How To Be Stealth And Go Unnoticed In Van Life

Updated: Oct 24, 2021


Photo source - super troopers (Fox)



Hi everybody, today we are going to cover something a little bit different that we have not covered before. Although we have never covered it before we have always believed that being stealthy is very important for FULL TIME van lifers and in the current climate it is becoming more apparent to most people.


We keep reading in facebook groups about people beeping their horns at van lifers early in the morning, banging on vans and windows at night and the most popular post we are seeing is about people getting "the knock"



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The nock is when the police bang on your windows or vans at night to try and wake you up to tell you to move and this can't be pleasant and will likely leave people shaken and probably slightly upset or worried.


Why they are knocking on campervan doors and windows in the middle of the night is a mystery to us for many reasons. Firstly there is enough actual crime they could be spending their time trying to sort out and above all parking offences are a civil matter not a criminal matter but nether the less they still do it and use any old excuse they can think of to do it including welfare check, suspicious van reports or the lesser spotted this is a popular dogging location.


Thankfully I personally have never had any hostilities from any locals, a knock in the middle of the night or had any trouble from anyone anywhere in the past three years that I have been full time in my van and this is not pure luck it is by design.


I have never wanted to get the knock, I have never wanted to annoy or make any locals feel uncomfortable in their own surroundings and I just wanted to fly under the radar without having to argue my case to anybody or give them my whole life story so I learned to be as stealth as possible, now it's your turn. I hope you all find it helpful!



How To Be Stealth In Van Life And Go Unnoticed...


HOW TO BE STEALTH


Being stealth has a lot to do with how your van looks but it also has a lot to do about the way you act and conduct yourself so before we get into making your van look stealth we are going to talk a little bit about how to act in order to be stealthy.


ARRIVE LATE & LEAVE EARLY


The first rule of being stealth is arrive late and leave early, this rule is my number one rule and has never failed me, turning up somewhere just before you are ready to settle down for the night and leaving just after you wake up is the easiest way to go unnoticed.


Curtain twitchers and nosey neighbours are your biggest enemy if you are trying to be stealth and most of the time if the police are going to turn up it will because somebody with no sense of adventure has called them to report you. The best way to avoid them is waiting until it gets dark and they close their curtains to park up and to leave in the morning as soon as your are awake.

If they don't see you arrive and your van looks stealthy enough they will have no clue that you are in there.


Photo source - Daily Star




There are plenty of places to park during the day until it gets dark where you can leave your doors open, play your music at full volume, bbq and even set up a drive away awning without anybody batting an eyelid at you, so stay there and enjoy your freedom until you are ready to settle down for the night as most places only have restrictions on motorhomes and overnight camping. Then as soon as you wake up move your van to another location before you start to shower, cook or even have a coffee because again most places only have restrictions on overnight camping and also you will get your pick of the best parking spots early in the morning.


Basically annoying locals in any way or form is not the way forward at all, the key is to not get noticed by them not anger them. Don't be that suspicious van that turned up this morning and was still there at 9pm... that is asking for trouble because locals will be getting anxious be it in a town centre outside somebodies house or in a isolated car park that somebody walks their dog past three times a day.


Another argument for arriving late and leaving early is the less time you spend in that location the less likely anybody is going to randomly notice you but if they do by the time they have phoned the police to complain and it to be registered and for somebody to actually attend you will most likely be gone anyway.





DON'T PARK IN THE SAME PLACE TWICE


Ok so the title of this section is a little bit misleading and it doesn't actually mean you can't ever return to the same spot twice but the more you return to the exact same location the more likely you are to be noticed by the same person on multiple occasions. Even if you had 14 locations and you used each once every two weeks there is a good chance that somebody will start noticing you.


There are literally millions of suitable locations to park for the night, even if it is just 200 meters up the road from somewhere you have parked before it is better than returning back to the exact same spot where somebody might have noticed you before.


NEVER park in the same place for two nights in a row, if somebody notices you on the first night you can bet your bottom dollar they will be looking out for you again on the next night.





LOCATIONS


Choosing somewhere suitable to park up for the night is also very important when it comes to being stealth so in some cases just turning up late and leaving early will not work.


The more isolated you are the more likely you are to stick out like a sore thumb even in the middle of nowhere. If a police car on its rounds at night came across a van parked in a lay-by in the middle of nowhere there is a good chance they will pull into the lay-by and check your van out at the very least. There is a lot of crime in rural areas at night so suspicious vans are top priority to rural police and when they do a check on your van and realise it is registered to an address miles away from your location it will only raise their suspicions more.


Yes it 's the dream to wake up to an amazing view but is it worth the risk? The view will still be amazing if you got there after you wake up.




In most city centre or town locations the arriving late and leaving early method will work without a problem but there are a few exceptions that are likely to annoy locals and get you noticed.


Streets with limited on street parking, yeah ok we pay our road tax and we have an MOT so we are allowed to park anywhere we like but taking somebody's regular parking spot outside there house is not cool really and will get you noticed.


Just imagine the shoe was on the other foot and somebody had parked up in the spot outside your house where you park your pride and joy so you can keep your eye on it from your window. The street has limited parking and there is now nowhere for you to park your van. Not only would this slightly annoy you but it might also void your insurance policy if it was parked on another street as you have to tick a box to say it is kept at the address or on the street outside the address etc and we all know insurance companies look for any reason not to pay out.


So for the reason above don't park directly outside anybody's house, another reason why you should not park directly outside somebody's house is you might scare them. This is another thing you need to look at from somebody else's point of view.


Imagine you had no idea what van life was (as a lot of people don't) and a random van with somebody living in it was parked up outside your family house where your children play in the front garden. It has a window in the back at that is weird for a van but not only that it is blacked out so whoever is in the van can see you but you can't see them... would you be a little bit worried or would you just shrug it off? The chances are there will be a photo of your van on local facebook groups in no time at all and that is not very stealth now is it!

Also never park in a cul-de-sac as you will get noticed immediately.




LEAVE NO TRACE


So this won't really help you go unnoticed whilst you are parked up but it is a good way to keep your favourite locations/areas safe to return to if you ever wanted to. It is also a very good way to live your life in the first place so why not.



Leave no trace basically means leave the area exactly as you found it so leave no litter, don't use it as a toilet and basically keep it clean and respect it so it gives nobody a reason to have a problem with you. You could also take it one step further if you have the time and clean up other peoples rubbish and litter and leave it looking nicer than you found it.



DON'T BREAK ANY RULES


Breaking rules is the fastest way to get yourself noticed so don't break any, this means obey all parking restrictions no matter how official they are!


Photo source - https://www.outandaboutlive.co.uk/



We see posts in facebook groups on a daily basis with pictures of NO OVERNIGHT PARKING signs and NO MOTORHOME signs in car parks that are questionable in authority to say the least and a lot of people who are clued up on the law can see through them straight away and tell people to ignore the sign and ignore any tickets that they get because they are not legally enforceable blah blah blah


We don't disagree with the above in most cases however these signs tell us something very important and that is that at least somebody is getting very annoyed with people staying there overnight in vehicles and they are trying to do something to stop it.


This is no good if you are trying to be stealth, don't poke the bear. Yes you probably have a good argument if the police turn up but that involves them turning up in the first place and that is more hassle that it is worth.


Make sure if you are staying in or using a car park in and way at all to follow all of the rules on the sign including height and weight restrictions, overnight rules, park inside the bays not across three etc.





DON'T PARK IN GROUPS


This should go without saying really but park by yourself nowhere near any other van lifers and whatever you do don't set up camp near a group of other van lifers.


If you think people get nervous when one random van parks outside their house wait to see how worried they get when a group of vans park up on their street. This is a big no no NEVER do this.


Groups of vans in one location can and will be classed as an illegal encampment and the police will turn up quicker than you can say P.A.R.T..Y. it's not worth it.


Also we recommend if you park up somewhere and others park near you just move on and find somewhere else to park for the night.


Photo Source Bristol Live




BE QUIET


Finally before we move on to how to look stealth we thought we should mention you should sound stealth too.


Just think if you are laying in bed and you can hear people walk past your van they are quite likely to be able to hear any noises you are making in the van. You can soundproof your van to extent but unless you spend a fortune doing it you are going to need to keep quite quiet in your van.


If you are in a location with lots of traffic this will help a lot but if you are in a quiet location your sounds will travel quite far.


Things that have nearly caught me out before are my van alarm going off because I forgot to turn off the motion sensors with the key fob, text messages and phone calls, alarm clock on my phone and many other noises that are normal in the day but sound deafening at night.


If you are wanting to watch TV, films or listen to music at night make sure you use headphones whilst trying to be stealth.



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HOW TO LOOK STEALTH


As we mentioned above being stealth has a lot to do with how your van looks and the more your van looks like and actual campervan the harder it is going to be to look stealth and go unnoticed. In our opinion you need to decide what you want more an awesome looking campervan that everybody is jealous of or a stealth camper as they are very different things.


With that being said this means that there are some vehicles that it will be pretty much impossible to be stealth in like the VW transporter vans or a motorhome home for example.


So the main objective is to build a van that is awesome on the inside with all the bits and pieces you need to live but looks like a normal van or something other than a camper from the outside.


This can make things a bit complicated as a lot of the bits you want for a camper are visible from the outside so the only option is to get creative...



WINDOWS


There are some pretty die hard van lifers out there who have not even installed windows in their van to be as stealth as possible however if you are trying to be stealth it is a good idea to be able to see what is going on around you for many reasons like making sure the coast is clear when exiting the vehicle or incase you hear a noise and want to check it out without getting out of the van.