new videos
hot off the press!  
    more about rocket
mass heaters here.

more videos from
the PDC here.
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic

Avoiding camping fees  RSS feed

 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
Posts: 6672
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
252
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
       I have a camper van and usually when I'm traveling I have no desire to pay for a place to sleep.    I've found numerous ways to avoid going to campgrounds while also dodging the authorities. I live in a semi-wilderness area so am more likely to camp while in the city or along the highway.


    Camping in front of single-family housing will always draw attention. I usually look for a quiet spot near an apartment building. These people get lots of visitors and nobody keeps track of whose vehicle belongs where. I usually try to pick spots which are near an all-night convenience store or a Starbucks so we'll have an early morning bathroom close at hand.


      When camping in large cities I simply locate railway tracks on the map and drive there. Invariably these tracks are surrounded by industrial land where a camper would look out of place. But as you drive out of this industrial area there are generally residential neighborhoods which also have small businesses associated. There's usually a guy who collects old boats, campers and buses. These things are parked all over the road and he's probably getting plenty of letters from the city already. I simply park in amongst this stuff and have never been bothered by the police. I'm sure that everyone just figures that he's at it again. When traveling to Vancouver with my kids we slept in that sort of spot many times but since I wake up earlier than they do I would always drive to a nice park so the girls could wake up in front of the washrooms.

     Secretly camping is more difficult in small towns where the cops can be annoying since they don't have a lot of other things to do. I live on the coast so my number one trick is to park in a ferry line up in the evening. Then half an hour before the ferry opens for business in the morning I change my mind .    When far from the coast I've often pulled into a tire repair place and then let most of the air out of one tire. They've checked me out but never bugged me when I do that.

    In the Yukon it's difficult to find shade since the trees are scrawny and the sun comes up at 3 AM in the summer. I took to camping under giant mining equipment which people park on the side of the highway covered in for-sale signs. This gave the needed shade and cover from nosy authorities. These big hunks of metal also get quite warm during summer days and I avoided frosty windows by parking real close.

   Any other ideas for vehicle camping?
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
289
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
When I had a camper van, if I couldn't find a nice secluded spot to park, I'd often pull into the parking lot of a Motel 6.  Nobody thinks twice about a vehicle parked there all night.  There's usually a diner next door too.
 
Pat Black
Posts: 123
Location: Northern New Mexico, USA
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
It's usually not the nicest spot, but you can overnight at almost any Walmart.

www.freecampgrounds.com is a good resource.

Some neighborhoods have houses behind tall courtyard walls. You can overnight on the street without being noticed by people in the houses.


 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
Posts: 1422
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
17
  • Likes 3
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I am a huge fan of Loves truck stops - or any other major truck stop.

They want you to stay overnight.
Often free WiFi.
Clean bathrooms.
24 hour coffee.
Major truck stops usually have huge hot showers for 10 bucks - very clean - and couples often shower together for one fee.
Security cameras.
No campground BS in the middle of the night.  Truckers are there to sleep.

I just try to buy gas or even just a cup of coffee for the priviledge.  I prefer a large major chain truck stop to any other option.  You can find several different mapping options to plan for major truck stops on your route.  Don't park in the middle of the trucks but look for the gathering of RVs and vans - it is often not designated but early in the afternoon you will see a couple and by the time you wake up you are surrounded by vans, RVs and even people sleeping in cars.  I have never been to one that was noisy - everyone just wants to get some sleep.

Safer than a Walmart parking lot and so much easier to find than a campground.  You know if you are on the interstate that there is going to be one - often less than 30 minutes from any destination you may have.
 
jacque greenleaf
pollinator
Posts: 489
Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
2
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Actually, in lots of towns, there are ordinances against overnight parking and if a Walmart is in one of those towns, they will enforce the local ordinance. Too many commercial campgrounds saw the free offer from Walmart as competition. Which is silly - people looking for free spots to overnight are not going to give up on the idea and pay the RV park rates.

What you are doing is called stealth camping (in urban areas) and boondocking (in rural areas). Google either of those, and lots of stuff will pop up. Also, the car living folks have a lot of good hints too.

The trick with stealth camping is to look as little like a camper as possible - a cargo van is less noticeable than a camper van.

And don't forget about the rest areas along major highways. The cops want you to stop and sleep, rather than drive! You can't set up a tent, but sleeping in your vehicle is perfectly OK.
 
Suzy Bean
pollinator
Posts: 940
Location: Stevensville, MT
12
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
My friend and I did rest stop car-camping for awhile and were just fine. Just be sure to look for signs that either say "No overnighting" or say a 6-12 hour limit for how long you can stay. I know in Oregon, especially if you showed up for more than a few nights and had a memorable vehicle, the police would pay attention.
 
Dale Hodgins
garden master
Posts: 6672
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
252
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
      My friend had a large vehicle that was formerly used for delivering potato chips. He built a nice bachelor apartment inside and made it accessible from the cab. It looked like any other big delivery truck from the outside. He put a couple little Windows with two-way mirrored glass so he could see the world but the world couldn't see him. He lived in the city of Victoria BC with this thing. This saved him about $600 per month and whenever he needed a big truck for work purposes he rearranged his stuff to only occupy about 1/5 of this space and then put up a sectional plywood barrier to keep his personal stuff clean.
 
Matthew Fallon
Posts: 308
Location: long island, ny Z-7a
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
nearly all my stealth camping has been done with a  hammock-tent.
it s very small and concealable (about the size of a 2 coffee mugs.) weighs about a pound or so. and is green so blends into the surrounding brush well.
if i need to rest and its warm weather (no need for sleeping bag/blanket) i look for a place with a little wooded area and just hang it up really low to the ground, maybe a few inches off it. make sure the cars not illegally parked, or if on a parkway etc i've put a note on windshield saying"went for gas" and then just camp in woods beside it a bit up,bring my 1 gal can and hammock-tent goes in backpack with maybe a water etc...much more comfy than reclining the drivers seat...
i have a station wagon now and the back seats fold down flat for a 4x6'6 area. always keep a little air matress in the floor storage,..itd really help if my windows were tinted out though.
 
Len Ovens
pollinator
Posts: 1452
Location: Vancouver Island
29
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Suzy Bean wrote:
My friend and I did rest stop car-camping for awhile and were just fine. Just be sure to look for signs that either say "No overnighting" or say a 6-12 hour limit for how long you can stay. I know in Oregon, especially if you showed up for more than a few nights and had a memorable vehicle, the police would pay attention.

Yup rest stops work good for single nights stay... you pay for them by moving to another each day. They say no camping... this means (according to the trooper we asked) "no tent" So you can sleep in your vehicle or even lay your sleeping bag on the ground (we were biking)... just watch out for the sprinklers at 6am! I Canada (at least BC) you can use any pull out up to 6 hours... again no camping and I am not sure what they would say about the sleeping bag on the ground, though "to tired to drive/ride" is a good reason in most officers eyes... the only thing to realise is that the same officer tends to patrol the same road, so they might suggest you plan better by the 10th time they see the same person. Though the reply "I'm a business traveller just as a truck and this is part of my route" might be ok.

Not quite free... a parking pass for a marina is as low as $25 a year... just need a boat trailer or rack (no boat). Park as long as you like. In my case, I spent a few months in my work parking lot... they even supplied my power... and a warm shower in the morning. I was in a 1/2 ton van.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4434
Location: North Central Michigan
10
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
disabled people can get a free pass to national parks by going in and filling out an application.

we camped all over the u p and Canada in a motor home by just pulling off the road where there was a turn off for a creek, river, etc..

also if you know where you are going on a trip you could contact friends ..even forum friends, where you  might be going thru and ask if you could pull onto their property with your camper or tent and spend the night
 
Andrew Ray
Posts: 165
Location: Slovakia
1
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I second the cargo van idea.  Because of visa issues I had to leave the EU a few weeks before my wedding.  My then fiancee and I parked by a field on a dirt road to a small village in Ukraine.  The lady who came to dig potatoes the next day told us that people in the village had wondered who was parking in the field, but seemed more amused that an American and his Slovak fiancee would be camping there than anything else.

Side roads are definitely good and at least in eastern europe are pretty common off the side of highways.  Ultimately we found a penzion where I could stay and she went back to Slovakia, but it wasn't possible for me to stay there the first night, so I just parked the van in a street with apartments that had good internet access, rigged up towels and blankets to keep out light, and no-one was the wiser.

I don't know about other vans, but the VW Transporter T4 can drive up some really rough dirt roads without a problem...
 
Chad Ellis
Posts: 68
Location: Oklahoma City, OK
11
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have found the late arrival/early morning departure almost always avoids the collecting state park ranger.
 
Bella Donawitz
Posts: 15
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
As young females in our early 20's we'd trade 'adult treats' to resort staff for work shirts and name tags.
We'd then use all the facilities for none of the cost.
We saw a lot of awesome resorts for no money.

The closes we came to getting kicked out was when someone notice my name tag didn't match my ethnicity and I lied and said I'd borrowed my roomies.
I had to clean an entire floor with the staff.
 
Lloyd George
Posts: 159
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Big fooferaw with the Bureaurats here..no camping without a permit to operate a campground...they tried to pinch a farmer here who has a camper, that he lets a friend use like two nights a year...(in the middle of nowhere) Then come to find out the BSA camps on farmland here! OMG NOOOOOOOOO! So the twit in charge told the planning commission that they were concerned about runoff from latrines....bugger..

My letter to the editor...which also landed in front of twit in question, and the planning commission, asked about what we could do about the amount of runoff that already exists in this county, from several thousand deer, goats, sheep, rabbits, wild turkeys, bears, cattle, chickens, hogs, etc, how many tons of Glyphosphate salt, dimethylamine, 2-4D, high notrogen fertilizer, etc, were pumped ionto the environment every year? And in their opinion, did a little boy scout poop do more damage?

These morons stated that one cannot even pitch a tent on ones lawn (again, out in the sticks) for your kids to sleep outside)

The bureaurats got really quiet when all the farmers in the county, as a group said..."uh...no."

Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose, I guess.
 
Kari Gunnlaugsson
pollinator
Posts: 308
8
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
Van. Ladder rack. Put a ladder on it...makes a huge difference. Once you get to know a town, there are often little unregulated, unsigned parking oasis sprinkled around...I like side streets next to parks or if you're really lucky a commercial industrial area next to a park.

Do not light up the woodstove in your van while in the city. I suppose it goes without saying, but perhaps i can save one other goofball from a hassle.

Also, do not attempt driving over 30km / h without fully extinguishing your van woodstove...certain downdraft, smoke filled van, and abrubt stop with smoke billowing out of doors will attract attention.

If you are without a vehicle and stealth camping in the urban environment consider climbing, if you have the skills and ability and some common sense. I would carry a light rope to allow me to free climb without the pack and then haul it up after me (tidy up all those tangly buckles first). I have found rooftops to be a very low hassle, very safe and secure environment...the more technical the climb the less chance of disturbance, and it's fun, just don't bounce, ok?

Plus one for the guy who uses the hennesey hammock...they are great for being lightweight and easily deployed on rough sloping terrain..love mine..

Regarding sleeping in the ferry line up...do not rely on the ferry traffic as an alarm clock...after a particularly exhausting shift of work with very little sleep i unrolled my thermarest right by the passenger entrance / ticket window of horseshoe bay, certain i would catch the first sailing, and managed to sleep through all of the foot traffic and loading, and missed the boat. You would think someone could have woken me up...

Golf courses, large parks and orchards are tempting but can be a bad rest....there is nothing worse than to be woken by the sound of the automatic sprinklers coming on all around you and beginning to sweep...and the groggy stumblebutt fumbling while getting out of sleeping bag, grabbing gear and dodging your way through the dark midnight water park fun.

Have fun everyone, and be safe! Having a home is ok, but i miss the road a lot sometimes...
 
Mark Phillips
Posts: 28
Location: Utah
  • Likes 1
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
I have lived in a RV, Tent or Trailer most of my life and have also done all of the stealth camping described above (Great Advice, Some I Never Realized) however I have a few suggestions as well.

I learned early on that approaching the police is easier than dealing with them later (unless your a fugitive lOL)

I was stuck one day waiting for a western union (last paycheck) so I stopped a officer and explained that I just needed a place to park for the night until the western union office opened and I would be on my way. He was very gracious and told me about a nearby pond and vacant lot on his beat and that I was welcome to park there for the night provided I was gone by 7am (when his shift ended). After realizing this might be a good approach I began stopping in small town USA and going right to the sheriffs office or police station and never once got turned away. Some instances I even parked right there in front of the station or in their parking lot.

Later in life I became a minister and realized how many small poor churches needed repairs they could not afford. Being a contractor and RV Tech by trade I decided (My new wife and I) to go on a sort of mission. We crossed the US from PA to Florida to California and back stopping along the way and offering to help out and all we asked for in exchange was a extension cord and parking space. It was quite gratifying to be able to help so many small churches along our way from building puppet stages for youth ministry to repairing leaky faucets and sinks and we met a huge variety of great people doing it.

We even got invited many times to home cooked dinners and pot luck dinners just to socialize. In some areas I went to work at a local RV shop or temporary labor (me and the wife) for travel cash and simply traded a days work on Saturday generally mowing a lawn or fixing some small problem in trade for a weeks stay. When we had long hauls to make 99% of the small churches have the pastors name right on the sign and a simple call to his / her home asking permission to park there over night was more than adequate and even though I offered many said no need to do anything just feel free to park there for the evening.

Granted we did occasionally run into some churches that was not as hospitable, some even down right rude but normally that was not the case and after 2-3 calls we had permission. And by the way 90% of the time they never even knew I was a minister we didn't want to make them feel like that was some kind of leverage and the few that did find out was surprised because unless it came up in conversation we just never offered the information so even a regular non clergy person could do this as well.

Another place if your in a camper / trailer is RV repair shops. The large dealerships do not even notice your there because most do not open until 8-9am and if your a early riser like me your gone before the doors open and seeing a trailer or camper parked in the lot is not uncommon.

Also fairgrounds and flea markets normally have a parking area for vendors that stay over night and we have found a few remote ones that offer hookup for as little as 5.00 for a rented table with showers and restrooms. I am a pack rat and up-cycler so even if we didn't intend to use the table and donated the receipt to a person who was looking for a table... We often spent the weekends selling stuff I had accumulated along the way and socialized with buyers who also told us about great boon docking and free campsites they knew about.

We currently live in a combination RV Park / Hotel and my wife works as a housekeeper with the first 12 hrs a week going to trade for full hook up. a 400.00 per month + tax normal value. And we have worked at other campsites like this as well. Simply ask and many will say yes... Most times to ride a lawn mower for a day, maybe clean up a bathroom or take out trash.

We once had a couple (To our surprise) that wanted a week off so badly they traded a week of just emptying the trash and cleaning the bathroom for a month free hookup. They had a drop box so all we did was stop and say hello to people coming in and explain the owners was away for a day or two to use the drop box and we would help them if they had any problems with hookups or needed anything for the restrooms or showers.

They had been so delighted we stayed a few months after that working in town and doing odd jobs once a week to trade for our spot.

The moral of my story is law enforcement can be your friend if you ask them before they stop you... Most churches will extend a hand if you ask and appreciate some help if they are in need and you feel good helping and most camp ground owners have a few odd jobs to trade for a night, week or even a month if you ask.

Good luck and happy boon docking
 
Kathy Burns-Millyard
Posts: 75
Location: Arizona low desert
2
  • Mark post as helpful
  • send pies
  • Quote
  • Report post to moderator
In the US you're allowed to camp on most federal lands for up to two weeks. You have to be a certain distance from improved campgrounds, animal watering holes and so on. We camped on blm land and in national forests for most of 2009 with just a jeep and cargo trailer.

Also used Walmart, rest areas and truck stops as needed. Not a big fan of using Walmart but it can come in handy. At the time Walmart policy was that campers/truckers were welcome at any of their locations across the country unless there was a sign posted otherwise in the lot. The only posting we found was in Sierra Vista Arizona. We assumed it was because of the proximity to the military base.
 
I will open the floodgates of his own worst nightmare! All in a tiny ad:
The Earth Sheltered Solar Greenhouse Book by Mike Oehler - digital download
https://permies.com/wiki/23444/digital-market/digital-market/Earth-Sheltered-Solar-Greenhouse-Book
  • Post Reply Bookmark Topic Watch Topic
  • New Topic
Boost this thread!