How To Live In The Woods Without Getting Caught – Detailed Guide To Wild Camping

Wild camping is one of the best things about bicycle touring. The bike also helps in getting you to stunning untouched environments making for the most perfect camping spot.

But how do you live in the woods without getting caught and raising any suspicion with others?

As long as you follow the tips and advice in this article you should be fine. Remember to listen to your instincts and use common sense and all will be okay.

Stealth Camping Tips and Tactics

When you are stealth camping the main point of doing so is to not be seen. The reason you are doing it is to sleep in the most epic natural places that very minimal people would ever get the chance in doing so. As it is not really allowed you want to practise some stealth camping tactics to reduce your chances of being found.

Personally I try not to stress too much about being caught and getting a fine for ‘illegally’ camping in the wild. Like you could be undertaking some much more serious crimes. Since my time bike touring I have slept in some of the most amazing locations all over the world. The most memorable ones were wild and stealth camps.

  • When setting up camp , try and time it later on in the day as it gets dark. Still so you can still see as you put up your tent up and also not too early. As it is more visible. And consider packing up and leaving early. Both while dark to prevent being seen. Some times on tour you want to setup early and rest. When wild camping this can still be possible too.
  • Avoid using any lights or other means of ways that would say to the world “hey everyone! I am over hear!”. Cover all reflective tape etc..
  • When shopping for a tent try get one that has darker colors which will blend in to your environment, colors like dark green, brown and earthy tones are best
  • This is really a given if you are planning to be travelling and moving from location to location. But it is a must when stealth camping or even living in the woods is to change your location frequently.
  • Make sure your camp spot feels safe. This may be a very uncommon issue you may have. I even remember when I first started wild camping I was always scared and very worried. I had a dream when wild camping for the first time, that authorities came and I got arrested. My mind playing tricks on me. But if you choose a camp spot that for whatever reason does not feel very safe. Then you are going to get very poor sleep. There has been some nights when I camped in public places in Scotland. I must say I did fear for my safety and the security of my gear, possibly being stolen. And as a result I got the worst nights sleep. So make sure to listen to your ‘inner voice’ and you should be fine.
  • I guess the point in why you are reading this article is because you want to give stealth camping in the woods a go. But if you don’t feel comfortable sleeping in the wild at first. Maybe just try and sleep somewhere where it is legal.
  • Camp uphill off roads, this is a great strategy, people tend to look down then looking up. Instead of camping down off the road. I have camped up high off the road multi times on tour. Note that it is more difficult to hike your bike and gear up hill, but is a very good idea, to stay stealth with camping.
  • Try not to disturb too much of the environment, and cover up any obvious tracks that may be caused from your bike wheels or foot prints.
  • Don’t start a camp fire, as this will draw attention to you.
  • When camping try and set up where a vehicle cannot reach you. Typically requiring you to push your bike through thick forest where it makes it basically impossible to be reached by car.
  • Make sure to clean up any mess and be on your way
  • Make sure you are not trespassing on private land
  • If you have a Trangia (like me) and like cooking your dinner every night, it might be best to cook then wait until dusk before finding a camp spot.
  • If you are camping on public sporting fields, just be aware of irrigation systems and sprinklers. Trust me, you don’t want a unpleasant surprise at 1 am in the morning.
  • Try not to stay at the same camp spot for too long, the long you stay the more likely you could be seen. Try to avoid camping in the same place twice.
  • Avoid frequently visited Geocaching areas
  • Look out for surveillance cameras, sometimes you will see them up in tress. So avoid camping anywhere where you see them.
  • Avoid camping on land where hunting is common. You should be fine on the off seasons, just check when hunting season is in the local area you are travelling through
  • Be willing to change camps spots, if by any chance you get moved on by authorities
  • If you do get caught just play dumb and offer to leave immediately
  • Avoid camping somewhere where people may congregate early in the morning. Like church on a Sunday, or recreation fields early on game day, etc.. Try and get up and out early.
  • If you want to leave quicker in the morning, depending on the weather it might be best to avoid pitching the tent and just camp under the stars for the night. For a quick pack up in the morning.
  • Although it is nice to have beautiful scenery for a camp spot, the best stealth camp spots are not always the most scenic. Sometimes it is best to opt for a camp that allows you to blend in.
  • The more difficult it is for you to get to your camp spot, the harder it will be for others to reach you
  • You must be able to know where you are, for safety reasons you must rely on yourself to get you out of any sticky situations if you get sick or need medical attention
  • It helps to know how to break your tent and pack up camp quickly
  • Try and avoid camping near places where dogs might be able to discover you
  • minimise the amount of noise you make, keep quite!
  • When camping on beaches, keep your distance from the water, and allow for the tide to come in
  • Use common sense and you will be fine
  • remember to have fun, after all that is why you are out there, camping in the wild and not in a generic camping ground.

Finding Great Stealth Camping Spots

My process for finding wild camping spots is fairly simple. When I am out and getting ready to setup for a stealth camp for the night. I am almost always in a forest area or somewhere out in nature, generally far away from society. Making a stealth camp more easy going and relaxed. They way it should be.

All I do is go on Google maps with the satellite option turned on and search around looking for bushes, trees, forests, rivers, lakes, deserts that are around my immediate location.

Once I find somewhere I think looks okay on the maps I will ride to that location and suss it out. Checking for flat ground, tree coverage from rain, relatively soft ground.

Some of the best stealth camping spots have epic views.

Best Apps and Websites for finding stealth and wild camp spots

  • Oruxmaps is good for downloading the sections for offline use
  • iOverlander
  • and the App ‘Shelters’ (for use in Denmark)
  • Wiki Camps Apps are great for (Australia, US, New Zealand and other countries)

Things to Consider when Stealth Camping or Wild Camping

  • Research your local fire restrictions and laws before heading out. For example in Australia during summer especially, it is strictly against the law to start a open fire in bushland. Take extreme caution if you are thinking about starting a fire. I personally use a inclosed alcohol fuel stove to do all my cooking and I even use it to warm me up in the colder times of the year. It is better to be safe then sorry.
  • Water supply, when you are out there wild camping you don’t have the luxury to get easy access to water like you would at most camp sites. If you can plan to camp near a running water source. And if it is not possible then make sure you are carrying enough water to get your through the night and into the next day until you are able to restock on water.
  • Stay organised with your gear. Typically when stealth camping you just want to be in and out without ever being noticed. So the less complicated and the less tasks or more things you unpack that night when settling into camp. The easier and quicker you can get up and out in the morning. That is if you are worried about being found camping. Know where all your gear is and have enough practise in packing your gear back on your bike so you can pack quickly if need be.
  • Check the weather. Make it a habit every night when camping to check the weather to help you make educated decisions on where to camp and how you are going to camp. It might be a really nice night where you don’t even need to pitch the tent and you can just lay under the stars. But you don’t want to be thinking it is going to be a clear night and sleep under the stars then be caught out in a thunderstorm.
  • Understand the local laws, when I travel to new places all over the world, I do a little reading on the local laws regarding wild camping and it sucks but most times it is illegal. Like in Australia you can wild camp pretty much anywhere in the Outback, but the Australian laws on wild camping elsewhere are surprisingly strict. Even though it is not allowed, I personally still will wild camp, but in doing so I make sure to follow a process of respect to the environment and practise some stealth camping tactics to minimise the possibility of being noticed. I was surprised with how welcomed camping is in Scotland. Allowing wild camping pretty much anywhere on public land.
  • The best campsites are stealth campsites.
  • Just be respectful of people who own the land. You must likely be pleasantly surprised by how understanding people are when you just act respectful, pleasant and non-threatening.

Where to camp in your tent for free

If you are looking for other locations to camp other then just in forests. There are many different locations I have had experience in setting up camp for the night for free. Some of which are in public areas right in the heart of town.

Some places that are good to camp at that I have had no problems with are;

  • Churches. In Europe we camped at many churches, the churches even have grave yards, which was a little unsettling at the beginning but I eventually got use to it. At least the neighbours were quite.
  • Fire departments / fire stations
  • Public parks and play grounds
  • Recreation fields, soccer fields, footy ovals, rugby pitches etc..
  • Beaches, challenging to hike your bike out on the sand but totally worth it
  • Community centres
  • Even try chatting to people and ask where you could camp. Sometimes they may even have a bed for you!
  • Other tucked away places, off the road

Again use common sense and clean up after yourself and leave the camp spot better then you found it and you should have not problems.

Alternatives to sleeping in a tent

Sometimes sleeping in a tent may not work when trying to stealth camp. Maybe your tent is large and a bright color.

Here are a list of other ways of sleeping when stealth camping

  • Tarp over bike
  • Bivy bag
  • Hammock
  • Under the stars, just laying on your sleeping pad and in your sleeping bag

What to pack?

  • Tent/bivy bag
  • sleeping bag
  • sleeping mat
  • pillow (optional)
  • Stove and food
  • Head-torch
  • Trowel or poop bags

Is wild camping safe?

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About The Author



Codey Orgill, a seasoned bicycle adventurer, has been exploring the world on two wheels for over 10 years. Since embarking on his initial cycling journey, Codey Orgill has traversed numerous countries, experiencing a series of epic adventures.

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