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7 Risky Places People Camp Overnight

Stealth camping has become increasingly difficult in recent years. Many nomads quickly discover that some stealth camping spots are riskier than others.

The more desperate you are to find a place to park for the night, the more likely you’ll take a chance on a less-than-ideal location. However, despite the inherent dangers of stealth camping in some sites, people continue to camp in them.

Today, we’re looking at places where people stealth camp, even though they’re taking risks.

Let’s get started!

What Is Stealth Camping?

Stealth camping is a type of camping that involves sleeping in a vehicle or recreational vehicle in places that aren’t typically used for camping. Some of the most popular sites for stealth camping are parking lots, the sides of streets, and parks. Stealth campers look to blend in with their surroundings to go undetected and undisturbed while sleeping.

This is a common camping style for travelers who need to break up long travel days with a convenient place to park. It requires that the traveler be entirely self-sufficient regarding water, power, and waste.

Can You Legally Stealth Camp?

The legalities of stealth camping vary from one location to the next. We’ve seen rules and regulations sweeping the country. Cities and local municipalities are cracking down on overnight parking in public places, including the streets.

If you’re looking to stealth camp in an area, you’ll want to know the rules and regulations for the area. Calling the non-emergency line for local law enforcement will likely give you the most accurate information.

Pro Tip: Make sure you know these 5 Things to Know About Stealth Camping before you go.

Man sleeping in the front seat of his camper van in the dark
Stealth camping rules will vary depending on where you are located. Do your research before you go.

What Happens If You Get Caught Stealth Camping?

If you get caught stealth camping, a couple of things can happen. First, if you’re stealth camping in an area that prohibits overnight parking, you’ll likely get a knock on the door. This could be from the owner of the property or local law enforcement.

Most of the time, they simply remind you of the rules and restrictions and ask that you leave. Law enforcement may take the time to question you. They may even run your name through their system to ensure you don’t have any warrants or legal troubles.

If you maintain a respectful attitude and are decent with whoever asks you to leave, that’s likely to be the end of the discussion. However, putting off attitude or sass with the property owner or law enforcement could escalate the situation.

You don’t want to dig yourself into a hole and create a more difficult situation than is necessary. If you’re stealth camping in an area that prohibits the practice, you could talk law enforcement into giving you a ticket or citation. If you keep running your mouth, you could face more severe charges.

However, most stealth campers who get caught pack up their things and find a new spot. Yes, it’s inconvenient and a hassle, but it’s all a part of the adventure. Do yourself a favor, and don’t escalate the situation by disrespecting whoever is asking you to leave the spot.

What Is the Best Vehicle for Stealth Camping?

The best vehicles for stealth camping are Class B conversion vans. The main reason is that stealth campers want to move from the driver’s seat to the living space without getting out of the vehicle. This is easily possible in conversion vans. This allows travelers to get in and out of a spot as quickly as possible.

In addition, these vehicles are typically small enough that they can fit into a standard parking space. This makes it easy for them to blend into the surroundings in parking lots and other public places commonly used for stealth camping. Since vans won’t stick out like a sore thumb, people would likely overlook them sitting for hours in a spot.

Many Class B conversion vans will have everything travelers need to be self-sufficient during their travels. Travelers will likely be able to sleep, shower, and prepare food from the safety of their conversion van as it sits in a stealth camping spot.

Couple laying together in camper van while stealth camping
The more subtle you can be while stealth camping, the better.

7 Risky Places People Stealth Camp

Some places are riskier than others when it comes to stealth camping. However, sometimes taking a chance pays off. Whether it’s legal or not, sometimes people will be willing to look the other way if you’re not causing a scene or a situation. Let’s look at seven risky places people stealth camp!

City Parks

City parks can be quiet throughout the night but can be a gamble for stealth camping. Many locations generally prohibit overnight parking or staying past the park’s regular operating hours. Any vehicles that remain in the park after hours are likely to attract attention from the park’s staff or local law enforcement.

If an area experiences little to no traffic throughout the night, any vehicles in the area will be hard to miss. Depending on the vehicle, it may stick out in a seemingly empty city park. Many cities have strict rules and regulations regarding overnight parking. So you’ll likely experience a knock on your door if the property manager or law enforcement wants to press the issue.

Shopping Centers

Shopping centers have large parking lots that often sit empty throughout the night. However, they’re private property, and anyone using them without permission could find themselves in a tough situation. While some shopping centers are happy to let guests stay overnight in their parking lot, that’s not always the case.

Local laws and regulations for overnight parking supersede an establishment’s desire to be hospitable. Law enforcement frequently patrols shopping centers to help increase security for businesses, which means they’re likely to notice a vehicle parked for several hours in a parking lot.

Whether or not law enforcement wants to press the issue will be entirely up to them. However, you’re taking a pretty significant risk by stealth camping at shopping centers. 


Hospitals have become popular for stealth camping as these people are constantly coming and going. Very few people pay attention to what’s happening in the parking lot around them, as they often come and go with a purpose.

However, while you may be able to park overnight in some hospital lots without a problem, that’s not always the case.

Some hospitals utilize security services that take pride in maintaining a tight ship. They’re likely to investigate the situation if they see a camper or other popular vehicle used for stealth camping. In addition, many hospitals utilize parking garages to maximize parking space.

These often have very low clearances, making it impossible for most RVs and many conversion vans to use them safely.

City Streets

Stealth camping on city streets is one of the riskier options because it can be hit or miss. Some areas have strict regulations about when and where drivers can park their vehicles overnight.

While some communities won’t outright ban the practice of stealth camping, they’ll restrict parking overnight on city streets during certain overnight hours. As a result, law enforcement can quickly and easily identify vehicles violating these rules.

Some homeowners may feel uncomfortable with someone sleeping in a vehicle in front of their house. In these instances, they’ll likely report you and your vehicle. The police will probably come to investigate the situation and, if parking is prohibited, send you on your way.

Truck/Rest Stops

While many truck and rest stops permit overnight parking, they can still be risky places to park. This is because these spots often can be hot spots for seedy behavior. We’re not saying that truck drivers or anyone who frequents these areas are up to no good. Things just tend to be a bit sketchy from time to time.

With so many people constantly coming and going, cars parked in these areas can be targets for theft and vandalism. If you park in one of these spots, secure all your belongings and take any safety precautions necessary to maximize your safety.

Pro Tip: Before you spend the night at a truck stop, make sure you know these 7 Things Non-Truckers Should Know About Truck Stops.

Hotel Parking Lots

Many stealth campers have taken risks by parking in hotel and resort parking lots. However, many of these locations are catching on and will assign guests parking passes they must display. All it takes is for security to do their rounds and look for any vehicles parked in their lot without the pass to identify what cars aren’t supposed to be there.

Violators could be subject to fines, citations, or even towing, depending on the situation and the area. None of these are great options. However, some people still like to gamble and risk stealth camping in hotel parking lots. If that’s you, don’t be surprised if you get a knock on the door in the middle of the night.

Areas with Overnight Parking Restrictions

It may seem obvious, but parking for the night in any area with overnight parking restrictions is risky. Many communities with these restrictions try to maintain a certain quality for their site. Law enforcement in these areas will likely be able to spot vehicles violating these restrictions. 

However, as we stated earlier, some are more forgiving than others. They may be willing to turn the other way if you’re not causing a scene or any problems. On the other hand, if they woke up on the wrong side of the bed, you could find yourself receiving a citation or in further legal trouble.

Is Stealth Camping Worth It?

Stealth camping can be a great option when you need to catch a few hours of sleep. But, it’s sad that many campers have to think twice about trying to stealth camp in some locations. Citations can be costly and would likely pay for several nights of legal camping at a nearby campground.

However, it can be a fantastic way to camp if you can find spots where you can camp without risking safety or violating the law. 

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