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Stealth Camping May Be Better Than Boondocking Now

Traditionally, campgrounds have been the go-to place for RVers to park their rigs when using them. Unfortunately, with camping becoming incredibly trendy, campground reservations have become more expensive and harder to come by.

As a result, many RVers have fallen in love with boondocking, but as should be expected, the secret about this camping style has gotten out to the RVing community. Many RVers are now turning to stealth camping more often than ever.

Today, we’ll share about this trend and even see if you should consider stealth camping in the future. Let’s get started!

What Is Stealth Camping?

Stealth camping is a type of camping style where the individuals camp in some non-traditional camping spots to go unnoticed. Since these aren’t designated camping spaces, the legalities of parking overnight can vary from one location to the next.

Whether it’s legal or not, stealth campers must be almost entirely self-sufficient. They’ll need to provide their own power and water and be responsible for disposing of all waste. Stealth camping can be great for quick, overnight stops to break up long travel days.

What Is Boondocking?

Boondocking is another type of camping style that takes place on public lands. There’s a tremendous amount of public land managed by agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and the United States Forest Service. Much of these lands allow for recreational use by the public, including camping. Most of these lands are in the western part of the country, and rules and regulations vary from location to location.

One great thing about boondocking is that you can find some spots that offer a lot of space and privacy. You’ll still need to provide your own power and water and be responsible for disposing of waste, but it’s almost always worth it. You can often spend anywhere from five to 14 days in the same location before you’ll need to move on your way.

Pro Tip: Become a boondocking pro by using these 22 RV Boondocking Tips we think everyone should know.

The legalities of camping and boondocking will vary from one location to the next. Whether in a conversion van or an RV, you can’t just set up camp anywhere you want. Some areas have strict rules for overnight parking, making stealth camping legally challenging. In addition, not all public lands allow boondocking. Check the legal requirements for any particular areas where you plan to camp.

Friends drinking wine in the back of camper van while boondocking
Whether or not you can boondock or stealth camp legally will depend on where you are located.

Why Is Stealth Camping Becoming Better Than Boondocking?

There are a few reasons why we think stealth camping is becoming a better option than boondocking. While we’re not sure this will be a lasting trend, it’s becoming the reality we face in the RV community. Let’s take a look!

Easier to Access

With the increased usage of many boondocking lands, some are becoming incredibly difficult to navigate. On the other hand, stealth camping spots are typically on paved roads or in parking lots, which can be very easy to navigate. Some of the best places, like parking lots and truck stops, were designed with big rigs in mind. Getting in and out of these locations is easy as can be.

When you’re boondocking, you have to consider what the weather conditions were like before you arrived and what they’ll be like when you leave. For example, at the popular South Dakota boondocking site of Nomad View, heavy rains before or during your stay can make it very challenging to get in or out of your spot. Getting your rig stuck can cause damage not only to your rig but also to your wallet.

Closer to Safety During Emergencies

Stealth camping is typically more urban, while boondocking can be in some very remote locations. Because of the difference in location, you’ll be closer to emergency services and safety should you need assistance. It can be scary to know help could take a while to arrive should you experience an emergency while boondocking. 

Less Crowded Than Boondocking

While we love resources like Campendium and iOverlander, they’re giving away the locations of some of the best boondocking spots. As a result, these spots no longer provide the peace and quiet that many boondockers enjoyed about them. 

In addition to the crowds, not everyone camps responsibly. They’ll leave trash and be destructive to the land. When land management agencies notice these behaviors, they close or restrict access to certain areas to protect them. Some of the best boondocking spots are no longer available due to overuse and how humans destroyed the land. 

Couple in camper van boondocking
Avoid crowded boondocking sites by stealth camping instead.

Where Can You Stealth Camp?

If you’re looking to stealth camp, there are a few go-to places that many people use. Keep in mind that the rules and regulations will vary from one location to the next. It’s up to you to follow the local rules and regulations no matter where you’re trying to stealth camp.

Street-Side Parking Spaces

It doesn’t get much easier than finding a safe place to park for the night on the side of a street. If you can find an area that allows overnight parking on the side of the road, that’s a great spot to choose. You’ll want to avoid parking directly in front of homes, which could attract negative attention from the homeowner.

You’ve hit the jackpot if you can find an industrial park-like environment where vehicles frequently park along the street. Since the goal of stealth camping is to blend in as much as possible, this can be easy to do in these types of areas.

Parking Lots

Some big-box retailers and other businesses will allow travelers to park in their empty parking lots for the night. However, parking lots are private property, so ensure you get permission from the location before getting too comfortable. Park out of the way and don’t interfere with customers or business operations.

These lots can be great options, as they’ll often have security features like lights and cameras that can keep an eye on things while you’re sleeping. Local law enforcement may even make regular patrols through an area while you’re resting.

Truck and Rest Stops

Truck and rest stops can be great places to stealth camp, but rules and regulations can vary. Some areas will restrict how many hours travelers can park before they must get back on the road. Over-the-road truckers frequently use these, so they’ll likely be rather noisy throughout the night.

If you choose to park at a truck or rest stop, just remember that truck drivers have fewer options than travelers when it comes to where they park for the night. If you notice a truck or rest stop is running low on big-rig parking spaces, it might be good to find another parking spot and let a truck driver use the rest stop.

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

Camper vans parked in parking lot while stealth camping
Camp for free by either parking on the street, in a parking lot, or even at a truck stop.

Stealth Camping Tips

If you want to get the most out of your stealth camping experience, you should do a few things. These can help you blend in and make the most out of your time stealth camping. 

Consider Decoys

Some people who frequently stealth camp will employ decoy devices to help them blend into their surroundings, especially when they’re stealth camping in conversion vans and other vehicles. They’ll use clipboards, reflective vests, or other equipment to make it appear to be a typical work vehicle.

Anyone who sees the equipment on the dash of their vehicle will likely assume it’s a work vehicle and not a home on wheels. This can help you avoid awkward or unnecessary confrontations during your stealth camping adventures.

Arrive After Dark and Leave Early

It would be best if you always planned to arrive after dark and leave as early as possible. Minimize your time in the spot to avoid attracting unnecessary attention. The longer you stay in a spot, the more likely you will get noticed, and someone might report you to the authorities.

Cover Your Windows

Even if you have tinted windows, it’s a good idea to cover them from the inside. This helps increase privacy and prevents anyone from looking into your rig while you’re sleeping. We can’t think of a much creepier scenario than someone peeking into your windows to watch you while you sleep. 

Depending on the vehicle, some stealth campers will also install or hang a temporary divider that blocks off the cab from the rear of the vehicle. This reduces the chances of someone looking through your vehicle’s windshield and seeing what you’re doing in the back. Stay safe and maintain your privacy as much as possible while stealth camping.

Have a Pee Bottle

If your vehicle doesn’t have a bathroom, you’ll likely need to use the restroom. As gross as it may sound, you may need to use a pee bottle occasionally. This can help buy you time until you can find the nearest restroom. Make sure you dispose of the waste properly and store it as sanitarily as possible.

Will You Choose to Stealth Camp or Boondock?

Stealth camping and boondocking are both great options for camping. However, they’re very different camping styles. Each of these campaign styles has advantages and disadvantages. Some people prefer one over the other. While we prefer to boondock as much as possible, we’ve stealth camped a time or two and found it extremely convenient.

So which option do you turn to most during your travels? Share your thoughts in the comments!

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