well hello hello.
i’m coming to you from the parking lot of a circle k.
heading into work this morning and decided to pick up an extra large coffee and talk to you guys about urban stealth camping.
so what is urban camping?
basically what it sounds like. camping in the city. the stealth part implies that you don’t wanna be caught doing it.
why would you be doing this in the first place?
well, if you live out of your vehicle, you probably already know that in some places, sleeping in your car is discouraged, and even illegal.
so when you hunker down for the evening, it’s always good to choose a spot where you don’t stick out like a sore thumb.
getting the dreaded knock on your window in the middle of the night is scary as hell, and it hasn’t even happened to me yet. i hope it never does.
urban camping is a majority of the camping i do right now is urban camping.
i live in a big city, one of the most populated cities in the united states.
we’re a mixed bag, residential and industrial side by side, sprawled across hundreds of miles of buildings, bayous and trees.
everyone’s environment is different. you might find it’s more difficult to stealth camp wherever you’re based, but if you’re a traveler, you can use some of these ideas when moving between populated towns.
walmart parking lot
the most obvious (and i suppose least stealth) place to park for a night would be a walmart parking lot.
if you have a small, inconspicuous rig, you could probably get away with disappearing into a sea of ordinary cars, even if the walmart has a no overnight policy.
most walmarts are 24/7, so anywhere there is a constant vehicle presence is good if you’re trying not to be seen.
walmart used to be a pretty rv friendly place to stay overnight; in fact, their official corporate policy states that while they don’t offer electrical or any other accomodations, walmart considers rv travelers among their “best” customers.
that being said, it goes on to say that permission to park is essentially a store to store basis and dependent on the store manager and local laws.
if you expect you might have to crash overnight in a walmart parking lot, it doesn’t hurt to call ahead of time just to get permission.
keep in mind, not all walmarts are built the same. some are safer than others. it just depends on the neighborhood, so don’t assume just because it was quiet, safe, and well lit at one walmart, the others will be the same.
you could be a target anywhere, so make sure you keep an eye on your surroundings, and you should be gucci.
my favorite spot to camp in a populated town would be in an area where there are apartment complexes and lots of thru traffic.
you can usually find pockets of neighborhoods where complexes are clustered up, which means there’s plenty of street parking for residents and guests.
depending on what you’re driving around in, you can probably blend in pretty easily parked on a side street where there are other cars parked.
but if you have a giant camper van or rv, you might have to practice a good amount of common sense in order to avoid that knock from the police, or worse, from someone with bad intentions.
so street parking wouldn’t be for everyone. if you got a low top van or you’re car dwelling, these are likely your safest bets.
keep an eye out for no parking signs, and try not to be the lone car on any street.
homeowners are more likely to notice a vehicle out of the ordinary and call the cops on you, so try not to park in neighborhoods with only houses.
if you got a low top, parking garages might be an option for you.
they’re typically pretty quiet and inexpensive overnight, BUT they’re likely to be patrolled by security and you might have a hard time falling asleep for the night without being kicked out.
but if you can find a garage that is easier to blend into, it might be worth the few bucks to have somewhere safe to lay your head for the night.
i’ve seen overnight garages as cheap as 50 cents an hour, so a good night’s sleep is literally only a few bucks.
it might not be the most convenient, but it’s always good to have options.
if you have a cargo van like a transit, sprinter or promaster, you fit right in in an industrial area.
the area i work in has a lot of warehouses with docks, trucks, and other company vehicles, so anything that resembles a work van can likely get away with parking in the street away from all that unncecessary foot traffic you get from residential areas.
local businesses may have cameras, so be careful about parking suspiciously close to other people’s property. last thing you want is someone’s security company thinking you’re scoping out their building with ill intentions.
i haven’t done this myself, but apparently there are some casinos that are rv friendly. if you’re into that sort of thing or in areas that are casino-heavy, pulling into a casino parking lot overnight would give you a full night’s sleep.
there’s likely a good amount of security, but as always, do your research and check if there are any fees associated with camping overnight.
i checked out a few places that offer water, sewage and electricity for as low as $15 a night, so they’re designed to handle big rigs.
if you’re a smaller rig, you should get away with it pretty easily.
the cons are you’re in a casino parking lot. hopefully you’re not a former gambling addict. if so, maybe don’t stoke the flames of your vice.
and just like any other public parking lots, you’ll probably have a bit of foot traffic, so you might need to be on guard all night.
extended stay hotels and motels
these are my least favorite places because of the amount of foot traffic, but if you’re a stealth camper, using a hotel or motel parking lot could work.
bad news is you’re likely to get a window knock by security or the police.
it’s also kind of dangerous. extended stay motels tend to be a bit on the sketchy side and attract a lot of sus individuals.
friends and family’s driveways
what about staying in a friend’s driveway?
as long as you’re not sucking up all of their electricity, making a mess and causing a ruckus, try finding a rotation of cool people willing to let you crash at night without bugging them.
it’s common courtesy, of course, to extend some kind of favor (or even money is best), but everyone’s situation is different.
be a gentleman. or a lady.
if you’re lucky enough to have this accommodation, just remind yourself how safe it is compared to some of your other options and don’t ruin a good thing and don’t wear out your welcome. be a bro.
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