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Thread: Stealth Camping

  1. #21

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    Quote Originally Posted by SawnieRobertson View Post
    Oh,my--please accept my apologies. I just advocated and spoke in detail about doing a sometimes illegal act like tenting wherever you need to for whatever reason.
    Anything, including simple hiking, can be "sometimes illegal".

  2. #22
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SawnieRobertson View Post
    Oh,my--please accept my apologies. I just advocated and spoke in detail about doing a sometimes illegal act like tenting wherever you need to for whatever reason.
    I am thinking that people's focus on legalities can often leave them short changed.

    There are plenty of legal places to camp along the AT that are not designated campsites and are not mentioned specifically in the guidebooks.

    Obey the local regulations, to be sure-- just know that prohibitions are not everywhere. Guide books and signs can help with that.

    In some areas you can guess where there will be campsites just by looking at a map. For some reason you see a lot of campsites where trails intersect-- regardless of the aesthetic merits of the area. These spots are often close to the treadway, though.

    If you want to walk in the woods and out of sight, following a stream can be a good tactic-- apart from the water, it provides an easy way to go in far enough to be out of sight and yet provide a clear way back to the trail.

    Carrying dinner water for the last hour of your day can really open up opportunities to find a good spot, too. Just turn up your radar for that last hour and be flexible.

    I tend to be hyper aware of prohibitions in the Whites because I am most comfortable knowing I have an absolute right to be where I tent, but was thrown a curve recently. Apart from the regulation that off trail camping in WILDERNESS areas has to be 200 feet from a trail (I was prepared for that) the Forest Service posted new signs going into the PEMI Wilderness (on their letterhead with official seal) that there was no camping within 200 feet of Streams-- anywhere in the PEMI! Definitely a *** moment in the WMNF.

    I rolled with that and changed plans-- not out of fear of being caught, but just more relaxing to play by the rules. Now, if I could only find the idiot who came up with those signs...

  3. #23
    Peakbagger Extraordinaire The Solemates's Avatar
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    doesnt publicly discussing 'stealth camping' negate the idea?
    The only thing better than mountains, is mountains where you haven't been.

    amongnature.blogspot.com

  4. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Solemates View Post
    doesnt publicly discussing 'stealth camping' negate the idea?
    Worse, it thrusts you into the cats gory of conspiracy...I'm starting the have visions of "Alice's Restaurant" with 8x10 photo color glossy's and and arrow on the back pointing to the scene of the crime.

  5. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Solemates View Post
    doesnt publicly discussing 'stealth camping' negate the idea?
    'stealth camping' has become the term used for camping in non-designated sites, legal or not.

    "I'm not going to stay in (or near) shelters" is easier said then done. The reality is finding a suitable camping spot off the trail in the raw woods isn't an easy task.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  6. #26
    Peakbagger Extraordinaire The Solemates's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    'stealth camping' has become the term used for camping in non-designated sites, legal or not.
    thanks for enlightening me
    The only thing better than mountains, is mountains where you haven't been.

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  7. #27

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    Before entering a National Forest, Wilderness Area or new state, there is usually a covered bulletin board that has the local regulations and other helpful information.

    As far as picking a spot, I think Another Kevin's 5 Ws guidelines are great but I wanted to add a thing or two.

    I try not to camp near water if I can help it. Starting at around 5 or so, or anytime I'm thinking of stopping, I look around and see where I am. Am I up high on a windy ridge? If so, I look for a flat stretch with good wind protection with plenty of coniferous trees for a nice clean pine needle bed. I also try to camp high rather than low as cold air pools in pockets and in the valley. If I have an elevation map, I use it to find a little sub-hill by a larger one which will place me high enough to avoid pooling water or cold air, but will place me below the really strong gusts of cold air. I don't want the air to be too still though, as this can be an area with high mosquito activity.

    If I'm low in the valley with alot of deciduous trees, I pay very close attention to the smell of the air. Does it smell damp and heavy? Is there alot of water nearby? If so I climb up till I find what I was looking for before. Once I start seeing the type of area I want, I stop at the first water source and use my extra platypus bag (2.5liters) and fill it and my other bottles for dinner/hygiene/breakfast. Campsites too close to water are buggy and cold so should be avoided if possible. I've found that the best places to find sites is towards the top of a small hill that the trail is contouring around toward the next big climb. If you see trees of there, just start walking up the hill till you find that perfect spot.

    Finding good camps sites is not that hard but you need to give yourself ample time; don't try to find one when your tired and its getting dark.

    I wanted to talk a bit about the possible advantages and disadvantages of staying at shelters.

    Shelter Advantages Over Stealth Camp:

    Quick no nonsense setup; just makes some room and fall out.

    You can meet some great folks there and have a really fun time.

    Shelters are predictable and allow you to measure your progress slightly better because you know exactly where you are.

    Shelters usually have water and a privy close at hand.

    Staying at shelters focuses environmental impact in one area.

    Stealth Camp Advantages Over Shelters:

    Privacy. Which Includes not having to be quite at night or feel bad about waking up to pee or bother people with you nocturnal activities.

    Warmth. The wooden planks of the shelters can be awfully cold at night and the fact that they are usually wide open to wind doesn't help. Think about it, in a shelter the walls are too far away from you and don't reflect your heat back as they would in the closer quarters of your tent or tarp.

    Comfort. The wooden planks of the shelters are HARD. This alone keeps my from staying at shelter very often as I am a side sleeper and after sleeping in a shelter I wake up sore as heck.

    Solitude/closer connection to nature. Especially with a tarp, waking up in the woods by yourself without any reminders of human activity has its own magic associated with it, and for me, makes the experience all the more enjoyable. I also think that being by yourself in a stealth camp is a bit more challenging and increases self-reliance and self confidence.


    That being said, I do use shelters for lunch and sometimes dinner if I get bored or lonely and want to socialize. One of the best parts of the AT hiking experience is definitely the you meet!

    Hope someone finds this useful,
    Peace

  8. #28

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    Another advantage of stealth camping compared to shelters is that there are far less mice and hungry critters around. Shelters tend to attract vermin as they are easy spots for them to find a meal. Your stealth site is in the woods still and surrounded by animals, but that site is not as likely to attract critters as they are not habituated to looking there for food.

  9. #29

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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    'stealth camping' has become the term used for camping in non-designated sites, legal or not.

    "I'm not going to stay in (or near) shelters" is easier said then done. The reality is finding a suitable camping spot off the trail in the raw woods isn't an easy task.
    For many people, what you say is true, and that is worth saying. Life is not easy. A certain degree of experience and common sense is often assumed, and you are correct in your caution.

    BTW "stealth" camping as I, and most frequent backpackers, use the term refers to legal spots, frequently not hard pads, used in a way that minimizes negative impact or intrusion on other hikers or the environment. "Stealth" refers to lack of visibility and impact, not illegality.

    Many legal sites are immediately adjacent to or just off the trail. These are the antithesis of stealth camping.

  10. #30
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    Your choice of shelter will help your ability to camp in "wild" sites. I purposely made my shelter components with a very small footprint to allow me to squeeze into spaces just about anywhere.

    one final notes. For those who chose to camp on the trail, don't get an attitude if hikers coming cruising through while you are asleep. And if you pitch in a tight area, you may get tripped over. I would only camp on the trail if hiking into the night.

  11. #31
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    Leaving no trace in a well selected spot is always fine. My experience is that making a fire and leaving no trace can not be done. Weather is the key in site selection. Learn how to read the ground. Shelter area's are already more than a trace.

  12. #32
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    Stealth camping in this context is also called dispersed camping (i.e. not camping in designated camp grounds). Here on WB, we assume we are talking about doing that in places where it is allowed. BTW, another place where it is not allowed is from VA 624 NoBo past McAfee Knob (around Catawba, south of Daleville - I'm not sure how far past McAfee that restriction goes).

    It is my understanding that the use of "stealth" in this context is not so much that you are not found by other people but by animals. In the Sierra Hiking on-line discussions you often read about stealth camping as stopping for dinner, then hiking a bit more before setting up camp in a place where there will be fewer food odors. Bears are smart and learn that if they come by a shelter around sunset, they will often find an unattended bag of food they can have. If you are camping some place that is not regularly used as a campground, bears will be less of a problem as they will have not learned about your spot. Decreasing these bear-human interactions is good for humans and especially good for the bears.

  13. #33
    Clueless Weekender Another Kevin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SawnieRobertson View Post
    Oh,my--please accept my apologies. I just advocated and spoke in detail about doing a sometimes illegal act like tenting wherever you need to for whatever reason.
    The techniques of stealth camping are the same whether you're trying to do praiseworthy LNT dispersed camping in places where it's lawful, or blameworthy trespassing or vagrancy in places where it isn't. I discuss the techniques without inquiring into the motives.

    It just so happens that in the New York State Forest Preserve, where I do most of my hiking, that proper stealth camping (below 3500 feet elevation, at least 200 feet from trail or water, at least a quarter-mile from a highway), in addition to being lawful, is likely to escape a ranger's notice entirely. Doing the same in Harriman, where the rules are different, isn't lawful, but done with proper technique, is still likely to escape a ranger's notice. I don't advocate it, but presume that the people here are grown-ups who can make their own decisions about their level of respect for the law.

    I've also had trips where I've consulted a ranger in advance, because I was planning an unusual route, and interpreted the ranger's suggestion for where to find an unofficial campsite as permission to camp there. There are many laws where the "thou shalt not" of the regulation really means "if you're planning to do this, we really want you to go over your plans with us." When the traffic cop waves me through the red light, I don't argue. On one winter trip, the conversation went, "I see that I could camp down by XXX, but I'm not sure that I can make it that far in a day on snowshoes." "Oh, why don't you just camp near ZZZ? You ain't gonna hurt the snow any!"

    Then again, a lot of my hiking is in places where trails are suggestions.
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

  14. #34
    Registered User rusty bumper's Avatar
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    From my 2011 journal:

    By choosing to stealth camp I was able to hike until a set time of day rather than to a destination. In the Smokies I remember staying at a shelter at which Id arrived at 3:30 in the afternoon. My first thought after arrival was, OK, now what do I do for the rest of the day? It turned out to be a nasty weather day in that particular case and so in the end, I didnt mind sitting idle for those extra hours. But most days, my hike started between 6:30 and 7:00 am and it ended sometime around 6:00 pm or so. Id usually start looking for a flat tent site just before 6pm and hike til I found one. It seemed to me that hiking to a fixed destination would either result in an early finish to the day with too much time spent not hiking, or a late finish to the day, neither of which appealed to me.

  15. #35

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    I like hikin' by the s0212.gifof the day, or the shine of the moon.gif where I lay my head is of no consequence to me but fer a flat spot.

  16. #36

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    Quote Originally Posted by rusty bumper View Post
    From my 2011 journal:

    By choosing to stealth camp I was able to hike until a set time of day rather than to a destination. In the Smokies I remember staying at a shelter at which I’d arrived at 3:30 in the afternoon. My first thought after arrival was, “OK, now what do I do for the rest of the day?” It turned out to be a nasty weather day in that particular case and so in the end, I didn’t mind sitting idle for those extra hours. But most days, my hike started between 6:30 and 7:00 am and it ended sometime around 6:00 pm or so. I’d usually start looking for a flat tent site just before 6pm and hike ‘til I found one. It seemed to me that hiking to a fixed destination would either result in an early finish to the day with too much time spent not hiking, or a late finish to the day, neither of which appealed to me.
    +1...............

  17. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by RED-DOG View Post
    for me a good camp site has a couple things, a short Walking distance to a water source, flat or semi-flat ground preferably not on top a ridge and a short distance from the trail. since the only time i make a fire is when it's cold or i am wet to only dry my clothes so then i don't really look for a fire ring and if i need one i will build it myself, I usally will use the last hour or so of my hiking day to look for an site. so my advice to you is when choosing a campsite, look for water ( the most important thing ), flat ground or semi flat, and how close is it to the trail, it does not matter if their is an assisting fire ring or not, the most important thing to remember is when choosing a site is to choose one that has been used before, but if you can't find an used site, just find a place with less vegetation as possible and you will be fine, but the best place to camp is beside a shelter cause the ground has already been trampled to death and you'll not destroying the vegetation out in the woods and thats usually where the better water sources are but me i usually will camel up at a shelter then hike another hour or so and camp.
    Thanks. That is helpful to know.
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  18. #38

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    There are usually cleared flat spots near road crossings and water sources. Sometimes I carry a half gallon plastic jug and a half gallon canteen so I can carry a lot of water and camp miles from a water source. A plastic milk or iced tea jug is not that heavy when it is empty.

  19. #39
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    My experiences with stealth mode has not been on the AT. I've used it on multi-day bicycle tours, and backpacking in the State Forest Lands of Pennsylvania. It was legal in both instances except for the few times when it was some farmer's pasture or private woodlot. I even crashed in an abandoned barn during a thunderstorm one night in Potter county.

    As for ethics of stealth camping on the AT: bear in mind that your actions reflect on the hiker-trash community at large. If asked to vacate a spot for legal reasons comply and be apologetic. Manners count in these instances. Try to be far enough off trails so as to not be in someone's way that night or early AM. It would bother them as much as you if they tripped over you or your trail pet.

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    Stealth camping is camping in spots that do not allow camping. That's why its done with stealth, because you don't want to be seen. Camping in the woods between shelters is not stealth camping. I have stealth camped many, many times. And I won't tell you where because that wouldn't be very stealthy now would it?
    Everything is in Walking Distance

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