Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Beginner’s Guide to Stealth Van Camping

If you’ve researched van life, you’ve probably heard people talking about setting up their campervans for stealth van camping. This is typically more common for those who want to park overnight and “camp” in cities, but it can also apply to camping on public land outside of cities. 

So, what exactly is stealth camping? Will it apply to you? Is stealth camping legal? I’ve got you covered! 

What is Stealth Van Camping?

Stealth van camping involves finding discreet and legal overnight parking spots where you can park your campervan without drawing attention to yourself. It’s all about blending in with your surroundings and respecting the environment and local regulations. 

I want to reiterate the “legal” aspect of stealth van camping. Being inconspicuous does not mean that you are breaking the law. In various cities, overnight parking on city streets and sleeping in your vehicle is illegal. Always do your research and ensure your stealth camping spot is a legal place to park. 

The purpose of stealth van camping is to avoid drawing attention to yourself and not to disrupt the people or environment around you. 

Stealth van camping is perfect for you if:

  • you don’t want to look like a tourist (many campervan rentals are branded and flashy)
  • you don’t want to draw attention to your campervan (you may have expensive camera gear or recreational equipment stored inside)
  • you want to explore a city, so residential camping within city limits is the best option for your itinerary
  • you want to park on public land but not draw attention to yourself

7 Tips for Stealth Van Camping

Stealth van camping isn’t just about finding somewhere to hide and hoping no one finds you. It’s about blending in with your surroundings, not hiding completely!

Here are some of my top tips for stealth camping:

1. Choose the right vehicle

To stealth camp efficiently, you first must have a vehicle that will work as a stealth camper. Those tricked-out AWD Sprinter vans aren’t very inconspicuous for overnight stealth camping, so you’re better off with something a little more covert, like an unmarked minivan camper.

Consider the following when choosing your vehicle: 

  • Are there logos or bright colors on the vehicle that scream tourist?
  • Is the vehicle a size that fits in a normal parking space? 
  • How tall is the vehicle? 
  • Does the vehicle have window shades or tinted windows to deter lookie-loos? 
  • Can you enter and exit the vehicle “normally” without literally crawling in/out of a bed to prepare for sleeping? 

Insider tip: Avanti Campervans offers one of the best budget stealth van camping rental options I’ve seen! Their minivan campers are perfect for stealth camping since they have no logos or external markings pegging you for a tourist. 

  • Campervans rentals start at $79/night (hello, budget seekers). 
  • They are available for pickup and dropoff 24/7 in most major cities, giving you extreme flexibility with your trip planning
  • One-way and round-trip itineraries are available near most major airports. 
  • Their camper vans come fully equipped with bedding, cookware, cutlery, a cooler, camp chairs, a table, a solar shower, and a shade canopy at no extra cost. 
  • Unlimited mileage available. 
  • They are pet-friendly with a $150 cleaning deposit! 
  • Avanti Campervans are converted from a regular minivan base, so they get incredibly good gas mileage. Another perk for budget-seekers!
  • Avanti Campervans are carbon-neutral! They buy back carbon offsets for every mile driven, so you can camp with ease knowing you’re helping the planet be a better place.

2. Plan ahead

Whether you’re city stealth camping or staying on public land, check local regulations to ensure it’s legal to sleep in your vehicle overnight. 

  • Call the visitor center for the city or town you will be visiting and ask about overnight street parking.
  • If you plan on utilizing public land to park overnight, call the Forest Service or BLM office closest to where you are to make sure it’s legal to camp there. Although most public land is truly open to public use, some areas have restrictions based on popularity, environmental hazards, and even hunting season considerations. 
  • Always check with businesses known for allowing overnight parking like Walmart and Cracker Barrel before showing up. Some of these businesses are actually on private land, and they don’t all allow overnight parking.  
  • Scout potential parking spots and read reviews ahead of time using camping apps such as iOverlander and Campendium, or online resources like
  • If you get REALLY desperate for a camp spot, check out my expert tips for overnight stealth camping in hotel parking lots. I only recommend doing this if it’s your last option.
  • Check the weather forecast. Daily. Hourly. As often as you can, these days. Weather shifts quickly, and you don’t want to be caught in an unforeseen storm with nowhere to go.

3. Assess the bathroom situation

More times than not, stealth camping and minimalistic campervans go hand-in-hand. Which means, you guessed it, no portable toilet in the campervan. While it’s not uncommon to seek out bathroom facilities when living van life, stealth van camping adds another layer to the mix: discreetness. 

  • Don’t park immediately next to a public restroom so people can see you leaving your campervan to go to the bathroom. 
  • When you use a public restroom at a cafe or coffee shop, make a small purchase. 
  • Keep an emergency WAG bag with you “just in case” to avoid any unhygienic bathroom accidents!

Practice Leave No Trace if you plan to camp on public land and dig catholes.

4. Don't unpack

Remember what I said about blending in and respecting your neighbors? It may seem like common sense, but seriously, don’t set up camp when you’re stealth camping!

I once saw someone with a hammock set up in a parking lot attached to a grocery cart cage and the side of a campervan! This is assuredly how you will make waves and get asked to leave somewhere. 

  • Choose inconspicuous parking spots that don’t attract unnecessary attention.
  • Avoid obvious signs of camping, such as setting up awnings or outdoor furniture.
  • Don’t keep your door open when cooking or doing chores inside; drive to a different location that is more open to campervan activities, like a public park or a trailhead.
  • If you’re traveling with pets, always walk them in designated areas and pick up after them!

5. Have a backup plan

Sometimes, no matter how much research you do, things just don’t work out. 

  • Always have an alternative location scoped out, just in case you get “the knock” and have to move. 
  • If you see “no overnight parking” signs after you’ve verified that it’s okay to park somewhere, don’t park there. 

6. Bring the right gear

There’s nothing worse than getting to your overnight camping spot and realizing you don’t have the ONE thing that would make your stay more comfortable.

Be sure to list out your activities and pack everything you need for a successful camping trip! Here are some of my go-to items to bring when stealth van camping: 

  • Layers of comfortable clothes: Sometimes, trying to move around inside your campervan without drawing attention to yourself feels like you’re doing a strength yoga class. Make sure your clothing is stretchy and comfortable, and you can layer up/down easily as the temperatures fluctuate. I like multi-functional clothes that look cute and can easily adjust to fluctuating temperatures.
  • A collapsible water container: Stay hydrated with a collapsible water container that takes up minimal space when not in use. Have an easily refillable water bottle that can stow next to you at night or while you’re driving. 
  • Speaking of water bottles, an additional wide-mouth Nalgene bottle or small jug can be used for late-night bladder relief. I suggest practicing a few times before trying it live. Don’t ask how I know. 
  • Camping stove: Bring a small camping stove (included with an Avanti Campervan!) for when you’re in places you can set up outside. Fresh coffee, oatmeal, and other simple warm meals will be a refreshing reward after a long day of exploring and will save you money on buying meals in towns.
  • Portable toilet: If your campervan has the room, consider a compact portable toilet for emergencies, especially when camping in remote areas. And if you want to get that EXTRA fresh feel, consider bringing a travel bidet!
  • All the snacks: Pack easy-to-eat snacks like granola, dried fruit, shelled hard-boiled eggs… anything that gives you bang for your buck without a lot of waste. Consider investing in some powdered food products as well if you want hearty meals that hardly take up space!
  • Solar panels and a portable power station: Again, if you have the space and you plan to be out for some time, a rechargeable power bank along with solar panels can be a game changer!
  • Slip-on shoes or flip-flops: You’ll thank me later. Putting on shoes in the middle of the night to go check on something is no fun. It’s also a nice break after walking through a city all day or after a long hike.
  • Window coverings: Reflective window shades or blackout curtains provide privacy and insulation. Avanti Campervans comes with blackout curtains for the entire minivan camper!

7. Be safe

Also a no-brainer, but seriously, please be safe out there! There’s something to be said for that gut feeling or spidy-sense or whatever you want to call it. Listen to your intuition, and don’t be afraid to … er… be afraid!

  • If something feels “off,” leave. The end. It’s normal to feel nervous the first time you are stealth van camping, but if something is giving you the heebie-geebies, listen to your gut and move along. 
  • Always let someone know where you are at, and what your itinerary looks like. Even if you don’t check in daily, you can share your location with a friend or family member, or ask them to check in with you every few days. 
  • Keep a basic first aid kit on board. If you’re traveling with a pup, remember to bring items for it! 
  • Have a car safety kit that includes a jack, breaker bar, cones, and a tow strap. 
  • Check that your insurance has roadside assistance coverage and that there are no limitations on where they will come to you. Some companies require that you be on a paved road or a certain number of miles from a large city.

Are You Ready for a Stealth Van Camping Trip?

Now that you have all the stealth camping skills at your fingertips, where will you go first? 

Although stealth van camping isn’t for everyone, it can be a cost-effective way to open up lots of opportunities to explore new places. With the right campervan selection and planning ahead with the proper gear and tools, you’ll have an unforgettable experience!


Transparency note: please keep in mind that some links in my articles may be affiliate links, to which I may make a small commission at no extra to you, should you book travel or buy a product or service through one of these links. I only recommend products or services created by brands I know and trust. 

Leave a Comment

Get Exclusive Tips & Stories

Sign up below to receive monthly email updates! Whether it's a hilarious short story or a special offer, I'll be including content that isn't on my website.

* indicates required