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Demystifying the Urban Stealth Legend
#1
Let's press this hot topic button! Need input, like many. There are some claiming they do it all the time. Great. There are many getting moved along. Not so great. Maybe success comes down to specific method and situation. Like where and how and in what rig. In rural settings and smaller towns, you will be noticed being new, no matter the rig or time. Unless you find the perfect stealth, unicorn spot. Would be great if everyone could share their " specific details" on how they do it. Like how, when and where and in what vehicle specifics. Many I am sure are interested and would benefit. Having said this, nothing is foolproof but there are ways to maximize success and minimize the negatives. Arriving late to a spot and leaving early works, but not necessarily always in the same limited area. And hanging out in the general area prior gives you away to the local LEO. 
  Like the time I was hanging out at Starbucks until late and what seemed like all of the local town on duty cops (4 cruisers) showed up for coffee and one was curiously checking out my white, stealth, commercial style, minivan. Damn, talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time! Note to self, avoid coffee and doughnut shops at night. What's left? Nothing is stealth in all contexts at all times. Hmmmmmm, need to put tracers on these guys for a good night's rest. Lol.
It seems to me that it only works short term and if you are constantly moving and traveling to new area locations. Kind of like here today, gone tomorrow. Hiding in the dense urban jungle is possible short term but LEO are taught to spot and have seen it all. Probably they don't bother and passive due to priorities. In which case, it's not about stealth at all.
Now my experience is just that, limited to my reality. Would love, and am sure many others as well, to get more specfic facts and details from those who do it successfully. The how, when and where. And in what type of rig. Am sure that luck and timing play as much a part as those claiming their stealth skills.  Wink   Care to share what works and why?
Minivanmotoman,  Absolutely Positively.
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#2
Long term stealth within city limits is a myth, even if you move locations within the same city each day. Any LEO will recognize your "stealth" vehicle within 72 hours , no matter who stealthy you may think it is.

They then choose whether or not to come knock on your door. That is the reality of it. I doubt there is much you can do on that front other than keep a tidy camp and have a clean rig.
Traveling since 2010 - My BlogMy Van
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#3
Most of my urban camping has been in larger cities. And it is much easier to blend into a larger crowd. I have not done much stealth camping in small towns. I imagine it can be done but you will be more noticeable. I think the major thing about stealth camping is that you are never really as stealthy as we would like to be. Just think how easy it is for us to spot someone else living in a vehicle. It's not to hard for the police to notice it either.

What we are really trying to do is to not draw attention to ourselves from the local civilians. If someone thinks you look suspicious and calls the police they are now obligated to send someone out and check it out. Which means a knock on your door. If you don't stick out. If you are not driving a derelict van or something that just looks like it's falling apart on the road then nobody calls the police and nobody knocks on your door. The police will know who is who. But they just have better things to do then bother with someone that is causing no trouble and that nobody is calling to complain about.

I also think it is important to follow urban camping's number one rule which is don't stay in the same place more then one night. It is so easy to move around but I think people find a good spot and get a little comfortable there. And this leads to someone calling it in which then leads to a knock on the door.

When I pull in somewhere to go to sleep I am ready for bed. I don't go to a spot and then watch a movie in the van or start brushing my teeth or any of a million other things you might do. I do all that before I get to my spot. Then when I park I quietly move to the back and crawl into bed and go to sleep. The other thing I don't do is to put up shades in my front windows and windshield. I think this is a big giveaway to someone trying to conceal themselves inside. I have a curtain that separates the cab from the back. Once I pull the curtain you can't see back there. But if someone were to look in the front it they would just see the empty front seats and nothing at all laying around that looked like it was worth stealing.

Just my two cents here. But stealth camping just isn't really a big deal. I find that almost no one cares what I am doing. And it is probably because they are so wrapped up in themselves and what they are doing that they have no situational awareness of what is going on around them.
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#4
Great thread idea. I have not done this but was on the other side of it. I was a mayor for 16 years in a city of about 100,000. I had a gazillion calls and notes from people about "suspicious" people and no doubt the police department had many I did not hear about.

I would look for neighborhoods where there were likely extended families, rental housing and some cars parked on the street. A neighborhood like this will have strange cars parked then disappearing. Mostly, these will be smaller and older houses with the occasional garbage can left out in front. 

I would think spending evenings there would increase suspicion so the late in early and out rule would apply. 

I like the idea of camping in cities. They have so much unused concrete it is good to have it used for inexpensive housing.
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#5
The purpose of stealth isn't to hide from the cops. They know all the tricks and you simply can't hide from them. But they also have better things to do with their time, and if you aren't doing something illegal or stupid, they won't bother with you.

The purpose of stealth is to avoid attracting attention from the public. If anyone anywhere notices you and gripes to somebody (security, store manager, cops, whatever) then they are obligated to roust you out even if they would not have done so on their own.

I also do stealth in order to be a good neighbor. I make no noise, I make no mess, I cause no trouble, I attract no attention, I do not look like a homeless person or a druggie, I stay in the back of the van where I am invisible, and I stay unnoticed, unseen, and overlooked. Nobody even knows I am there.

In general, those people who constantly have cop troubles, have brought it on themselves.

EDIT: Whenever possible I stay in places where there is no problem--Walmart and Cracker Barrels are always my first choice. Both of those, as a matter of company policy, allow campers and RVers to overnight in their lots. Some cities have local ordinances against it, but I have found that if I am not a PITA and cause no problems, they generally won't enforce it anyway (heck, they probably don't even n notice that I am there). "Stealth" is, for me, my option when I don't have a "safe" place to go.

Living in "Ziggy the Snail Shell" since May 2015
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#6
Thx Lenny and all so far. Just read the " Stealth Camping in a Truck Camper " article in the thread sticky above posted by City Woman (oooohhhhh sweet city woman- Stampeder's, great tune, about you? Lol). Great article, lots of ideas, but he makes it seem so easy. Also his rig, fairly new, utility box looks commercial, long haul contractor, and fairly expensive. That opens many more doors for him than anyone with a van. Parking in parks and next to sports field which are often next to schools? Heavily patrolled and risky. Damn everywhere I go, police buzzing around, no parking signs in Walmart and empty Cracker Barrels. Where are all of these places? Having a hard time connecting reality with these comments myself.
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#7
(09-13-2017, 10:30 AM)Minivanmotoman Wrote: Where are all of these places? Having a hard time connecting reality with these comments myself.

So have you had repeated knocks by the cops? Which city are you in?
1993 Ford E150 conversion


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#8
In our little town (30,000 pop.) we have derelict RVs parking all over, for months at a time, some don't even look roadworthy. Our 'compassionate' town council won't let the police roust anyone no matter how much of a mess they make or how much of a problem they are to the neighborhoods and residents. So look for 'progressive' communities who tolerate urban camping this much and you won't have a problem with overstaying your welcome. Any town that has a law & order attitude won't be too friendly to nomads since they dislike unconventional lifestyles. Which is why some Walmart and Cracker Barrels allow overnight and some don't, it more the town attitude than the businesses driving that
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#9
We have a small class C so we're not stealthy at all but we're very rarely asked to leave.  Our RV looks nice, we don't make a mess, and we park where we know it's most likely okay.  We also move around a lot.

  If we want to visit a large city our first choice is Walmart. If that doesn't work we try Sam's Club, Home Depot, or Lowes. Cracker Barrel sometimes. Casinos are usually good. Truck stops rarely. Rest areas rarely although we do like rural picnic area rest stops.

  Small towns Walmarts are almost always okay but we prefer free city parks. These are mostly found in the midwest,

  Cities in southern and central California are tough. There are plenty of forests and BLM lands although not very close to cities.

  Florida around tourist areas is almost as hard. Rural Florida is okay.

  New England is hard. No public land and state campgrounds are expensive.

  The mid west is great. Most Walmarts are okay. Many small town campgrounds.  Lots of Indian casinos.

  The deep south is good.  Walmarts are almost always okay and it's Cracker Barrels territory.

   Southwest states have forest and BLM, some close to cities.

  I use this site to find dispersed camping close to cities and towns - http://publiclands.org/

  Also check freecampsites - https://freecampsites.net/

  You have to feel your way around to see what is possible and what will get a knock. Here's an example. We go back to our hometown of Pittsburgh, PA every year to see doctors, dentists, friends, etc. We're usually there 2-3 weeks.  For years we stayed in Tony's mom's driveway (technically illegal but nobody bothered us). When she passed away we had to find a new spot. There aren't any convenient campgrunds and we don't want to overstay in friend's driveways so we stay in a suburban Walmart lot. The Walmart is not opened 24 hours and the lot is shared with a grocery store, bank. tire store, Chinese restuarant and frozen yogart shop. Cops drive through occassionally. We'll stay overnight three or four days in a row and leave during day. We have a bunch of other places so we rotate.

 One evening we were just a mile or so down the road at strip shopping center using free WiFi when a store mamager came over and told us we couldn't stay there overnight. It was obvious that he wanted us to leave immediately.  We also hang out at a large county park in the same area. One time a county cop told us we were parking in the grass which is illegal. We were parked in a gravel area that had weeds growing up. Anther time Tony was fixing a small baggage door that was damaged when somebody backed into us. A cop told us it was illegal to work on vehicles in the park.  So within the same small area we have one place where we can go day after day, year after year, without getting bothered and two places where they don't want us.
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#10
(09-13-2017, 09:35 AM)lenny flank Wrote: The purpose of stealth is to avoid attracting attention from the public....

Agreed. And one of the ways to avoid trouble from the public is to avoid looking like trouble to them. The less you and your rig look like low-life, drug-addicted, feces-dumping, thieving, child rapers, the less likely they are to call the cops -- and the better the cops will treat you if they do get called.
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