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Campground costs have continued to rise. If you are traveling through a location in your truck camper, it can be frustrating when you have no need for the amenities of a campground and don’t want to spend unnecessary dollars to rest for a couple of hours.
You could be in the city at the end of the day and don’t want to travel to the suburbs to your campground. There’s more to see and do right where you are, but how can you catch some sleep and continue your sightseeing in the morning? You need a crash course in stealth camping!
What is Stealth Camping?
Anytime you can sleep in a vehicle without being noticed, you are stealth camping. This requires some effort, however. Many van lifers, car campers, and RVers have learned a few ways to make their vehicles less obvious.
For instance, you can place blackout window covers in each window so that no one can see in and no light from inside the truck shows from the street. Don’t put awnings or camp chairs outside your vehicle.
Those who stealth camp in cities sometimes camouflage their solar panels so only residents on the upper floors of apartment buildings can see them.
Any way you do it, stealth camping can be an inexpensive way to travel, allowing you to stay close to city attractions or in rural locations without incurring campground fees.
Pro Tip: Believe it or not, stealth camping is a form of boondocking. So make sure you Don’t Break These BLM Boondocking Rules!
Is Stealth Camping in a Truck Bed Camper Legal?
It is legal to sleep in a truck bed so long as the parking spot you occupy allows overnight parking. Like any other camper, trucks can be stealth campers if you park legally.
Don’t make the mistake of pulling in anywhere and assuming you can stay overnight, as many municipalities have laws regarding overnight parking, and you may not see signs.
Do your research online and drive around during daylight hours to discover the local laws and what spots might be available before returning after dark to stay.
Can You Stealth Camp in a Truck Camper?
A truck camper or a truck bed can make a good stealth camper, but with one caveat. Because you must get out of the truck cab and enter the camper or truck bed from behind the vehicle, residents may see you.
You would no longer be ‘stealth.’ This can be mitigated by setting up your sleeping quarters somewhere other than your camping spot, then arriving at your overnight location after dark.
Quickly exit the truck cab and enter the camper quietly. Ensure that no one outside can identify lights or sounds within the trailer. You can use blackout shades and headphones to mask your presence.
Best Stealth Camping Tips for a Truck Bed Camper
If you want to prepare for stealth camping, there are several actions you can take. Below is a list of seven suggestions to help you think like a veteran stealth camper!
1. Use Google Satellite View To Find Good Stealth Camping Locations
Google maps is full of helpful information for all types of travel. Still, the satellite map view is constructive in finding locations like apartment complexes, motel parking lots, and hospitals.
These are all great places for stealth camping when there are no laws against it.
Open Google maps and click on the satellite view layer. Scour the maps, adding Walmarts, Cracker Barrels, Cabela’s, or a 24-hour fitness club to list if you like.
Then look at the lower right corner legend on your map. Grab the orange person icon on the street in front of the location you’ve picked, and it will show you the street view. You can get an accurate idea of what parking looks like, where it might be available, and if the area seems safe.
Pro Tip: These are the 17 RV Apps Every Camper Should Download. Be sure to check it out to make your RV lifestyle easier!
2. Scout Sites in Person During the Day
Always drive the neighborhoods where you want to stealth camp during daylight hours. This will allow you to look for ‘no overnight parking’ signs and see how many vehicles might be coming and going.
You will want to look for places that have many cars already parked, like apartment complexes or big box stores. Also, look for businesses open 24 hours so a truck camper wouldn’t look out of place, or places that allow overnight parking like Walmart or many hospitals.
Avoid streets with neighborhood watch programs, as you will receive the dreaded late-night knock on the door if anyone notices you camping.
3. Keep Pop-Up and Slides Retracted
Once you find a place to stealth camp, remember that you don’t want to call attention to your truck camper. If it has slides, leave them in.
Put blackout shades in the windows, and don’t pop up the roof if you have a hatch. If possible, prepare your dinner beforehand so that no cooking smells will come from your camper.
Get your sleeping area ready at another location before arriving at your overnight spot.
4. Minimize Interior Lights and Noise
If you put in blackout shades, no one on the street should be able to see that anything is going on inside your stealth truck camper. Lights should not penetrate the blackout shades.
If you decide to turn on a television or listen to a podcast, use headphones or earphones so noise from your camper won’t give you away.
5. Prepare Meals Ahead of Time
Cook dinner at your daytime location before moving to the overnight parking spot. Nothing can attract passersby quicker than the smell of a steak cooking in a camper kitchen!
Take care of washing dishes and any other noise-making activity before going into stealth mode.
Keep in Mind: Not sure if you’ll have enough time to cook during the day before stealth camping? Here are some easy no camping recipes for your next meal!
6. Leave No Trace
The whole idea of stealth camping is that no one should know you are there. Ensure that there is nothing left to identify your presence when you leave.
Leave no trash, no wet pavement where you’ve emptied a water bottle or other camping signs.
7. Know the Local Ordinances and Stay Limits
Check online for local ordinances regarding overnight park and parking in general.
Some stealth campers like to push the limits, stay in spots that are not legal, and hope they can ask forgiveness after the fact. We don’t condone that behavior and suggest you always follow the law.
Is Stealth Camping in a Truck Bed Camper the Best Idea?
Stealth camping is an excellent idea if you follow the road rules, check local laws, and select overnight spots carefully. There’s an adrenaline rush when you wake up the following day, even though you haven’t done anything illegal!
You may find that stealth truck camping will become a standard operating procedure for camping trips in the future! On your next adventure, where will you go stealth camping?