Stealth camping at cell tower sites?

Discussion in 'Americas' started by dox, Aug 3, 2011.

  1. dox

    dox How much for the ape?

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,656
    Location:
    Athens, OH
    I've read various threads on stealth camping in many places (churches, cemeteries, etc.) but have never actually stealth camped yet.

    As I commute to work and on various trips through the US, I tend to notice cell tower sites as I ride / drive by.

    The more I look at them, the more I am intrigued by the idea of stealth camping at cell tower sites. Many have tree perimeters and small equipment buildings that would provide adequate cover from onlookers.

    Has anyone done this? Done it a lot?

    I can see a few benefits to camping at a cell site vs. churches/parks/etc., but what are the drawbacks?

    :ear
    #1
  2. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2006
    Oddometer:
    11,397
    Location:
    Around Denver
    I don't think I've ever slept at a cell tower site, but I have behind water towers, and small electrical substations.

    Like you pointed out, they're usually well-manicured and provide cover from the road.

    The drawback I see is that they're private property. Like stealth camping almost anywhere else, you want to arrive late and leave early, leave no signs of your stay, and be prepared to use your charm if someone stops to see what you're up to.

    Jamie
    #2
  3. bones_708

    bones_708 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2009
    Oddometer:
    574
    Location:
    Houston, Tx
    I would think the risk of arrest would more than outway the benifits. They are clearly marked as private property and most states have laws on the books that are just for telecomunication and power facilities. It just seems there are better choices if you ask me.
    #3
  4. Jamie Z

    Jamie Z I'm serious. Supporter

    Joined:
    Oct 17, 2006
    Oddometer:
    11,397
    Location:
    Around Denver
    While one always has to be careful when sleeping on private property, I'd guess that the "risk of arrest" is practically zero. Unless you already have a criminal record, I simply cannot imagine anyone harassing a solo motorcyclist in a tent if he's not hurting anything. The worst thing that should happen is that they ask you to move.

    I understand your concern. I'm not saying one should park in the driveway and set up camp and start a fire or hang laundry on the antenna tower. What I'm saying is that like the OP, I've noticed rural public utility sites which have a large manicured lawn outside the fence (for ease of maintenance) and trees or buildings which keep you out of sight. It's very simple to go off in a corner and be completely unnoticed.

    Most maintenance workers are blue-collar guys and if one of them were to show up early in the morning (which has never happened to me) I'm guessing they'd see the bike and tent and most likely think it's pretty cool. Like the time I camped in Louisiana on what I'm guessing is Army Corps of Engineers property very near a lock on the intercoastal waterway, across from Baton Rouge. In the morning I walked up to the lock to use the bathroom. The lockmaster greeted me and asked "Is that you camped out in the tent?" A bit surprised I admitted I was. He said they saw me on the surveillance cameras. Then he asked if I'd care for a cup of coffee and went back into the kitchen and gave me a armload of canned food for my trip.

    Every place and person are different, so you need to be comfortable, confident, and experienced before stealth camping, but in my hundreds of times sleeping for free on public and private property, I've never once had a problem. A few times I've been discovered and offered a beer, dinner, or an even better place to sleep.

    Jamie
    #4
  5. vagt6

    vagt6 Bit the Bullet

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2005
    Oddometer:
    832
    Location:
    C'ville, VA
    In my neck of the woods, the cell companies lease the land upon which the towers stand, usually for 10/20 years or something similar. So, the land still belongs to the landowners, not the cell company.

    Thus, many of these towers sit on private land.

    Camping on private land, without permission, carries certain dangers of which we are all aware. FWIW, I would NOT want strangers camping on my land. I'd assume that most people fell similarly.

    Obey the law, respect the rights and property of others. This is how you have an enjoyable, worry-free camping trip.

    It's really not so hard to do . . .:norton
    #5
  6. dox

    dox How much for the ape?

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,656
    Location:
    Athens, OH
    My personal thought is that I'm only asking about this as a "what-if" scenario, should I find myself unable to make camp at a more acceptable site and need a quick place to grab a snooze from dusk til dawn.

    Water towers and such are usually private property held by townships/villages/cities in the rural areas where I travel a lot. Perhaps they would be a better first choice, since mostly maintenance workers will be checking on them only during business hours.

    I've read your travel guide two or three times and keep it on my phone in PDF form to occasionally revisit it. Great writeup, thanks :thumb
    #6
  7. Tucson Jim

    Tucson Jim Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2008
    Oddometer:
    561
    Location:
    Tucson, AZ
    I work for a utility and visit cell sites fairly often in the course of my work. Most of them have a relatively small footprint, just enough for a tower and small building. If you were truly 'stealth' camping and couldn't be seen from the road and camped just adjacent to and not actually on the property then I don't see a problem. They don't come to the site unless they have too and mostly monitor the equipment via a remote office in Denver.

    Electrical substations are another kettle of fish. As long as you stay outside the fence you'll probably be OK. Go inside the fence and they will call the cops and have you arrested for trespassing due to all the signs warning about high voltage and such.

    Out of sight, out of mind. Good luck and be safe...
    #7
  8. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface Broke it/Bought it Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2005
    Oddometer:
    14,654
    Location:
    Indiana
    My family background is broadcasting. Stealth camping at cell or broadcast towers seems like a really bad idea. First off, there may be a significant amount of RF hammering you all night. They are lightning rods, even in clear air. There is high voltage. In addition to the private property issue, they are regulated by both the FAA and FCC. The big one, for me though, is the RF radiation you'd be subjecting yourself to.

    John
    #8
  9. freeflow

    freeflow get in or go in

    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2004
    Oddometer:
    21,808
    Location:
    GB-Wisconsin
    I wouldn't suggest wearing your jammies and a turbin while hanging out near one either. some gung ho occifer may think he found bin laden... suspicious behavior indeed.

    you should try climbing towers for BASE jumps....even worse exposure...:lol3 :augie
    #9
  10. dox

    dox How much for the ape?

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,656
    Location:
    Athens, OH
    Already thought that through, and researched the RF exposure issue. Been a Ham for 15 years and have a passing interest in aviation.

    Not talking about broadcast towers, here. Just cell sites. Only considering as an emergency, not a routine thing.

    Cell site towers are too low to have any major FAA issues, and the RF they produce is of no real-world concern. Especially not for one night.
    #10
  11. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface Broke it/Bought it Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2005
    Oddometer:
    14,654
    Location:
    Indiana
    If you're quick, it's not a problem. It's when your hands start to get warm that it gets interesting.

    If cellular-only, sure, but a significant percentage of them also host a bunch of microwave gear maintained by a handful of contractors who don't talk to each other. I don't want somebody's data stream reflected into my head all night at close range. YMMV

    The FAA concern is more about what they'll charge you with if you're caught.

    John
    #11
  12. JDLuke

    JDLuke Ravening for delight

    Joined:
    May 3, 2007
    Oddometer:
    8,644
    Location:
    New Jersey
    So get it over with quickly before the FAA is back to work.
    #12
  13. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface Broke it/Bought it Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2005
    Oddometer:
    14,654
    Location:
    Indiana
    :lol3
    #13
  14. dox

    dox How much for the ape?

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,656
    Location:
    Athens, OH
    :rofl
    #14
  15. dox

    dox How much for the ape?

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,656
    Location:
    Athens, OH

    If they want to come after the two pennies I've got rubbing together in my pocket for parking my ass next to a fence that just happens to have a tower inside it, let 'em.

    Not saying I'm planning to do this a lot, or even once, just saw the same 8 towers on the way home from work that I see every day and thought it would be a decent backup plan if everything else went sideways.
    #15
  16. scarysharkface

    scarysharkface Broke it/Bought it Supporter

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2005
    Oddometer:
    14,654
    Location:
    Indiana
    Sure. Like most things, it's hard to say if anyone would even notice or not and probably 9 out of 10 times you could setup camp right out front and not hear a word.

    John
    #16
  17. dox

    dox How much for the ape?

    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2008
    Oddometer:
    2,656
    Location:
    Athens, OH
    Yeah. Though after thinking about it, seems like water towers might be a safer choice. I grew up near one as a kid, and we used to do the dumbest shit behind that thing and never got caught. :lol3
    #17
  18. Anywhereness

    Anywhereness Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Sep 6, 2009
    Oddometer:
    185
    Location:
    Somewhere, Anywhere.
    Not to deter anyone, but one thing to consider is lightning safety and your proximity to something tall and metallic, or even a big tree for that matter.

    Lightning may hit the cell/water tower, even if it's not the tallest thing around because it's conductive. Depending on how they built the lightning resistance it will continue to follow through and may create a side strike or ground current in it's proximity. Especially in wet conditions, avoid the areas where a secondary strike is likely.

    From the Backpacker's Field Manual:

    "Once the lightning hits the ground, the electrical current spreads out in all directions along the ground following numerous paths of least resistance, dissipating as it goes. This is known as ground current, and injuries from ground currents are much more frequent than direct strikes. Ground current pathways include cracks and crevices filled with water, wet rock, wet climbing ropes, root systems and cables along the ground."

    It goes on in a bit more detail on both phenomenon. A highly recommended read for anyone who is going out of doors for extended periods, even on a motorcycle.
    #18
  19. bones_708

    bones_708 Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2009
    Oddometer:
    574
    Location:
    Houston, Tx

    In these post 9/11 times I would not be so sure. I worked with a power company and they would have arrested someone who camped at a substation. Utilities, cel towers, power, all have all have laws beyond regular trespassing. Also when can you not find someplace else?
    #19
  20. shu

    shu ...

    Joined:
    Feb 23, 2010
    Oddometer:
    2,056
    Location:
    Colorado
    The thing about stealth camping is no one should ever know you were there, whether it be public or private property. If you can't arrange and use your site that way, it's not a good stealth location and you should move.


    ..........shu
    #20