Hello, Paddler!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Stealth Camping

Just wondered if anyone has tried stealth camping with success. Doesn't even have to be in my area. I know I should just buy the guy under the bridge a beer and get his knowledge but would also like to hear from folks with kayaks.


  • Options
    Commando camping
    a true art form.

    I'd tell ya all about it but then it wouldn't be stealth.


    be non-conspicuous and have fun

  • commando camping
    read the article! just wondered what folks on long journeys with large areas of urban sprawl did. My long distance yak is not suitable for sleeping on board, which is allowed in some coastal areas near me.
  • Options
    leave no sign
    i wish our world would adopt stealth camping.
  • OK, I 'll plead ignorance:
    What is "stealth camping" ?

  • Options
    where there is no legal 'campsite'.

    Involves being berry, berry quiet, not building a bonfire, pulling your yak up and over a dune or behind some brush and not setting your tent where it can be seen.

    camo camping. unseen...stealth.

    steve (Columbia river stealth camper)
  • It has been a long time...
    but when I was younger, I did quite a bit. Get a hammock, it opens up a lot more possibilities and leaves less of a trace.
  • Options
    All my stealth camping . . .
    . . . thusfar has been by car, motorcycle and bicycle. This summer I will be goin' down the Mississippi and plan on doin' alot more.

    I have slept under bridges, behind barns, in abandoned building, in cemeteries and down all manner of little dirt roads and logging trails. About all that is necessary is a place that folks goin' by can't see you. You can't camp just about anywhere if you arrive after dark and leave at sun up. Get all you cookin' done before you get to where you will camp for the night
  • Stealth paddling = stealth camping
    Stealth camping is easy if you like paddling at night. Generally you're nearly impossible to see on the water with a full moon. Then just pull up anywhere pop up a tent, stakes optional, quick stove breakfast and scoot on before its light out very long. Night is your ally and if all else fails say you got lost and cite the safe harbor law.
  • All the Time
    Have spent most of my time on the rivers doing just that. No big deal. In Maine we do it on a regular basis, just leave no trace, sometimes make fires on flat rocks from the river and push the whole thing back in in the morning, just find a hole in the woods big enough for a tent, and call it good. Never been hassled and never felt bad about it.

  • cops and private land owners
    somtimes refer to stealth camping as tresspassing. But if nobody sees you then no harm--and in some states (Maine included) they can't arrest you unless they warn you first and then you refuse to leave.
  • Briefly:
    A small, discreet tent or hammock helps, preferably green, brown, or dark gray to blend into your environment.

    Ditch your boat behind foliage, or stack rocks and driftwood in front of it to prevent passing boats or hikers from seeing it.

    If there's fairly high traffic around, scout out a good spot before sundown, then return and set up after dark. In the morning, break down and hit the water early.

    As always, Leave No Trace ...

    See ya (or maybe *not*) on the water!

  • I understand that anyone can access
    private land in Maine unless it is posted.

    I have a campsite and I do not have it posted. Its used a few times a year and quite responsibly.
  • Options
    Guerrilla camping
    -- Last Updated: Apr-07-09 10:18 PM EST --

    Before I got into sea kayaking I used to do a lot of bike touring. Some of my favorite places to guerrilla camp were cemeteries; the grass is always well maintained and there is always a fresh water tap around somewhere. And the neighbors tend to be a quiet crowd.

    A number of years ago I was working my way along the Maine coast and I found myself paddling past Mt. Dessert Island late in the afternoon in the fog and despairing of finding any place to sleep that night. I was right in on the shore, but because of the fog all I could see was the rocks and cliffs, when what to my wondering eyes should appear but an Adirondack style lean-to. I thought what luck, a campsite. But when I pulled in it seemed like the the lean-to was way too clean and nice to be a campsite. Screw it, I had nowhere else to go so I pulled out my sleeping bag and went to sleep.

    In the morning the fog had cleared and I found that my wilderness campsite was tucked in between several very large mansions. As I was pulling away from the shore I noticed a gardener working in one of the mansions yards down by the water. I paddled over and asked him if the lean-to was a public campsite and he said no, it belonged to the Rockefellers. I said oh; well tell them I said thanks for putting me up for the night.

  • Got caught
    -- Last Updated: Apr-08-09 12:03 AM EST --

    once in Wisconsin while motorcycle camping. I found a large isolated city park near a small town. It was 10 at night and getting cold and damp. I hid the bike behind the trees and unrolled my bag on the seat of a picnic table and was really well hidden. It was comfy enough.

    Sure enough at about 2 am a couple sherriff deputies woke me up with a pretty much " Hey bum what are you doing here ? ". After a creative story about being way off schedule and just to tired to ride safely I had to get sleep. They didn't think the bike on the grass was too cool I also showed them my travel cash and credit cards to show I was not a vagrant.

    Finally I got an " Alright but you be gone at first light " I was. I still do commando camping here and there. Always be very friendly, tell how low impact you are, point out you have no idea what camping options you have, etc.

    Keep in mind that when talking to land owners they are considering calling the cops, And when talking to cops they are considering arresting you . Be really nice point out you meant no harm. It usually gets you a pass.

  • kind of
    you can access unposted private land until you have been told to leave by the owner or his agent---if you refuse and the cops are called, they will tell you to leave--if you refuse then, they will arrest you and charge you with criminal tresspass-
  • True canoe camping
    I twice was paddling through waters surronded by private land and needed to stop foe the night and camped laying in the bottom of my canoe.I tied to an overhanging tree once and made an improvised anchor the other. The first time went so well I actually planned the second,but the second time it rained and even though I had a tarp over me and most of the canoe,the exposed areas collected rain which was funneled directly under me!
  • Ah, thanks
    I always just called that back packing or yak packing.

    Now I know I am a "Stealth Camper" -At least when we don't have the travel trailer with us.

  • Options
    public campgrounds
    There'a form of stealth camping where one pulls into a public campground after the check-in booth closes in the evening, leave by 6AM in the morning, and not pay the fee.
  • I hate to take the mystery and suspense
    away from this thread, but is there anything wrong with asking the landowner if you get some sleep on a remote corner of his property and leave no trace? I can think of many times when a landowner was furious over a trespasser and practically none where they were politely asked for access. I think most people are happy to share their slice of heaven with others who enjoy and respect nature. I would show this sign of respect before doing what is necessary to be safe.
  • Options
    -- Last Updated: Apr-08-09 9:17 AM EST --

    I'm not very supportive of the stealth approach. If I were in a place I really should not be, I probably would not be able to easily fall asleep anyways. My one exception would be an emergency or urgent landing due to weather, sickness, etc. on private land where the landowner is not there to ask. Otherwise, courtesy and respect are good rules to go by.

  • Options
    yep do it all the time
    ALL my gear is Stealth like OD green and or tan. Including my Boats. Even if there is an approved campsite I try to be stealthy, Folks wont bother you if they don’t know your there. I always wondered why backpacking gear is mostly “fruity colored” hardly blending with the environment. Kind of hard to be stealthy in a lime green boat, with an Orange tent!
  • access
    Up here, where access to privately owned islands along the coast is precious and sometimes precarious, I wonder if making a regular practice of camping outside of the permissible areas might lead to more private land owners deciding against allowing any access to paddlers. My understanding is that by using very good discipline and observing the limitations private owners put on the use of their land, we help keep those spaces open for our use.

    Maybe it's not such an issue in other areas, but around here I get the impression that being cooperative gets us farther than sneaking around and pissing off landowners.
  • Options
    -- Last Updated: Apr-08-09 11:40 AM EST --

    Better to beg forgiveness then ask permission. It’s also easier to do this when you don’t look like the uni-Bomber. Unfortunately many Outdoors types look like vagrants! Shaggy beard, scruffy appearance etc. I have found folks seldom question people that “LOOK” like they know what they are doing. While doing trail work on a section of the Palmetto trail that runs near and on Fort Jackson I never got hassled by the MPs, however I am “retired” but don’t “LOOK’ like it. My friend who does look like the ‘Uni-Bomber” got hassled by the MPs all the time. It was funny.

  • Options
    Is there really any other way?
    -- Last Updated: Apr-08-09 11:12 AM EST --

    Throughout almost 50 years of backpacking I’ve always been a “stealth camper” - also called, “not sticking out like a sore thumb.”
    “See but don’t be seen.”

    When caught, a simple “Gosh, I meant no harm, I never leave anything, and I never take anything” - add to that a smile, and an apology (this always includes leaving no fire-rings, cut vegetation, or trash).

    I have explained to numerous state troupers my desire not to become road-kill after becoming sleepy behind the wheel.
    They would then often thank ME, and add, “Leave by morning.”

  • Sometimes
    Depending on the circumstances, you are indeed better off asking permission, esp. in semi-urban areas with a better likelihood of being spotted.

    When my dad took us kids down small rivers in rural Wisconsin, we'd often pull up on a grassy bank somewhere to camp for the night. "You kids stay here and be quiet," he'd tell us as he hiked up to the nearby farmhouse to ask permission. 90% of the time, he'd come back with the OK. Half of those times, the farmer and/or his wife would come down an hour later with beer for my dad and brownies for us kids, just to see the novelty of passing strangers having an adventure in their back pasture, I guess.

    And a friend who rode his bike from coast to coast after college said they'd often arrive in a small town and head right for the police department to ask directions to a place to camp. Often, the local deputy would escort them to a nearby park or wayside, probably posted "No Camping", and then check on them every few hours thru the night.

  • Options
    Wish I'd been more stealthy
    Was camping on the Greenbrier River in WV with my grown son and nephew on a small island that I'd camped on before and only one cabin in view far down stream on the opposite bank. When we made camp at 5pm, I noticed a woman on the far bank looking at us...so I waved...no response, not a good sign, but she didn't say anything to us. We continued setting up, eat dinner, and had a small fire going. At 8:30pm the woman reappeared on the bank with the deputy sheriff and screamed at us to get off her land. I complained to the sheriff that it would be completely dark in 10 minutes and unsafe to continue downriver....he didn't care. He said he'd come back with a john boat and arrest us if we didn't leave. We loaded up and took off...my son and nephew in a dagger legend and I in a Wenonah Rendezvous. The best that can be said for the experience is that I got to paddle class II rapids in the pitch dark with a mini maglite between my teeth. We were all experienced whitewater paddlers and I was familiar with the small rapids below, but it was still quite a thrill and I'm glad we did it...damn sure won't forget my headlamp again.
  • Options
    Done properly...
    If done properly, the landowner will never know that you were ever there and will have nothing to complain about. I am all for being legitimate every chance I get... however, in areas where access is already locked-up, I'm all for a little stealthly civil disobedience.
  • Sounds
    like Maine is a lot like where I live in Northern Wisconsin....not interested in sneaky or in activities that require sneaky or skulking either.

    Best Wishes from a land owner
  • Options
    Good story.. every location is different
    It reminds me that we (here on pnet) paddle in a huge variety of different situations.
    Where I paddle, it's overly restrictive public lands that are the issue. I live near the Channel Islands National Park. Also known as the "American Galalpogas" Incredible paddling!... but horendous limitations on access. The majority of the land area is off-limits unless a Ranger is actually holding your hand. Legal campsites are very limited and too far apart for most to paddle between. There is also a huge chunk of land on the largest island that is owned by the Nature Conservancy.
    You can ask for permission all you want, but the answer will ALWAYS be a firm 'No!'.

    The real answer is stealth camping.
  • Yeah, often enough
    I wish the shores of the nearby Great Lakes were uniformly public domain, like the seashore in Oregon.

    Where it's not, and when it's private but rustic, I've been known to make a discreet camp, as outlined throughout this thread. Much of this land is owned by absentee fat cats anyway, and I always leave it cleaner than I found it.

    On a recent visit to Florida, I found countless miles of prime beachfront gated off with no access. Worst of all, the vast majority of these condos and oversized mansions were vacant, so even the fat cats weren't there to appreciate what they so jealously guarded.

  • Hail and Tornadoes...
    caused me and a buddy to camp on private property once. When we took off it was hailing pretty bad, however as the day went on it turned into thunderstorms. It was getting dark so we decided to set up camp.

    Around 8 or so we are sitting by the fire and out of nowhere a huge Spotlight was shining on us from across the river. 'What in the hell you think you're doing on my property" the farmer yells!! Wetold him it was an accident and we would leave no trace. He didn't really buy it so we went to plan "B"

    My buddy says- Sir, I have $20 in my pocket and in the morning I will hike up to your house and leave it for you.... The farmer liked that idea and agreed to let us sleep there.

    So what would any good folks do, probably what we did- before first light we packed our stuff and headed downstream without paying!!!!! We knew the river went under a bridge downstream and prayed he wasn't there waiting for us--- and he wasn't.
  • Sure
    It's the way it should be. If you're not causing any destruction, not bothering the land owner, leaving no trace, and keeping it low key, it shouldn't be an issue.

    I support laws that would allow access to private property in these ways -- just like they allow in Norway.

    I'd gladly let people camp on my 40.
  • Options
    Fires are NOT stealthy!!! They just scream “Look at me” I am a redneck and am going to burn your property up!!! The also leave a “trace”
  • not what I would do
    If I tell someone I'm going to pay them in the morning, I pay them in the morning.
  • generally
    that's the case here
  • Youth
    Brings back memories - I used to do it all the time. I'd sometimes camp on posted islands that usually had a duck blind, hunting shack, or a field that might be tilled by the owner every few years. I'd use a single burner camp stove if I felt the need to cook, pull the boat back from the water, sometimes sleep under it with a tarp, or pitch a small tent in a low depression surrounded by trees so as not to be very visible. I'd come in late and leave early.
    There were some abandoned gravel pits near the river that were very nice too. Pull the boat out and stash it behind a log and pack in to an out of the way corner. They were owned by corporate hunting clubs and saw pretty heavy use during hunting season. One had a target range that I avoided. They were too large for anyone to patrol regularly and to see the camp one would have had to practically walk into it. Those were good times. I bet slot machines were more fun back when they were illegal also.
    I don't do it much now mostly, I suppose, because where I now paddle there's plenty of legal camping on sandbars. I prefer to be legal but in a pinch I'll stealth camp rather than paddle in unsafe conditions. They can take me to a nice safe jail if they feel some compelling need to - better than paddling in a serious storm or in tricky water without light.
  • Then
    Then don't have a fire.
  • Options
    stealth camping
    I paddle through sparsly populated areas, but yet the land is still owned by someone, usually. Sometimes the house might be miles away. I just camp quietly, leave no trace, have had no problems so far
  • Try Asking
    -- Last Updated: Apr-09-09 9:12 PM EST --

    I have never been turned down when I've asked permission to either hunt or camp on posted land in NE Pennsylvania.

    At one time I also owned and lived on a large tract of land in PA. and I never refused anyone who asked first. My neighbors all felt the same way.

    Due to our screwed up legal system, you also have to remember there are liability issues you have to consider when you are a landowner. A trespasser can get hurt on privet property and end up suing the landowner.

  • I believe that's called
    ...theft of service!
  • Options
    tsk tsk
    you made an offer of payment. An honorable person would have followed up instead of sneaking out.
  • I have been preparing to stealth camp in the Hudson Valley this fall. Anyone out there know the area?

  • @ said:
    Done properly...
    If done properly, the landowner will never know that you were ever there and will have nothing to complain about. I am all for being legitimate every chance I get... however, in areas where access is already locked-up, I'm all for a little stealthly civil disobedience.

    Like using someone else's photo? Who doesn't mind.

  • Having issues with jerks pooping in our farm equipment, and ripping open locked out- buildings, and borrowing old tools, I come down on the side of asking permission of the land owner. Also with cheap remote trail cameras readily available, you are risking getting a visit from the sheriff or my 30-30 if you set the alarm of in the middle of the night. I also suggest asking the local police, in New Zealand lots of great spots were posted no camping, we asked a ranger/cop where we could go to camp and he said ... oh you can camp right here. A friend later confirmed that stealth camping in NZ is often expected, but you have to know when and where you can break the rules, and that's a bit tricky. Scandinavian countries have open camping on private ground laws, make sure you understand the laws, and also if you can identify the owners let them know you are there and leave the site as you found it.

  • Stealth camping is what is normally required on multi-day events like the Everglades Challenge.
    Ironically I find it is often best to hide in plain sight - if there are no safe and hidden public areas then camping at a condo often works. I suppose people assume that you are associated with someone there and they are not as freaked out by "someone on their land" as most private landowners are. Still best to setup late and leave very early.

    Every situation is different. At first not knowing exactly where I would sleep was stressful and sleep was difficult. Now it's just part of the challenge.

    Greg Stamer

  • Greg and the rest of the Water tribers wrote the book on "Stealth camping" !

Sign In or Register to comment.
Message Boards Close

Hello, Paddler!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!