The stealth, van dweller is like every other human being; he or she needs to get a good night’s sleep. There is nothing more annoying than to have a cop beating on the side of your van or to be parked in an area that is overrun with noisy people hanging close to your mobile bedroom.
The whole premise of the stealthy van dweller is to blend into your surroundings, avoiding the possibility of detection. In doing so, no one will even be aware of your living right under their noses.
How successful you are at avoiding annoying interruptions has a lot to do with your attitude, lifestyle, and personal habits. If you’re an alcohol abuser or drug user, you can count on being found out and hassled to no end. With your common sense severely compromised by chemicals, in all likelihood, you will make poor choices when picking your location to hide out for the night.
On the other hand, if your vehicle is neat and clean, and you choose a spot where it more or less blends in, you probably won’t be bothered.
A favorite place to spend a night when traveling is any of the large chain trucks stops. Flying J, Petro, Travel Center of America, and many more. Most of them have a completely separate area away from the noisy big trucks reserved for RVs. You can slide in amongst them and be assured of a good night’s rest. Play fair and patronize their establishment as much as you can, and they will continue to look at allowing travelers to spend the night for free as a good business investment.
Another friendly place is Wal-Mart. They have a nationwide policy of welcoming RVs to stay the night. Unfortunately, there are some areas where city ordinances override corporate policy. Don’t be discouraged if you find signs indicating no overnight parking, just move on to a more industrial part of town and make yourself look like an empty van just parked for the night. Wal-Mart is even nice enough to publish and sell a road atlas that provides addresses and directions to every Wal-Mart in the country.
Now don’t look at this article as granting you permission to set up camp somewhere illegal. If you did your homework right and set up your van so that it is unlikely to be recognized as anything other then just an empty van parked among other vehicles, you can get away with spending the night in some unlikely places.
The key is to roll in after dark when the area has quieted down for the night. Make no noise, or turn on a bunch of lights. With a minimum of fuss, just go to bed.
Take care of all those attention-grabbing activities before you go find your spot for the night. Cooking, cleaning up, watching TV, do that somewhere that being seen won’t matter. When its sleep you’re after, quiet will let you get away with parking in a supermarket lot or alongside an auto repair shop. Something as simple as a ladder rack on the roof and a set of magnetic signs slapped on the side stating ‘Joe’s Plumbing” will give you the appearance of being just another work truck. Strap a couple of pieces of PVC pipe and a step ladder to that roof rack, and there isn’t a cop around that will give it a second look when you’re parked on the street in front of a plumbing supply store or a heating and air conditioning repair shop.
Think of it as a disguise. From ten feet away your van looks like something innocent that belongs where it is. If you do it right and minimize light and noise, there will be no reason for anyone to get any closer. And, you can have a decent night of sleep without spending an arm and a leg for a hotel room.