Stealth Camping on Public Land

Discussion in 'Americas' started by dredman, Nov 24, 2019.

  1. dredman

    dredman Dirty Moto-Tourist

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    319
    Location:
    Driving around in a Steel-Tent
    Been wanting to discuss this topic for awhile, since I do so much of it. Being from the South, we are extremely limited in public land and access to what is available, so I tend to push the boundaries a good bit. I push even more since riding extensively out west, and seeing the almost limitless land, limitless access (except Cali) and polar opposite positions on public use (outside of Nat. Parks/Monuments) Since the small amount of land we have access to is restricted to hunting and logging mainly, I have reacted to our lack of freedom by taking it. Mostly my "taking" has consisted of riding around locked gates, camping outside of "suggested" areas but I am strongly considering taking a bigger position on this topic, and perhaps even leading the way on more of a protest-of-sorts by stealthing next to the fire station, PD, or city hall. I think it would be interesting to see the reactions, and maybe even start a discussion in the public realm about what is public? I discuss some of the issues in the video below, but wanted to see what the "thinkers" on this issue have to say? I know some will get upset about my positions, but I wonder how many of those people live in the South? I am sure I have overlooked or ignored some important considerations so...... Educate Me?

    #1
  2. aerone

    aerone Clemson Cafe' Racer

    Joined:
    Oct 26, 2005
    Oddometer:
    745
    Location:
    Hwy 28 South Carolina
    As long as you leave no trace, stay away from roads and hiking trails, most National Forests allow you to camp any where you want. I realize you are on a bike and the 1/4 mile away from a road will be hard to do. Camping rules change from sate to state and forest to forest. US Forest Service fines are not real big for illegal camping. Here in South Carolina, the DNR fines can be hundreds of dollars especially if caught behind a gate.
    #2
    dredman likes this.
  3. dredman

    dredman Dirty Moto-Tourist

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    319
    Location:
    Driving around in a Steel-Tent
    Honestly, I am much more concerned with the slap from the bike than the scolding from being found in the woods. I had some friends get popped for riding around a gate and the fines were stiff.
    #3
  4. Tall Man

    Tall Man I'm out in the club and I'm sippin' that bub

    Joined:
    Jul 14, 2007
    Oddometer:
    6,109
    Location:
    The Occident
    I believe that if any minds were going to be changed, bringing with it the attendant increase in legal access, that would have long since occurred by now. That's not to say I'm not on your side here. I am. The Realist in me just thinks otherwise, and would guide my actions accordingly.

    Provided you're willing to accept the consequences of your choices, and you leave no trace irrespective of whether or not you get dinged, then I say Rock On.
    #4
    Davidprej and dredman like this.
  5. dredman

    dredman Dirty Moto-Tourist

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    319
    Location:
    Driving around in a Steel-Tent
    I am not ignorant of the potential consequences, but I believe that all enforcement action comes with judgement or at least some reasoning. I am hoping if ever I am confronted, I can make a plausible defense and maybe even make it easier for the next guy that wants to enjoy the woods? Quite possible I am wrong?
    #5
  6. TUCKERS

    TUCKERS the famous james

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2005
    Oddometer:
    19,399
    Location:
    Villa Maria Sanitarium, Claremont, CA. USA
    When in downtown Los Angeles I see homeless people camped outside City Hall on the side walk. I often thought one could simply park your bike legally and camp there too. The thing with public land camping would be local ordinances. In my hometown we had campers at City Hall until an ordinance was passed forbidding it. Another thing is doing it and then being asked to move during your regular sleep time. I'm thinking the motorcycle will attract more attention than the camping. Perhaps covering the bike in plain sight if you can't hide it may work. I've slept in bus shelters, but I've never parked a motorcycle by one whilst doing it. I've slept in the subway, bus station, airport, shop doorway, in a car on a used car lot, but never with a motorcycle. I believe with some inventiveness one could find MANY places to sleep...but parking the bike so as not to draw attention will be difficult. Any cop seeing a motorcycle parked overnight in an 'odd place' is for sure going to come look and run the plate. ONE person may get away with parking on the side of a Fire Station (public place?) for one night, maybe....claiming it's a public place...but parking your bike close to you may be impossible without getting a parking violation. In short...camping is not the problem, the motorcycle is.
    #6
    Vin, _CJ, lnewqban and 1 other person like this.
  7. dredman

    dredman Dirty Moto-Tourist

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    319
    Location:
    Driving around in a Steel-Tent

    Oh, certainly. It is very simple to throw down a bedroll just about anywhere and go unnoticed, just another bum on the street. The problem for me has always been the bike. In fact, this whole thing got started again last week when I simply wanted to go out in the woods and camp - hike in and chill. Then I started thinking....what about my truck? If I park overnight will it get broken into while I am out in the woods? Will the sheriff/ranger come looking for me in the woods? There was no real good solution, so I took the bike. The bike is never a problem in the woods as long as you far enough out. My fascination about camping in a city started after I realized we should have a right to do that. Since I travel a good bit for fun, and HATE hotels (showers are pretty nice tho) it makes me angry that I have to pay someone $100+ to SLEEP? Made me even angrier. My setup does allow me to hide m bike behind it -by design. But I wonder if that is the right approach? I do not want to attract attention (from cops or robbers), but I also do not want to appear to be hiding? I do not want to be caught walking around in a ghillie suit - folks tend to have imaginations. :johntm
    #7
    black top bob likes this.
  8. TUCKERS

    TUCKERS the famous james

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2005
    Oddometer:
    19,399
    Location:
    Villa Maria Sanitarium, Claremont, CA. USA
    I always use a designated bike cover. Next to my tent, outside a motel, at peoples houses, even in my own garage. It's prudent to heed Jamie Z's credo when 'asking' to set up...he never says the word CAMP but ask's "is it OK to spend the night I'll be gone in the morning" Camping for some can mean longer term, fires, crapping, leaving a mess. In a town or City a church or cemetery may be a better choice than a Fire or Police Station. When leaving any vehicle to go off and hike it's country code to leave a note stating your approximate route and time scale. I realize this can invite theft and is fraught with that. BUT hiking in a forest on your own is already somewhat subject to you getting lost, injured, whatever...so there are some compromises and advantages letting LEO know your intentions.
    #8
    lnewqban likes this.
  9. TUCKERS

    TUCKERS the famous james

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2005
    Oddometer:
    19,399
    Location:
    Villa Maria Sanitarium, Claremont, CA. USA
    Let's back to our 'rights' and Public Place/land camping. Whilst the claim is 'we own this land it's public' is true...we have decided as a society that USE of such land can be limited. You can't take a shit close to a stream. You can't smoke tobacco near a school. You can't ride a vehicle across a City park. You can't take a vehicle on a footpath, sidewalk. Polite society and ordinances may prohibit 'camping' in certain Public Areas. This was never designed to stop you as a traveler passing through and enjoying slumber...but to stop folk setting up and getting a bit more permanent. So the line is drawn at ZERO use so there is no ambiguity about the conditions and penalty for misuse. Whilst one (I include myself here) may think it is fair to camp along a wall near the Police Station as it's a Public place....ordinances could prohibit such use for the above stated societal reasons. YOU as an individual MAY leave a small footprint...I would chance to guess although at some time in your stay over you will at least need to pee. Will you pee against the Police Station wall? You ARE going to pee that is a given. Then if YOU stay and it's OK, what about ME, with my wife and friends...5 of us on motorcycles..you stayed why can't we? That is why laws are enacted, to protect us. YES some laws tend to be stupid or seem unfair 'NO CAMPING' but these things were formulated over time in response to behavior that just did not work. In conclusion: whilst an individual entity may feel entitled and want to exercise their perceived 'rights' to certain things, WE just can't allow it for the good of ALL versus the individual good.
    #9
    shinyribs and dml9 like this.
  10. dredman

    dredman Dirty Moto-Tourist

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    319
    Location:
    Driving around in a Steel-Tent

    I understand most of that, and I understand the impact of our use outside the scope of design. I have no desire to disrupt or destroy (unless we are talking about bad ideas?). I started with the stingy wards of our forests, and moved outwards. I believe I am pushing to see what the limit IS, and start that discussion? I agree with "my rights end where your nose starts", and that is where they should, which is why I maintain low/no impact. But overnight stays in the city at this point are simply intriguing, not sure I want to be in ANY city without some kind of wall around me? I have many nights camped in big cities, INSIDE my steel-tent, with the motorcycle in the back. Many times I have asked permission, cannot remember ever being refused. I have even been directed to "city hall", and parked there a few times, just have never done it hanging from a tree? I am certain I will do it, just for the experience, but I am still looking for something I have not considered yet?
    #10
  11. TUCKERS

    TUCKERS the famous james

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2005
    Oddometer:
    19,399
    Location:
    Villa Maria Sanitarium, Claremont, CA. USA
    We had protesters camping outside City Hall in Claremont California for a while...until the nights got colder and the bathroom was locked at midnight until 6 am. It's WAY different in a car/van....you are provided or 'buy' a designated parking spot for a specific period if time, and it seems what you do in that vehicle away from the publics eye/ear/nose is your business. But use the same spot for a motorcycle and set up your hammock there....?......well......?......there may be ordinances prohibiting that already in place..dunno. You could push the boundaries of acceptance if you wish....but it's a hell of a way to travel, enjoy, live and may upset the happiness and joy of your fellow human beings for your own money saving 'protest' test of public space. There is some social behavior that we adhere to...most of it common sense. Do you want to come to the office in the morning at the DMV only to find a motorcycle in your favorite parking place under a tree and a hammock hanging in that tree with a sleeper in it? Not too mention the faint smell of urine on the adjacent grass. It's just not fair to all. Maybe it's fair for you...but it could be inconsiderate and selfish. Are we going to have a City ADV Rally and test the establishment as 30 of us congregate at the local Fire Station to sit around a propane lamp and swap stories before we all piss up the wall and then snuggle in our sleeping bags? It's just too impacting to even consider.
    #11
    shinyribs, BrianInPA and sieg like this.
  12. dredman

    dredman Dirty Moto-Tourist

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    319
    Location:
    Driving around in a Steel-Tent
    Now THAT is funny! Don't get me confused with REAL protestors.... I just thought that aspect might be interesting. I would MUCH rather spend my time in the woods. I might consider chaining myself to the doors of city hall, as long as I can reach my beer?
    #12
  13. TUCKERS

    TUCKERS the famous james

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2005
    Oddometer:
    19,399
    Location:
    Villa Maria Sanitarium, Claremont, CA. USA
    Don't get me confused with someone who cares. I'm playing Devils advocate with you. I could just as well put together a manifesto in support of your efforts. I'm a rebel at heart. I'll tell you my solution and secret.....just do it on your own without telling anyone.....you will get away with it 100% if you are smart. But I wouldn't do a seminar on it in a public media situation. It's aptly named 'stealth camping' usually...it's secretive, underground, quiet, non boastful, non confrontational, non impact (in all forms not just physical)......you came..you slept...you went...nobody knew or cared......that's the trick that wins the test.
    #13
  14. Cal

    Cal Long timer

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2008
    Oddometer:
    3,277
    Location:
    Calgary
    On one of my trips south I decided to go through the heartland, Dakotas, Kansas, Oklahoma In both Kansas and Oklahoma small towns I asked the police where I could set up my tent and twice I was told to go down to the main city park and there would be a bathroom and no problems for the night. I guess it depends where you are.
    #14
  15. dredman

    dredman Dirty Moto-Tourist

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    319
    Location:
    Driving around in a Steel-Tent
    And I appreciate your discussion and thoughts. The thing I may be MOST interested in is sharing the idea, maybe not so much with the government, but normalizing the idea with the people. Using a rational approach, not "screw the man, we are coming for our rights!" - but rather, "Hey folks, did you know you could have an awesome, quiet, experience in the woods OUTSIDE of a campground or official trail, spot, or designated area?"
    And maybe work on the government thru the normalization and acceptance from the people?
    #15
  16. dredman

    dredman Dirty Moto-Tourist

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    319
    Location:
    Driving around in a Steel-Tent
    There is no doubt about that. The closer I have gotten to the Rockies, the more laid back & welcoming people seemed to be about strangers?
    #16
  17. TUCKERS

    TUCKERS the famous james

    Joined:
    Dec 23, 2005
    Oddometer:
    19,399
    Location:
    Villa Maria Sanitarium, Claremont, CA. USA
    I am not familiar with the whole of USA but in California there is abundant free 'dispersed camping' and 'yellow post sites.' You need to dig a hole to crap and there are guidelines how close to a water source you should do that. Some City parks allow camping at VERY low rates and tend to be on the secretive end regarding location. I know of one that is SO special I don't tell just anyone.
    #17
  18. dredman

    dredman Dirty Moto-Tourist

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2007
    Oddometer:
    319
    Location:
    Driving around in a Steel-Tent
    Never heard of a yellow post site, but I do tell folks all the time how lucky you folks are in the west. It is VERY restrictive once you cross the Rockies, lots of signs everywhere - circles with a cross - DON'T!
    #18
  19. Turtletownman

    Turtletownman Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2014
    Oddometer:
    529
    I can't find the exact information for Georgia right now, but about a mile from an established campground, a short distance off the road and not in a wildlife opening or other area marked no camping in National Forests is legal. I've done it for a week at a time with family.
    I think North Carolina or maybe just Pisgah requires campers to be in designation dispersed camping locations.
    Cherokee Forest allow camping anywhere not posted no camping.
    Florida has trail systems so must allow camping along the trail.
    Additionally there are many primitive camp grounds with little or no fees or services on public land I know about.
    #19
    dredman likes this.
  20. RandyM

    RandyM Less talk, More ride

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2007
    Oddometer:
    1,028
    Location:
    Grass Valley, Ca
    I think "Yellow post" Camp sites are unique to the southern California national forests, which get much visitation from nearby urban areas, so the forest service is using them to herd people into developed campsites to reduce impact on the natural landscape.

    I suggest no campfire, don't look like a homeless dude, and don't stay more than 1 night in a location. Also, FYI, if you get cited for doing something you know, or should know is illegal and post a complaint about being treated unfairly by police Nazis, you will probably not get a lot of sympathy from ADV inmates.
    #20
    sieg likes this.