Welcome to the AppalachianTrailCafe.net!
Take a moment and register and then join the conversation

Stelth Shelters Explained

    This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse this site, you are agreeing to our Cookie Policy.

    • Stelth Shelters Explained

      I like a few videos that stand out that impart good information that may fit the UL style of Backpacking. IF I drop the crappy videos and find the gold standard of information I hope you will enjoy this as much as I do as these techniques will make you an outstanding Backpacker even if you choose to do a tent. Know your knots. Feel free to weigh in and discuss what is wrong or right with the videos I choose. Feedback is key!

      Why question the intentions of a road-crossing chicken?
    • Stealth camping has several meanings now. 1) Hiding an illegal campsite & 2) camping in a non degisnated campste. 3)A whole lot of other meanings & intepertations in between.
      When I suggest stealth sites they are on #2 rule. Yes I have camped illegally in some areas. While hiking PCT my hiking partner Michelle & I dined with a German couple on vacation (They seat 4 at a table if it hold four). They were entralled aboutout hike & plied us with their leftover pizza, beer & wine. We left the cafateria at dusk no able to hike 5 miles to the nearest legal campsite. We hiked into the woods till we figured we were far enough to be out of sight, hung a bear bag & cowboy camped. We woke at first light & broke camp. It was so early that cafe wasn't open. Instead we went to the lodge to see if we could get some coffee. Michelle came out on the deck with two porclein mugs, a caraft of coffee & real crem & sugar for less than what we would have paid at the cafe. We sat on the deck in rocking chairs overlooking the sun rise on Crater Lake! Some days it pays to be a rebel!
    • Mountain-Mike wrote:

      Stealth camping has several meanings now. 1) Hiding an illegal campsite & 2) camping in a non degisnated campste. 3)A whole lot of other meanings & intepertations in between.
      When I suggest stealth sites they are on #2 rule. Yes I have camped illegally in some areas. While hiking PCT my hiking partner Michelle & I dined with a German couple on vacation (They seat 4 at a table if it hold four). They were entralled aboutout hike & plied us with their leftover pizza, beer & wine. We left the cafateria at dusk no able to hike 5 miles to the nearest legal campsite. We hiked into the woods till we figured we were far enough to be out of sight, hung a bear bag & cowboy camped. We woke at first light & broke camp. It was so early that cafe wasn't open. Instead we went to the lodge to see if we could get some coffee. Michelle came out on the deck with two porclein mugs, a caraft of coffee & real crem & sugar for less than what we would have paid at the cafe. We sat on the deck in rocking chairs overlooking the sun rise on Crater Lake! Some days it pays to be a rebel!


      We all think we know the law - that's why I picked the second video.. Yesterday I was forced to park on the grass and later a neighbor came down and yelled at a distance.. my answer? OH wow Thanks for informing me, I had no Idea I will move the car.. thanks... did I break the law.. who cares.. I didn't admit to anything or assume the premise. Once you and I assume the premise - nothing you can say afterward will matter. The most important part of you post is nothing happened. Lets move on


      once you see the stupid Racoon... then you understand

      Why question the intentions of a road-crossing chicken?
    • Stealth is just that -- nobody knows you're there. It doesn't require a tarp or fancy knot-work or a home brewed teepee. The way I figure it, if I wasn't observed and left no trace -- no harm, no foul.

      It doesn't even have to be hidden, it means you need to remain unobserved. So one "trick" I've used when I intend to stealth is to set up my tent only at dusk or even in darkness. At that point it's very unlikely that a hiker or ranger is going to stroll by and find me. If I pack up and leave promptly at or near dawn, it's similarly unlikely that anyone's going to find me in the morning.

      Mind you -- this may not work in GSMNP or the Franconia Ridge or the Presidentials. But probably 95% of the rest of the AT or LT.
    • rafe wrote:

      Stealth is just that -- nobody knows you're there. It doesn't require a tarp or fancy knot-work or a home brewed teepee. The way I figure it, if I wasn't observed and left no trace -- no harm, no foul.

      It doesn't even have to be hidden, it means you need to remain unobserved. So one "trick" I've used when I intend to stealth is to set up my tent only at dusk or even in darkness. At that point it's very unlikely that a hiker or ranger is going to stroll by and find me. If I pack up and leave promptly at or near dawn, it's similarly unlikely that anyone's going to find me in the morning.

      Mind you -- this may not work in GSMNP or the Franconia Ridge or the Presidentials. But probably 95% of the rest of the AT or LT.


      Just a thought, turtleislandpreserve.com/ true connection. Feel free to Connect to an Old AT...
    • I think I first encountered the term stealth camping on the PCT discussion fora where it was used to refer to the practice of stopping in a real nice spot in the evening to cook, eat, rest, swim, fish, recreate, whatever, and then packing up, hiking for a bit more, and setting up camp at some not so obvious site just for sleeping, with the purpose of camping in a place away from food smells left by your or other people at those obvious/prime camping sites. It was not so much people you were hiding from, but the bears. Only later did I learn that others use stelth to refer to illegal camping.
    • I didn't watch the videos as bandwidth is limited.

      I've used a camo tarp and paracord to create a shelter in areas I wished to remain undetected for a period of time. In most cases I first scouted the area, set up the shelter after dark, and departed prior to or just at sunrise. last 4th of July, we set up such a camp on a ridge line after the fireworks were discharged as we wished to to participate in stargazing later in the evening.

      The tent I usually pack is brightly colored (for emergency signalling) and is unsuitable for stealth usage. Therefore if I plan on S/C, I'll bring the tarp.

      S/C is a useful technique if one is at a park where pitching a tent is discouraged. However one must be prepared to face unhappy folks if discovered.

      Lest we forget.....



      SSgt Ray Rangel - USAF
      SrA Elizabeth Loncki - USAF
      PFC Adam Harris - USA
      MSgt Eden Pearl - USMC
    • I have heard differing opinions as to what "camping" is, let alone "stealth" camping. When I think of "camping", I am thinking of putting my tent up on an established plot, talking with people, and maybe even starting a "camp" fire. When I think of stealthing, I am thinking of a quiet low impact night by myself. I am not thinking of illegal stuff.

      its just sleeping
      Non hikers are about a psi shy of a legal ball.
    • To me, camping is a night in the woods, not in a shelter, whether you have company or not. Fires are getting harder and harder to justify. On the trail we were on last weekend, there were campsites but no fires allowed at any of them. One of them had a fire pit, which even had some fresh wood piled next to it -- but we didn't want to risk lighting it. Someone had "gotten away with it" but we weren't sure it was cool to try.
    • When I think of stealth camping I'm thinking of a spot off the trail 75 or 100 feet. There have been several times when I'm "stealthing" and I have half a dozen or hikers pass right by me and never see me because they are looking straight ahead at the trail.
      "Dazed and Confused"
      Recycle, re-use, re-purpose
      Plant a tree
      Take a kid hiking
      Make a difference
    • That's been my experience too, Just like deer put bramble patches between them and the trail.

      OK I am being very picky -but this stood out a combination of what Kayak Karl & I do. I use a Voyager with a Colman cot and insulated blow up pad - the rear windows are meshed so I can open and not get mosquitoes.
      My gear is stored underneath and big stuff is on the other side and Rugby has a pad. Kayak on top and the bicycle on the back. Loads of choices... I am preparing for the fact at some point I won't be able to hike... IF you don't do it... ya loose it. is my therory

      This video isn't a winner - but it portrays a thought process of comfort and skill of WINGING IT! owl talk of a good time. Feel free to fast forward on the boring bits... look for the golden nuggets.

      IT'S complicated and ridiculous-Ly simple at the same time.




      Why question the intentions of a road-crossing chicken?

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Wise Old Owl ().

    • I'm prepping for my first stealth experience and just had my tent altered to make it less noticeable :) . I never stray very far from the trail because I'm afraid that I'll fall or get lost. What can I do to make sure that I find my way back to the trail the next morning? Should I even be concerned about that?
      In life there are no limitations. Except stupidity. If you're stupid, you're screwed.

      Stephan Pastis
    • TrafficJam wrote:

      I'm prepping for my first stealth experience and just had my tent altered to make it less noticeable :) . I never stray very far from the trail because I'm afraid that I'll fall or get lost. What can I do to make sure that I find my way back to the trail the next morning? Should I even be concerned about that?


      It is like any other navigating. On the trail you have white blazes and landmarks to shoot for. If you are concerned about getting turned around, as you walk in to your spot pick and/or set up landmarks. It can be as simple as sticking a pole in the ground as you walk in and another after you walk another 50 feet or so. These can be temporary indicators until you decide on landmarks that will help you navigate out. A compass works well too. :D Set up your tent so the door faces the trail. In the morning use the landmarks or compass to head back out to the trail. You are only a couple hundred feet off the trail. You do not need to have great accuracy. You just need to hold a bearing for a couple hundred feet.
      Non hikers are about a psi shy of a legal ball.
    • TrafficJam wrote:

      I'm prepping for my first stealth experience and just had my tent altered to make it less noticeable :) . I never stray very far from the trail because I'm afraid that I'll fall or get lost. What can I do to make sure that I find my way back to the trail the next morning? Should I even be concerned about that?

      Carry a set of ranger beads to track your distance off trail, pay attention to 'obvious' landmarks, take note if you need to. In a lot of cases, you really don't need to stray too far off trail to be 'stealth'. An example of this is... think of all the wildlife you pass in any given 1000 yards and never even know they where there :)
    • July wrote:

      TrafficJam wrote:

      I'm prepping for my first stealth experience and just had my tent altered to make it less noticeable :) . I never stray very far from the trail because I'm afraid that I'll fall or get lost. What can I do to make sure that I find my way back to the trail the next morning? Should I even be concerned about that?

      Carry a set of ranger beads to track your distance off trail, pay attention to 'obvious' landmarks, take note if you need to. In a lot of cases, you really don't need to stray too far off trail to be 'stealth'. An example of this is... think of all the wildlife you pass in any given 1000 yards and never even know they where there :)


      ive stealthed literally 20 feet from the trail, usually when its been late in the day. up and out the next morning.these are times ive eaten dinner early and then hiked for another hour or two until dark, just find a quick spot to pitch thats close to the trail.i dont think ive ever bushwacked more than 50 or 60 ft off trail to find a site.
      its all good
    • CoachLou wrote:

      that's it I'm sending a PM to ....ah....somebody.......you all talking about something illegal.........just kidding :saint: , why do you think my favorite color is green :D


      I look at stealth camping as being as illegal as jaywalking.

      A serious moderator would be deleting this thread like crazy. But we don't have a serious moderator here.
      Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
      Dr. Seuss Cof123
    • Rasty wrote:

      CoachLou wrote:

      that's it I'm sending a PM to ....ah....somebody.......you all talking about something illegal.........just kidding :saint: , why do you think my favorite color is green :D


      I look at stealth camping as being as illegal as jaywalking.

      A serious moderator would be deleting this thread like crazy. But we don't have a serious moderator here.


      what's a moderator? oh yeah, for forums that can't be civil.
      its all good
    • hikerboy wrote:

      Rasty wrote:

      CoachLou wrote:

      that's it I'm sending a PM to ....ah....somebody.......you all talking about something illegal.........just kidding :saint: , why do you think my favorite color is green :D


      I look at stealth camping as being as illegal as jaywalking.

      A serious moderator would be deleting this thread like crazy. But we don't have a serious moderator here.


      what's a moderator? oh yeah, for forums that can't be civil.


      I actually responded to my first reported post earlier today. It was for a typo.
      Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
      Dr. Seuss Cof123
    • hikerboy wrote:

      July wrote:

      TrafficJam wrote:

      I'm prepping for my first stealth experience and just had my tent altered to make it less noticeable :) . I never stray very far from the trail because I'm afraid that I'll fall or get lost. What can I do to make sure that I find my way back to the trail the next morning? Should I even be concerned about that?

      Carry a set of ranger beads to track your distance off trail, pay attention to 'obvious' landmarks, take note if you need to. In a lot of cases, you really don't need to stray too far off trail to be 'stealth'. An example of this is... think of all the wildlife you pass in any given 1000 yards and never even know they where there :)


      ive stealthed literally 20 feet from the trail, usually when its been late in the day. up and out the next morning.these are times ive eaten dinner early and then hiked for another hour or two until dark, just find a quick spot to pitch thats close to the trail.i dont think ive ever bushwacked more than 50 or 60 ft off trail to find a site.

      Exactly, alot of days are so exhilarating I really don't want to stop till just at sundown. Very often this does not afford a 'marked' campsite. Like hb said, eat earlier and hike til you are content. Normally 3 season I just tarp or cowboy so it's very easy to snuggle into a cool spot for the night, and upon leaving in the morning, you will never know that I was there. When stealthing I think it's fair to say LNT is of upmost importance.
    • Rasty wrote:

      hikerboy wrote:

      Rasty wrote:

      CoachLou wrote:

      that's it I'm sending a PM to ....ah....somebody.......you all talking about something illegal.........just kidding :saint: , why do you think my favorite color is green :D


      I look at stealth camping as being as illegal as jaywalking.

      A serious moderator would be deleting this thread like crazy. But we don't have a serious moderator here.


      what's a moderator? oh yeah, for forums that can't be civil.


      I actually responded to my first reported post earlier today. It was for a typo.


      I thougt about kicking the ofender out for a week becaus spelling freeking countes around hear
      Sometimes you will never know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.
      Dr. Seuss Cof123
    • CoachLou wrote:

      that's it I'm sending a PM to ....ah....somebody.......you all talking about something illegal.........just kidding :saint: , why do you think my favorite color is green :D


      i think that is stoopidest thing whiteblaze ever did -- not allowing someone on a hiking site to talk about hiking because of the goverment shutdown under the guise of "no talking about something that is illegal". i was put on moderated status for answering someones question about if the forest service road to springer was gated during the shut down. by answering i was "encouraging illegal behavior". gator has done some stoopid things but this takes the cake.
      2,000 miler
    • Part of the experience is not only enjoying the hike and talking with folks along the way or at the shelter - but due to my snoring past - I plan to disappear deep well off the trail and not on some ridge freezing my butt off in the wind. Last year we carpooled with a bunch of guys and enjoyed the comraderie - but one of us ran ahead and we never saw him till the end of the trip & the best part - cant remember the ass. The rest of the hikers will be a fond memory for the rest of my life, we got to know a little about each other.

      Stealth sleeping allows more diverse freedom, hang with friends, enjoy the vistas, incredible animals, strange beauty of the woods and most important nobody gets to wake your ass up.


      OK I made a mistake I updated a post above in case some of you missed it!

      [IMG:http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/25/Freedom_of_Thought_Ben_Franklin.jpg]
      Why question the intentions of a road-crossing chicken?

      The post was edited 1 time, last by Wise Old Owl ().

    • WiseOldOwl wrote:

      Part of the experience is not only enjoying the hike and talking with folks along the way or at the shelter - but due to my snoring past - I plan to disappear deep well off the trail and not on some ridge freezing my butt off in the wind. Last year we carpooled with a bunch of guys and enjoyed the comraderie - but one of us ran ahead and we never saw him till the end of the trip & the best part - cant remember the ass. The rest of the hikers will be a fond memory for the rest of my life, we got to know a little about each other.

      Stealth sleeping allows more diverse freedom, enjoy the vistas, incredible animals, strange beauty of the woods and most important nobody gets to wake your ass up.

      [IMG:http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/25/Freedom_of_Thought_Ben_Franklin.jpg]



      Woo, seeing interesting wildlife is one of the benefits :) Last year in SNP, I had walked til sundown and went offtrail alittle to sleep for the night. As i started placing my tarp a deer appeared a few feet away. Throughout the course of bedding down for the evening, my new found companion would graze and walk away, then graze right back up to the tarp. We talked awhile, the sun disappeared, it was a wonderful day in the woods :)
    • TrafficJam wrote:

      It seems to me that stealth camping has less impact on the environment than overused campsites.

      This is true TJ, depending on the responsibility of the stealth campers. Generally, all I have encountered over the years are respectful and LNT. Hey, thats why we stealth :) On the AT with thousands rolling thru every year, concentrating all of these hikers into designated spots is IMO SMART. Imagine the potential chaos, alot of these people have never even hiked before.
    • TrafficJam wrote:

      I'm prepping for my first stealth experience and just had my tent altered to make it less noticeable :) . I never stray very far from the trail because I'm afraid that I'll fall or get lost. What can I do to make sure that I find my way back to the trail the next morning? Should I even be concerned about that?


      As others have mentioned -- it's rarely necessary to go more than a few dozen feet from the trail. As you leave the trail, keep looking back over your shoulder and try to remember the view leading back towards the trail. Maybe pitch the tent to face in that direction. Remember your site's orientation relative to the trail.

      Once you pick the site, maybe walk back and forth between tentsite and trail once or twice. Generally a site that's suitable for camping won't be super-dense with vegetation, so the trail won't be completely obscured (and neither will you.)
    • July wrote:

      TrafficJam wrote:

      It seems to me that stealth camping has less impact on the environment than overused campsites.

      This is true TJ, depending on the responsibility of the stealth campers. Generally, all I have encountered over the years are respectful and LNT. Hey, thats why we stealth :) On the AT with thousands rolling thru every year, concentrating all of these hikers into designated spots is IMO SMART. Imagine the potential chaos, alot of these people have never even hiked before.


      its a double edged sword. the shelters and sites this spring were overcrowded and filthy. to some extent, if you tore down the shelters and went to dispersed camping , it would keep a lot of wannabe hikers away. its good to keep the impact limited, but i dont see how the southern at can survive if it keeps on getting more crowded.when i came off the bmt and hit the at at davenport gap, i was almost overwhelmed with how crowded the sites were, sometimes upwards of 30+ at a few shelters
      its all good
    • rafe wrote:

      TrafficJam wrote:

      I'm prepping for my first stealth experience and just had my tent altered to make it less noticeable :) . I never stray very far from the trail because I'm afraid that I'll fall or get lost. What can I do to make sure that I find my way back to the trail the next morning? Should I even be concerned about that?


      As others have mentioned -- it's rarely necessary to go more than a few dozen feet from the trail. As you leave the trail, keep looking back over your shoulder and try to remember the view leading back towards the trail. Maybe pitch the tent to face in that direction. Remember your site's orientation relative to the trail.

      Once you pick the site, maybe walk back and forth between tentsite and trail once or twice. Generally a site that's suitable for camping won't be super-dense with vegetation, so the trail won't be completely obscured (and neither will you.)


      Rasty wrote:

      I like to just find a flat spot about 40 feet off the trail. The next morning you'd have no idea I was ever there.


      Guys loiter, stray, find an exciting spot that nobody would pitch a tent at. 100 yards away! Use your imagination.

      I camped here when I was 15-or 16 just above the head and woke up to sheep...my dad and I were gone because they woke us up...baaaaaa....

      [IMG:http://www.historic-uk.com/assets/Images/whitehorseuffinghamPD.jpg?1390900654]
      Why question the intentions of a road-crossing chicken?
    • hikerboy wrote:

      July wrote:

      TrafficJam wrote:

      It seems to me that stealth camping has less impact on the environment than overused campsites.

      This is true TJ, depending on the responsibility of the stealth campers. Generally, all I have encountered over the years are respectful and LNT. Hey, thats why we stealth :) On the AT with thousands rolling thru every year, concentrating all of these hikers into designated spots is IMO SMART. Imagine the potential chaos, alot of these people have never even hiked before.


      its a double edged sword. the shelters and sites this spring were overcrowded and filthy. to some extent, if you tore down the shelters and went to dispersed camping , it would keep a lot of wannabe hikers away. its good to keep the impact limited, but i dont see how the southern at can survive if it keeps on getting more crowded.when i came off the bmt and hit the at at davenport gap, i was almost overwhelmed with how crowded the sites were, sometimes upwards of 30+ at a few shelters



      Yes hb, during the spring rush, crazy crowded. I have seen a couple shelter locations relocated or eliminated over time. Allowing for the area to heal. This takes years, if not decades. What you have to consider is that when accessing a heavily trafficked shelter, if you close it, where will the impact fall. You are correct.. overcrowded and filthy, but, this is where the peeps want to stay, eat,and talk. Keep it concentrated. This gives the 'crowd' a plan. Also popular areas such as GSMNP, obviously have started to tighten regulations as to registration and permits. As you referenced the Southern AT, a hiker hates to fill forms and pay fees...but, things don't need to run amuck. Crowd control, now everybody's wantin' to Hike :D
    • July wrote:

      hikerboy wrote:

      July wrote:

      TrafficJam wrote:

      It seems to me that stealth camping has less impact on the environment than overused campsites.

      This is true TJ, depending on the responsibility of the stealth campers. Generally, all I have encountered over the years are respectful and LNT. Hey, thats why we stealth :) On the AT with thousands rolling thru every year, concentrating all of these hikers into designated spots is IMO SMART. Imagine the potential chaos, alot of these people have never even hiked before.


      its a double edged sword. the shelters and sites this spring were overcrowded and filthy. to some extent, if you tore down the shelters and went to dispersed camping , it would keep a lot of wannabe hikers away. its good to keep the impact limited, but i dont see how the southern at can survive if it keeps on getting more crowded.when i came off the bmt and hit the at at davenport gap, i was almost overwhelmed with how crowded the sites were, sometimes upwards of 30+ at a few shelters



      Yes hb, during the spring rush, crazy crowded. I have seen a couple shelter locations relocated or eliminated over time. Allowing for the area to heal. This takes years, if not decades. What you have to consider is that when accessing a heavily trafficked shelter, if you close it, where will the impact fall. You are correct.. overcrowded and filthy, but, this is where the peeps want to stay, eat,and talk. Keep it concentrated. This gives the 'crowd' a plan. Also popular areas such as GSMNP, obviously have started to tighten regulations as to registration and permits. As you referenced the Southern AT, a hiker hates to fill forms and pay fees...but, things don't need to run amuck. Crowd control, now everybody's wantin' to Hike :D


      I understand both sides of this issue. HB says if you tear down the shelters it will keep away a lot of wanna-be hikers. Staying in shelters eased my way into hiking and I might never have tried it without them...who knows? In the past year, I've realized that I don't like being around a lot of people when I'm out in the woods. I want more people to get out and hike but I don't want them out there when I'm hiking...I'm a hypocrite. I will likely never thru-hike the AT, the crowds would get old real fast.
      In life there are no limitations. Except stupidity. If you're stupid, you're screwed.

      Stephan Pastis
    • TrafficJam wrote:

      I'm prepping for my first stealth experience and just had my tent altered to make it less noticeable :) . I never stray very far from the trail because I'm afraid that I'll fall or get lost. What can I do to make sure that I find my way back to the trail the next morning? Should I even be concerned about that?


      Leave a trail of bread crumbs.
      I may grow old but I'll never grow up.