One of the best ways to get away and be at one with nature is to build a stealth shelter in the forest. Not only are you putting yourself in the most isolated place possible, but you are also aiming to be invisible there. It’s super exciting, and pretty difficult to do this without a little bit a guidance. So here are a few simple tips to make your wilderness getaway one that only you will know about:
The first rule of successful stealth camping is to be as discreet as possible. To disappear in the forest with success, try the following:
- Get away from the beaten track and as far out of sight from civilization as possible.
- Keep the noise down.
- Don’t bring loads of friends!
- Use your flashlight as little as possible.
- If you are having a fire, then keep it small and assess the amount of smoke and glow that it creates.
- Don’t outstay your welcome in the same spot – move to a new spot each night.
Choose the right camping spot
Find a clearing in the forest where the floor is clear of vegetation and woodland debris, and if possible choose a place to sleep that is in a dip or behind some rocks. This will put you out of sight from passers-by, and it will also provide shelter if the wind picks up. With this in mind, check the stability of the trees you are sleeping under. You don’t want branches falling onto you in a gale.
Choosing a spot that is close to water is great for an easy access drinking supply, providing you use the right water purification method to make the water safe to drink. However, being too close to water can pose some problems. Bugs can be one issue, but also the potential for flash floods can be a problem too. So make sure you set camp uphill of the water and away from a gully where water levels can rise dangerously fast.
If you have been really discreet in choosing a great spot for stealth camping, then you should struggle to find it again if you walk away from it! So it’s a good idea to leave yourself some markers on the forest floor to get you back to base if necessary.
Bring the right gear
Most stealth campers like to keep things simple and go as light as possible with their gear. This makes it nice and easy to get moving quickly to an alternative camping spot. Bring a lightweight backpacking tent that is small and not bright red or orange. Or go without a tent altogether and put up a hammock and tarp for an even more versatile and mobile setup. This way, you won’t need a sleeping pad (if the temperature isn’t too low), just a good 3-season sleeping bag to snuggle up in.
Bringing a mosquito net will be essential in certain locations, so make sure you get some local advice on this before you go. And of course don’t forget a lightweight camping stove to cook up a feast on.
How to set up your stealth campsite
Once you have found the perfect spot to disappear in, your main priority is setting up your shelter. If bad weather is looming then it’s essential that you have a place to shelter yourself in and all your stuff. Take your time over staking your guy lines out properly and securely. If the ground is soft then you may need to use trees or rocks to help with this.
If you are in bear country, then ensuring you have your food stored in a bear-resistant food cache is essential. The bag should be over 100 yards from your tent, suspended 10-15 feet off the ground and at least 4 feet from each vertical support. Make sure you put all your cooking utensils and pots in this bag too. Once again, your tent is up then set up this bag as soon as possible.
If you are building a fire, then then you will want to gather some wood. Set your fire a few yards away and upwind of your tent to prevent sparks from flying or smoke polluting your sleeping space when you light it. If possible, it’s a good idea to wait until after dark to light it up so that the smoke will be less easily spotted.
Leave no trace
As with any activity in our wonderful outdoor playground, leaving no trace is an essential part of stealth camping:
- Take a back packers shovel and make sure you dig a deep hole away from any water sources for your toilet stops.
- If you have a fire then bury the ashes and cover over any burn marks in the soil.
- Take all your rubbish with you.
- Use biodegradable soap or washing up liquid.
With all that in mind, you should be well setup to disappear in nature. And if you do it well enough, then stealth camping in the forest will also provide some fantastic opportunities to watch the wildlife of the forest unfold around you as the sun sets and stars come out.
Joey Holmes is the editor of Cool of the Wild, an online resource for outdoor lovers. She has endless enthusiasm for any excuse to get out there and enjoy being active in the outdoor world, and loves sharing this passion to inspire others to find and follow their own dreams.