You must ask yourself; is this site safe? Is it too close to a road, a lane, a bend in the road where drunk or tired drivers may drive off? Are there signs of activity? Is there a lot of litter on the ground? Beer bottles, cigarette butts and fast food litter also tell me it could be a 'bush party' site.
If you are too close to a city or certain communities, you may be leaving yourself open to unwanted attention or behaviours. The local mob don't carry the bodies that far from the road before they bury them. You must assess the risks involved in that site.
You don't know what could happen to you in the future. You could be hit by a truck or you could live to 95. There is a risk to every action. Riding a bicycle is a risky hobby.
I sat for many years on the City of Toronto Cycling Committee. Imagine a city so in touch with its' citizens that it actually is concerned about cycling issues!
In 2002, the City coroner was commissioned to do a study about auto / bike accidents. At that time, (and I believe he also made reference to other North American studies), the two types of vehicles most likely to be involved with a fatal accident with a bike were buses and trucks. This was not a surprise, as I have always believed that making eye contact with another vehicle driver was critical in safe cycling.
How does this relate to stealth camping? Well I don't know of any coroner's studies but stealth camping has its' unpredictability factors. Weather is the obvious one and stealthers should be prepared for the variables in the environment they are in. If it never rains where you go, you might not need to take waterproofs, but double the amount of sun block. Be flexible instead of rigid.
I learned about best practises in the taxi industry. Taxi drivers are very pragmatic people. They do the right thing to get the job done. Best practises have a lot to do about mitigating various liabilities by words and actions that best protect your interests. Below are a few best practises for stealth camping.
Loose lips sink ships
It's not stealth camping if you tell people where you are. I often attract attention in rural areas. I'm a stranger, so at cafes or bars I'm often approached and questioned. I used to lie when asked where I was staying. Locals know if you are lying, and then they are REALLY suspicious of you. If asked where I'm staying I say I'm camping. If pressed I say I'm stealth camping but I never say where. If I get hostile vibes I would move on, but I've always been open and honest and that is the reaction I get in response.
Always be prepared
In horror movies everyone starts screaming when things go wrong. When the poop hits the fan I start thinking about how I can make it better, fast. A friend lent me a book called "Worse Case Scenarios." It's full of what to do when things get really bad. If someone is shooting at you; run in a stacatto zig- zag pattern. Most people are horrible shots and could never keep up with your constantly changing direction. Some people beg for their lives. I'm not a good beggar. Hopefully the above scenario will not happen to either of us, but it is always a good idea to have "Plan B".
The Property Rights Factor
In many places, not all land is owned by someone. Some countries enshrine people's right to access land. In other locations camping on someone's land without permission could lead to staring down the nose of a gun. I choose not to stealth camp in a place where I am neither welcome nor safe.
Property laws change from country to country. Many are based on British common law. I find that by tradition you are trespassing when you climb a fence or ignore a sign. If someone has improved the land by cutting grass or some other way, I would assume that I am not welcome to camp as they have put their mark on it.
I discuss the legal aspects of stealth camping in my page on trespass, but as a rule, if a site is not marked signed, fenced, improved or near habitation, you are not trespassing.
In many ways this is a non- issue because successful stealth campers only arrive late, leave early, don't start a camp fire and stay out of sight.
I am not a lawyer, and neither are most property owners so they may have quite different ideas about what constitutes trespass. I strongly suggest you carefully check trespass laws in your state, province country or territory before you attempt to stealth camp. To be on the safe side follow the stealth camping rules:
GPS - and Calling Home
I love GPS's. I don't own one, but I love them. My friend Colin has one on his sailboat. Connect the Autopilot and we don't have much to do except trim the sails and maybe come about occasionally.
Originally GPS's just gave you your location in lats and longs. You could enter a waypoint and it would tell you the direction to go. Now they include really great charts and my car friends tell me that the ones in their Caddies talk to them. Don't answer back. We used to call those people "backseat drivers". What's happened folks?
That was the pre- amble; this is what I really want to say: Someone should know where you are. Not at all times, but someone should know where you are at night. You can phone, like I do. "I'm along the Brantford - Paris trail. I'm camping about 500 metres from the intersection of Highway 25 and the Guelph line. It's across from the 18th hole of a golf course." If you do have a GPS you can give the lats and longs.
My partner is very understanding of my 'little hobby'. She refers to the check ins as "where we can find the body". At my age she may have something there.
2. (1)Every person who is not acting under a right or authority conferred by law and who,
(b) does not leave the premises immediately after he or she is directed to do so by the occupier of the premises or a person authorized by the occupier" (is guilty of an offence).
To me that means that if you are camping on private property you are not trespassing unless you are told to leave and refuse to do so. The Act goes on so say that methods of giving notice are:
(a) orally or in writing;
(b) by means of signs posted so that that a sign is clearlyvisible in daylight under normal conditions from the approach to each ordinary point of access to the premises to which it applies; or
(c) by means of the marking system set out in Section 7
The Act states that markings acceptable are red markings on trees. Yellow markings indicate admission is restricted for certain activities. So in Ontario, it seems that you can camp on unmarked, unfenced or unsigned land and if you are asked to move and agree to move immediately by the owner or an agent of the owner, you are not trespassing.
Of course if you don't believe me, check out Wikipedia
In most countries using British Common Law it is alright to respectfully camp overnight on land that is no where near buildings or signs of civilization providing you don't hop a fence, ignore 'No Trespass" or other similar signs or markings on trees. In addition you should use Leave No Trace principals in that you don't cut wood, don't disturb the ground, don't litter, cook or start a fire. Further you should never camp on agricultural land or anywhere where you might cause damage to someone's property.
Using those ideals, and the fact you are camping late and leaving early you will never have an issue with trespass (or even meet landowners for that matter).
If things have gone terribly wrong and you are confronted by someone, never argue, but apologize and offer to leave as quickly as possible. By doing this, you are still not guilty of trespass. Again this is all based on Common Law. If you live somewhere where "Trespassers Will Be Shot On Sight", then only camp in civilized places.
Stealth camping at its root is all about self reliance. Many of us live in a world that is full of relying on others for our needs. Stealth campers tend to be individualists who are willing to test their strengths and abilities.
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