Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Getting ticketed for stealth camping
Display Avatars Sort By:
j lan
(justaddfuel) - F

Locale: MN
Getting ticketed for stealth camping on 04/04/2012 10:06:19 MDT Print View

Hello all you great BPLers (and the not so great ones too),

I hear much discussion on stealth camping yet very few stories of being caught or ticketed. If you have had confrontations resulting from stealth camping could you tell me...

1) What went wrong

2) How you were treated

3) Things you would do differently next time

Thank you!

And if your encounter was with a non-leo (law enforcement officer) I would like to hear those stories too!

Edited by justaddfuel on 04/04/2012 10:07:57 MDT.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Getting ticketed for stealth camping on 04/04/2012 11:30:52 MDT Print View

I think stealth camping sometimes means camping at a spot not used by others and leaving it like no one ever camped there.

I sometimes camp at a spot you're not really supposed to camp at but no one has ever said anything.

I camped at a picnic shelter once because it was raining. The camp host said she wouldn't complain even though against rules. Next morning a bunch of people came through doing campground maintenance so she asked me to quickly leave.

Another time I camped at a picnic shelter because it was raining, and some people came along at midnight with some beer so I just moved somewhere else.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Getting ticketed for stealth camping on 04/04/2012 11:47:20 MDT Print View

I think much of the time we are stealth camping away from the other campers. In other words, doing completely legal "dispersal camping." There is another version of stealth camping that does involve camping where you aren't supposed to, like on private property or other forbidden places, but when I used the word stealth camping I usually mean that I'm camping in an area unseen or unused by the masses of other hikers, e.g. not a designated site.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Re: Re: Getting ticketed for stealth camping on 04/04/2012 11:51:43 MDT Print View

I agree with Jerry's definition of "stealth camping." It is not illegal unless you camp in a place where camping is forbidden, in which case it's illegal camping, not stealth camping!

I definitely prefer camping in private, off-trail places, where nobody knows I'm there. I of course am super-careful with my LNT practices in return for a pristine environment and complete privacy. That's what I've always understood "stealth camping" to be.

If the rules say I have to camp in "established sites," I either obey the rules or (preferably) go backpacking somewhere else.

I have never ever seen or heard "stealth" camping equated with illegal camping except for a recent thread on this particular forum (in which it was strongly disputed), and now your post.

Tim Zen
(asdzxc57) - F

Locale: MI
Re: Re: Getting ticketed for stealth camping on 04/04/2012 11:59:37 MDT Print View

" Another time I camped at a picnic shelter because it was raining, and some people came along at midnight with some beer so I just moved somewhere else."

Jerry. Did they at least toss you a cold one for your trouble?

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Re: Re: Getting ticketed for stealth camping on 04/04/2012 12:01:03 MDT Print View

I completely agree with MaryD. Illegal camping is not the same as stealth camping. Illegal camping is illegal camping.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: Re: Getting ticketed for stealth camping on 04/04/2012 12:03:15 MDT Print View

"Jerry. Did they at least toss you a cold one for your trouble?"

They were sort of unfriendly and it made me a bit uncomfortable : )

At least when I left they had just started (at least at that location) - would probably be worse after they were totally drunk.

jeffrey armbruster
(book) - M

Locale: Northern California
Getting ticketed for stealth camping" on 04/04/2012 13:33:38 MDT Print View

One of the reasons that rangers at Yosemite give for requiring a bear canister is that they want to disperse campers away from established and so perhaps overused campsites. I.e. they are encouraging stealth camping.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: Re: Re: Getting ticketed for stealth camping on 04/04/2012 13:35:32 MDT Print View

There was an interesting topic on whiteblaze a while back:

Mark Ries
(mtmnmark) - M

Locale: IOWAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!
How bout Ninja camping on 04/04/2012 14:38:22 MDT Print View

I have heard the term "Ninja" camping used for Illegal camping in an area where you are not supposed to like private property or parks that do not allow backcountry camping or parks that insist on designated camp sites. Here in Iowa, where you are not allowed to have any fun, they have taken away most of our backcountry camping especially where the rock climers like to meet up. Its really kinda sad cause we dont have a lot to do in this state to begin with. The only areas that any camping in the BC is allowed tends to be places where you can hunt or fish where the state makes income from licences. The same thing applys to floating rivers, and here if you get out of the craft in water that borders private property you are trespassing when you are standing in the water
but its ok if you are floating. Most states at least give you the high level mark. Thank God we have some hunting areas that run along rivers cause legally its the only place you can stay or even stop to relieve yourself. I break the law every time I float a river here. So if im quiet and sneeky and camp along a river on some farmers property and I leave no trace am I hurting anyone? I dont know never done it, but I did buy a dull tan kayak rather than a bright red one for a reason

Bradley Danyluk
(dasbin) - MLife
Canada on 04/04/2012 14:53:03 MDT Print View

Most parks up here in Canada only allow camping "in designated areas," so any camping that is not on a designated pad next to all the other campers in a back-country site is inherently illegal.

Total garbage law and probably well worth ignoring. Just my opinion.

Great if you want to be visited by all kinds of passing habituated critters and bears while you sleep, though.

Edited by dasbin on 04/04/2012 14:54:02 MDT.

Greg F
(GregF) - F

Locale: Canadian Rockies
Re: Canada on 04/04/2012 21:13:27 MDT Print View

Re Canada,

In the rockies in particular I think it is good policy to only allow designated campsite camping in the popular areas. They provide steal bearpoles and outhouses in these locations. This greatly reduces the overall impact by concentrating in one area while protecting bears from careless hikers.

However the little known part of the backcountry rules is that if you leave the established areas you can camp where you want. You just talk to the rangers, tell them your basic route and they approve it. I like having the option. There are plenty of great areas a little off the beaten path that you can camp where ever you want.

Barry P
(BarryP) - F

Locale: Eastern Idaho (moved from Midwest)
Re: Getting ticketed for stealth camping on 04/05/2012 09:58:55 MDT Print View

Maybe if I would have stealth camped I wouldn’t have gotten written up. The ranger told the 3 of us, on the River To River trail in southern IL, this could be a $300 ticket but “you didn’t know” you were on a wildlife preserve. So he gave us a pink slip and ‘next time’ it would be a big fine.

We were trying to make it to the Garden Of The God’s state park. We only had 2 miles to go. But as the sun went down a lot hunters started shooting. So we quit hiking, made ourselves low, and set up our tents just a little off the trail. A hunter reported us. I guess he thought we had guns and we were going to do some night poaching. In the morning the ranger was at our spot searching our backpacks. He then could tell we were just thru hikers.

So next time, we made sure where the wildlife preserves were; and then cross it in plenty of daylight…


joseph peterson
(sparky) - F

Locale: Southern California
Getting ticketed for stealth camping on 04/07/2012 18:22:35 MDT Print View

I have been caught once, almost caught a couple other times. Leaving no trace is not stealth camping....that's normal. Stealth camping is illegal camping by my definition. I guess I just find myself above the rules, as I sometimes ignore the designated campsites rules while in the BC. I know why they are there, and when I do this I am extremely careful with LNT. In fact more often than not I leave the mountains cleaner than when I arrived. I know why these rules are in place, I know they don't apply to me, so I ignore least in my home turf areas. Areas aren't always closed for dispersed camping because of overuse, so one must be aware with the needs of the particular area.

The time I got caught was a little silly but not in the back country. There was 4 of us on our way back from a trip to Colorado. We planned on staying in a pay campground with showers, and literally picked a random lake that was a state park on the way back home. We arrived in the afternoon....the place was a zoo. We realized it was memorial weekend or labor of those 3 day weekends. There were no open sites, we just relaxed took a shower, swam in the lake, and waited for nightfall to set up camp. We were kind of paranoid about leaving the car where it was, and so we camped a hundred yards or so from there, but out of sight. We were woken up around midnight to my dog going ape sht and a couple uniforms in our camp. We told them we were traveling through, had money, and had no idea it was a holiday and just needed a place to crash. They told us to leave or go to jail. We left, and just pulled over off the road a little further out of the state park and repeated the process.
One night stealth camping in the back country, we had a really quiet helicopter swoop our camp really close a couple times one night with its light off. We did see it in the moonlight to confirm it wasnt a space zombie. Felt like we were caught stealth camping, but who knows might have been coincidence. More likely we happened to become unwitting participants in a military exercise.

Marc Eldridge
(meld) - MLife

Locale: The here and now.
Re: Getting ticketed for stealth camping on 04/07/2012 18:53:20 MDT Print View

My brother and I did a hike a few weeks ago out of Rancho San Antonio. I knew that there was no camping permitted from Nov. to May 1st along our route but decided to go anyway. We went across Black Mountain into Stevens creek then over Skyline and camped just short of Portola Redwoods State Park. We were hammocking so were able to adhere to LNT. Only 3 people who were out for a morning stroll saw us that morning when we broke camp. We continued through Portola, up the ridge and over toward Big Basin Redwoods State Park. We happened to camp that night on the trail easement between Portola and Big Basin just past Butano Fire Road. It started raining hard about 9:30PM that night and was still blowing and raining when we got up the next morning. We had poncho's but they weren't enough for the wind driven rain and we got soaked hiking along. Turns out it rained 3 to 4 inches in 24 hours. Anyway we decided to bail at Big Basin. The store was closed but we saw smoke coming out of the chimney at the visitor center and headed there. We saw 2 employees and the ranger standing by the fire. I knew what was going to happen but was cold and wet and wanted to warm up by the fire. So we're standing next to the fireplace taking off our wet stuff and the Ranger is eyeballing us then starts to question where we came from. We told him Portola and he said you didn't make it all the way from Portola, where did you stay? We admitted that we stayed along the easement. He reminded us that there was no camping along the easement and that if we were continuing down the Skyline to Sea Trail that we couldn't camp in any of the campgrounds. He also asked me if I was aware of the camp closures and I told him that I was. I then asked him why they close the camps in the winter that being a nice time to hike in the Santa Cruz Mountains and he said that he didn't want to get into it.
I subsequently have made reservations for the campsites from Big Basin to Wadell beach to finish the hike and as an aside asked the guy who took the reservation how much a ticket would be for camping illegally. He said to his knowledge it was about $350+.
Guess we were lucky.

Edited by meld on 04/08/2012 00:28:39 MDT.

Justin Baker
(justin_baker) - F

Locale: Santa Rosa, CA
Re: Getting ticketed for stealth camping on 04/08/2012 00:25:45 MDT Print View

It would be a hell of coincidence to have someone (LE) bump into you in the middle of the night a decent ways away from any trail. The only thing really stopping someone from camping where they aren't supposed to is this question... where do you park your car? There have been some state parks that I wanted to explore and stay overnight that didn't have backcountry camps, but I wouldn't have a place to park.

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
stealth camping on 04/24/2012 11:37:51 MDT Print View

I've camped in undesignated places a lot, but camping where it was ILLEGAL, I've only done it a few times. Once was on an overnight canoe trip around the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington, on the Columbia River. Its a great route, and there is some current and small riffles in the big river (most of the river is a big slow moving lake). Because of the size of Hanford and that civilians are excluded, its a pretty neat wildlife preserve. We pulled our 5 canoes to shore in the evening, set up tents and camped. We were not discovered, but we found out later that camping there was forbidden, and Hanford has a small army of commandos patrolling the area for security purposes. They have a helicopter and river patrol boats, and an armored personnel carrier. We got up the next morning, launched canoes, and continued on our way undetected.

Edited by rshaver on 04/24/2012 12:50:09 MDT.

Ty Ty

Locale: SE US
high school on 04/24/2012 12:38:56 MDT Print View

Not truly applicable to this thread but a funny story. In high school I organized a camp out just off a power line that everyone rode 4wheelers and 4x4s on. There was a really pretty creek and a campsite on the side of the creek there where there was a fire pit and a cleared area. Everyone went down there so what the heck. We drove down there, set up camp and were having a good time, drinking beer, playing music quietly but being respectful, not trashing it up or being loud. Around 10PM I walked down the creek 50-75 yards to take a leak (creek was probably 30 yards wide) and I am standing there peeing when I hear someone directly across the creek from me say "Hey". Thinking we were out there alone I thought it was one of my friends messing with me so I said "Hey you". He said "Get the hell off my property" I said "No you get the hell off my property". I was kind of chuckling, trying to figure out which one of my buddies was disguising his voice when the guy turned on his headlights and I could see it was a 50-60 year old man holding a rifle. He said "Son you have 10 minutes to get off my property, after 10 minutes I am calling the cops". I said "Yes sir, we appreciate that, we will be gone in 5". I ran back to camp and was telling everyone, they thought I was messing with them. I said "NO SERIOUSLY GUYS! We need to pack up right now! By then he had walked down the creek directly across from the campsite and he turned on his flashlight and said something like 'Believe it, ya'll get the hell outta here'. Scared the crap out of everyone. We broke camp, gathered up all our trash, put out the fire and were gone in about 4 minutes.

Another time we were going to ride 4x4's down on a creek in college. It was an area where a lot of people rode, lots of muddy hill climbs, etc. We were going down the trail (trespassing of course) when we round the corner and there are literally about 4 dozen DNR agents and game wardens parked in this field offloading 4wheelers, getting all geared up. We round the corner and are right there on top of them so there was nothing to do, I remember saying 'well perfect, we are all going to jail'. I remember their heads all turned towards us like 'can you believe this?'. So three or four of them saunter over, tell us to shut off the trucks, get out and line up. We present ID, they noticed that despite there was only 2 or 3 guys out of about a dozen people that were 21 we all had big coolers of beer in our trucks. I thought for sure we were going to jail. They checked our ID's, issued warning tickets and let us all go, I was shocked. It didnt hurt we were polite and told the truth. Officer: 'What are you doing out here?' Me: 'We came to offroad and drink beer'. Officer: 'Well at least your honest'. Haha. They said a group of kids had burned down 3 hunting cabins in the area so they were having to take action to close the area down. They basically said a few dumba$$es had to ruin it for everyone. We said thank you and went home. So lucky.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
"Necessary" Stealth Camping on 05/05/2012 19:31:04 MDT Print View

Once on the AT in the Shenanndoah National Park, where camping is ONLY permitted at AT shelter areas I stealth camped. I was backpacking with a fellow teacher and decided to stealth camp off trail because I didn't want to cook in the dark, which would have been the case had I continued on with him to the next shelter.

The next morning I got up at 6 AM, ate a hot beakfast, packed up my solo tent, bag and other gear and hiked down the trail to find my buddy still eating breakfast! Felt pretty good about my stealth camp when I saw an over crowded shelter site.

Had I been caught stealth camping (very illegal there) I would have pleaded illness as my reason, which was true because it made me "ill" to cook in the dark and sleep in a crowded campsite. But hey, my gray tent was well camoflaged with fallen branches and dead brush and it's doubtful anyone would have accidentally stumbled on it more than 100 yards off the trail.

Scott M
(ScottJM) - F - M

Locale: Montana
Amazing on 05/09/2012 01:34:15 MDT Print View

This is priceless, "I know why these rules are in place, I know they don't apply to me, so I ignore them...."

Is this the mindset of everybody that decides they're only going to obey the rules/laws that suit them at a particular time. That philosophy could be, and I'm sure is, applied to any crime by any criminal.