Friday, August 19, 2011

Stealth Canoe Camping

There are a lot of nice rivers and lakes here in the North Country. There are also a lot of campgrounds. However, where the campgrounds are and where I want to camp are often two totally different places. Then there’s the fact I’m pretty cheap. Why pay for something you can get for free?

There’s a reason my canoe is a dark green instead of some flashy color. Once it’s pulled out of the water and into the trees, it’s very hard to spot. My tents are dark colors with low profiles and no reflective materials. My bright colored life jackets and other brightly colored gear is kept either under the overturned canoe or covered with a camo tarp.

If I have a campfire the wood is dry to limit smoke. It’s kept small, and any view of it from the water is blocked by rocks or trees. Often I’ll just cook a meal on a small hiking stove, also being careful to block visibility from the water. If there’s a high chance of being hassled I’ll skip cooking a meal and eat cold food like dried fruit and granola. Even the smell of cooking food can give you away.

After dark artificial light is a huge risk. A nylon tent doesn’t block much light; in fact, a flashlight can make the whole tent glow. If you do want a flashlight, used focused beams just big enough to do the job. Lights with a red filter are good if you have to move around in the dark.

Keep quiet. Radios, and phones are a dead give away. If you are stealth camping with other people, keep chatter to a minimum. The human voice travels a long ways over water.

It might seem like a lot of trouble, but stealth camping has allowed me to go on longer trips for a lot less money. I haven’t done it in a while, but I still keep my eye out for good camping spots.

In more recent years, I’ve stayed in regular designated wilderness campsites -without paying. The trick to those is to go early in the season before they officially open, or late after they close. The weather is cooler, but on the plus side, the bugs and tourists are gone. There’s almost no one available to hassle you.

Of course, I still take the precaution of pulling my canoe completely out of the water and into the trees. A boat on the beach is a dead give away that can be spotted a longs ways off.

When you leave a camping site, make sure it’s cleaned up and looks like no one was there. That’s a good practice any time, but essential when stealth camping.



  1. Great post - I hate crowds too. I know they usually mean no harm, but the noise of groups of people (especially groups of young college age kids) is tremendous. They don't remember to use their 'inside the house' voice volume, if that makes sense.

    And while I'm ranting / whining, why do people bring the civilized 'clap trap' of Walk-Mans, CD players and the like - you have Nature all around you to admire and learn from. Its what Getting Away is supposed to be.

  2. Good post. In areas where there's water deep enough to float a canoe there's probably no better way to get free of people and all that goes with them without having to tote a backpack a long way. Achilles' ambition was to put an oar over his shoulder and hike far enough inland till people asked him what it was. Now it's a matter of hiking or watering far enough off the path so you're not finding used toilet paper the varmints dug up and scattered.

    Yep, once again a nice post.

  3. For stealth camping use the Dakota fire pit.

  4. you know how out of touch some are when they wonder why there be no street lights out in the deep woods, or a phone to call in a complaint..


  5. That sort of camping would be no problem down here. Miles and miles of empty shoreline on the Laguna Madre. King Ranch on the mainland, and Padre Island National Seashore to the southeast. A kind of "no man's land" between PINS and the canal houses on the island. Only fishing cabins here and there on the spoil islands. One could get "lost" down here for a long time...