How to be a Professional Stealth Camper – Don’t be a Rank Amateur in the Woods


So here I am, back from two days of sneaking around the fairly crowded(to my surprise) woods.

Let’s talk Stealth.

What is stealth camping?

It just means you sleep somewhere for free. You don’t ask for permission or worry about permits and restrictions or any of that stuff.

You just stay quiet, clean, and out of the way.

Leave no trace and all that other pack in-pack out blah blah.

Camping generally means a rural area.

With the modern tech, there’s no reason to leave a mess or even any sign you were there.

It’s easy, fast, and simple.

It isn’t difficult.

Well actually the difficulty varies.

The more crowded it is, the more difficult it is.

As population density goes up, difficulty goes up.

If it’s in a rural area, it’s not even stealth camping, it’s just camping.

In a crowded inner city area, you are in danger; your gear is a target for theft. You are a target for standing out. Try to head out of the city center a bit, until population density goes down.

A good rule for stealth not to camp anywhere with car access.

If a car can pull up to you, you are in the wrong place.

This happened on the second night of this last trip. I scouted out and area and it was quiet for a few hours, so I posted camp.

Within 20mins, 2 different cars drove by, and the noise/visibility level was too high.

I packed up camp and went somewhere else, just like that.

There were more people around than I had expected.

I only saw the ranger’s truck once during the two days though.

The first and overlooked step is to stop feeling guilty for wanting to sleep for free.

You don’t have to pay anyone to camp. They use the money to maintain camp sites and clean up messes.

Simply don’t make a mess, and don’t camp in the same site too much, this will eliminate “site creep” or deterioration of the area.

You are free to camp wherever you want.


How to be a Pro:

#1. Noise and Alcohol

Noise is a big one. When you’re out there, it’s quiet. You can be heard for miles.

All the expert guys I’ve seen were all quiet.

Sure they might talk, or fuss around with gear, however they are not on the level of loud we are talking about.

We are talking about those party animals who park an SUV with the headlights on, and radio blaring, and get loud and rowdy, well into the night.

I am not sure what those people are thinking, maybe they think they cannot be heard, or just don’t care, because they think, since they are in the woods, all respect goes to hell.

I know where they are from 5 miles away. I know they are jokers, who will hightail it out, from my woods, as soon as it gets cold or rains.

Sloppy amateurs.

To be a Pro: Be quiet.

Hearing is you first alert out here. You can hear 360 degrees around you at all times, and pinpoint the location of the noise instantly in your head.

Unless asked for directions or something, on a solo, I don’t even talk. The conversation is in my head.

I don’t stomp around or make noise, I don’t even talk. That is a little extreme, but that is the way I enjoy it. A lot of times being quiet requires skill. It takes control and awareness of the environment. It takes mindfulness not to crash through branches.

Quiet = Stealth = Skill.

It’s like that for Urban Exploration

It’s like that For Buildering

It’s the same for Stealth Camping

The loudest part of my operation would be the zippers.

Zippers on the pack, zippers on the hammock.

Even the quiet hiss of the little stove is negligible.

Second Half:

To be a Pro: Don’t drink alcohol.

I do not drink in the woods. Even the idea seems ridiculous to me. I need 100% of my coordination and skill out there.

Here’s the danger with Stealth: If you get injured or sick, nobody will find you, or it may take them a while to do so.

Your life is in your hands. Your know how, your skill, your endurance.

That is the allure of a solo to me, and that is also the danger.

Alcohol has no place in the woods. Neither do other compounds.

Coffee is ok, I do drink tea and coffee.

If you drink in the woods, you are either and expert who is taking a well understood risk(to stave off boredom), or your are a rank amateur who would be screwed alcohol or not.

There are some people who love to drink at camp, and they are loud and rowdy as hell.

Those people are not pros and they are not playing the game on the same level I am.

A, why the anti-alcohol rant? They are just having fun!

I am not a crazy no alcohol guy. I just know it does something which is completely incompatible with adventure.

It makes you numb and not as sensitive. That is exactly the opposite of what you need as an adventurer, especially in the woods, especially solo.

You need to be fully tuned into how your body feels, how the environment feels, every little thing has to be clear.

It comes down to intuition and awareness.

Alcohol doesn’t help with either.

So be quiet and don’t be intoxicated.

#2. Gear and Practice

Gear, gear, gear.

Yes it is possible to worry too much about gear and become a gear head and a glam-packer.

You can have all the nice toys, and none of the efficiency, know how, or endurance.

What you do need is something above gear from Walmart. You should research gear and buy it online.

That takes more time, however you will get much better value buying online, and actually save money over going to somewhere like REI or Dick’s and buying there.

To be a Pro: Have good gear.

You don’t need the fanciest stuff. Just something one notch above Walmart gear.

Look up some gear lists online, and find the right options for you.

Now, I am not one of those super-ultralight gram weenies who saw toothbrushes in half, and cut all the tags and extra webbing, off their packs to save a few oz.

I just don’t do that. I prefer sturdy, robust gear. If that means a bit more weight – ok.

Staying dry and warm is paramount and I carry an excessively large tarp and overly warm quilts. Oh well. Better than the alternative.

Part two of gear is: Practicing with the gear.

Practice, Practice, Practice.

Set up everything a couple of times at home. Go out into the yard and set it up/break it down a few times.

Go out on a few short trips for testing purposes. Take it out on a rainy day. On a cold day.

Get proficient and efficient and in tune with your gear.

Know what you have and how to use it, and what features each piece has.

To be a Pro: Practice with your gear.

That’s all for this segment.

Let’s Review.

Review: How to Be a Professional Stealth Camper

#1. Make No Noise, Drink No Alcohol.

#2. Have decent Gear, Practice with your Gear.

If you do those 4 things, you have just beat 95% of people I’ve observed camping.

It not hard to be at the elite level, when the average level bar is set so low.

Not a single trip goes by that I don’t see some happy campers with a 6 man, Walmart tent, Blaring Radio, Cheap sleeping bags, and drinking and getting rowdy.

You just know, just by looking, who is serious, and who is not.

Be a pro. It isn’t hard.

Read a couple of books or websites about camping/backpacking/bicycle touring.

But don’t read too much.

There is no bigger procrastination and waste of time than endless “research”.

Listen, after a certain point, research becomes vicariously living through other peoples adventures, not learning.

And doing something with your hands is completely different than reading about it. You could read all the books in the world and then be perfectly useless.

Most people know the fundamentals already, and they are not difficult, but you have to get out there and do it to increase your comfort and skill.

Trip Recap:

I was dropped off in an undisclosed location about right at sunset. Finding a spot was easy, as all you need are two trees 12-20ft apart for a hammock.

I did deploy the tarp, just for practice purposes and waved the head-torch around a bit fussing with the tie outs, as it got dark.

Pretty quiet night, real warm, didn’t need the quilts at all.

Off to the trail bright and early the next morning.

I covered between 10 to 15 miles, didn’t really keep track. I know these trails, and just did them for fun.

I set up camp too early the second night, as it wasn’t quite dark.

The spot was quiet for a while, and I was thinking it was a fit place to sleep.

What I did not know was there was a dirt road nearby, and cars driving by and people getting out to hike, was too much noise for me.

Nobody hassled me or anything; I just disliked the noise, and packed up the hammock (2mins).

Ended up hiking about a mile west, and camping there, setting up right as it got dark, just the hammock, and no quilt, very bare bones. No noise trouble in the new spot.

Good two days, though the trails were busier than I expected.

I did not see the rangers when I went by the office, and only saw the Ranger truck driving around once.

No problems at all this entire trip – smooth sailing.

No animal or bug problems, no freezing at night.

Mission Verdict: Success

Until Next Time, and

All the Best.