Stealth camping is a form of camping that requires you to stay in places where you may not be allowed to be in. It’s totally legal and is characterized by sleeping areas that are incredibly rugged. In fact, most campers wouldn’t sleep in areas that stealth campers frequent.
But, one of the benefits of stealth camping is that you don’t have to pay to spend the night or a few days at the camping site or take a tent to use for beach camping either. It also requires intense preparation that involves taking safety precautions and making sure that you’ll be comfortable throughout.
How to Stealth Camp Like an Expert
When trying to answer the question of what stealth camping is, we decided to consult experienced RV travelers and van lifers in order to get the best and most effective tips and tricks. Read on for some of their valuable advice on how to enjoy a successful stealth camping trip.
1. Drive a Stealth Vehicle
If your stealth camping route includes actual cities with a lot of people in them, then you should at least have a stealth vehicle. But, if your car, van or truck doesn’t meet this criterion, there are ways to customize it.
Before you pick a stealth camper, check it to make sure that it’s simple enough to not stand out. Some of the best options include minivans and cargo vans. The great thing about these types of vans is that they are designed to make it look as though they are a normal traveling van.
2. Arrive Late at Night and Leave Early in the Morning
Another stealth camping tip is to arrive during the night and make your leave early the next morning, preferably before anyone wakes up. You should prepare to sleep before you enter a park and be sure to cover your windows and shut off the lights. You don’t want to be cooking or watching TV at this point but should rather head straight to sleep.
Enjoy your dinner al fresco before you get to the parking spot to avoid unnecessary movement and condensation from forming on the windows. Your windows should remain covered from the moment you arrive at the parking spot.
3. Constantly Change Your Camping Location
When camping in a city, you must switch locations every night to prevent anyone from spotting your pattern. Keep in mind that some people may not know what stealth camping is and will be antsy to see an unknown vehicle in their neighborhood.
People might notice your van if you spend more than one night in the same location. The last thing you want is for someone to call the cops on you just because your van is weirdly parked on their street for too long.
Parking for a single night reduces your chances of being seen by people.
4. Don’t Mess with the Police
Should a police officer knock on your window in the middle of the night, don’t try to act smart or stir up trouble. Do as you’re told, start your van and look for another camping spot to spend the night in.
If you’re well-behaved then a cop will be more than happy to let you go with a slap on the wrist such as a reprimand. What you don’t want is a ticket because that’ll slow you down, so be sure to cooperate.
5. Make Sure Your Vehicle is Clean
It’s also important to be considerate when traveling with your van. Keep it clean so that it doesn’t raise alarm bells when people see it on the street. People are less likely to notice a clean van than a rugged one with a janky roof and rusted sides.
Wash both the interior and exterior of the van, so if someone peeks inside they won’t think that you’re a psycho. We’re not saying you should spring-clean every day. Just tidy up, make your bed and empty the trash.
6. You Can Park on the Street
If you can’t find any other suitable place, your best bet would be to par on the street of some neighborhood or industrial park. Make sure the street isn’t that busy and that there isn’t a significant amount of traffic.
Most places tend to calm down around the evening, so you shouldn’t have any problems in this regard. Just make sure there are no parking signs or meters where you’re parked.
If you’re driving a white cargo van or box truck, look for an industrial park parking lot where you’re least likely to get interrupted. Just make sure to keep a low profile and don’t do anything to attract attention to yourself.
7. Try the Walmart Parking Lot
Most Walmart locations are generous enough to provide free overnight parking, so you’ll always be welcome at one of their locations. The best part is that most Walmart locations are open 24/7 and offer shopping opportunities and free bathrooms.
Of course, these facilities aren’t always available at all locations so you need to plan ahead how are you going to poop while camping. It’s also probably a good idea to ask the store manager for permission before you park. If you’re going to park overnight, try to remain inconspicuous and avoid running into security.
8. Consider Truck Stops
Most truck stops and rest areas are reserved for the workers in that area. These places are also often frequented by law enforcement officers who try to keep order by removing any non-truckers.
However, you might get lucky enough to find a truck stop that actually offers free overnight camping or parking where you can set up your tent attached to an SUV. This is usually the case with large rest stops with pavilions and picnic tables.
Stealth camping can be one of the most fun adventures of your life. But, it can also be an anxiety-inducing activity if you’re not well-prepared.
Your level of comfort during the whole thing will also depend on your temperament and personality. For best results, try to keep a positive mindset and if you do get spotted by a security guard, remain calm and kind. The worst they can do is ask you to drive away and look for another parking spot.
But, the best way to enjoy stealth camping is always in an isolated natural environment like a desert or forest, where you don’t have to worry about such concerns.
After all, what is stealth camping without encounters with nature, wild animals and cute furry critters?