Camping Backcountry without a Permit

thickfreaknessthickfreakness Semo-Regulars
edited July 2011 in Life
I have been camping in state parks for about 3 years now, both camping at sites and camping backcountry, however, I have always paid for a permit when doing so. This summer I plan to make some trips to some state parks in the midwest, and honestly, I am sick of paying $15 a night for a campsite with electricity I don't even need and being right next to a family of 4. What I am asking is how possible is it for me to just hike a trail in one of these parks and simply camp off of the trail with no permit. When I say safety I am referring to park rangers and whatnot. I assume the chances that they would find you are low, but how late do they patrol the trails for usually? Since it's the woods I feel as though it would not be difficult to get away with, but I figured I would post here anyways for some extra advice.


  • edited May 2011
    I'm not sure what time they'd stop patrolling as I'm sure it varies depending on your location. However, when I was watching an urban exploration video the other day, the main guy said something like "..and it's about midnight now so there's no cops, no park rangers, etc". Seems like the later you leave it, the better. Why not go down there one night and see what time they pack up and leave?

    Also, hiding your tent wouldn't be hard. Just make sure it's away from the trail, hidden in the undergrowth and preferably covered in leaves/vines/stuff from your surroundings to help it blend in a little better. Don't make too much noise and I'm sure you'll be alright.
  • dr rockerdr rocker Regular
    edited May 2011
    American national parks are fucking huge, are they not?

    Best advice I could give is something a scene of crime officer told me years ago:

    'If its more than 150 yards from the nearest track, path, cutting or road, no one is going to find the body'.

    Walk off track and find a clearing and if you have a open fire, keep it small and not smokey. You should be fine.
  • SpiffSpiff Regular
    edited May 2011
    dr rocker wrote: »

    Walk off track and find a clearing and if you have a open fire, keep it small and not smokey. You should be fine.

  • LostInTheWoodsLostInTheWoods Regular
    edited May 2011
    Open flame or smoke will probably be what will give your location away, so keep it small as said by others.

    Or even better dig a hole for the firepit, also make sure to use as dry wood as possible and it should be almost smoke free.

    For real "stealth camping" an alcohol or gas burner for coocking is probably your best bet, no smoke or smell to worry about and very small flame.
  • fanglekaifanglekai Regular
    edited May 2011
    Don't forget that going off the trails into the middle of nowhere makes camping more dangerous. However, park rangers aren't around 24/7 in all the parks. There aren't enough rangers to patrol everywhere. If you camp in areas where people don't normally go you'll probably remain undetected. Dig a hole for your fire, build up a ring around it so the flames can't be seen. No one is going to notice smoke in the middle of nowhere at night if your fire is small. They might smell it, but they won't see it unless it's a bright night.

    Leave no trace. Always pick up after yourself.
  • thickfreaknessthickfreakness Semo-Regulars
    edited June 2011
    I figured that it would be relativity simple as long as I didn't have a fire or made much noise. To be honest one of the state parks I am thinking about is right near the beach of lake Michigan, and they have a camping area very close to the beach. It isn't that I don't want to pay for a campsite, (although I do think that paying $20 for a night where I bring everything is a bit absurd) it is just I would rather be away from the family of 4 who drove there in their Suburban SUV. I figured camping out of eyeshot of the closest campground trail would be acceptable for I would be close to water, and still have the desirable distance from the beach while I camped.

    Thanks a bunch for all the responses.
  • edited June 2011
    If you're actually considering building a fire, make sure it's in a fire pit with an air hole. I can't remember the name of the fire (pretty sure RemadE told me about it in another thread in this section) but it burns hot, the flames are in the pit so they can't be seen, and there's minimal smoke. Perfect solution.
  • dr rockerdr rocker Regular
    edited June 2011
    Rocket stove?

    [ame=""]Rocket stove - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia@@AMEPARAM@@/wiki/File:Rocket_stove.jpg" class="image"><img alt="" src=""@@AMEPARAM@@commons/thumb/6/69/Rocket_stove.jpg/220px-Rocket_stove.jpg[/ame]

    I throw one up with bricks in the garden sometimes when I am having a BBQ and want to make a tandoor oven. Obviously it looks a lot different to those cans in the wiki picture.

    that vid shows what I mean a bit better. You can dig one into the side of a bank of earth.
  • dr rockerdr rocker Regular
    edited June 2011
    Its called a Dakota fire hole, and they are great for under the radar camping. Just make sure you fill in the whole and such, the guide I linked is really good at telling you how to make it and cover it up afterwords.

    I was thinking of one of those - same principle - combustion sucking air directly to the part of the fire that needs it.
  • MeloncholyMeloncholy Regular
    edited June 2011
    I don't think it's worth worrying about too much. Obviously, try and hide your tent off the trail to avoid being seen but if you are noticed its not the end of the world. You just have to make out that it wasn't your intention all along to camp there, you just overestimated the distance between actual campsites, got lost or got caught out by nightfall. A ranger is only going to 'help' you in that situation; give you a lift to the nearest camp site or settlement.
  • RogueEagle91RogueEagle91 Regular
    edited June 2011
    Glad I stumbled across this thread. Been planning a back-country trip for a while. Never used a Dakota pit before. Always had a small burner with me. I'll have to test that out when I go next.

    Definitely go a solid distance from a trail. Can't honestly see a ranger trekking through the woods unless you're starting a fucking bonfire or screaming like an idiot.
  • edited June 2011
    If you like the Dakota fire pit, you should check out some other survival tips and tricks. There's a lot out there on building good fires, shelters, keeping warm and dry, etc. I think it makes things a little more fun and interesting if you get to try out some skills you've learned.
  • buddhabuddha Regular
    edited July 2011
    Pretty good suggestions so far.

    I do a LOT of camping in places you aren't allowed to. a few tips:

    Like has all ready been said, keep your fire small, and in a deep hole or fire ring so you can't see the flames.

    Don't light your fire till after sundown so no one will see the smoke.

    Don't set up camp till after sundown, and break camp at sun up, less likely to be noticed, people don't hike trails in the dark

    Check maps for the nearest BLM land, you can camp on it in any one place, a mile from any water source, for free, for up to 14 days at a time, legally, same for some national parks, do some research.

    Get a small tent that is easier to hide, color is obviously a huge consideration also.

    I used to camp around a lot of huge boulders, so I had a tent that was grey and pale blue, too bad it wore out, because they don't make them anymore. :(

    Clean up after yourself, you may need to camp there again.
  • RunScreamingRunScreaming Acolyte
    edited July 2011
    National Parks, State Parks, National Forests or what? BLM land? It's all different. Where you at man?
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