Stealth camping is the art of camping out or temporarily living out in places hidden, without detection. It is the covert nature of stealth camping which enhances its appeal and excitement! Also known as Guerrilla camping it spans two main types of camping, van and wild camping. Both methods of stealth camping allow you to explore amazing places in an intimate way. This is not as easy to experience with hotels and B&B’s! Stealth camping funnels you into embracing the surrounding environment for experiences and entertainment.
A major appeal of stealth camping is it allows you to get one up on the system! Living away from modern infrastructure and having freedom from the grid can be a liberating experience. Stealth camping can free us from being forced into expensive accommodation to see exciting places.
This gives us the freedom to go where we want, when we want. Most of the time stealth camping is not about economics. Stealth camping is a method of self sufficiency which gives us independence on the move. For this reason stealth camping is embraced by survivalists, preppers, homesteaders, travellers, touring cyclists, wild campers, bushcrafters, and hikers.
This type of camping requires a certain level or planning, skill and equipment refinement to make successful trips. The process of mastering this and implementing it into expeditions is one of the real joys of stealth camping.
Stealth camping in a van
Van campers vary in their motivations for stealth camping. There is also a very wide range of sophistication when it comes to van set ups. Some van set ups are simply a box van with a sleeping bag while others sport the latest camper van. Whatever a set up the ambition is the same! To be as free as possible to explore and survive at little cost on the open road. Property prices are now out of reach for many young people!
With homelessness on the rise many are turning to time on the road to save money or even live! Some campers have found ingenious ways to convert standard commercial vehicles into stunning mobile homes. This has become a discipline within its own right! Whether you like the idea of travelling across your country or just a mini vacation! Stealth camping in a van is a cheap and exciting way to explore new places.
Stealth camping on foot
Camping on foot is a similar concept to van camping but without any mode of transport to live in. These stealth campers are usually had core wilderness campers and survival experts. Not only does stealth camping give access to wild places it is a test of military concealment and strategy. Stealth camping on foot can be a covert survival operation not just in rural places but also urban. Ultimately stealth camping is about slipping between the fabric of modern society surviving on the edge. Urban stealth camping can facilitate waste ground and industrial environments for places to stay.
This can be useful for exploring cities on a budget or practicing urban survival! Most modern urbanites have little or no ability to live off the grid or survive a crisis. This is why stealth camping in general is so popular amongst doomsday preppers and military survival enthusiasts. Urban stealth camping provides perfect drills for ‘bug out’ and SHTF scenarios. In such collapses in infrastructure most people would die unless they journeyed to rural places. This gives urban stealth camping on foot its extra relevance and excitement.
The ultimate survival camping
Most of the time stealth campers have more of an interest in more wild locations to camp. This is where preppers, survivalists and wild campers come together. In many cases especially the UK wild camping in suitable forests is illegal without permission. Gaining permission is possible but locating the land owner in the first place can be difficult. It is often the case that wild, bushcraft campers will use stealth camping as a way to gain access.
Stealth camping gives you the ability to travel through an area on foot for many days. This can be perfect for bushcraft and hiking challenges. It is common for stealth campers to take on survival challenges that take many days to complete. This requires carrying all things for survival within your backpack. This is both a physical challenge and a test of survival skills. For this reason stealth camping on foot is the ultimate survival test. This activity can make you mentally and physically fit as well as enjoy some beautiful countryside.
Bicycle stealth camping
Bicycle stealth camping or bike packing is basically stealth camping on foot with a bicycle. I would say that bike camping is less about wilderness survival and more about finding sleeping opportunities while cycle touring. Many cycle routes include huge distances going through many countries mean they can span many days. This can usually mean cyclists have the option to stay at campsites and hotels.
Most of the time however touring cyclists will end up in wild and rural locations between human habitations. This makes stealth camping almost an inevitable commodity!
Bicycle stealth camping requires a whole range of specialised equipment and considerations to be implemented correctly. Cyclists can allow their equipment weight to be put on their cycle instead of themselves. However this can be tricky to implement without hindering their bikes ability to function efficiently.
Bicycle camping equipment
This means bike campers need very thorough and refined equipment to get from location to location. This means strapping specially designed bags which fit varying parts of the bikes anatomy. These allow for even weight distribution and numerous compartments for gear storage. Even so these are very effective pieces of kit the bicycle stealth camper must keep weight to a minimum.
Even though there are some equipment challenges to get over bicycle camping can be a revelation! Without doubt it is one of the best and most efficient ways to explore large areas and even travel the world! The combination of bicycle touring and survival camping can be too much for some to resist. Why don’t you check out our specific article on bicycle stealth camping here?
Urban stealth camping
Urban stealth camping is usually carried out by van campers but there many on foot who also urban camp. One of the reasons for urban camping is sampling the nightlife or just trying to live undercover for a while. The urban landscape has many nooks and crannies which is not realised by many. Most urban dwellers so focused on their day to day existence don’t appreciate this. In fact most people do not know what is just over their garden fence.
I am not suggesting that anyone should sleep in gardens but there are many hidden places in suburbia. Infrastructural services, embankments, vacant lots, urban water courses and industrial areas can all be useful. It has to be pointed out that these hidden nooks and crannies in towns can also harbour unsociable activities. It is important to do your research and don’t do this kind of camping unless it is completely necessary. You also have ma much greater chance of being prosecuted in these areas.
Wild stealth camping
Most of the time stealth camping is merely to facilitate wilder forms of camping. Most traditional camp grounds simply do not replicate the kind of wild camping experiences campers’ desire. This is especially an issue in the UK that in general has fewer wildernesses than the USA and Europe. Most people have busy lives and just need a relatively quick and accessible wild camp not too far away. Most people are at least an hour’s drive to a suitable, secluded location.
Wild stealth camping however does not have to be a million miles away. As long as the location is densely vegetated with no chance of meeting people most places are suitable. The bottom line is most stealth campers just need some time away from it all! Camping out on a secluded hillside with an old buddy can be just the right medicine needed. Stealth camping can utilise both wild woodlands and rugged mountain locations.
Mountains or large hills are great places for a stealth camping experience! Firstly they provide remote locations where not that many people venture especially at night. One of the best reasons for camping in these places is they provide some breath taking views. Most of the time just walking up to a suitable location will leave you full of endorphins and great feelings!
Wild camping in mountains allows you to host other activities such as mountaineering and hiking. It has to be pointed out that mountains although beautiful can also be dangerous also. One thing is for sure you do not want to get caught out on mountains when the weather turns. Always check the weather forecast and try to avoid strong winds and heavy rains.
Woodlands are great places to pick as stealth camping locations. With woodlands it is best to make sure there are no people hunting during the night or early mornings. The great thing about forests is they have such a magical atmosphere at night time. Sometimes it is difficult a good location where you will not be disturbed.
I generally like to look for really dense woodland with a thick lower canopy layer. This can allow you to remain hidden easily and blend into the back ground. Wild camping is especially exciting when you can have a small campfire. This is especially good for bushcraft stealth camping.
Bushcraft is an extremely exciting discipline which involves the learning implementation of ancient survival knowledge. The aim of the bushcrafter is to survive in the wild with minimum man made tools and shelter. Survival materials should be gathered from the surrounding landscape in the way our ancestors did for millennia. This includes foraging, hunting, collecting water and building shelter These skills are typical of some hunter gatherer tribes still existing in remote parts of the planet.
Great satisfaction can be found in learning and practicing these skills especially in wilderness. For some bushcraft enthusiasts stealth camping is the only way to access and practice their techniques. Bushcraft can become a great activity during the day between night time stealth camping. Why not check out our article on bushcraft stealth camping here.
Back packing is an activity enjoyed by many travellers both young and old all across the globe! It is the ultimate and cost effective way to see faraway places. Backpacking usually involves staying in hostels but can involve camping when in remote locations. If you are back packing and stealth camping just make sure you have all relevant vaccinations before you travel. If you are back packing in tropical zones make sure you make provision for finding safe drinking water on your travels.
Try to be aware you are probably sharing your camping quarters with poisonous reptiles and insects too! Try to do your research on wild hazards when backpacking through rural foreign places. Stealth camping when backpacking can be a great way to trek across more remote locations. Make sure you have safe water and stay away from places that may harbour natural hazards.
Most of the time stealth camping is completely fine as long as you have permission. Many places in the UK it is illegal to camp except for some specific places. Camping illegally is up to the individuals’ discretion but it is not exactly the worst crime in the world. For your own piece of mind find out the local rules and regulations and preferably always have permission.
Having the correct equipment for the environment and type of stealth camping is of the utmost importance. The exact kit you can take will vary across the large range of activities stealth camping encompasses. For van campers kit does not have to be as refined as you usually have enough spare room inside the vehicle. Also there is not much concern for the weight of your gear as the van will take it wherever it takes you.
Most standard kit carried by stealth campers will be the campers on foot. In this case it is common to carry all your kit in a large backpack our Bergen. We have put together a list of the most essential stealth camping equipment below.
Usually a large 120 litre light weight Bergen with outside straps to add on extra gear. Really you should try to keep the weight below 15 kilograms.
These are great for keeping all your gear dry inside your Bergen, especial essential electrical items and things like toilet roll. In a perfect world you will also have a waterproof cover to go over the top of your Bergen.
This really comes down to your personal tastes and preferences but obviously lightweight is best. Stealth camping tents are best when they have a low profile ad blend in to their surroundings. Why not check out our stealth camping tents page here. Alternatively stealth campers may use tarps, bivvys and hammocks for adequate shelter.
These come down to preference but try to get one that will most fit your personal needs. If you are a hot sleeper and generally camp in mild climates don’t get a cold weather bag. If you get cold easily then a 5 season bag is probably best for you. For more information on sleeping bag grades why not check out our article on wild camping sleeping bags here.
You have many options with these but try not to go with ones that will add extra weight and bulk to your kit. I prefer the small blow up lattice bags. These usually blow up after only around 15 puffs.
Stoves are an essential part of stealth camping. They allow you to boil water and heat up rations. There are three main types of stove. Gas, mixed fuel and wood burning stoves. Why not check out our article on wild camping stoves here.
Having water with you on your stealth camping expeditions is an essential commodity. The further you get away from civilisation the more important water becomes. The only issue with water is it will add a lot of weight to your equipment. I recommend a water canteen that allows you to boil water as well as carry it.
What kind of provisions you make for food will depend on the places you camp and how long for. You may be in a situation where you have access to local stores and markets. For many however taking pre-prepared rations will be the best option. Most hydrated meals will be heavy so it is common place to use dehydrated meals wherever possible.
These can be bought as expedition rations or you can make your own. If you own a dehydrator you can cook the meals you like and dry them out. These can be split into separate zip lock bags and rehydrated with boiling water when needed.
A head torch is one of those things which are easy to overlook when packing for stealth camping trips. Their importance soon becomes obvious when rummaging around in the pitch black for basic items. Head torches are especially important at dinner times when you need both hands free to see what you are doing.
First aid kit
A first aid kit is extremely important when stealth camping. Being far away or hidden from the local population can be a hazard when far away from emergency infrastructure. If you get injured it is at least helpful to have some basic first aid items to hand. There are some very camping first aid kits on the market today I have linked to some on Amazon here.
Toilet facilities & Hygiene
When travelling of the beaten path for many days you may have to except going basic when it comes to hygiene. For wild stealth campers a hole in a secluded location may be the best option. If you have to do this make sure you dig a hole at least 6 inches deep. Toilet paper is biodegradable but try to avoid leaving any near the surface.
For van campers this is less of a problem. Toilet stops can be planned into a daily routine and stops on route. Many half decent stealth camping vans have toilet facilities built into them. Why not read our article on toilet solutions for stealth camping here. Always have a good supply of wet wipes, toilet roll and some water for sanitary purposes.
Stealth camping tips
Most stealth camping enthusiasts would agree this type of camping takes on a specialism of its own. Whether in a van or on foot there are some things to consider and watch out for. We have put together a few of the most important tips for successful stealth camping trips.
Have a plan and make sure you know how likely it is you can remain inconspicuous. Always have a plan B and always leave yourself and escape route.
Try to be as quiet as possible! Most people are surprised just how far sound can carry at night. The less people stealth camping in one place the better.
Try to avoid places that are low lying and may flood. This includes marshlands, dry river beds and the banks of water ways.
Stay away from places where people walk their dogs. Dogs have great senses and will come to check you out sometimes in an overexcited manor.
Set up and pack away in the twilight hours. This pretty much irradiates any chance of you being noticed at all.
Ask for places to camp. If you are polite when approaching local people with curtsey most will be happy to help.
Always have an excuse. If you get caught camping somewhere you are not supposed to be don’t panic! Be polite have a great excuse and offer to pack up straight away. Most people are accommodating to a smiling personality of blissful ignorance.
It is always important to remember when stealth camping you are technically a refugee from modern society. Camping in hard to reach places is great for escapism but can have its pitfalls and hazards. Remember being far from medical services and communications can be hazardous in an emergency.
This is why it is always important to follow some safety tips when stealth camping. Try not to camp anywhere where hunting takes place. This may or may not be obvious when you first set foot in a new area. Look for evidence of ammunition cartages on the floor, feeding stations, deer stands or keep out sights.
Try not to enter large gates or entrances to potential camping spots. These can lead to the possibility of getting locked in somewhere and not being able to escape.
Always try to camp somewhere that has some phone signal or communication with the outside world. This can be life saving if you end up severely injured.
Beware of large animals
Try to stay away from places with large grazing animals like horses and cattle. These can be identified by deep hoof impressions in the ground and dung. Although these are usually aggressive they are unpredictable, easily spooked, heavy and run at speed.
Be aware you may be sharing the environment with dangerous predators and poisonous reptiles and insects. Try to do research on the species within a given area before you travel. Look for local guidance on how to counter a threat, if any from these present species.
It is really important especially if solo camping you leave written or graphic details of where you are going. This is in the event of you going missing for search parties to find you. A broken angle for example could be life threatening if you have no phone signal and are far from help. Small maps with instructions can be created being sent to family and friends by email or in an obvious place.
Happy stealth camping
Stealth camping is a thrilling and exciting way to travel and see new places! It allows you to reconnect with nature and take time out from day to day life! The twilight atmosphere of wild paces has a positive effect on our mood and well being. Experiencing nature in this way has invigorated our senses for millennia. Stealth camping takes us to places we simply could not explore in our normal everyday lives.
As a result it is one of the few activities that help us reconnect with our primeval conscious. Stealth camping expeditions can create anticipation and excite a sense of adventure many of us unfortunately lose with age. This can create some fantastic experiences and memories for us to treasure forever. Many people who love stealth camping says your first is never your last, dare I say it is almost addictive!
Check out one of our favourite solo campers Joe Robinet