Whether because of financial circumstances, a desire to experience nature without a buffer or because of poor planning, stealth camping is just what it sounds like it would be: It’s spending a night without being seen in an area where camping may not be completely welcome.
In fact, stealth camping is often illegal — or at least questionable — and usually dangerous, too, although it can sometimes be completely legal and relatively safe.
Going Into Detail
Stealth camping is sometimes also called guerilla camping or wild camping. Motorcyclists or bicyclists may also call it “rolling off”.
In general, cross-country cyclists and backpackers are the most likely stealth campers since they don’t have a large vehicle that also has to be hidden for the night.
The idea of stealth camping is to find a quiet place where detection isn’t likely and simply spend the night there undetected. Campers usually begin their camping after dark, cover reflectors and other things that would give them away, then leave when it is barely light. Obviously, in places where the activity is legal, less care is necessary.
Many stealth campers can afford hotel rooms but choose to camp in the rough for the experience. Others could not afford to travel any other way because accommodation expenses are out of their financial reach.
For obvious reasons, stealth camping can be dangerous since a landowner could discover the camper and take forceful action to remove him or her. While injuries from landowners during stealth camping aren’t common, they do happen. Passers-by determined to cause trouble can also give guerilla campers a rough time.
Choose Your Site With Care
Camping in an area that isn’t designated for that activity can also pose risks from wildlife and livestock if the site isn’t carefully chosen.
For some people, being able to say they’ve camped in the rough is a right of passage into a cross-country lifestyle. For others, it’s a financial necessity to make their plans a reality.
Stealth camping is a dangerous and sometimes illegal activity, but those who do it regularly point to the low cost, the complete freedom and the connection with nature that isn’t possible any other way as reasons they camp in the rough even when they don’t have to.
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