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Pirate Camping 102 :: A How-To Guide

By Nick H-J

Getting started pirate camping with any regularity can be daunting.  To be honest, it took us several months of regular pirate camping to really get into the swing of it.  Now, however, it is second nature.  We not only enjoy it and are comfortable doing it wherever we go, we recently totaled our expenses for accommodations since we left North Carolina nine months ago.  Not counting the apartment we rented in Cartagena for the month we stayed with Greg and Kerri (which was $175.00 USD), we have spent exactly $87.00 USD on places to rest our heads in nine months on the road.  You can see how pirate camping, if done regularly, can become more than just a fun and quirky thing to do – it can save you a lot of money.

I thought I would write a short guide to help the beginning pirate camper get started and get comfortable with the ins and outs of pirate camping.  The key to happy and hassle free pirate camping is good site selection.  Pirate camping varies from place to place and you have to keep that in mind when selecting a site.  What makes a good site will vary widely depending on where you are.  So, reading your environment is key to choosing a good site.  In the U.S. you may find a nice out-of-the-way spot to camp, only to be routed out of bed by the police at 2 a.m. because you aren’t allowed to sleep in your car inside city limits, or some such rubbish.  Parking in the wrong neighborhood and being too conspicuous may get the neighbors upset and cause you trouble.  The following are simple guidelines that will help you to avoid problems and stay safe while you dream away your free nights of sleep in peace.

1.  Commit to a type of location. If you are going to sleep in the middle of a city, sleep in the middle of a city.  If you are going for a hidden location off the side of the road, really hide yourself off the side of the road.  If you go halfway, you are more likley to run into trouble.  Being completely hidden means that you are not likely to be bothered by anyone, and being in a public place means that you have the safety of being surrounding by people.  If you choose something between the two, where you are close enough to an urban area to be seen by numerous people, but in a secluded location, you are more likely to have trouble from people that want to steal your stuff or rob you.  Use the same logic you use when walking the streets of a city at night.  Don´t walk down dark alleys.  The only problems you are likely to have while camped in a public setting is from the police if they notice you.  So, you will have to judge whether you are in an area where the police care about such things as people sleeping in their cars.  Here in South America (depending on your attitude and the country you are in), you can pull right next to the police station in the main square of a town, and they will let you use their bathrooms before you go to bed.

2.  Act appropriately for your setting. If you are in the middle of nowhere, have a fire, roast marshmallows, sing kumbaya and drink a case of beer.  If you are in a ritzy neighborhood in a city, put up your curtains, look like an empty car, and eat out before you bed down to watch a movie and go to sleep.

3.  Prepare your vehicle and yourself. If you are in a place where you might need to leave at a moments notice, have your vehicle ready to leave.  We sleep with the keys in the ignition, and the truck closed up and ready to depart if we need to.  So, if there is some sort of trouble, all that is needed is to hop behind the wheel and head on down the road.  I sleep in my pants so that if I need to get up and talk to someone that has a problem with our camping, I don´t have to find my pants in order to be presentable. I also don’t recommend getting drunk unless you are quite certain that your site is bomb-proof (and usually out in the countryside). Most people sleep heavier when they’ve been drinking, which means you may not notice something that should have woken you. Also, being roused to deal with the police, or some other trouble, is twice as hard, and half as fun when you have more than a couple of drinks in your belly.

4. Ask the locals. If you are in a city setting, and are looking for a suitable pirate camping site, ask someone that lives in the area.  Usually people will be more than happy to tell you where the safe areas are and where not to camp.  If your cute girlfriend does the asking, they might even invite you to sleep in their driveway, or better, in their house.  We have had great luck telling people we are sleeping in our truck and asking for advice.

5. Scope out your prospective site before it gets dark. It´s much easier to get a feel for an area in daylight.  So try to leave yourself a comfortable amount of daylight to find a place.  Should you find yourself without a safe site after dark, 24 hour gas stations are an easy, though un-charming, option.

6. When you first start, camp with friends. As you start to get your feet wet in the world of pirate camping, camping with a group of people, and more than one car, can make it seem less daunting.

7.  Keep at it. You will probably not sleep well the first few nights you pirate camp.  You may be worried about getting hassled or receiving unwanted attention, or you may have not quite figured out how to get comfortable in your vehicle.  If you persist, after a few nights of restlessness, and quiet, problem-free camping, you will soon become more confident in choosing good camping sites and will start sleeping like a baby.

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One Comment

  1. heheh cool guide ! :)

    1. mario.D on August 23rd, 2010 at 2:56 am

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