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Thread: Stealth Camping

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    Default Stealth Camping

    I have read many great debates about whether to stay in shelters or not. I don't have a lot of experience camping outside designated camping areas in state/national parks and would love some advice about how to decide just where to set up your tent. I don't want to always have to plan my mileage by where the shelters are, but want to know things you should consider when picking a place.

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    Registered User Hikes in Rain's Avatar
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    I sometimes pick mine by simply running out of daylight. A flat level spot large enough for your tent, prefreably one that's been used before (it'll be obvious, and generally they're all around), is essential. Added bonuses would be access to water (although you can fill up late afternoon and camp just about anywhere, a view, some little distance from the trail, maybe a fire ring.

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    Christine2015, I'm curious about that, too. I do not plan on using the shelters. Partly, because my dog is with me. Partly, because stopping between shelters is highly likely. I'm interested to read what the experienced hikers suggest. Good post.
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    I spent many nights stealth camping on the AT. Mostly due to runing out of gas late in my hike. I would stop where I found a close water sourcd and flat ground. Many times I just set up my tent right on the trail, but this was in November. I didnt think it was much of a big deal....I did and do practice Leave No Trace ......

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    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.

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    and i want to add that you should never camp in a depression or low spot cause if it rains during the night you might be in a foot or so water and thats a rude awakening in the middle of the night for anybody.

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    After hundreds under these worn old feet I have just lately starting to use the shelters to sleep in to carry less pack weight but on some days they just seem to move farther apart than my weary bones can go, so a tenting I go. I used to hammock all the time and with the hammock there was no real question as to where to set up, it was easy. But, with the tent as the day wears on I am looking at the clock and scanning for a nice spot, water is a plus. Also if I feel the knee, back or feet starting to complain I check the H2O availability in the guide, tank up and grab the next spot that comes along. Some days I fair better than others and will pass a shelter and get some extra miles that I would not normally get if I dropped in that shelter, but I miss the stories and the camaraderie of the dinner hour. Stealth IMHO is an illusion we create in our environment and others help us when they notice us, and they do just as do we them, but not really "take" notice, as they just as we would or do continue to saunter along, both alone and at the same time together in nature and endeavor.
    Last edited by Busky2; 07-15-2014 at 15:57.

  8. #8

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    Keep in mind that along the AT Corridor, there are some stretches where stealth camping, i.e. camping not at designated sites/shelters, is prohibited. Examples include all of NJ, most of NY west of the Hudson (Harriman Park), CT, and Baxter State Park in Maine. I believe, but I'm not sure, that stealth camping is also banned in MD and MA.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hikes in Rain View Post
    I sometimes pick mine by simply running out of daylight. A flat level spot large enough for your tent, prefreably one that's been used before
    That's fine. But if you get off the trail an unused spot is OK as long as the vegetation is soft enough to give (without breaking, or poking you with sharp points). It will spring back pretty quickly. Compensating for non-flat ground gets pretty easy after a little experience. Hips can go quite comfortably in a depression, head can be slightly higher, feet can be up slightly, flat or downslope (compensated for with some gear underneath). The whole spot doesn't have to be flatish, just the small thin rectangle actually occupied by your body.

    Carrying dinner & breakfast water, plus a little for a washbasin-bath, from the last crossing is usually trivial.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cookerhiker View Post
    Keep in mind that along the AT Corridor, there are some stretches where stealth camping, i.e. camping not at designated sites/shelters, is prohibited. Examples include all of NJ, most of NY west of the Hudson (Harriman Park), CT, and Baxter State Park in Maine. I believe, but I'm not sure, that stealth camping is also banned in MD and MA.

    Also cannot stealth camp in great smoky mountains national park....

    Maybe Shenandoah as well but not sure about that park...

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    Quote Originally Posted by q-tip View Post
    Many times I just set up my tent right on the trail, but this was in November. I didnt think it was much of a big deal....I did and do practice Leave No Trace ......
    Tenting right on the trail is generally not a good idea. The trail is not only a highway for people, but is also used by many animals, some of them quite large. This is especially true for Maine, being stepped on by a Moose would not be fun.
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    a hammock makes things much easier where it is legal to camp
    I'm so confused, I'm not sure if I lost my horse or found a rope.

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    Huh? legal? OMG.. KK some day it would be great to hang with you... I just wish I had the opportunity- My van carries 2 kayaks. I will bring the BBQ.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Busky2 View Post
    .... but I miss the stories and the camaraderie of the dinner hour. .....
    This is so true!

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    5 W's.
    Wind, get out of it in cold weather, use it to advantage in hot.
    Water, near to your shelter but not in it. Don't camp in washes.
    Widowmakers, make sure you're not pitching under one.
    Wood, if you want a fire.
    Wildlife, don't camp in a game trail, or on an anthill, or around similar hazards.

    More than 50 yards from a trail, 50 yards from water, a quarter-mile from a road.

    Don't poop where you eat, or do either where you sleep.

    Beyond that, it's just details, like the rule of pitching half way up a slope when it's chilly (warmer than either the valley or the ridge).
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    I just recently went on my first long hike(20+miles)and found that reaching a shelter wasn't feasible. If you have a guide book, it will tell you about tent sites between shelters and also water sources. As in my case, it was to far to the shelter but we did find a campsite although it meant that the hike day ended somewhat early but was a welcome sight. A guide book is a necessary item. I would never camp anywhere that wasn't a designated sight.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    Also cannot stealth camp in great smoky mountains national park....

    Maybe Shenandoah as well but not sure about that park...
    Thanks for mentioning the Smokies - I missed the obvious.

    Shenandoah has rules but you're not confined to shelters or designated campsites; it is possible to backcountry camp in Shenandoah. Rules are posted on the park website.

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    Thanks everyone so far, super helpful, I was aware of the rules in the Smokies, but didn't know so many other places had similar rules. How do you know when entering a new area what you are and aren't allowed to do in terms of tenting? The guide book doesn't seem to have an inclusive list, is there one posted online somewhere maybe?

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    [QUOTE=Cookerhiker;1893524]Keep in mind that along the AT Corridor, there are some stretches where stealth camping, i.e. camping not at designated sites/shelters, is prohibited. Examples include all of NJ, most of NY west of the Hudson (Harriman Park), CT, and Baxter State Park in Maine. I believe, but I'm not sure, that stealth camping is also banned in MD and MA.[/AQUOTE]

    "Stealth" means stealth. For whatever reason, including its not being "legal," you do not want to be found. For that reason, you choose a spot that you believe will be beyond the sight of what/whoever is moving up/down the trail. You go there. You look back to see if the trail is visible. If it is, you move to the next possible spot and check again. Once you have found a place that is not visible from the trail, then you set up your tent/hammock. Now, you want to make SURE that it cannot be seen, so you walk back to the trail, stare back at where you set up, and, if it is not there, you go back and go to sleep. In the early, early morning, you pack up and then return the site to its pristine state, even lifting the grass so that it does not show how you had squished it last night. One last note: Always look to make sure that no one is coming along from either direction when you are doing your searches. The point is to be not seen. And, yes, I have done this with my dog.
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    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.
    You never know just what you can do until you realize you absolutely have to do it.
    --Salaun

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