Not much beats stealth camping. Variously called wild camping or even ‘gramping’ (guerilla camping), stealth camping involves a quick and surruptitious overnight stay with quick exit the next morning – with the minimum of disturbance.
At this time of year the weather can be mixed and on top of busy lives, full weekends away don’t always work out. What better then that an impromptu overnighter ? Just chuck some bedding and other essentials into the camper van and take off when the weather looks good or the mood takes you.
My son and I did just this last night. The chances of seeing the northern lights looked promising, it was a gloriously starry night and we left the girls polishing their nails and watching ‘X Factor’. Off to do “boy stuff”.
As it turned out we didn’t go far, just 3 miles as the crow flies. We checked out the stars at a couple of locations up in the Perthshire hills and then eventually parked up beside a single track road far away from streetlights, houses and other vehicles. Apart from some distant fireworks ‘below’ us the night was crisp, dark and still.
We didn’t really have a plan. I’d some possible parking spots in mind within a 10-mile radius but we just went with the flow, looking for somewhere with a good clear view of the northern horizon. (As it turned out, the solar terrestrial activity, which had been bordering ‘minor storm’ level all day subsided about 6pm. We we went out anyway hoping for an upturn which unfortunately never came). We took (poor) photos, played cards and board games, snacked and drank hot chocolate – and had a great evening.
Morning brought bright sunshine, the sun just rising above the hills by 9am. It had been a distinctly cold night – just below freezing – and everything was white by the time the sun woke up. We found ourselves with a view of no less than six snow-capped munros. Sometimes with stealth camping the view the next morning can be a real surprise.
I like having the freedom to go away for some stealth camping. Staying on formal campsites has a very different appeal and definitely doesn’t have the same sense of freedom. However, there are some important ‘do’s’ and ‘don’ts’ worth bearing in mind:
- Make sure you leave no trace
- Find a location to camp where you can be as unobtrusive as possible – avoiding drawing attention to yourself and not spoiling others’ enjoyment of the outdoors
- Respect and be considerate to others living or temporarily staying nearby
- Try to stake out your proposed camping place in advance, ideally in daylight – plan ahead (I use Google Earth if I haven’t had a chance to see the location myself).
- Leave litter, make a noise, slam doors all night …
- Obstruct entrance ways, fields and so on
- Overstay your welcome.
I’ve found some great places for stealth camping in Scotland. Fortunately, given the low population density north and south of the Central Belt (and with some research in advance) you can fairly easily find a spot on a quiet country lane that’s not going to annoy others. However, I have to say I’ve also seen where it most definitely doesn’t work – for example, seeing a monstrous white motorhome sticking out like a sore thumb on the treeless Destitution Road on the way to Poolewe in the Highlands.
Last night a grand total of three vehicles passed us on the single track road: a very quiet and unobtrusive spot. So I’ll definitely be stopping here and other places again …. but considering my impact on the environment and others very carefully.