Stealth camping can be defined as:

"camping overnight on land that is unmarked or signed, unimproved, unfenced and away from habitation without anyone's consent or knowledge using the Leave No Trace principles."


Where to Stealth Camp:

Finding the right spot is the most difficult part

By definition stealth camping should take place;

That said, I've camped in the middle of roundabouts, in city parks, beside canal paths and rail trails and in deep woods and bear country. Each one has afforded a good night sleep and after a while you will develop a sense of an ideal spot. Since you don't wish to be caught you should choose a location that is either behind heavily wooded areas or well back from roads, trails and paths.

Some further hints; try to keep away from water sources as they attract wild animals. They get up very early and even the smallest animal sounds like a bear when you are awoken at 4:30. Twice I've had nocturnal visitors to my site. Not knowing what else to do, I started barking like a dog. It seems to work.

Where NOT to Stealth Camp

Any place public is not a good stealth camping site. There are still many places that are good potential sites but are security concerns. When I'm looking, I check the ground first. Not for rocks or water, but for signs of garbage or other litter. A nice quiet spot with beer can litter and/or signs of fires can mean it's a 'bush party' site. You don't want to be woken at 2:00 by a bunch of drunk teenagers bent on partying. Look for signs of previous campfires. Also check for discreet trails or paths. Any worn area on the ground or between trees means it might be a path. Camping too close to water can mean you visited at various times (usually early morning or late evening) by a variety of fauna. You might think this a charming feature until you are woken by a bear sliding under your hammock on the way for a drink.

Stealth Camping on Crown Land

Much of Canada is made up of crown land. In other words the land isn't owned by anyone, must be owned by Queen Elizabeth, and her servants, the provincial governments. This is what Ontario says about camping on crown land:

"Residents of Canada may camp free of charge on Crown land for up to 21 days at any one site, except where posted otherwise."

Non- residents of Canada

If you are a non- resident of Canada, 18 years of age or older and wish to camp on Crown land north of the French and Mattawa rivers, a Crown Land Camping Permit is required, unless:

You are a non- resident that is 18 years of age or older and are renting a camping unit (a camping unit can include a tent, trailer, tent- trailer, recreational vehicle or camperback) from a commercial outfitter in Ontario. You are a non- resident that is staying on a watercraft equipped for overnight accommodation, anchored on a Crown land water bed and not located within a regulated (green) zone map link or other signed prohibited area. You or a member of your immediate family owns property in Ontario, although access to regulated (green) zones remains prohibited.

What Next?

Once you have found the spot, remember that you should only go there to sleep. Cooking or hanging around only increases the chances of being spotted or attracting other unwanted visitors such as bears, raccoons, dogs et al.

I discuss the legal aspects of stealth camping in my page on trespass, but as a rule, if a site is not marked signed, fenced, improved or near habitation, you are not trespassing.

Typically this is what I do: In the morning I wake from my stealth site just before dawn. I pack up quickly and leave the site without anyone seeing me. I bike for a while looking for a place to make breakfast. Often good breakfast sites are town parks or bridges where there is a place to put my Trangia stove. Once I'm cleaned up (and there will be more info on personal hygiene) I start my days tour in earnest. When practical I stop to pick up food and potables to replenish the ones used. I usually carry about 2 days food plus some emergency rations.

At lunch I try to have my big meal. There are two advantages to that. One is that I can buy something that requires refrigeration and eat it before it goes bad. Secondly, I find a less full stomach makes for a better and longer nights sleep. Visit your Auntie in the nursing home. They also have their big meal at lunch time.

After lunch I bike for a while to burn off a few carbs and set sight for my distance goal for the day. Once I'm a few kilometres from my goal I start looking for spots to camp. They should be remote, well- camouflaged from paths and roads. I must also have trees because I use a hammock, but that really has never been a problem. During the summer in doesn't get dark until late. That's okay because you probably won't be resting more than 8 hours, so 10 pm to 6 am is okay. In spring and autumn the nights are longer. If you go to bed too early you might find yourself waking when it is still quite dark. There are two solutions for that. If you are camping near a town or village, you might head into a restaurant or pub to write you journal until about 10 or 11 pm. In the United Kingdom there appears to be a pub every several kilometers and conveniently they are marked on the British Ordnance Survey maps as "PH" for Public House. Very civilized.

Something else you should be aware of is that the forest wakes early. If you are in the deep woods birds and animals get moving before dawn. If you are easily disturbed by noises, plan on being woken about one hour before sunrise. Animals such as deer and rabbits seem to be more active at that time and you might be woken up by the birds that start to sing really early. I spent 6 weeks in a rain forest once. You go to bed at sundown because around 4:30 or so the noise starts. By sunrise the birds and monkeys are at full voice and sleep in quite impossible.

I was looking for a good stealth camping spot. About 20 metres from the road I came across a car that had smashed into a tree. The incident had happened some time before. Enough time had elapsed that any physical evidence of the vehicle leaving the road and travelling at some great velocity before hitting the tree had been erased. I approached full of great trepidation. Were there still bodies in the car?

That is a common fear with many stealthers. Is this hobby safe?

There is really no definitive answer to that. Anything we do comes with risks. Any action we take; riding a bicycle or walking along the street comes with inherent risks. Those who are successful are cognisant of the risks and manage them accordingly.

Risks related to stealth camping have to do with site choice, unpredictability factors and best practises. This web page will explore all three factors and help you choose if the benefits out way the difficulties.


You must ask yourself; is this site safe? Is it too close to a road, a lane, a bend in the road where drunk or tired drivers may drive off? Are there signs of activity? Is there a lot of litter on the ground? Beer bottles, cigarette butts and fast food litter also tell me it could be a 'bush party' site.

If you are too close to a city or certain communities, you may be leaving yourself open to unwanted attention or behaviours. The local mob don't carry the bodies that far from the road before they bury them. You must assess the risks involved in that site.


You don't know what could happen to you in the future. You could be hit by a truck or you could live to 95. There is a risk to every action. Riding a bicycle is a risky hobby.

I sat for many years on the City of Toronto Cycling Committee. Imagine a city so in touch with its' citizens that it actually is concerned about cycling issues!

In 2002, the City coroner was commissioned to do a study about auto / bike accidents. At that time, (and I believe he also made reference to other North American studies), the two types of vehicles most likely to be involved with a fatal accident with a bike were buses and trucks. This was not a surprise, as I have always believed that making eye contact with another vehicle driver was critical in safe cycling.

How does this relate to stealth camping? Well I don't know of any coroner's studies but stealth camping has its' unpredictability factors. Weather is the obvious one and stealthers should be prepared for the variables in the environment they are in. If it never rains where you go, you might not need to take waterproofs, but double the amount of sun block. Be flexible instead of rigid.


I learned about best practises in the taxi industry. Taxi drivers are very pragmatic people. They do the right thing to get the job done. Best practises have a lot to do about mitigating various liabilities by words and actions that best protect your interests. Below are a few best practises for stealth camping.

Loose lips sink ships

It's not stealth camping if you tell people where you are. I often attract attention in rural areas. I'm a stranger, so at cafes or bars I'm often approached and questioned. I used to lie when asked where I was staying. Locals know if you are lying, and then they are REALLY suspicious of you. If asked where I'm staying I say I'm camping. If pressed I say I'm stealth camping but I never say where. If I get hostile vibes I would move on, but I've always been open and honest and that is the reaction I get in response.

Always be prepared

In horror movies everyone starts screaming when things go wrong. When the poop hits the fan I start thinking about how I can make it better, fast. A friend lent me a book called "Worse Case Scenarios." It's full of what to do when things get really bad. If someone is shooting at you; run in a stacatto zig- zag pattern. Most people are horrible shots and could never keep up with your constantly changing direction. Some people beg for their lives. I'm not a good beggar. Hopefully the above scenario will not happen to either of us, but it is always a good idea to have "Plan B".

The Property Rights Factor

In many places, not all land is owned by someone. Some countries enshrine people's right to access land. In other locations camping on someone's land without permission could lead to staring down the nose of a gun. I choose not to stealth camp in a place where I am neither welcome nor safe.

Property laws change from country to country. Many are based on British common law. I find that by tradition you are trespassing when you climb a fence or ignore a sign. If someone has improved the land by cutting grass or some other way, I would assume that I am not welcome to camp as they have put their mark on it.

I discuss the legal aspects of stealth camping in my page on trespass, but as a rule, if a site is not marked signed, fenced, improved or near habitation, you are not trespassing.

In many ways this is a non- issue because successful stealth campers only arrive late, leave early, don't start a camp fire and stay out of sight.


Frequently Asked Questions about Stealth Camping

Q: Is it safe?

A: Any outdoor activity has the element of danger. Done properly stealth camping is as safe as any other type of camping. If you are not trespassing you have nothing to fear from landowners, but if you are doing it properly they wouldn't know anyway.

Q: Isn't all land owned by someone?

A: It depends where you are. In Canada much of the unused land is owned by the Crown. I'm sure Queen Elizabeth won't mind if I stay over for a night.

Q: Is Stealth camping like wild or gypsy camping?

A: Not really. Wild camping usually means camping in very remote areas. Gypsy camping is openly camping on common land (sometimes with permission). Stealth camping is just that. Stealth. You camp where no one can see you and you don't give away your location. Homeless people sleep outside too, but that is known as 'sleeping rough' and does not qualify as stealth camping.

Q: Isn't that trespassing?

A: Well, that depends. I never suggest breaking any law, so if you believe it is trespass, then don't do it. As stated previously, many countries have areas of common land and some actually have specific laws about camping on these lands. You should bring yourself up to speed on these subjects before you start stealth camping. A good place to start is to check out my page on what is trespass in Ontario and the Wikipedia site on trespass.

Q: How about people with guns?

A: Again it depends where you are. In most areas farmers have guns. In Canada you must be licensed and only rifles and shotguns are legal. Common sense states that you don't stealth camp in the woods during deer hunting season.

Q: What happens if you are caught?

A: Offer to move on. Again, I've never been caught (except by a dog) and I now know why I was caught.

Q: Would police get involved?

A: I seriously doubt it. Police usually get involved with trespass upon complaint. It all comes down to following the rules. If you are truly stealth camping no one knows you are there, including the police. If asked by a land owner to move on, do it right away. That way you are not trespassing. Besides criminal trespass (refusing to move on) there is tort law in many countries. If you damage someone’s property by breaking in or damaging agricultural crops, then you are liable for civil suits.

Q: What kind of equipment do you need?

A: Some people just use their regular camping equipment. As mentioned before I use a hammock. I just find it easier and more convenient.

Q: How do you select a site?

A: Check this site for full details. Having great stealth camping experiences really depends on a couple of things. The most important is site selection.

Q: Do you let anyone know where you are, like family or friends?

A: I sometimes use my cell phone to call my partner. Other times the cell phone doesn't work because I'm out of range or somewhere where my phone company doesn't cover. I have a friend who gives out longitudes and latitudes from his GPS.

Q: What do you do when you have to go to the toilet?

A: Without going into too much detail: If you have already done some long distance touring or hiking you might already know. It is a bit easier for men than women but Leave No Trace suggest that you carry a small spade and dig a cat hole. Check their own web site for more details.

Q: How do you shower or bathe?

A: I find that sometimes I either can't or don't feel like stealthing. When that happens I just take a cheap hotel or B&B. I can wash all my clothes, get dry or have a shower or do all three. I save so much money stealthing that I don't even think about the cost of a hotel room. Other stealthers bathe in rivers and streams. The truly serious carry a portable shower.

Q: What is wrong with the spelling on this web page?

A: Aside from the obvious typos which will be corrected in the fullness of time, this journal is in Canadian English, which is a cross between English and American English. We centre pages and design course programmes and colour web sites. We never do this at ‘nite’ but at night and we pronounce zebra as in 'Zeller's'.


I am not a lawyer, and neither are most property owners so they may have quite different ideas about what constitutes trespass. I strongly suggest you carefully check trespass laws in your state, province country or territory before you attempt to stealth camp. To be on the safe side follow the stealth camping rules:

Only camp on land that is unmarked, unsigned and is unfenced and unimproved and away from houses

Never start a fire

Only camp there for one night; arrive late and leave early

Don't cook at your stealth camping location

Follow the Leave No Trace Rules

GPS - Call Home

I love GPS's. I don't own one, but I love them. My friend Colin has one on his sailboat. Connect the Autopilot and we don't have much to do except trim the sails and maybe come about occasionally.

Originally GPS's just gave you your location in lats and longs. You could enter a waypoint and it would tell you the direction to go. Now they include really great charts and my car friends tell me that the ones in their Caddies talk to them. Don't answer back. We used to call those people "backseat drivers". What's happened folks?

That was the pre- amble; this is what I really want to say: Someone should know where you are. Not at all times, but someone should know where you are at night. You can phone, like I do. "I'm along the Brantford - Paris trail. I'm camping about 500 metres from the intersection of Highway 25 and the Guelph line. It's across from the 18th hole of a golf course." If you do have a GPS you can give the lats and longs.

My partner is very understanding of my 'little hobby'. She refers to the check ins as "where we can find the body". At my age she may have something there.

2. (1)Every person who is not acting under a right or authority conferred by law and who,

(b) does not leave the premises immediately after he or she is directed to do so by the occupier of the premises or a person authorized by the occupier" (is guilty of an offence).

To me that means that if you are camping on private property you are not trespassing unless you are told to leave and refuse to do so. The Act goes on so say that methods of giving notice are:


(a) orally or in writing;

(b) by means of signs posted so that that a sign is clearly          visible in daylight under normal conditions from the approach   to each ordinary point of access to the premises to which it      applies; or

(c) by means of the marking system set out in Section 7

The Act states that markings acceptable are red markings on trees. Yellow markings indicate admission is restricted for certain activities. So in Ontario, it seems that you can camp on unmarked, unfenced or unsigned land and if you are asked to move and agree to move immediately by the owner or an agent of the owner, you are not trespassing.

Of course if you don't believe me, check out Wikipedia


I am not a lawyer, and neither are most property owners so they may have quite different ideas about what constitutes trespass. To be on the safe side follow the stealth camping rules:

- Only camp on unmarked, unsigned land that is unfenced and unimproved and away from houses

Never start a fire

Only camp there for one night; arrive late and leave early

Don't cook at your stealth camping location

Follow the Leave No Trace Rules


In most countries using British Common Law it is alright to respectfully camp overnight on land that is no where near buildings or signs of civilization providing you don't hop a fence, ignore 'No Trespass" or other similar signs or markings on trees. In addition you should use Leave No Trace principals in that you don't cut wood, don't disturb the ground, don't litter, cook or start a fire. Further you should never camp on agricultural land or anywhere where you might cause damage to someone's property.

Using those ideals, and the fact you are camping late and leaving early you will never have an issue with trespass (or even meet landowners for that matter).

If things have gone terribly wrong and you are confronted by someone, never argue, but apologize and offer to leave as quickly as possible. By doing this, you are still not guilty of trespass. Again this is all based on Common Law. If you live somewhere where "Trespassers Will Be Shot On Sight", then only camp in civilized places.


Stealth camping at its root is all about self reliance. Many of us live in a world that is full of relying on others for our needs. Stealth campers tend to be individualists who are willing to test their strengths and abilities.

I have made a video supported by an e-book. It explains in detail how to successfully stealth camp. I charge $15 plus shipping for the video. If you are interesting in purchasing it, please click here.

© Copyright 2013 Allan Stokell All rights reserved.  Reproduction in whole or in part without the consent of the author is forbidden