How To Do Stealth Camping Like A Pro

There may come a time where stealth camping is your only option for the night. That could be on a road trip and there’s no rest areas in sight. Another reason could be you are living and working in the city. Whatever the case, I will provide you with some good information to stealth camp like a pro. 

Think Like A Chameleon And Blend In

One detail that may not be talked about is how you look and act. If you look presentable then you won’t raise many eyebrows. Looking like you just came out of Woodstock you may end up getting more attention than you need.

Here are some tips and tricks for blending in so your stealth camping night goes more smoothly:

  • Wear nice clothes and shoes. Nothing fancy. This will help people in town respect you more at first glance.
  • Behave in public. The less attention you bring onto yourself the better you can stealth camp with ease.
  • You are who you hang with. You may be on the low radar but if anyone in your group isn’t you will stand out just as much.

To be a chameleon in public is a handy skill especially living an alternative life. Some people may not respect RV or van living in their town. That’s why the more presentable and respectful you are, the more likely you will get away with stealth camping.

a clean vehicle will get you respect....
Having a clean vehicle will get you more respect and less suspicious looks.

A Clean Vehicle Will Get You Respect And Less Attention

Not only does your appearance matter but your RV or vehicle’s appearance plays a factor in stealth camping. Having an RV or Camper Van that looks dirty and grungy is not going to get you respect. In fact, it’s more of a reason for cops or security to pay you a visit.

Here are some suggestions on keeping your vehicle presentable:

  • Keep it clean. Better yet give it a good waxing. This will help keep the elements from making the paint look worn out.
  • No stickers or other vehicle “tattoos”. If your vehicle doesn’t blend in then you may get that knock on the window.
  • No flashy paint colors. Stick with colors or RV designs that you frequently see. That way it’s harder for people to pull you out of the crowd.

Now I am not saying that you can’t show your creative side living on the road. If you are going to stealth camp, keep your unique side indoors to enjoy.

rv vs camper van
Which vehicle you choose to stealth in plays a big role in blending in.

An RV Versus A Camper Van

When you try to stealth camp in an RV it may be tricky, especially if you are in a town that doesn’t have as many RVs in sight. A big camper van or bus you could run into the same problem. If you have a regular minivan then that is going to be your best bet. For more info on how to build a Camper Van check out this article.

to tint or not to tint...
Getting your windows professionally tinted is a good way to stay stealth.

To Tint Or Not To Tint…….

This detail comes in handy. It is worth the extra cost if you know you will be stealth camping a lot. You could get your windows professionally tinted, but always check the laws with whatever state your vehicle is registered in regarding that. 

If you are like me and like to save a buck or two, there is a cheaper option. You can make blackout cutouts for your windows. Here is how my husband and I made ours:

  • First we took some reflectix and traced the shape of each window. Make sure it is a snug fit.
  • Then glue a black fabric to the side that is facing the window outside. Make sure the fabric is smooth. Wrap the fabric around to the other side even so the reflectix won’t show. We used a strong spray adhesive to glue it together.
  • After they have dried put in place.

to tint or not to tint... 2
Using reflectix along with black fabric is good for blacking out your windows.

A good thing about the cutouts is you have a choice to take them out and have it be bright inside. This tinted option is more practical for van living when you decide to stealth camp. Some other materials you can use are:

Those are just to name a few. If you use your imagination you will create a great tint for your windows.

get prepared prior to stealth spot

Preparing prior to stealth camping is a must. A rest area is a good option.

Get Prepared Prior To Your Stealth Spot

This step comes in handy so you can just go to your stealth camping spot without having to get out of your vehicle or RV. If you have an RV then you can do this when you are parked. Just don’t turn on any lights or appliances that could draw attention to you. Maybe use the red light on a headlamp if you need a light. 

If you are in a camper van, some good places to go to before stealth camping are:

  • Rest Areas-You can find these on your interstates or main highways. 
  • Truck Stops
  • Walmart-If you are not stealth camping there. I would use the bathroom in the back to do stuff like brushing your teeth.
  • Parks-As long as it is still open, then a quick preparation for sleep should be fine.

get prepared prior to stealth spot 2
Use the bathroom stalls to wash up rather than the sink to be more incognito.

Some tips and tricks I have used when washing up and getting ready to stealth camp are:

  • At any place use a bathroom stall to do a wash up. Don’t stand over the sink cleaning your armpits when there are people around you. First it’s rude and second it doesn’t put a good name to other travelers out there. For the ladies put washcloths, toothbrushes, etc in your purse. For the men, have pants with good sized pockets.
  • Dress nice when using bathroom facilities. Especially places like walmart or truck stops. If you are dressed like you just came back from a grunge concert then security or an employee may keep an eye on you. Yes you have got to be stealth when washing up as well before bedtime.
  • Act normal. If you are nervous then you will attract attention. If you act naturally then you will have more of a chance to be invisible in certain places.
  • Limit your water use to a minimum nearing your stealth spot. I usually will stop drinking water or just take tiny sips about an hour prior to stealth camping.

Basically, have everything ready before hand before you stealth it. Are you washed up? Check. Is your rig ready to just climb on back there? Check. Are your window covers up? Check. I think you get what I am saying.

get in late get out early
The key to stealth camping is get in after sunset and get out before the sun comes up.

Get In Late And Get Out Early

This is pretty self explanatory. Get to your stealth spot late at night and leave early in the morning. Get up before the sun comes up. Don’t hang out outside of your vehicle. Only use the bathroom(if there’s one around) if you absolutely have to. Then just go to bed.

That’s the main objective to stealth camping anyways: Get In, Get Sleep and Get Out. Try to get in no later than 8 or 9 pm. If it is summer time I would come in after dark. When leaving, do it no later than 6am or before the sun comes up.

Another good note is to crack your front windows a little bit. Condensation on the windows is a dead give away that someone is in there breathing. This will give a cop or security guard a reason to knock on your window.

places you are less likely to get caught
Many casinos allow you to stealth camp for the night.

Places You Are Less Likely To Get Caught

Here’s a list of places that you are more likely to blend in when stealth camping:

  • Rest Areas
  • Truck Stops 
  • Walmarts
  • Cabelas
  • Casinos
  • Town Parks-Some cities offer free camping in their town park, so check ahead if you are nearing a town like that when you stealth camp.
  • BLM or National Forests-These are legit camping spots in most areas. Try sleeping in nature if you are near a city that also has BLM or a National Forest around it.

Secondary places to check into are:

  • Churches
  • Cemeteries
  • Fast Food Joints
  • Hotels

Of course use the secondary places with caution and only if you have to.

a mini shopping list.....
A headlamp with the red light option is good if you need a source of light when stealth camping.

A Mini Shopping List For Your Stealth Camping Needs

Here are some good products to have while you are stealth camping:

  • Headlamp-Using the red light option is good for you to see but not be noticed.
  • Portable Toilet-It makes for a good convenience if you got the room and got to go in the middle of the night.
  • Lady J– This is a great option for you stealth ladies out there with small bladders. You just need a good size water bottle or jug to go with it.
  • Windshield Sun Shade-Having both the black and reflectix side is good for day or night time use.

other notes before you stealth camp
Pay attention to the details of parking signs. You may uncover a loophole for napping.

Other Notes Before You Stealth Camp

  • Don’t drink or be intoxicated of any sort prior to stealth camping 
  • Make sure it’s not illegal to sleep in your car in the town you are in. Cities like Santa Cruz make it unlawful to sleep in or outside your car in the city.
  • Pay attention to street signs like No Parking Between 2am-6am.” You might be able to squeeze in a quick cat nap if you get there at 8 or 9 at night.
  • Some cities allow you to purchase overnight parking permits. Check in with the city’s website for more information  So if you are out of luck and want to be legit, you can give that option a try. If they say it’s a no go then keep moving.
  • Another key tip is to change locations frequently. This especially goes for if you stay in one city to work.
  • Also make sure you feel safe wherever you are stealth camping. You don’t want more than the police knocking on your door. 
  • Have a plan or means of protection if you ever run into an unsafe situation. Have the phone near to dial 911. Have pepper spray within reaching distance. Make sure you can quickly get to the driver’s seat and drive out quickly.

So that’s how you stealth camp like a pro. Always be smart, safe and use common sense when you are attempting stealth camping. Key things to remember is to be presentable, keep your car clean, act natural, don’t stand out and maybe do a little research ahead of time.