Considerations Of Stealth Camping
There are many secondary activities which may lead to an introduction to stealth camping, some hiking, cycling or even kayaking expeditions may require you to sleep over night in the wild. As it is not always obvious where to ask if in a wild place and there is no obvious risk of inconvenience to anyone stealth camping can be the ideal way to extend outside pursuits. This is where it is important to realise a successful stealth camp relies on in depth planning like a special forces manoeuvre which is half the fun of wild camping. If you are stealth camping to extend a hiking trip or just for the love of wild stealth camping there are a few things you must consider when planning your stealth camp.
Most stealth campers will at least explore the surroundings of their location via areal images and an on foot patrol before the camp takes place. This is to identify any potential activity which may give you away this includes buildings, and the density of foot fall on trails and paths. One of the biggest enemies to stealth campers is dog walkers. Whereas people will usually stay on tracks dogs will excitedly run off in all directions especially if they smell or hear anything that raises their curiosity.
When planning a stealth camp choosing a location that will keep you far enough from dogs will keep you from being discovered from people so are the stealth campers ultimate test. What I find best is identify firstly how dense is the under canopy of the woodland you are camping in? If it is very dense and hard to move through 30 metres from the walking trail should be enough. If you are on a wooded steep slope high up you can pass the dog test even less distance but you will find less suitable level sleeping areas unless using hammocks. The factors for remaining hidden do vary from location from location and this is a part of the skill involved with stealth camping. I usually find a good deal of logic and common sense should keep your expedition hassle free. I would not worry too much here I regularly stealth camp and always find new places and never get disturbed within a 30 mile radius of London. The key is to know the area well enough during the day to understand its use by people and especially dog walkers.
Most people today are relatively domesticated and will not scour large sections of the countryside unless they are hard core hikers. What I try to do is find locations there are no recreational car parks or places with extensive wild areas off track to use for undisturbed locations. I have found some mind blowing stealth camping locations in steep hilly wooded areas with small flat ledges behind the root masses of old fallen trees. Plan a day out hiking in a suitable place you have identified from above and try to locate the camp site before you plan your night.
It is obvious to never pick a location which has signs for no trespassing not only does it reinforce the fact you probably should not be stealth camping it also gives you no excuse or justification what so ever. Also be mindful that if an area looks heavily managed, or there are shot gun cases around you could get a late night visit from game keepers or even worse poachers. Keep an eye out for animal faeces or livestock foot prints some common woodland is grazed by cattle and trust me there is nothing more terrifying than having a 1 ton Tibetan Yak poke its head in your tent at 6am in the morning! Be careful not to choose a location with one entrance in and out via a lockable gate, the amount of times a gate can spontaneously padlock itself up after being open unlocked for years never ceases to amaze me! Just apply vigilance and common sense when selecting your perfect location trust me there is so many out there you shouldn’t be discouraged.
Because of the nature of stealth camping locations it is so important you get your equipment right. For me it all comes down to weight. You really need to keep all gear to a weight where you can comfortably move it from A to B in relative comfort. This includes electing the right Bergen to the difference between using para cord or bungees, trust me all the weight adds up! Selecting the correct gear for weight and comfort is probably something you will develop in time but is an essential part of stealth camping. Your gear should be simplistic, light, quick and easy to pack up and move on.
Water is the base of any overnight camp; this is the major component of your cleaning, brews, food and general hydration. The problem with water is it will add weight to your expedition especially on your journey in. I know some stealth campers who will know where there is a local water source and use a combination of sterilisation pumps and boiling to make it safe to drink. Because I live in the South East of England I find this idea a little out of bounds as I simply do not trust any watercourses safeness to drink regardless of purification methods. I always at least to aim for a minimum of 2 litres carried in a plastic water bottle in my kit. Remember water is heavy every litre weighing 1 kilogram so I always have at least to extra kilos just for water in my gear. If you do intend on taking some alcohol on your camps remember you will need extra water weight plus the extra weight of the alcohol. I am no pooper and like a little whisky on some camps but remember it is a major hindrance in the world of stealth camping where keeping your wits about you and your weight low is vital for a successful camp. I usually have a couple of doubles in my sleeping bag after dinner at bed time to get my head down.
Food is always a component worth some thought if you are to remain truly stealthy during your camp. The most important in regard to detection by dogs is things which do not smell too much. One of the best ways to minimise this problem is to pack dehydrated food that you just add water which is also lightweight. To be honest I do like a little luxury in the woods and like to marinade either beef or lamb steaks in heavy duty sealable plastic bags for grilling late before bed time on a small pit fire with my folding wire camp grill. You can pack cold filling food like scotch eggs which can reduce the extra infrastructure for cooking while stealth camping.
Camp fires in general are said to be a no and let’s face it they will give away your location. But if you know how to do it and do it safely it can be done. I always have a small fire for cooking but this must be done on a very small pit fire and must never be done in pine forest. If you are in a broadleaf forest I find it acceptable as long as you are in a dense location on a calm night, don’t light it until its dark and put it out that night with water and earth. As a general rule or are new to stealth camping I would recommend you try to get by without. You can buy small fire boxes or fire stoves which are very good for keeping fires small and contained for cooking and boiling. Again I would only do this at night when there are no walkers.
Safety remember when you are stealth camping you are at the mercy of wild animals, renegade farm animals, poachers traps, accidents including sprains, brakes all of which mean you could be so far from help no one can find you. This applies especially if on your own and is even more relevant if you have bush craft axes and knifes with you. Be very mindful of this as the potential response time by emergency services are a world away when you are stealth camping. For campers in areas of assumed no large predators don’t forget there is always potential to meet or disturb predators even if they are out of place for that location. While stealth camping in the UK a place of no large wild predators we have experienced two feral dogs approaching us at night and large feline growls and hisses in the early hours of the morning. Even in the UK there are the occasional feral dogs and even occasional large felines sighted attributed to Puma & Leopard. On the whole these creatures are terrified of people and this is how they can exist hidden in the landscape however it is good to be aware of their possibility and consideration when planning your stealth camp location and set up.
Be aware of the local media situation before you set out on your stealth camping trip. You do not want to be camping in high winds, torrential storms, blizzards or in the face of approaching forest fires. Make sure you you know the local conditions before you set out stealth camping. Make sure somebody has your rough location either hand written or via text and how long you will be gone. Also in regard to high winds make sure you camp where there is no potential from falling branches or trees.