Last Update: 2/03/2017

Stealth – Van Life Tricks to Avoid Hassles

van life stealth: Van hidden in plain view by trees with use of camouflage netting. Vanholio!
Damn near every wannabe vanwdeller is worried about stealth, stayin' hidden from LEOs and busybodies. Well, avoidin' notice is a van life essential. But not how ya think!

Stealth Is Overrated

You wanna hide 'cause ya feel guilty for breakin' a social taboo. It's like you're a little kid again, worried that you're gonna get in trouble. Truth is, most people don't give a shit that you're living in a van down by the river. They got their own damn worries. Most don't even notice you or your rig, even when they nearly trip over ya.

Stealth Is Avoidin' Notice

On the other hand, it is wise to avoid notice. No notice, no trouble. That's a fact! Pay attention: Vanholio didn't say stayin' hidden. He said avoidin' notice. That can mean flat out bein' hidden or in disguise, but not necessarily. Usually, it just means actin' normal.

3 Van Life Stealth Strategies

Stealth of Actin' Normal

This is the most important stealth strategy. Did you ever hear the old joke 'bout how you can go fuckin' anywhere in a government buildin', so long as you're carryin' a clipboard? That's what Vanholio's talkin' about!

See, most people see what they expect to see. So be what they expect to see!

Got a careworn soccermom minivan? Overnight in hospital, apartment, and store parkin' lots. Ya know, where minivans live. Or if you wanna sleep in a neighborhood, pick a one where lots a them kinda vans could be parked. Don't park in a rich neighborhood where everyone's got Mercedes, and them in a garage. See?

That's just an example. If ya got a cargo van, maybe you park it by worksites, power relays, and industrial areas instead. That's where people expect to see cargo vans. If you see other work vehicles or construction machinery, park right next to 'em, like you're part of the crew. (But get out early mornin' before the real crew shows up.)

And as for yourself, get a fuckin' haircut, Hippie! Look cleaned up and respectable yourself. Keep your clothes and belongins packed up and tidy, if anyone can see into your vehicle. If you look normal and respectable, you'll be treated normal and respectable. But if you insist on some kinda counterculture look, accept that you'll attract attention, some unwanted.

Stealth of Cover

Especially when campin' alone, Vanholio opts for not bein' seen. He don't wanna be a target for anyone, 'specially robbers. So when selectin' a camp, he often looks for natural or manmade obstructions to view. This can be trees, hills, buildins, whatever.

But – and here's a big but – he also don't try to look like he's hidin'. Pick a spot where any Tom, Dick, or Harry would naturally park, but that also has a bit a cover.

Stealth of Disguise

This here is the one van life wannabes focus on. They see folk who get cargo vans and make them look like work vans. Or they'll make them look like delivery vehicles or whatever. They'lll try to make them look like anythin' but a camper.

Question: How do you suppose all those folks livin' in RVs, cars, minivans, and the rest get away with it? As I said up top, stealth is overrated. Sure, you can make a disguise stealth van or whatever, but you really don't need to. (But curtains or blackout windows is always a good idea.)

Hey, Beer Vanholio! He works hard on this blog.

Also See …

5 Hard-Won Lessons of Urban Van Life
50 Stealth Camping Super Tips (Bicycle Touring Pro)


  1. I don't want to look homeless. I don't want to look like a threat. So I keep my hair and beard short and my clothes clean and not shabby. I wash the van. When you look in my windows it doesn't look like there's a hoarder in there. I don't have loads of stuff strapped on and hanging off the van like a Dust Bowl refugee. I even keep my campsites spartan. But I would probably be like that even if there were no reason to keep a low profile. Yup, act normal, call no attention to yourself, go unnoticed.

  2. Well, I've never thought of those things in this way. I hope that you'll share some more curious and unusual materials.

    1. Thanks. I usually try ta look at things from first principles.