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Stealth Camping in Harriman State Park

Stealth camping hammocks Harriman state Park

Stealth camping with hammocks. Photo is thanks to ©Seuss.


 The Facts:

  • Stealth camping in Harriman State Park is unofficial, unsanctioned — illegal.  However…
  • Harriman campsites — the official ones — can be crowded, noisy, trashed, and just unpleasant.
  • Make sure you know about the many lean-tos available in Harriman for overnight campers.  These cannot be reserved and are on a first-come basis (ie, you just show up), and in many cases have beautiful views, fireplaces inside and outside, and grassy surroundings.
  • If you decide to go stealth, observe the rules of dispersed camping and abide by the etiquette for primitive camping: pitch 150 feet from the nearest trail, road or water.  Clean up after yourself, and have respect for others enjoying the outdoors.

Enter Stealth Camping!

I don’t like it either: you are hiking a trail through the deep forest, and suddenly you come upon a lone tent, away from the designated camping area.

When I was a kid I came upon a colony of unsanctioned tents and was horrified to see that all the campers were unclothed.  I found out today that what they were doing is actually called “stealth camping”.  That’s when you pitch your tent wherever, and then you leave without a trace.*  Stealthy, huh? (Although the picture at the left makes me think of a minor infestation).

The fact that Harriman State Park is so vast that “Shotgun Grandpa” could disappear into it without nary a trace makes me think that stealth camping in Harriman isn’t all that difficult to pull off.  The only problem, as I see it, is where to find a spot that’s not covered with prickly stuff, or a Harriman bald with the best scenery but nowhere that’s not a rocky, bumpy pitchy place.

And I love taking a nap on a mossy bank, or in a bunch of pine needles, but it also seems like those are the places that crawly insects (especially Daddy Longlegses) like the best.  I don’t like Daddies.

Read The First Installment of Our Harriman Stealth Camping Sites.

If I Were to Stealth…

I know stealth camping, in all its many guises, is frowned upon by the PIPC, but IF I were to undertake it — and I’m not saying I ever would! — I’d use a camping hammock.

…I’d Use a Camping Hammock.

Clark Hammock stealth camping

“I am so stealth.” This hammock is from Clark.

A camping hammock seems like something you could set up almost anywhere where two trees confer, and you wouldn’t have to worry about crawling things, roots protruding into your backside, or rolling down a hill.

The benefits seems to be:

  • More comfortable than sleeping on the ground
  • Steep, sloping, rocky, wet, muddy, prickly: it matters not.  You just need two strong and willing trees.
  • You can go stealth and not be stuck in one of those overused campsites with cigarette butts and plastic forks all over the place;
  • Bears seem to avoid hammocks.  This is anecdotal.
  • You don’t leave a patch of smushed-up grass where your tent floor has been;
  • Cool: you get to sleep in a hammock.

A hammock.  Am I too much of a chicken to look into this?

(So far, I like the hammocks I’ve seen from Clark Hammock, Speer Hammocks Inc. and Hennessy Hammock. And, as if custom-built for the Harriman State Park stealth, there’s the Bear Mountain Bridge Hammock from Jacks ‘R’ Better.  I’m in no position to review hammocks — I barely camp! — but I’m going to choose one of the four soon.)

*Stealth camping, by the way, includes the urban and mini-van varietals.  I think those veer dangerously into hoboism.

Would you ever camp away from the designated camping areas even though you know it’s wrong???  Do you think these hammocks look like weird infestations?  Do you like Harriman at night, or does it creep you out?  Let me know!  I’m on the fence about all those things.  Thanks.

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