Stealth Camping

Aug 29, 2016 View Comments by

Stealth Camping
There is an art to what I call “stealth camping,” and as traveling motorcyclists, it is something that we have probably all done at least once. Camping along the road is often necessary for a variety of reasons. However, it does not come naturally for many, but it is a very useful tool. Using this method of lodging allows you to plan a little less, which in my book means having a little more fun. It lets you stretch a few more miles out of the day if you are behind schedule. You can ride until the very end of daylight not having to worry about hitting the next town with a hotel, and then trying to find something at a reasonable price that isn’t fully booked. Yes, stealth camping is awesome and it’s free.

By now you have probably realized that I am not talking about campgrounds. I’m talking about that little clearing that you can barely see through the woods from the road. I’m talking about the cul-de-sac of a dead end dirt road. I’m even talking about bedding down behind Wal-Mart.

The easiest stealth camping is in a national forest. It is legal to camp in any national forest in America. You can just pull off the road anywhere you choose and setup your tent without being on a dedicated campsite. With state forests, however, you must stay at a designated campsite.

National forests aside, all other stealth camping is a gray area. In times of emergency, I don’t see why anyone would be upset if they found you warming up in your tent on their property, trying to avoid hypothermia from the cold and rain. However, with an eye for a good spot, most of the time no one will even know you have camped for the night.  Obviously, setting up camp late and packing up early helps to avoid contact with other people. A fire at a camp is one of the most relaxing and enjoyable things, but if you are in a densely populated area, you may have to skip it for the night. I have heard of people camping in cemeteries and behind churches, but have yet to try that myself. I did camp at a rest stop once with no problem. We were just tucked away back by the fence, apart from everything, and packed up at the break of dawn.

All in all, most people are pretty cool about this kind of thing and won’t bother you. I have stealth camped many times all over the world, and have yet to have a bad experience. Once, in Africa, I woke up to a herd of camels followed by a group of people passing by our tent. All we got were strange looks. The picture for today’s blog is of Nick and I stealth camping in Norway just above the Arctic Circle. We were on a main road and there were summer homes along the side of the river every half mile of so. The sun wasn’t setting at that time of the year, but when we needed a break we just pulled down a little old two track and found this beautiful spot right on the river. A lot of times stealth camping gets you the best spot available. They tend to be much more quiet and peaceful than a busy commercial campground, and on a motorcycle tour, that’s what I love and look forward to. Share some of your stealth camping stories in the comments below.

Text and photography: Luke Swa

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