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  1. Default Camping for free? Is this legal?

    Hi everyone, I am heading on a trip down the west coast and to Colorado/ Nevada etc. I was just wondering on the legal ramifications of just pulling your car over into a low traffic area, and pitching a tent. Is this legal? If not, is this law stictly enforced? What kind of fines could I be expecting?
    I have a couple covered hammocks that I am thinking of bringing along with me (the ones that are nice to trees) so if it is getting late, I can find a nice spot to tie it up and sleep for the night. If people find that they get hassled by the police down there I may just leave them at home.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default One Word: Trespassing

    All property in the US is owned by someone, be it personal, business, or government. That means if you are setting up camp on the side of the road, you are using someone elses property.

    Some National Forest lands and other publicly owned lands do allowed "dispersed camping" where you can camp for free, but that's about it.

    As far as the fines and other potential problems with camping on private property, just don't do it. Not only will you not risk being rudely awoken in the middle of the night, but you also give other travelers and campers a bad name.

  3. Default Good thing I asked.

    Thanks, I'll take you comments into consideration and keep my eyes peeled for the publicly owned land if I am looking for a free night... or I could always gamble myself into a comp'd room in Vegas. Just joking of course.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default Hammocks in national forests? Why not?

    If you are able to spend some nights camping in undeveloped areas in some of the national forests, those hammocks should work out great for you. You will want to check the ranger stations you pass for these areas and ensure that it's OK. Sometimes it is; sometimes it's not. It's hard to say. I believe most national forest land in the west allows it but I've not done enough of it to be sure. You can probably find out a lot more about this with a websearch of the specific national forest areas you'll be traveling through.

    My husband knows some hunters who use those types of hammocks during hunting season. He was going to get one but he prefers a tent so he passed. But they look pretty cool.

  5. Default On second thought...

    Thanks again Judy. I think we will pack along the hammocks just in case. The tent we are bringing is kinda heavy and takes a bit to set up. Just doing a google search I have discoverd an abundant supply of free, legal camp areas and the hammocks will be perfect if we have to walk any distance to them. It will just come to a matter of being able to find them...

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default Easy tents are cheap

    I don't know how Canadian prices are for these types of things, but you can find very nice, inexpensive tents at big box stores for about $40-60. I have a 2-person dome tent that is very easy up-and-down and have used it numerous times each summer that I only paid $35 for in 2000. It has actually lasted longer and is in better shape after 8 years of use than our old $200+ tent from REI (and that was $200+ in the mid-80s).

    So, if your tent is a bother, why bother? Get one that you think will work better for you and not fuss with a tent that's a hassle, imho.

    If the hammocks don't take up space you need for other gear, go ahead and bring 'em along, too. But I really would consider getting a lighter-weight, easier to put up tent anyway.

  7. #7

    Default Couple of thoughts

    Hello Jordan,

    I once envisioned a Road Trip where my buddy and I would pull into Interstate highway cloverleafs or other areas at either exits or rest stops and pitch the tent. I was quickly advised that would not work, and in fact, is not particularly safe.

    If what you mean is pulling over at random, open, and flat spots along most any highway, I don't think that will work, either. As was noted, you're going to either be on the highway right-of-way (and incur the wrath of the local DOT or law enforcement, or both) or on private property (and incur the wrath of the landowner). The third possibility is that you're off the right-of-way and on Federal property, either National Forest (NF)of Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Except where specifically disallowed, NFs allow camping most anywhere. I don't know about BLM, but would expect pretty much the same thing.

    The other thing I'd suggest, agreeing with Judy, is to find a simple, inexpensive tent. Middle-of-the-night thunderstorms are very unpleasant. Mosquitos and other biting bugs may well plague you even if you never get caught out in the rain. I've done my share of bivouac, tentless camping, and have had more than one horrible night due to mosquitos. Think about it.

    Foy

  8. Default ...

    Thanks for the tips, we will probably stick to the National Forests when we need a free night. I have camped in national-forest-type areas across Canada, but I have also done a bit of camping on land not designated as national forests. I have never been hassled yet, but we do usually camp in remote locations (ie roads barely traveled or completely hidden.)
    I do have a question... what are some of the safety concerns? I can think of many things I do on a daily basis that seem more dangerous than free camping? But maybe I am missing something.

    The reason we have the large tent is to entertain friends when we set up camp for a couple nights. I do have a light 3 person tent that I use hiking and just thinking of bug bites has convinced me to bring this and use it for the quick setups.

    Thanks.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Washington state coast/Olympic Peninsula
    Posts
    3,318

    Default Not dangerous, just illegal

    Quote Originally Posted by jordanmfox View Post
    I do have a question... what are some of the safety concerns? I can think of many things I do on a daily basis that seem more dangerous than free camping? But maybe I am missing something.
    You could get a ticket for trespassing. You could even get arrested. Read up. I have been tempted many times to just stop wherever out on a logging road or some other obscure area where I'm convinced I would never get caught but I've never had the guts to do it. I'm not keen on spending a night in jail so, to me, it's not worth the risk.

    Maybe people aren't as possessive about their property in Canada?

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    13,063

    Default agreed

    The only thing thats been said so far about it being unsafe, is if you were to set up along the side of a road or even rest areas - in either case where you'd be catching the attention of other drivers.

    Otherwise, rude awakening in the middle of the night by either an angry property owner or a police officer with an extra space in the back of the squad car would be your biggest dangers.

    But again, there are a number of cheap and even free options for camping. Setting up camp on someones property not only is illegal, but it makes other campers and roadtrippers look bad too.
    Last edited by PNW Judy; 05-07-2008 at 08:17 PM. Reason: Spelling...roadtrippers, not roadtripers, that sounds nasty LOL

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