The Need to Hide When Stealth Camping?

When I hear “ninja camping” then I straight away think, “Hmmm, marshmallows with Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Noob Saibot and Batman.” And then this person gets more than one reality check.

In the simplest terms, if regular camping is a hobby, then stealth, ninja, and guerrilla camping are skills. Still not clear? Let’s break it down.

What is Stealth Camping?

While boondocking, dry camping, and even urban camping have some similarities, stealth (known also as ninja and guerrilla) camping is a completely different beast. It’s not just about skipping out on posh RVs or established campgrounds, and it also goes a step beyond minimalism.

The main task is to not get discovered, to quickly set up, pack up and leave, and to leave no traces behind. Regardless of whether you are on private of crown land, the goal is the same. To fulfill your camping needs without cost or detection in an easy to assemble and dismantle setup that is lightweight and easy to transport.

Motorbike Stealth Camping


Why Stealth Camp?

Let’s talk about money first. Especially in the case of urban stealth camping, for one reason or another, you might not be into spending a lot of money on room and board. It should be easy to catch some z’s in your car, right? Wrong.

Most urban locations all around the world have laws that prohibit bunking down for the night in your vehicle. Some even go as far as to specify that you are not allowed to set up an RV outside of designated camping grounds. So, many turn the stealth mode on, especially if they are just passing through and need to rest their eyes for a bit.

Sometimes it’s because of the wanderlust – equipment that is usually associated with this style of camping tends to be light and super portable. Once you don’t have a metric ton of gear weighing you down, you can boldly go where you’ve never gone before. Whether you are scouting for new camping spots or your feet tend to take you a bit too far every single time, you can stay safe and set up shelter whenever you need one.

Necessity Calls

Let’s say you’re riding a bike across the country or on any kind of a road-trip. You will have to rest at some point – easy enough when you get a room or someone else’s couch where you can crash. But when you’re in the middle of nowhere, you’ll need to be able to quickly set up and pack up.

Or maybe you’re on the run – hey, I don’t judge. I just hope it will make a good movie. But, if for any reason, you are staying where you’re not supposed to be, you might not want to leave any signs that you were there in the first place.

Stealth Camping Gear


Gear for Stealth Camping?

Think survival and prepper stuff. All items should be as small and light as possible so you don’t have to sacrifice them and leave them behind if you are just about to be discovered. If the hordes are coming, you also don’t want to deal with complicated frames or inflatable furniture. If an item is stopping you from being ready to go back on the road within a few minutes, leave it at home. If you have to pack a special camping backpack, you’re overpacking.

As a quick example, a hammock is better than a sleeping bag – it takes less space, you can install it very high on the tree if needed, and it won’t leave a human body-sized imprint on the ground.

And yes, a lot of survival stuff – bungee cords, tarps and space blankets, multitools, and a good dose of camo. You get extra points whenever someone can’t figure out you are there, even if they are just a breath away.

When in a car or a van, the first item on the agenda is to block the view into the vehicle. You’ll find a set of blackout curtains in any furniture store, but it might not be a bad idea to tint the windows to hide the fact that you’re trying to hide something with those curtains. Also, you want to make your vehicle as inconspicuous as possible. Stay away from statement paint jobs, please. And don’t drive a Smart Fortwo in Texas.

There are no brands that specialize in stealth gear, but you can assemble most of the things a la carte and for very cheap from your local hardware store.

Wilderness Stealth Camping


ssStealth Camp in the Wild?

Camo. Lots of camo.

Leave no trace camping?

This can get complicated depending on how much of your presence you want to erase.

To keep from making any markings and indentations in the ground, don’t insert any pegs or make sure to cover them up before you leave. Don’t place anything too heavy on the ground or a patch of grass because it will leave a mark. If you can, set up your shelter in a tree.

Building a fire will leave marks as well, so it might be a good idea to have a fire pit or another piece of metal to prevent this from happening.

And, of course, make sure not to litter or leave any of your items behind.

What is essential survival gear when stealth camping?

Most of the things that have served you well in regular camping will work as well, but you might need to rethink their weight and size.

For a basic kit, start with a small first aid bag, a good knife, a multi-tool, a water filter, a space blanket, tarp, a hammock, or a sleeping bag. Believe it or not, with these things alone, you can make it in almost any environment.

Pay attention to the way they look. It’s not just about making sure you’re on point with the next spring/summer season, but the camo, greens, and browns are supposed to help you stay hidden as well.

Benefits of No-Trace Camping


Why is it important to leave no trace when camping?

It depends on the reason why you are stealth camping in the first place. If you’re on the run, would you like people to be able to track you easily? Or if you’ve found a good spot in a location where you were not supposed to be, would you like the authorities to figure it out and close it off?  Or maybe it’s just a challenge and wouldn’t it be great to keep your extreme survival skills fresh?

How sewage and solid waste should be disposed of under wilderness camping conditions?

First rule, no numbers at all anywhere near your setup. The same thing goes for a water source because… dude. Just no.

The poop has to be buried. Unless you plan to pack it and bring it home with you. Again, to each their own.

If you are in an area with a lot of foliage, dig a hole close to a tree or a bush – they will help conceal the disturbance in the ground. If you’re in a desert, you should be fine burying your stuff wherever.

Stealth Camping with a Kayak


Stealth Camping With a Canoe or Kayak

You go to see what’s around the river bend and then decide to go for a nap? Unless you know whose land you’re napping on, it might be a good idea not to get caught.

What do I need for kayak camping?

A kayak? No, seriously, you want to have your kayak first so you can figure out how much you can pack. You want to go extra light here so that you don’t capsize.

A tarp for shelter, a hammock for sleeping, and basic tools and a first aid kit – that should do it. But add a few bungee cords or some rope to secure your kayak. Unless you want it to continue the trip without you.

What is the best light-weight kayak for camping?

Aruba 10 by Sun Dolphin Boats is one the highest-rated kayaks on the market. It is super light, yet very durable and sturdy. Though their color palette doesn’t quite scream stealth, it might need a custom paint job.

The Challenger K1 by Intex Recreation Corp is a bit more affordable. It’s also inflatable, so you can stash it away easily if you need to make your escape on foot.

What is the best tent for stealth kayak camping?

Your two main requirements are that the tent is light and that the color blends in with the surroundings as much as possible. Zpacks tents can weigh as little as 10 ounces and come in pretty colors, but if that fails, a camo tarp can do the trick.

What is the best dry bag for kayaking?

Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sacks are currently the most beloved by kayakers, especially eVac Dry Sack.

What kind are the best shoes to wear kayaking?

Since those shoes will have to serve both in the water and on dry land, it is better to go with something with a decent sole, maybe something like NRS Kicker Remix Water Shoes or NRS Paddle Wetshoes.

Stealth Camping in Urban Spaces


Stealth Camping in an Urban Environment

No law says you can only pitch a tent in the woods. Oh, wait…

What is urban stealth camping?

In most cases, urban stealth camping is spending a night in your car, though some brave souls might decide to pitch a tent. Mostly, it’s done by people who are low on funds or are not in the mood to spend money on standard accommodations.

“Stealth” is the keyword here since sleeping in your car is illegal in some places.

How do you stealth camp in a city?

Since this usually involves sleeping in your car, you’ll need to make a good choice of wheels.

Stealth vans are vehicles that look like regular vans on the outside but are equipped for a comfortable stay on the inside. If you’re having flashbacks of the 70s, you’re not too far off.

If you must work with what you already have, blocking the view from the outside should be at the top of the list. Tinted windows are the best idea since you can add a layer of block-out curtains without arising suspicion.

And that’s what you want to do – look as much as a plain, unoccupied, parked vehicle so the po-po don’t come a-knocking.

From there, you can either find a free parking lot or a hidden alley where you can park without obstructing anyone.

Trying to Stay Invisible


Why is stealth camping illegal?

There is quite a lot of special interest involved with a speck of health and safety mix in there for flavor.

Most cities will claim that they banned stealth camping due to the concerns of the camper’s safety. And when you are staying on the streets, you expose yourself to the elements, but also all the dangers of urban environments.

But, aren’t the homeless technically camping outside? And if you’ve ever been to a bigger city, you know how out of the way they go to clean up any possible sign of them and move them as far out of sight as possible. You’ll recognize the new “improvements” – benches that no one can sleep on, bike ramps under bridges, etc.

In some cities, you’ll be left alone if you take a nap in your car – it’s safer to leave you be than send you driving while still half-asleep. However, you are far more likely to be charged with loitering or trespassing.

If you want to be on the safe side, check the local forums and message boards – some homeowners are fine with you staying in their neighborhood as long as you don’t block the roads and/or ask them for permission.

Stealth Camping in All Weather


 tooStealth Camping in the Winter

Keeping warm is the highest item on the agenda. But how do you go about that when you’re trying to travel light?

What is the best tent for cold weather?

Arctic Oven Tents are best-rated tents for cold weather, but they don’t pack very small. A good option that is a bit more portable and easier to set up is Snugpack’s Scorpion.

You can also add a space blanket to a simple tarp shelter to weatherproof it. This method might not protect you from a blizzard, but the main components pack into nothing and will do a good job in most weather conditions.

What is the best cold weather sleeping bag when stealth camping?

Since a decent sleeping bag, that can pack away into a pack the size of a deck of cards, is a long ways off, we’ll have to scratch that requirement from our list.

One of the best cold weather sleeping bags is Therm-a-Rest’s Polar Ranger. It completely wraps around your body, preventing any cold air from sneaking in or warm air from sneaking out. There are also two slits for arms so you don’t have to get out of the bag to use your upper body.

It does not come in a wide array of colors though, and unless you’re camping on the surface of Jupiter, it won’t do much to conceal you from any snooping eyes. It should be all right if used in a car or a van – it’s orange, bright, but not loud.

Hyke & Bike do a really good job of making light and easy to carry gear. Their Antero 0℉ hammock sleeping bag keeps you off the ground as well. And it’s perfectly kosher to sleep in a bright pink bag when you can hook it on top of a tree. Just pretend to be a tropical bird and everything will be fine.

What sort of survival gear will I need for stealth camping in the winter?

To avoid hypothermia, you must avoid getting cold and wet. Space blankets are your best friends – they take very little space but will do miracles to prevent you from freezing your socks off.

Speaking of socks, you’ll want them to stay dry too. Make sure to invest in good boots and clothes. Spending a little money on them now will save you much discomfort…Fullstop. If you’re still chasing after a good deal, wait for February or March to get that stuff.

Now the fire. Starting one should not be a problem, but hiding the fact that one was there… Yeah. You’ll have to a collapsible fire pit or figure out a DIY solution.

Any tent heater that you can pick up will keep your car warm without having to keep the motor running.

Hammock Camping


Stealth Camping in the Summer

Though you don’t have to worry about hypothermia, Summer brings its own challenges.

How do you camp with a dog in a hammock?

However you do it, don’t wait for the trip itself to figure it out. Some puppies naturally take to hanging out with their humans in hammocks. If your pup’s like that, great – you’ll just have to do more of the same once you’re out and about.

However, if your doggo is not into the hammock at home, they will like it even less when you’re out. So, either learn how to love it together or think of another solution.

How do you stay warm while camping in a hammock?

A hammock is generally the best option for a super warm climate and hot Summer months. Still, you might experience a bit of a chill at night. A plain blanket or a space blanket can do the trick. Also, if you are camping in an area that tends to be very hot during the day and quite cold during the night, it might be a good idea to have some layering clothes on hand that can keep you warm once the Sun sets.

Can I replace my bed with a hammock?

Of course, very much so. As long as you have a safe place where you can install one.

Hammocks are a great replacement for camping beds because they are so portable and light – especially the ones that are suitable for stealth camping since they don’t have complicated and heavy frames that you have to tote around.

How do you camp in a hammock in cold weather?

By getting a sleeping bag that is a hammock – hint hint, Hyke, and Byke Antero 0℉ hammock sleeping bag.

Or get first into a wearable sleeping bag suit

How far off the ground should a hammock be?

About 4 to 5 feet is ideal in most cases. You don’t want it to be too low to the ground or you will be on the actual ground. And you also don’t want it to be too high up so you don’t have to visit the emergency room.

Guerrilla Camping in Plain Site


How do you keep your car cool when camping?

If you are in the open, open up everything. Let the air circulate as much as possible throughout the whole vehicle.

If you’re in the middle of the city somewhere and pretending to be Bumblebee, you may want to invest in a tent air conditioner. Models like Zero Breeze can fit into any vehicle and are completely battery-powered.

Word of warning though, it might be a bit difficult to find a model that is a perfect blend of size, power, and price.

How do you stay cool while camping without electricity?

Eat ice cream – you are what you eat.

Breeze and shade are your best friends when you can’t afford to bring a lot of gadgets and accessories. Also, areas that are close to the water tend to be cooler (even though you might end up having some mosquito-related issues there).

If you can find a spot that gives you all three, you’ve hit the jackpot.

What color tent is coolest in hot weather?

Black might absorb heat quickly, but it also releases it quickly as well. Also, light colors that absorb heat slowly will be very slow to release it.

So, if you are just pitching the tent for the night, the color really doesn’t matter that much. But, if it’s supposed to be up all day, the lighter the better.

Or better yet, choose a tent with a UV lining that repels the heat in the first place like Coleman BlackOut Bedroom Tents.

How can I sleep better in hot weather while camping?

Sleeping in a hammock will help a lot since your body will not warm up the sleeping surface. Wearing linen is also useful.

If you are using regular camping gear, go for summer-weight items. But whatever you do, don’t sleep naked. That’s just trouble waiting to happen.

Guerrilla Camping With Dogs

camping with dog ottawa

Tips of Stealth Camping with a Dog

If your pup behaves better than Scooby-Doo, they can be a good accomplice. Though, you might need to prep a bit.

What to bring stealth camping with a dog?

You will need all of the staples you bring for regular camping trips – food, water filter, emergency medical gear, etc.

However, you will have to pay special attention to the number two disposal. Make sure to have a shovel in your kit and/or poop bags.

And if your puppy is extremely vocal, you might need to spend some time teaching them to stay silent. This will be very important if you are in an urban location.

How cold is too cold to camp with a dog?

Large breeds will be okay in temperatures of 35 degrees Fahrenheit and above, while smaller breeds should be fine as long as the temperature is above 45 degrees Fahrenheit. The amount of fluff they carry on their bodies will change those numbers a bit.

How do you keep a dog warm in a tent?

Cover them in a regular or space blanket. Park them in your or theirs sleeping bag. Hug them.

Does my dog need a sleeping bag?

Though there are quite a few lovely sleeping bags for dogs, not really. In warm weather, they can make do with a classic dog bed or a blanket. But in extremely cold weather, you might want to keep them in your sleeping bag and share your body heat.

Talk about their needs with your vet – they will know exactly what your puppy needs based on their breed and health history.

How do I know if my dog is cold at night?

Shivering is an obvious sign, but it’s also a sign that the situation is really bad. Try to stay in touch with their mood – check if they are anxious or generally sad. That will be the first sign of them feeling discomfort. The same thing goes if you see them lugging and slowing down.

They will also try and find some heat on their own. Basically, if your dog starts behaving like a cat, it’s time to warm them up.

Does dog poop attract bears?

Yes. All poop attracts bears. A point for equality.

Make sure bury that stuff well, or to pick up and bag it. Or both if you brought compostable baggies.

Last Word on Ninja Camping


Final Thoughts

Stealth camping is not for everyone. It is such a huge step away from spending some time with friends and family, and relaxing away from your phone, computer, office, etc.

But if you are a cyclist traveling the back roads, or a lone road-tripper, or you want to see the country on a very tight budget, or you have another reason to develop survival skills – you will need to learn and practice stealth camping.