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7 Deadly Sins of Stealth Camping

Sometimes looking for a spot to park overnight requires you to be sneaky. Stealth camping is becoming a popular camping style amongst many nomads. However, you can be in for a rough and less enjoyable experience if you’re not careful. 

If you want to set yourself up for success, avoid committing any of the seven deadly sins of stealth camping. Let’s get started!

What Is Stealth Camping?

Stealth camping is a self-sufficient camping style where individuals park in atypical places typically not used for camping. 

The most common sites for stealth camping include parking lots and city streets. Stealth campers usually sleep for a single night before moving on to the next spot.

Is Stealth Camping Safe?

Stealth camping is typically no less safe than any other type of camping. However, some areas are safer than others. 

Since stealth campers regularly camp in unfamiliar places, they will need to do some research on a location and make an extra effort to be aware of their surroundings.

If you take the proper safety precautions, stealth camping can be extremely safe and a great way to travel.

Couple sleeping in camper van while stealth camping
Stealth camping isn’t easy and takes lots of preparation.

Can You Legally Stealth Camp?

The legalities of stealth camping vary based on location. States typically leave it up to the individual cities and local communities to establish rules regarding overnight parking. 

Many urban locations will have strict rules regarding parking or sleeping overnight in public areas. Stealth campers will often do their best to blend in with other vehicles to avoid getting caught in these areas.

It can be easier to stealth camp in places with few regulations. Many travelers will park along less-crowded roads or in parking lots. 

However, it’s important to note that even if the area has no local rules, you can’t just park anywhere. An empty parking lot is almost always private property. You should always get permission to camp in these parking lots.

What Happens If You Get Caught Stealth Camping?

Some areas have stiff penalties for getting caught stealth camping. If caught, law enforcement will likely knock on your window and ask you to leave. 

Additionally, law enforcement could issue you a fine or citation, depending on the situation or how you handle the interaction. However, unless you’re a repeat offender, you have a good chance that you’ll simply get asked to move.

Pro Tip: Before you give stealth camping a try, make sure you know these 5 Things to Know About Stealth Camping.

Man sleeping in his car while stealth camping
Don’t get caught stealth camping by avoiding some common mistakes that will give you away.

7 Deadly Sins of Stealth Camping

There are a few things you want to avoid while parking overnight. Avoiding the seven deadly sins of stealth camping won’t guarantee a perfect experience, but it will set you up for success. Let’s dive in and look at these stealth camping sins.

Choosing the Wrong Rig

The type of rig you choose can greatly impact your ability to stealth camp. Typically, conversion vans, truck campers, and smaller Class C motorhomes work best for this camping style. 

These types of vehicles can blend in with others when parked. Large motorhomes, fifth wheels, and travel trailers can stick out like a sore thumb in many instances.

The goal of stealth camping is to attract as little attention to you as possible. If your vehicle doesn’t look out of place, people may look past it sitting in a parking lot or on the side of a street.

Also, remember that you may sometimes need to leave quickly. Having a rig that allows you to easily go to and from the driver’s seat to the living space is important. While it’s not mandatory, it’s not ideal if you have to exit the vehicle to do this.

Ignoring Rules and Regulations

Rules are rules. It doesn’t matter if you agree with them or if they make your life harder. If you ignore the rules, don’t get upset if you get a knock on the door in the middle of the night. You also have little room to be angry if law enforcement issues you a fine or citation.

You need to do your research when picking a stealth camping spot. If a location has signs indicating that overnight parking or camping is prohibited, we don’t recommend trying to stealth camp. Law enforcement or security may notice your vehicle and send you on your way.

Making Too Much Noise

One of the keys to avoiding confrontation while stealth camping is making as little noise as possible. Stealth camping isn’t the time to test your vehicle’s sound system while watching your favorite action movie. 

You should also be mindful of the volume of any music you play. Making too much noise can attract attention to you and your vehicle, which typically never ends well for stealth campers.

Staying Too Long

You should minimize the time you spend in a stealth camping spot. Staying more than a single night is typically frowned upon. 

The longer you stay in one spot, the more attention you may attract. This typically ends with negative interactions. Do yourself a favor and limit the amount of time you spend in each spot.

We encourage campers to get into their spot just before sunset and leave as soon as possible after sunrise. This helps ensure that you have sufficient light to make it easier to maneuver your vehicle. You don’t want to damage your rig or someone else’s property because you can’t see.

Woman packing up camper van to stealth camping
Try to stay inside your vehicle and as quiet as possible when stealth camping.

Making a Mess

Often cities and businesses restrict stealth camping due to the mess left behind by campers. For some reason, some people take advantage of the hospitality at overnight camping spots. Some dump their trash and make a mess when they leave.

You should never rely on someone else to clean up your mess. Always make sure to leave a spot cleaner than you found it. 

Additionally, if you see trash lying around, grab a trash bag and clean it up. It may be annoying to pick up after someone else, but it can help ensure the spot stays clean and available to use in the future. Don’t give cities and businesses an excuse to create restrictions.

Not Being Self-Sufficient

Stealth camping will require you to be entirely self-sufficient. This means providing your own power, water, and waste disposal. 

If your rig doesn’t have a bathroom, you’ll need a portable camping toilet or other means of using the restroom. 

Being self-sufficient will help you avoid depending on others and make for a much more comfortable and smooth stealth camping experience.

Not Covering Your Windows

Once you park, use window covers if you can. Covers will help prevent anyone from seeing inside your rig. There’s not much creepier than someone peeking in your windows while trying to get some sleep.

You have various ways to cover your windows, including buying covers made for your specific vehicle’s windows. However, you can go the DIY route and easily use various materials to create your own. 

If your windows have a frame, using magnets to attach them can make it quick and easy to install and remove when you need to use them. 

Pro Tip: If you’re camping for free, make sure not to do any of these Don’ts of Free Camping.

Avoid Breaking the 7 Deadly Sins of Stealth Camping

Stealth camping can be an excellent way to camp for a night. It’s beneficial when breaking up long travel days between locations. 

However, you want to avoid breaking any of the seven deadly sins of stealth camping if you want a smooth and uneventful experience. 

Do yourself a favor and set yourself up for success by staying on the straight and narrow while camping overnight.

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