stealthily. By being as quiet as possible, not drawing attention to yourself, and hiding away in the shadows, there’s a good chance you’ll be able to camp in total solitude.
Is It Legal Or Not?
The biggest question about stealth camping is whether you’re allowed to do it, and that all depends on the individual.
Some people stealth camp solely to avoid paying fees at campgrounds or to park their car and sleep in it illegally at night, and in these cases, it’s certainly not legal.
However, there are legal ways you can stealth camp and still reap all of the benefits. Many people like to travel to the backwoods or at a BLM campground then travel as far away from others as possible to try and not be found.
With this approach, you’ll enjoy the solitude and thrill of stealth camping but without the risk of getting a dreaded knock on your van window telling you to move.
Knowing Where to Park Your Van
Using a van for stealth camping is the most common method as it gives you somewhere to sleep and travel, and can easily appear as a regular vehicle when parked carefully.
However, it’s not simple enough to just pull up somewhere for the night and hide away inside and the parking spot you choose will make or break how successful you are at going unnoticed.
When stealth camping in an urban area, there’s a lot more to look out for as you choose a park.
You’ll want somewhere that’s at least semi-covered, a street that has been recently street cleaned as there’s little chance it’ll happen again while you’re there, and find a well-lit area that’s safer to spend the night in.
In the wilderness, you have a little more freedom about where you can park the van, and there’s less chance that it’ll be done illegally.
To avoid others, find somewhere with lots of trees or natural cover and an area where you can blend in, and away from the major camping spots to avoid the crowds.
Tips for Blending In
Stealing camping in the wilderness is a little easier when it comes to blending in with your surrounding, but doing it in an urban setting is different.
Follow these tips for making sure your vehicle blends in and you go undetected for the night.
Choose the right vehicle: Rather than driving around in a converted school bus or ambulance, choose a common type of van. You want something that is found regularly on the streets so people won’t think twice when they see it parked.
Use window covers: Some carefully placed window covers will keep snooping eyes out, but they can also make your vehicle look suspicious. Think about how it appears to the outside and test out a few options that appear more natural to the vehicle.
Keep the back and front separate: To avoid people seeing in the back of the van while you’re sleeping, use a blackout curtain to keep that area separate. You’ll be asleep in the back while the front looks like a regular vehicle so it doesn’t arouse suspicion.
Use a decoy: Some recommend putting a construction hat, clipboard, or hi-vis vest in the front seat of the car when you’re pulled up for the night. Upon seeing this, people might assume that it’s an official vehicle and not give it a second thought.
How to Keep Up With Hygiene
Stealth camping is better done when you’re moving to a new place each day, so during your daily travels, you can source out facilities for bathing and using the bathroom.
When camping in the wild, utilize the same methods you would with other styles of camping, like taking along a portable toilet, burying the waste in a cat hole, or using the pack out method.
In urban areas, you have a wider range to choose from, including showers and restrooms at rest stops, grocery stores, and gas stations, but at night you may have to resort to a pee bottle.
Sometimes, you may need to purchase something to use these types of facilities but the small fee makes it worthwhile when you get to use a proper toilet for once.
There are some dangers that come with stealth camping that make it a little riskier than other styles. Follow these tips to ensure you’re camping safely and stealthily.
Stealthy Safety Tips
Go public¨Never assume that you need to hide away when stealth camping just to do it right, as this is not the safest approach. Find a residential or industrial area where you’re not too secluded so you have others around if you need help.
Beef up the security¨A simple car lock might not be enough to keep you safe from night prowlers so use some other security measures on top of this. Using a car alarm or sensor on the doors will wake you up immediately if anyone tries to enter the car.
Use your instincts¨Instincts are hugely beneficial in camping and when you’re trying the stealth approach, even more so. Listen to your gut when you pull up somewhere and if it doesn’t feel safe, take the hint and move on elsewhere.
Have some protection¨With a form of self-defense on you, you’ll feel a lot safer about parking overnight in your van. Consider something like pepper spray or even a firearm if you can do so safely and legally, and make sure you know how to operate whatever line of defense you choose.
Essential Items to Bring Along
Stealth camping requires a few extra belongings compared to the traditional form because of its unique surroundings.
Make sure you’ve packed some of these on top of your usual camping gear, so you can be ready for whatever stealth camping throws at you:
Stealth camping apps: Apps like Boondocking Beta, Weather Report, Staying Organized, and Finding a Designated Camping Site will all be helpful.
Whistle: This can help attract attention in an emergency and is a must for your safety.
Flashlight: If you have to venture out in the night or find something in your van, a flashlight lets you do it without drawing too much attention.
Cell phone: A fully charged cell phone or satellite phone is essential when you’re camping in this style.
Bathroom assistance: Whether it’s a basic bottle or a female urination device, any help you can give yourself will be appreciated.
The thrill of stealth camping is enough to entice most people to give it a try, and whether you do it once or make it a lifetime approach, you’ll certainly learn a thing or two.
Planning and preparation are key for this mode of camping though, so make sure you have everything organized to guarantee a truly stealthy experience.
Stealth camping is gaining popularity as people look for ways to avoid fees and seek out solitude from other tourists, but it’s not the only option.
To help you find a camping style that works for you, we’ve answered questions about some of the other more common ones, so read on to find out more.
What is Survivalist Camping?
Survivalist camping is when people aim to reenact a survival situation by living in the wilderness with the bare minimum.
Campers use this style to prepare for emergency situations and also to challenge themselves, with rationed or hunted food, limited water, and an isolated location so that nobody else is around them.
What is Canoe Camping?
Canoe camping is similar to backpacking or hiking, but instead of walking to your next destination, you’ll use a canoe to travel by water.
This camping style requires a specific approach to packing as you need to ensure you have balanced weight in the canoe, and all destinations should be accessible by the water.
What is Themed Camping?
Themed camping is when a group of people gets together to go camping as usual, but with a specific theme that they follow, including how they dress and the activities, they partake in.
Some popular themes enjoyed in this type of camping are movies like Star Wars, historical events including wars, or those focused on discovering the geographical layout of the area.
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