Stealth Camping


Ever thought about camping at some unknown and inconspicuous place, not caring much to know whether it’s even a legal place to camp or not, and packing your bags and leaving the next day without a trace. Well, if you have, there is a term for this. It’s called stealth camping.

Stealth camping is the art of camping in unestablished and unconventional campsites which may be legal or illegal. The places stealth campers use are usually free of cost because these are not your regular campsites and are spots no one usually thinks of camping in.

Stealth camping can take on various forms and is a very popular activity in many regions. By definition, you can get stealth camp almost anywhere, a mountain, a forest, moors and anywhere. Well, truth to be told, even sleeping inside your car while stopping at a rest stop or food joint can be considered stealth camping by definition though this is not the most hard-core form of stealth camping by any means.

What REALLY is Stealth Camping?

Stealth camping is different from boondocking or dispersed camping. Boondocking, for instance, is a legal way to camp in Federal and State-owned lands, including lands manages by the Bureau of Land Management(BLM) or National forests and parks. These are legal, and you need to register before camping. There is usually a fee and time limits and rules in place. Although a lot of campsites found through boondocking can be secluded and great, it’s a bit different from stealth camping.

Stealth camping is usually camping at spots without other’s knowledge, stealthily if you may. There are no Federal and State laws in place for stealth camping. It is an art which requires a lot of planning and forethought from the camper’s point of view. There are questions asked about how legal and moral this form of camping is in execution.

This form of camping is considered an art because it requires skills to find good campsites which are secluded from the rest of the world, animals too. Though stealth camping can be done anywhere, if you want to stay away from the urban crowd, people usually go for forests and pasture lands. It requires more planning and even better execution.

Stealth camping usually follows the process of no trace and detection. This means that when you finally leave your campsite, there should be no trace that you or anyone had camped over there. This is mostly because when you stealth camp, it may or may not be legal depending on conditions. Best to leave no trace. As an example, if you are sleeping on the ground, fluff up the leaves when you leave.

Another idea might be to have a hammock which is stealthier and can be used on unconventional terrain. Not being on the ground gives you a further advantage of not being detected. Packing up all your stuff and cleaning up your garbage is a given in stealth camping, or usually any other form of camping as well.

Is Stealth Camping Legal?

The answer as to whether stealth camping is legal or not is a grey area with a lot of voice on either side of the argument.

To put it simply, stealth camping is illegal in a lot of places and legal in a few many too. The legality of this activity depends a lot on both the region and specific sites. A good indication here is the name. It’s called ‘stealth’ for a reason. Some areas have laws defined about stealth camping. But each town or forest or site may have its own laws.

Civil trespassing laws, where a private landowner does not allow trespassing in their private property is also something to consider. Therefore it’s best never to take the legality of a place to camp for granted and do some research beforehand.

A good starting point could be to check the regional laws of some states about stealth camping.

The States like Alaska, Wisconsin, North Dakota, Minnesota, Alabama and a few others have somewhat similar laws when it comes to stealth camping –

  1. Stealth Camping is illegal in any land you are told not to do so. This means any land which is fenced, farmed, is near structures, posted areas, and areas closed off to intruders are off limits.
  2. Stealth camping is legal however in areas which are not posted and are open lands, or lands where you haven’t been told not to camp explicitly.
  3. Individual research must be done in each area to verify the legality of these places.

California is a bit different when it comes to laws regarding stealth camping. In California, this form of camping is legal as long as you use only non-posted or unimproved land. Additional you should leave no trace when you leave and that you do leave as soon as you’re asked to do so. It is not allowed in the state to interfere or disturb any local business which goes on in the land.

There are a few things which are illegal in California though – You cannot dig, you cannot build a fire if the land is signed, you cannot use fenced or posted lands, you cannot remove or damage anything, cannot use any wood or produce and many more.

In short, as mentioned earlier, the legality varies from place to place, and it’s best to research thoroughly about the area beforehand.

On the other hand, people who engage in stealth camping do indeed camp in places where they are not allowed. They ensure that they are well planned, do not harm or disturb the environment and leave no trace when they leave. This allows them not to get caught for trespassing.

What Is Urban Camping?

Urban camping is mostly similar, but at the same time different from stealth camping in that it’s mostly done in places near or in urban areas or urban amenities nearby. It is considered a sophisticated form of just sleeping on the streets.

Urban camping can take many different forms. But in essence, all of them involving camping in some urban setting. Examples of urban camping can range from just pitching a tent on a public park to pitching a tent on Times Square, or maybe even in a parking spot, with a tent which looks eerily similar to a car cover. The experiences you can have with urban camping can be endless.

It depends on how wild and adventurous you’re willing to feel. Although all forms of urban camping need not be so unstructured. On special occasions, some cities like Chicago open up huge areas for camping to the public.

People engage in urban camping due to a variety of reasons. These might be circumstantial or an adventure choice. You might be in an unknown city in Europe and you run out of money or miss your train. The only option left might be to hit the streets. On the other hand, urban campers might be just looking for a get-away when they don’t have enough time or money to hop around the globe and travel. Or they might just be looking for a different experience than what they’re used to.

The question arises if urban camping is legal in the first place. Well, long story short, it is illegal to camp in public property near civilization without a permit. There are legal campgrounds available, but there aren’t many out there. Pitching a tent in most public areas is illegal in most places. But the thing is, homeless people do it all the time. And therefore, so do urban campers. So it can be done, albeit with the campers own risk.

One thing to note is that urban camping can be dangerous. To be safe while camping, the best thing is to know the city. There might be drug dealers or just plain dangerous people on the streets. The best advice which can be given to urban campers is – just be smart.

The best part about this is, as it is done in urban settings, you don’t usually have to worry about food and water, or most basic amenities for that matter. If you need anything, just walk up to the nearest mart and get it. Easy peasy.

What Is Urban Van Camping?

Urban van camping, as the name implies, is a form of camping where instead of just pitching up your tent on the street, you use your own van as a tent and live inside it. The best part about urban camping in a van is that it is much more inconspicuous than other forms.

You can be saved from all the legal hassle you would have to face otherwise with urban camping. What people who generally practice this do is that they simply make it appear as if they don’t live in the van in the first place.

Using a van provides campers with the option of camping out in nature whenever they want or living in urban areas to without much hassle. The trick is to make your van look as unmemorable as possible. Preferably use a boring plain white van which will go unnoticed on the streets and people will no doubt about your parking habits.

Urban Van-Camping Tips

  • The key to urban van camping is to be extremely smart. Never camp in the same spot for many days straight.
  • Never camp in very dark or secluded areas where there are no other vehicles near you. This will cause the neighbors and the police to suspect you straightaway.
  • Avoid parking in front of private houses as people usually know which cars are parked there daily.
  • The best spots for camping or parking your van overnight are places where it is pretty common for people to arrive throughout the night. These include rest stops and 24-hour diners.
  • You shouldn’t get into any trouble as long as you obey the parking laws. Most people might do is tell you to go away.

What Is Urban Truck Camping?

Urban Truck camping is pretty similar to urban van camping in that you use a vehicle to camp in urban settings instead of tents or anything else. The only difference here is that you use trucks for the same. Trucks have been used for camping for a long time because of how rugged they are, and the variety of options people have to choose from. They provide you with a perfect option for both traveling and camping, though the space you get to sleep might be varied depending on the size you have.

Trucks are a bit more conspicuous than vans for urban camping, hence need a bit more care to execute properly. Safety also should not be taken lightly; you should ensure that your truck is safe to camp in. Other than that, following most of the same rules as camping in a van should get you through with ease.