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Do you camp at "campsites" or just set up anywhere?

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Do you camp at "campsites" or just set up anywhere?

Old 03-18-21, 05:33 AM
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RichinSC1
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Do you camp at "campsites" or just set up anywhere?

I'm getting ready to plan a pretty long tour and curious where you camp out? Anything wrong with simply setting up off the road / trail in some out of the way place? I know there are no facilities but to some that will not matter.
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Old 03-18-21, 05:44 AM
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I do both, but when sleeping in the wild I donít put my tent up unless itís raining and just sleep under the stars.

Organized campsites can often be noisy and brightly lit at night (I sleep outside my tent even there). But and this is a big but, there are hot showers! ❤️

When sleeping wild, I leave everything packed on my bike next to me except for sleeping pad and bag, so I can be up and away in minutes.

I sometimes find a good place then move somewhere close by to cook and chill until itís darker, then go back to the sleeping place. Many times though, if it feels right, Iíll just cook where Iíll sleep.

As to bugs, if itís just a few mosquitoes, then repellant on face will keep them away. I have a sleeping bag liner which can be pulled over head too, but sometimes this gets too warm.

p.s I know people call it stealth camping, though even if I can be quite stealthy, I dislike the term, prefering wild camping.
In many countries wild camping is illegal, but Iíve found that by not having a tent, that itís a sort of grey zone where even the police can let it slide especially once they realize you are touring and will be moving on the next morning.

Last edited by imi; 03-18-21 at 06:08 AM.
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Old 03-18-21, 06:02 AM
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Camping on someone's private property does constitute trespassing.
In more populated areas it may bring a visit by the county deputy at 3 a.m.
Or by a landowner who doesn't look too kindly on people who set up camp.
That is why many people "stealth" camp. Which I think is a bad idea.

You can camp most anywhere on federal public lands - BLM, USFS.
Doesn't apply to national parks, military bases, wildlife refuges.
Many states permit random camping on some state lands.
In the Great Plains, many small towns will let you camp in the town park.

In general, it gets easier to random camp the futher west you go.
Until you get to the West Coast. Where state park have cheap hiker/biker sites.
Be aware that random camping may leave you vulnerable to harassment.
Sometimes it's just bored kids, but other times it can get dicey.

If you must camp by the side of the road -
Choose a public unpaved road and ride a half mile or so off the highway.
A two-track leading into a farm field is usually hard-packed and bare.
But you should only set up in the road right-if-way -
And wait until almost dark and be gone by first light.
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Old 03-18-21, 06:06 AM
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Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
and wait until almost dark and be gone by first light.
+1
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Old 03-18-21, 06:11 AM
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It depends.

The amount of public lands varies between countries as well as between states/provinces/oblasts/... I generally avoid camping on private property without permission - and typically try to "wild camp" where I am not necessarily trying to hide in a "stealth camp" mode. Campgrounds themselves also vary pretty widely and where available I would often prefer a forest service campground with water and basic pit toilets to other more fancy commercial installations.

In Texas, there is not much public land, so my weekend camping get-a-ways are often at TX state parks. In more populated parts of the US, I am more likely to just find an inexpensive motel than camp. In parts of Argentina, Russia, Australia I have cycled there were larger stretches without much other than wild camping. In more populated India or Southeast Asia, it didn't make sense to not stay in inexpensive accommodations.

So I would say it depends a bit on where you are planning this tour...
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Old 03-18-21, 06:18 AM
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Originally Posted by RichinSC1 View Post
I'm getting ready to plan a pretty long tour and curious where you camp out? Anything wrong with simply setting up off the road / trail in some out of the way place? I know there are no facilities but to some that will not matter.
What you're referring to is called stealth camping. There's a lot of content on it on YouTube and elsewhere.
Personally, I've never really done it. I stay in campgrounds and get a motel room once a week or so.
But I have just stopped and slept in some pretty public places, such as picnic tables on bike paths or outside gas stations, when it gets too late and I can't or don't want to be bothered to find a campground or motel.
Also, crossing the desert, I've just rolled out off the road, out of sight and wild camped, which is allowed on most federal land.
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Old 03-18-21, 06:22 AM
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Originally Posted by mev View Post
So I would say it depends a bit on where you are planning this tour...
In Europe where I have mostly toured, it can be different from country to country. In Sweden where I live, itís legal to camp basically anywhere outside of built up areas, even on private land, but in most of Europe itís technically illegal but if youíre stealthy, and stay off private land, itís fine.

Back in the day, I slept openly on beaches even in the South of France and Southern California, but times they have been a changiní ✌️

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Old 03-18-21, 07:18 AM
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Campgrounds and other places where camping was expressly permitted. I think that has always been municipal parks.
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Old 03-18-21, 07:41 AM
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Leave no trace camping means I was never there. It's private land? Was I there? Rather an "illegal" leave no trace camper than the dick-heads who stay on camp grounds and "party."
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Old 03-18-21, 08:11 AM
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I am gregarious and often just ask for permission to set up quietly, leave no trace and be gone early. No trespassing signs simply mean ask permission. Once in a while I am denied and graciously accept that answer. Half of the time folks want to do more for you than you ask for. People love to live vicariously through your adventures. The more unusual your kit, the better the stories you can weave.
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Old 03-18-21, 08:15 AM
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Since I primarily tour in the American West, with abundant federal land, I seldom pay camping fees. I use free public restrooms and water supply, and camp free on public land. I pay taxes.

On my last trip to the East Coast, public lands were not easy to find. I camped twice on state hunting land in Indiana where "No Parking" was posted, but didn't say anything about camping. I camped near the Appalachian Trail in Vermont, in US National Forest. Otherwise I paid for sites, got motels, or found willing Warmshowers hosts.

I have pushed the boundaries on public land where camping may not be welcome by other users or by the authorities, and that's what I call "stealthy," but I've never camped on private land. Ditto the comments above about not pitching a tent, dusk-to-dawn stay, leave no trace including no eating or defecating, etc.
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Old 03-18-21, 10:36 AM
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I almost always camp in designated campsites but on rare occasion if not available, and/or we can't make it to a legitimate campground, we will stealth camp. But stealth is definitely not my preferred choice.
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Old 03-18-21, 11:08 AM
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In the age of smart phones I find very little reason to stealth camp. If the campsite is $25 that's where I draw the limit and start looking for other means. Calling the local police station has helped a lot. Especially in towns less than 3000 people.
Someone mentioned county hunting grounds, which is relatively new to me, but it has worked with great success the last couple times out. I've had a hard time finding them but they do exist.

A last ditch effort usually involves finding the local hiking/biking trail and walking my bike into the woods there at 9 pm and leaving by 7am.
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Old 03-18-21, 02:29 PM
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It's illegal here because all land is technically privately owned, but people do do it, but you don't know they're doing it, because they don't leave any trace. You only hear about the wild campers that thought it was a good idea to travel hundreds of miles to have a party in someones field and then leave a used fire pit and a bunch of empty beer cans and other trash.

When you've been on the road a while dropping into a campsite now and again for a hot shower is just the best thing ever.
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Old 03-18-21, 02:40 PM
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Solo bike touring can be a lonely experience. I prefer a campground with other folks around. Just the chatter of kids at an adjacent site provides companionship. I also enjoy having a picnic table to sit at. Squatting and cooking in front of a tent gets old. A toilet facility is nice also.
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Old 03-18-21, 02:57 PM
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I camp in a variety of sites. Some are actual campgrounds, some are improvised, Of the improvised, some are in plain sight and some require stealth. I only use stealth if necessary and as a last resort. A lot depends on the area I am in. I also accept hospitality if invited. I have stayed in church yards, town park picnic areas, and roadside picnic areas. You get a feel for what is okay in various parts of the country and in various size towns. You also get a feel for when/if to ask and who to ask.

I found that using Adventure Cycling routes and staying in their recommended sites gave me a feel for what did and did not work. Riding something like the Trans America is a great way to learn about what does and does not work.
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Old 03-19-21, 11:00 AM
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If you're on a budget, stealth camping is a viable option. I've often camped behind churches over the years, and local police will always direct you to the fairgrounds if you're in a county seat town. After a while you'll get really good at spotting good places to camp. Small town parks are good places as well. Churches and parks have the advantage of often having small pavilions, picnic tables and a faucet and electrical outlet. You'll have privacy and wake up not having paid some KOA their "resort" mini golf fee.
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Old 03-19-21, 02:04 PM
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Originally Posted by zweitesmal2 View Post
If you're on a budget, stealth camping is a viable option. I've often camped behind churches over the years, and local police will always direct you to the fairgrounds if you're in a county seat town. After a while you'll get really good at spotting good places to camp. Small town parks are good places as well. Churches and parks have the advantage of often having small pavilions, picnic tables and a faucet and electrical outlet. You'll have privacy and wake up not having paid some KOA their "resort" mini golf fee.
I would note that location has some impact on how well that works. I have found that works best in the middle of the country and less well as you get closer to the coasts, also better in small towns than bigger ones. You can use those techniques anywhere, but it is easier some places that others. Where it is harder you may find the need to use stealth more often.
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Old 03-19-21, 03:20 PM
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Originally Posted by waddo View Post
Leave no trace camping means I was never there. It's private land? Was I there? Rather an "illegal" leave no trace camper than the dick-heads who stay on camp grounds and "party."
I have no idea where you live but in my experience, ďpartiesĒ donít occur at campgrounds of any kind. Iíve camped at private campgrounds, state campgrounds, and Forest Service campgrounds throughout the US over the last 40 years. Iíve not encountered rude behavior at anyone of them. The vast majority of them have campground hosts and/or rules against late night parties. Even at the Forest Service campgrounds, there are campground hosts that enforce rules against parties...even in small campgrounds. Middle Quartz campground is high above Gunnison here in Colorado with 7 spots. It had a campground host.

In fact, dispersed camping is where people have parties and act in a destructive manner. Iíve seen a lot more trashed campgrounds in dispersed camping areas than I have at organized campgrounds. You might be a saint when it come to ďleave no traceĒ camping but most people arenít.
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Old 03-20-21, 03:16 AM
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Many of you have mentioned that camping is allowed on public land. I was wondering, how do you know if you are on public land?
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Old 03-20-21, 03:22 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I have no idea where you live but in my experience, ďpartiesĒ donít occur at campgrounds of any kind. Iíve camped at private campgrounds, state campgrounds, and Forest Service campgrounds throughout the US over the last 40 years. Iíve not encountered rude behavior at anyone of them. The vast majority of them have campground hosts and/or rules against late night parties. Even at the Forest Service campgrounds, there are campground hosts that enforce rules against parties...even in small campgrounds. Middle Quartz campground is high above Gunnison here in Colorado with 7 spots. It had a campground host.

In fact, dispersed camping is where people have parties and act in a destructive manner. Iíve seen a lot more trashed campgrounds in dispersed camping areas than I have at organized campgrounds. You might be a saint when it come to ďleave no traceĒ camping but most people arenít.
Perhaps "most people aren't," but this is a bike touring specific question and I think here most people are. And I have wild camped ll over the world for more than 40 years and recommend it to everyone who understands leave no trace camping.
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Old 03-20-21, 03:48 AM
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Originally Posted by cyccommute View Post
I have no idea where you live but in my experience, ďpartiesĒ donít occur at campgrounds of any kind. Iíve camped at private campgrounds, state campgrounds, and Forest Service campgrounds throughout the US over the last 40 years. Iíve not encountered rude behavior at anyone of them. The vast majority of them have campground hosts and/or rules against late night parties. Even at the Forest Service campgrounds, there are campground hosts that enforce rules against parties...even in small campgrounds. Middle Quartz campground is high above Gunnison here in Colorado with 7 spots. It had a campground host.

In fact, dispersed camping is where people have parties and act in a destructive manner. Iíve seen a lot more trashed campgrounds in dispersed camping areas than I have at organized campgrounds. You might be a saint when it come to ďleave no traceĒ camping but most people arenít.
Probably a cultural thing but in Europe 'parties' ranging from small gatherings of just a few people to large scale boombox playing heavy drinking kind of almost festival type of things are, well perhaps not common but something that does happen occasionally. Especially in the German and French speaking regions some 'intensive' socializing is to be expected.
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Old 03-20-21, 04:47 AM
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Partying outdoors/on camp grounds does seem to happen more in Europe than in the states but itís not unknown.
I went to quite a few bonfire parties in high school and college. And the occasional one after.
And this isnít gonna sound kosher, but my friends and I would and still do guerilla-style clam bakes (pre-pandemic, of course, but I hope to resume someday).
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Old 03-20-21, 06:06 AM
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Parties in campgrounds? Can't say I remember witnessing too many while touring or even any really unless you count folks sitting around a fire talking a bit too loud or maybe playing a guitar or some music on a boom box. It has always been pretty tame. Campground management generally insists on that in order to maintain an atmosphere that their customers will come back to and recommend to friends. Wild parties are just not generally tolerated.

In places that I have wild camped there were zero times I have been kept up by partiers while touring. Stealth camping is by nature solitary.

In my whitewater boating days we camped in dumps, at the ends of dirt roads, and so on. Those places were the same ones preferred by drunken high school partiers. We needed to exercise care in site selection to have peace and quiet.
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Old 03-20-21, 09:28 AM
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My worst "stealth" site ever turned out to be a town "hoot'n'shoot" site in rural Northern Idaho. After dark the pickups roared in and the party began. I was stealthy enough nobody ever saw me, and I was between them and the road so no bullets came my way. Heavy rain started a half hour later and they went away. (What a great night.) It's rare, but real parties do happen on public land.
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