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Stealth camping

Yinzer Moto

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When motorcycle touring, finding a place to spend the night is a big part of the trip. Trips like the TAT and BDR can be really difficult if the rider wants to spend every night in a hotel. Being able to ride till nearly dark and pull off to go to sleep, really helps to cover more miles per day. I have found that I can find a place to camp anywhere I have traveled. Stealth is not invisible in the traditional sense, it is stealth is the sense that we can spend the night in a place and leave in the morning, without anyone asking us to leave. We have successfully stealth camped in almost every state in the US, Canada and Mexico.


Some of the key points of stealth camping are:

-arrive shortly before sundown
-no camp fire
-try to eat dinner before arriving at the camp spot
-pack up camp at sunrise
-leave no trace of the camp spot
-try to cover reflective materials on the bike and clothing


In the early evening, we usually stop for gas and dinner. While eating dinner, I will consult my gps and phone to see if I can find some spots to investigate. Some apps and web sites that I use are:

-FreeCampSites.net
-the AllStays app
-Google maps (satellite view)

If there are any other apps or web sites, please let me know, I will update this list.

Google maps is probably the most valuable tool I use but the GPS can work for this too. I just look at Google and find a river/stream, even better if there is a bridge in the area. A bridge indicates an elevation change and an opportunity to find an out of sight place to sleep. Rivers and streams tend to have a wooded area along them, there are usually pull offs where fishermen will drive down to the edge of the water.

During my evening stop for gas and food, I ask the locals if they know of a good place to spend the night. Many times, they have no idea but it has worked out really well a few times. One memorable time was they told us that we were allowed to spend the night in the city park, in the middle of town. Another time, there was an empty house next to the store and they said to just camp in the yard. Locals having a good spot are rare, maybe 1 out of 20 times.

Many people say they have had good luck just asking a farmer/property owner for a place to spend the night. Wording is key here, we are just looking for a place to spend the night, not a place to camp. People think of camping as an activity where there is a 6’ tall bonfire and a case of beer. Where people party into the early morning hours. It needs to be made clear to the person you are talking to, we are just looking for a place to rest our heads for the night.

I have never used a highway rest stop for a Moto camp spot but people have reported good success with them. I have used rural highway rest stops. They usually have a picnic shelter, with tables. Just pull the bike up to the shelter. I lay the sleeping pad and bag right on top of the table. I know people have used bus stop shelters in more urban areas.

Tell us about some of your more unique spots. Share some apps and web sites you use. What are some tips and tricks that I did not mention above?
 

Yinzer Moto

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Great info. I've never camped off of a bike before but I'm going to try it this year.

Here in MI you're allowed to camp on state land with some restrictions. They call it 'dispersed camping'. You are allowed to take the bike up to 50' off of a trail or DNR road.

National forests have similar rules, they can differ slightly, so it is best to check the rules if you have any concerns. In more popular area, they will have no camping signs along roads. You may need to work your way back along the road before the signs go away.

Oddly, the only place that I had someone confront me was at a national forest spot. We were riding through Colorado and everything along the road was private and fenced off. Then suddenly I see a tiny 3” tall sign on the side of the road, it said ”National Forest Boundary”. A few feet later was a little path, the led down to the river. We dipped down the path and it was a picture perfect spot, right next to the river. We did not follow my one rule and it was still a few hours before sundown. It was too nice of a spot to pass up. So we set up camp. I skinny dipped in the river. Then poured a nice glass of bourbon.

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While I am sipping my bourbon, a side by side pulled up. He immediately said we were trespassing. I said I was sorry, I thought we were on National Forest land. He backed down and said we were. His property was the last one, before the boundary. I told him not to worry, we were just passing through and in the morning, he would not be able to tell we were there. This was his little private fishing access. He would drive down every evening and do some fishing. He fished for an hour and left.

As you can see, our old tent was not very stealth, our new tent is dark green.
 

TimCC

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I've had some good success camping at highway historical markers. You do want to watch where you set your tent though, some of those tend to be open toilets for travelers that can't make it to the next town.

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SnakeOiler

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I'm interested in watching here. I don't camp much off the bike anymore. But I travel a lot in my cargo conversion. And I do a lot of one night stopping just to rest till the next morning. It's funny how many folks I see that do the same, but seem to get a bit crazy how much they sit out. Even in the Walmart, Cracker Barrel lots. Which I'll add I never use. As mentioned a few cities allow camping in their city park, some Even have hookups. I've also had great luck with farms/ranches, but ALWAYS ask.
 

skibum69

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You can all come to Newfoundland as wild camping is legal anywhere that is not private property which is about 90% of the island and way more in Labrador. If you do wind up on private land just ask, the owners will probably invite you inside. If you're looking for some more Moto minded amenities you'e welcome to come to our Moto B&B.
 

matty

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Stealth Camped off a bike most of my adult life, i never liked spending any money at camp grounds if can possibly avoid it .
Toured The Alps and many European countries as well as NZ when we lived there and of course the UK. . And in over 40 years only ever had a handful of times i /we had any thing out of the ordinary.
As a 16 year old kid my mate and me rode from the borders to Bude in crnwall in 1975, I was on a Yamaha FS1E 50cc moped and mate was on a Honda SS50Z moped (All we were allowed to ride at 16 in uk.)
This was my first real Adventure of any Distance, and We did very well locating quiet out of the way spots and hiding overnight there. We Fly camped and gear was at an absolute minimum.
We were On a last push to Bude and although it was summer and warm, we rode until about 12 midnight, and we were just too tired to carry on .
We were just past Exeter and had about 50 miles left to go before we reached my Aunts farm.

We were on a A road with some thick hedges so we pulled off the road through a wooden farm gate and strung the fly sheets off the bikes out of sight of passing traffic, which was light at that time anyway. I remember waking up and my watch said it was 345AM it was light it being summer but went back to sleep. Seemed like just moments later and i heard a Engine and A Police radio .
I Got out from the fly, and was greeted coming into the field by a Police officer and a Farmer . He had spotted us from his farm, which in daylight was not far from us at all and we were visible, and it was just before 7AM we were that tired.
Police asked the usual bikes got a quick check over and we were told to go and not trespass again.

That was a lesson learned, as in make sure your choosing your camp site before it gets dark.
probably the most memorable stealth camp experience was when i was 19, i was alone and touring the sottish highlands on My 1970 triumph Trident t150.
It was July and warm dry weather, i was above inverness near dornoch firth. and i spotted a nice big patch of gorse on a grass area straight off the road not far from the shore. I had a walk over in the afternoon, and it was perfect the gorse was quite dense with a way in for the bike opposite and invisible the road which was a very quiet road anyway.
I left and came back a little before dark rode behind the gorse pushed my way in and switched off, pulling the bike, over on the side stand and it was well down in the gorse, now Gorse is actually very warn to sleep amongst , and i had enough room to sleep at the side of the bike and under my fly sheet. I brewed a cup of tea and made my evening meal and watched the sun go down on the beautiful dornoch firth.
Sound asleep i wa awakened by a screaming engine and it was quite close and then it went quiet, i heard a gunshot sounded close. looking out from under the fly i could see in the early morning light a van stooped with the drivers door opened and then a chap came from the back of it i heard the doors shut the engine started and it roared off.
I am a shooter but it scared the crap out of me and tentatively looked over the gorse there was a tree root on the pasture and no sign of anyone, i could see nothing that looked sinister. So i walked over about 90 yards to see what the van had dumped. it soon became Cristal clear what they had been up too. There was no tree root it was a red deer stags head and legs and it had been groloched . Deer poachers. I went back to the bike loaded up fast struck it up and rode off.
 

Yinzer Moto

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This was one of the more interesting stealth camps we found.

It was March and we were trying to head south from Pennsylvania, toward warmer weather. Location was somewhere in Tennesse. It was around 50 degrees and raining.

It was getting late in the day, it was not good weather to camp in. We looked for a hotel and the closest was 60 miles away. We had Sena headsets, so we hit the road and were discussing our options while riding. I was leading and I caught an abandoned house out of the corner of my eye, I told my buddies to check it out as they went past. It looked like it had some potential.

We circled back to get a better look. The house was 150-200’ off the road. We hung out on the side of the road for a while and checked the scene out. It looked like the Neighbors were far enough away, not to notice us.

We rode the bikes around back and pushed them through the kitchen door. It looked like someone had cleaned the house out pretty well at one point, possibly to do a rehab. They removed the windows. There were a few leaves on the floors but it was pretty clean. We had headlamps that had a low red light setting, this made it possible to see but hopefully was not visible from outside.

It rained all night, the roof leaked in a few places but it was mostly dry inside. In the morning, we packed up and pushed the bikes out the side door. As normal, we left no trace that we were there.

 

woods

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This was one of the more interesting stealth camps we found.

It was March and we were trying to head south from Pennsylvania, toward warmer weather. Location was somewhere in Tennesse. It was around 50 degrees and raining.

It was getting late in the day, it was not good weather to camp in. We looked for a hotel and the closest was 60 miles away. We had Sena headsets, so we hit the road and were discussing our options while riding. I was leading and I caught an abandoned house out of the corner of my eye, I told my buddies to check it out as they went past. It looked like it had some potential.

We circled back to get a better look. The house was 150-200’ off the road. We hung out on the side of the road for a while and checked the scene out. It looked like the Neighbors were far enough away, not to notice us.

We rode the bikes around back and pushed them through the kitchen door. It looked like someone had cleaned the house out pretty well at one point, possibly to do a rehab. They removed the windows. There were a few leaves on the floors but it was pretty clean. We had headlamps that had a low red light setting, this made it possible to see but hopefully was not visible from outside.

It rained all night, the roof leaked in a few places but it was mostly dry inside. In the morning, we packed up and pushed the bikes out the side door. As normal, we left no trace that we were there.


Want to get Poltergeisted? Because that's how you get Poltergeisted.
 

Nener

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Some abandoned houses look less sinister.

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DSC_0121_DxO (1).jpg


Actually did not spend the night there as it was way too early. Found another ruin right next to the shore later that day, but really not much left of it. Still enough to hide from the road 200m away or so.
DSC02616_DxO.jpg
DSC_0122_DxO (1).jpg
 

ZoomerP

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Good topic. I've slept in a variety of interesting places.

During your stealthy camping exploits, remember that not everyone else is necessarily nice, sober or sane, and that a home-free person will likely have at least one weapon. I've met dozens of home-free individuals affected by a wide range of intoxicants and/or mental illnesses, and every single one of them had a weapon or three, no matter how friendly they were. If you think about it, arming yourself while living in the rough is actually a very sane thing to do.
 

EGR

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Bad ole days. Been fishing in WVA and headed North on goat trails. Ran out of light and energy. Few feet off road just threw sleeping bag on ground and slept. Midnight a PA cop woke me up, searched for drugs, ordered me to pack up and go. Followed me for miles. Last time…
 

Yinzer Moto

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Bad ole days. Been fishing in WVA and headed North on goat trails. Ran out of light and energy. Few feet off road just threw sleeping bag on ground and slept. Midnight a PA cop woke me up, searched for drugs, ordered me to pack up and go. Followed me for miles. Last time…

That sucks.

We used to ride mountain bikes at night. One night one of the guys in the group got separated from us. This was before cell phones. We looked for a while but did not find him, at least he was not laying hurt on the trail we just rode.

He had made a wrong turn and then could not find us. He rode for a while and eventually found a road. He rode down the road but still did not know where he was.

He pushed the leaves out of the ditch on the side of the road. Then buried his bike in them. Then he buried himself in them. I forgot to mention, it was well below freezing temps that night. He slept there all night and got up with the sun in the morning. He was able to find someone and ask directions.
 

EGR

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That sucks.

We used to ride mountain bikes at night. One night one of the guys in the group got separated from us. This was before cell phones. We looked for a while but did not find him, at least he was not laying hurt on the trail we just rode.

He had made a wrong turn and then could not find us. He rode for a while and eventually found a road. He rode down the road but still did not know where he was.

He pushed the leaves out of the ditch on the side of the road. Then buried his bike in them. Then he buried himself in them. I forgot to mention, it was well below freezing temps that night. He slept there all night and got up with the sun in the morning. He was able to find someone and ask directions.
Yep. That sort of thing is so easy with a group. I used to lead club rides. Some would roll their eyes but everyone was responsible for their following rider and we stoped at every intersection to re group. There’s always potential for your guy’s misfortune. In Eastern woods and hills with logging roads and skidder paths like a can of spilled worms, getting lost at night is when, not if.
 

Chickenstrip

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Story from the late '80s: Coming to the end of a cross-country ride I met up with two friends in Glacier Nat'l Park who joined me for the ride back to San Francisco. After a long day of riding, as night came on somewhere in Washington, we found a spot to camp next to some sort of utility building. All was good until, at the crack of dawn, we were woken by the noise of a helicopter starting up. It turned out that we setup camp next to a heliport. No one seemed to care, but I'll be they laughed as we rolled out of our tents. :lol3
 

Levain

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Thinking of switching from a hammock to a tent just because of stealth options. There's been plenty of times i can hang from a tree, but it's not happening in a field or in a haunted house. Problem is the hammock is so much better for sleeping, but not for sleeping "anywhere". I mean, there's always ground, but not always trees. Thoughts?
 

Yinzer Moto

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Thinking of switching from a hammock to a tent just because of stealth options. There's been plenty of times i can hang from a tree, but it's not happening in a field or in a haunted house. Problem is the hammock is so much better for sleeping, but not for sleeping "anywhere". I mean, there's always ground, but not always trees. Thoughts?

On the haunted house trip, I was still using a hammock. In the hammock, I used an inflatable insulated sleeping pad. This allowed sleeping on the floor in the house. I also have hammock rain fly, so worst case, I could wrap myself up in the tarp like a burrito On the ground.

I have since switched to a bivy. It is so much easier to setup, no thinking and finding angles after a long day on the bike.
 
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SnakeOiler

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On the haunted house trip, I was still using a hammock. In the hammock, I used an inflatable insulated sleeping pad. This allowed sleeping on the floor in the house. I also have hammock rain fly, so worst case, I could wrap myself up in the tarp like a burrito On the ground.

I have since switched to a bivy. It is so much easier to setup, not thinking and finding angles after a long day on the bike.

I've given some thought to a bivy. My present setup is a tarp and bug screen under it.
 

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