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The Ultimate Guide to Stealth Camping: Tips and Essential Gear

Stealth Camping

There are so many different types of camping that it can begin to get confusing when you hear new terms. One of the terms you may have come across in your camping research is ‘stealth camping’.  But what exactly is stealth camping, and why would someone want to do it?

Essentially, stealth camping is the act of setting up camp in a location that’s not designated for camping and remaining undetected. The purpose of stealth camping is to achieve free camping and to have a more secluded and off-grid camping experience, but it can be a challenging experience. So, let’s get into our ultimate guide!

Essential Gear for Stealth Camping:

A lightweight tent
A lightweight sleeping bag
A camping stove
An emergency first-aid kit
High-energy food packs
Waste removal equipment

What is Stealth Camping?

Stealth camping is fairly similar to wild camping, and it entails setting up a camp in a well-hidden area to avoid detection. The essence of stealth camping lies in its name – it’s all about being stealthy, blending into your surroundings and leaving no trace of your presence once you move on.

This form of camping is often favoured by those seeking a truly off-the-beaten-path experience, away from crowded campsites and into the heart of nature. However, it’s critical to bear in mind the importance of respecting private property, local laws, and the environment when undertaking this adventurous style of camping.

What is the Difference Between Stealth Camping and Wild Camping?

If you read the definition of stealth camping, you may have noticed that it’s quite similar to wild camping. However, although the two terms are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between the two.

Stealth camping is essentially wild camping, but without anyone knowing where you are or being able to detect you. With wild camping, you’re not actively trying to be undetected.

Wild camping
The Ultimate Guide to Stealth Camping: Tips and Essential Gear

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Types of Stealth Camping

There are a couple of different types of stealth camping that you can engage in. One is much more popular in the UK, but both are equally considered to be stealthy and allow you to avoid costly campsite fees.

Tent Stealth Camping

This is the most popular form of stealth camping in the UK, and it involves finding a suitable location off the beaten track to set up camp outside of a campsite in a tent – hence the name tent stealth camping.

Van Stealth Camping

It’s also possible to be a stealth camper in a van. A converted van is most commonly used for this kind of stealth camping, but you can also use a camper van if you prefer. Using a van will provide you with more security than a tent would. However, they are also less discreet.

When using a van to stealth camp, you can make use of overnight parking, urban areas, truck stops, and even residential streets to hide in plain sight so-to-speak. To avoid attracting attention to your van, you have to make sure you don’t park in the same spot repeatedly.

Van camping
The Ultimate Guide to Stealth Camping: Tips and Essential Gear

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The Legality of Stealth Camping in the UK

One of the most important things to know about stealth camping is that it’s not entirely legal in the UK. This is because all land in the UK is owned by someone. To stealth camp legally, you must gain permission from the landowner before you decide to camp on their land.

With that being said, there are a few exceptions that still permit people to stealth camp in certain areas of the UK, including some areas of Dartmoor and the Scottish Highlands. 

The Dartmoor National Park camping map highlights the areas where stealth camping (or wild camping) is permitted, including Merrivale Range. Be sure to check it out the plan where you legally can and cannot go. 

Camping at dartmoor
The Ultimate Guide to Stealth Camping: Tips and Essential Gear

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How to Choose a Location for Your Stealth Camping Trip

Executing a successful stealth camping trip centres around selecting the ideal location that’s accessible and allows you to be hidden from people who may be walking past. When you’re looking for a spot to set up camp, look out for the following:

Top Tips for Choosing a Stealth Camping Location
Is the spot hidden?
Is the ground level?
Is the ground free of obstructions?
What’s above?
Is there a water source nearby?
Is it private?

Is the Camping Spot Hidden?

Look for a secluded area that’s nestled amidst a lush canopy of trees or dense bushes, ensuring it remains hidden from view and completely shielded from any nearby paths or trails.

Is the Ground Level?

It’s crucial to ensure that your chosen area is sufficiently flat and level. This will prevent any unnecessary struggles or difficulties that may arise during the camp setup process.

Is the Ground Free of Obstructions? 

It’s advisable to avoid setting up your camp on soft and unstable ground, as well as areas abundant with rocks, roots, or branches. These conditions may compromise the stability and overall comfort of your camping experience. A tent footprint can provide some protection.

What’s Above? 

You should always be on the lookout for potential hazards that could jeopardise your safety and equipment. Keep an eye out for any dead trees that might pose a risk of falling or low-hanging branches that could cause damage. Stay alert to stay safe!

Is there a Water Source Nearby? 

When engaging in stealth camping, which typically entails staying off-grid and out of sight, it becomes vital to have access to a nearby running water source. This ensures you have the necessary means for cooking your meals and maintaining cleanliness throughout your trip..

Is it the Area Private? 

Ideally, when choosing a camping spot, avoid areas frequently traversed by other campers or hikers. After all, the whole point of stealth camping is to be undetected!

But remember, you should always camp in a legal location.

Camping in woodland
The Ultimate Guide to Stealth Camping: Tips and Essential Gear

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Skills Needed for Stealth Camping

Stealth camping is a very niche type of camping that requires a separate set of skills compared to traditional camping. Some important skills for stealth camping include

Stealth Camping SkillsWhy They’re Useful
Navigational skillsWith no designated campsite, you’ll need to be able to find your way around with maps and a compass. 
Survival skillsWhen you’re out in nature, things don’t always go to plan. You’ll need basic survival skills to fall back on, such as how to find water, start a fire, and build shelter.
Stealth camping specific skillsStealth camping is all about remaining undetected and hidden. You’ll need to know how to hide your camp from view to avoid being caught where you shouldn’t be.
An understanding of the areaWherever you choose to make camp, you’ll need to understand the area. This can help you find water, understand any environmental hazards, and know local laws. 
The ability to leave no traceAs the saying goes – “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints.” You must be able to leave your camp exactly as you found it, even if you have to leave in a hurry.

Essential Gear for Stealth Campers

When it comes to stealth camping, there are a few essential gear that you’ll need. There’s a lot of crossover with traditional camping gear. However, since stealth camping entails staying off-grid and out of sight, some additional items may come in handy.

A Lightweight Tent

A lightweight tent is an essential piece of gear when it comes to tent stealth camping. Choose a tent that’s built to withstand the elements and provide enough space for you and your belongings. Look out for tents with good ventilation to prevent condensation build-up while remaining discreet.

Blending into your surroundings is also paramount when stealth camping, so opting for a tent with a camo tone, such as the 2F UL GEAR Lanshan 3-season tent, can help your stealth camp remain undetected.

A tent tarp can add another layer of privacy and seclusion to your set-up. The DD Hammocks 3×3 Tarp in multi-camo is excellent. It comes with 19 reinforced attachment points, so there are lots of setup options. It blends in really well with mountainous and woodland terrain. 

Sleeping Bag

A warm and comfortable sleeping bag is crucial when camping in any setting, including stealth camping. 

Look for lightweight, compact options that won’t weigh your pack down. Our favourites include the NatureHike CWM400 Ultralight Down Sleeping Bag, which is ideal for warmer locations and weighs 790g, and the Bushmen Walker Sleeping Bag, which offers thermal comfort of up to 16 degrees and weighs only 880g.

Camping Stove

When you choose to set up camp off-grid, it means camping with only your own resources. That’s why it’s essential to bring your own camping stove and fuel. When selecting a stove for stealth camping, choose one that is compact, lightweight and easy to use.

We recommend the BCB Wild Compact Cooking Set, which contains everything you need to set up a functional camp stove, including a folding cooker, windbreaker, cutlery, a compass, and a fire starter.

The JetBoil Stash Lightweight Cooking System is another great option to keep weight down and easily store all your cooking essentials. With a rapid 2.5-minute boil time and the ability to be packed away into itself, you’ll have no problem staying fueled while stealth camping.

Emergency First Aid Kit

Emergency survival kit
The Ultimate Guide to Stealth Camping: Tips and Essential Gear

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As we’ve mentioned a few times, when you’re stealth camping, there’s no one but you around, even near recreational areas and public lands. This means you’re responsible for your own health and safety. Having a fully stocked emergency first aid kit or survival kit is essential!

We recommend the BCB Elite Explorer’s Kit to provide you with everything you might need in an emergency. This is one of the biggest first-aid kits you can take, but this is an area where you shouldn’t scrimp to save weight or space. This kit contains everything from bandages and dressings to a multitool, thermometer, compass, and survival instructions.

If you want to add to this exhaustive kit, we recommend the Highlander Emergency Marine Whistle to draw attention if you need to and the Highlander Emergency Survival Bag to give you an increased chance of survival if you get injured.

High Energy Food

Unless you’re planning on hunting or foraging for your food, you’ll need to take all your meals with you. In fact, even if you plan on hunting or foraging for food, taking some emergency packs is a good idea in case you don’t get lucky.

To make your stealth camping trip as simple as possible, there are plenty of high-energy, nutritiously rich, dehydrated meals that you can pack. Our favourite brands include Firepot, which specialises in savoury meals, and Summit To Eat, which offers a variety of savoury and sweet meals.

If you’re not a fan of dehydrated expedition meals, you can prepare your own meals in Heat2Eat steamer boxes. This system offers flameless food heating, which can be a great way to avoid darling attention to your stealth camp. This is a suitable option if you’re doing a single overnight camping trip where refrigeration isn’t required.

Waste Removal Equipment

No trace stealth camping
The Ultimate Guide to Stealth Camping: Tips and Essential Gear

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Finally, the main principle of stealth camping is to leave no trace. This means you need a means of removing your waste when you leave your stealth camp, and we’re not just talking about your rubbish.

When you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta go, but you need to be responsible with the clean up. The two most common ways stealth campers deal with the issue of waste is with poop bags (yes, like a dog) or by burying their waste.

At Wood To Water, we’d recommend utilising poop bags to dispose of your waste when you leave your stealth camp, although it’s important to take precautions when handling human excrement, so make sure you have plenty of soap, hand gel and even gloves.

If you do want to bury your waste instead, you’ll need something to dig with. We recommend the Kombat UK Entrenching Tool for the job. Just make sure you properly cover your waste, as it is a biohazard.

Remember, you might have to trek to a suitable stealth camping spot, so you’ll want to keep your kit as light as possible. Pack smart.

Advance Your Adventures With Stealth Camping

Stealth camping, with its emphasis on seclusion and minimal environmental impact, is an adventure that requires careful preparation and a set of specific skills. Not only are navigational and survival skills crucial, but adherence to the ‘Leave No Trace’ principles are paramount. Remember, the key to successful stealth camping is packing smart and staying as lightweight as possible.

So, get ready to embark on an intimate journey with nature and start building your stealth camping kit with Wood To Water today!


Is Stealth Camping Illegal in the UK?

Stealth camping and wild camping in the UK are illegal if you are camping on someone’s land unknowingly. There are some areas in the UK where stealth or wild camping is permitted, such as Dartmoor and the Scottish Highlands. 

What Gear Do I Need for Stealth Camping?

The essential gear for stealth camping includes a lightweight tent, warm sleeping bag, camping stove, emergency first aid kit, high-energy food and waste removal equipment.

Additionally, tools like a compass, fire starter, and survival instructions can be crucial. Because stealth campers are off the beaten track, they need to make sure they have everything they need with them.

What are the ‘Leave No Trace’ Principles in Stealth Camping?

The ‘Leave No Trace’ principles involve leaving the camping site exactly as you found it, i.e., taking all your waste with you, not causing damage to the environment, and not disrupting the natural habitat. You should take every precaution to protect the land you choose to camp on.

Can I Cook While Stealth Camping?

Yes, you can cook while stealth camping. However, since stealth camping involves staying off the grid, it’s essential to bring your own camping stove and fuel. It’s also a good idea to bring high-energy, dehydrated meals for easy cooking. Make sure your heat source isn’t damaging to the local area and is controlled at all times.

What Should I Do if I Get Injured While Stealth Camping?

Having a fully stocked first aid kit is essential when you’re stealth camping. In case of emergencies, you should have bandages, dressings, a multitool, a thermometer, a compass, survival instructions, and other necessary items to deal with any injuries. You should also make sure you have a charged phone and someone who knows where you are and when you should be back.

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