Camping on the sly simply means sleeping outside for free in a location that is not particularly designated for camping. This can be done in numerous different ways with various levels of comfort.
How to camp on the sly
This tactic can be done in a plethora of ways. First off, the most common way is the “in late, out early” strategy where you enter into a place to “camp” without permission under the cover of night and then wake up early and leave without anyone noticing. Another way is to request permission of a land owner to camp on their property for the night — this is an especially good method if you are traveling by bicycle, as very often people are willing to more than accommodate you.
Where to camp on the sly
This tactic can be done just about anywhere that is outside the bounds of paid campgrounds. In cities, camping on the sly can be done in parks, in vacant lots, near highways, or even in cemeteries; in the countryside, it can be done in agricultural fields, woods, or along the banks of rivers — pretty much anywhere that is outside. Generally, I look for a location that is away from any houses or businesses, and well off the beaten track as far as foot or vehicular traffic is concerned, as it would not be too much fun being woken in the night by an angry land owner, a cop, or some other sort of psycho.
While on long hitchhiking trips, I have often camped on the sly in the bushes on the sides of interstates and highways. In point, the only traffic here is vehicular, and they are often moving much too fast to take notice of a vagabond in the bush. Major interstates are often truly no man’s lands as far as pedestrian traffic is concerned, and I have had many restful nights sleeping near them.
In the countryside, I generally look for wooded areas away from all signs of human occupation.
Being in a remote location is good for camping on the sly, as it limits your chances of being caught, but if you are caught way off in the middle of nowhere, keep in mind that there will be nobody to come to your aid if you find yourself in some sort of inter-personal struggle.
Equipment for camping on the sly
Camping on the sly is a travel tactic, and does not necessarily imply any sort of equipment usage. It is not like how the word “camping” often implies the use of a tent. While it is true that camping on the sly can be done with a tent, cooking gear, sleeping bags, and other amenities, it does not have to be. This tactic can be done by simply sleeping under a bush in nothing but the clothes you are wearing. Though, very often, travelers find a balance in between these two extremes when employing this tactic.
Camping on the sly for bicycle travelers and hikers
Generally, many bicycle travelers, long distance hikers, and hitchhikers find themselves using this method of camping as a rule. In point, if you are traveling outside of the bounds of point to point, city to city, public transport, you are going to find yourself out in the middle of nowhere very often after the sun goes down.