At the moment I am planning for a wintery trip to Dartmoor, surely one of the least friendly places to visit in February. As such this, and any trip for that matter, deserves proper planning.
And this brings me onto the subject of stealth camping as on this trip myself and my hiking companion will be bashaing up and going into stealth mood - to a lesser or greater extent.
|Stealth camp north downs way|
So how do we go about locating a good site for a stealth camp? Well a simple rule of thumb is look for somewhere as far away from people as possible ........ but its rarely that simple, indeed on one outing three of us once camping for the night in a birch wood located between a golf course and a housing estate! Another time myself and Steve got our heads down in a strip wood barely 100 meters wide between houses.
With that said the first thing I always do is a recce - time spent in recce is time seldom wasted, if your able to visit the area brilliant - pop down and do a walk through to get a feel for the lay of the land. Hike the trails there and see if you can evaluate how much human traffic there is. Look for the boots and paw prints of dog walkers - are the trails and paths over grown or well worn? Also consider your location from a on lookers prospective how easily would you be seen? Usually site location is a compromise the ideal site doesnt exist all we can do is make the best of what we have to work with.
|Stealth camp beside a wall with a road the other side - would you know that we were there?|
If we can find a location thats big enough for our camp - not close or over looked by foot paths and which offers our material needs (firewood and water) then we are lucky.
If we cant visit our potential site then a map recce is our next option. This can be done in advance ie before a trip, or as often happens with me while hiking during the day as we near the end of the hike. On a map recce I look for several things, firstly a decent sized lump of woodland. Secondly its location, this being as far from any property as possible. I look at the access points, is there one or twenty paths leading in and out? Also us the OS map to check out the foliage ........ is your wood decidious?? In winter it will be a bare arse place so better to find a pine wood or similar for example. Spend time on the map it will tell you a lot but also use modern media too - google earth the location as this will give you a birds eye view but be aware of the date of the image taken. The last thing I usually do on the map is to look for the largest clump of trees and then work out the very centre of its mass -- take a grid reference for this, if you have a gps its a handy device to help you locate the spot on the ground when surrounded by trees and thick foliage
|Winter stealth camp - little foliage for cover.|
Then move out and hike in - as you tab in be aware of other potential sites you pass - more than once I have arrived at a good location to find it occupied or worse gone (all the trees cut down) - as you may need to go back to one of these.
Upon reaching the potential site, if you havent been there before, its advisable to do a clearance patrol. This literally means a walk around the perimeter of the site. Here we are to be mind fall of the above but we can also read the land and assess its potential. One way to do this is to circle the outer edge of the site/woods and then in ever decreasing circles slowly make your way in.
Now if I am happy I will usually drop my pack close to a potential spot and have a little walk around assessing the site. Generally I aim to hit camp with an hour or two of day light at least for this reason.
If all goes well you will have located a site that is hidden from view, comfortable to use and with a good supply of fire wood and access to a decent water source and if you follow the advise thus far given you should be able to set up your camp without incident.
In our next post we will talk about camp set up and a few of the do's and dont's of stealth camping.
Thanks for taking the time to read this and thanks for your continued support ................
Above camp in open - exposed to elements and over view etc - below camp hidden in trees no overview and protection from the elements as a bonus.