There’s no shame in parking your rig on a street or in a parking lot for the night because you’re road weary. But if you don’t follow common-sense urban camping tips and park in the wrong places, you could be in for a conversation with a police officer like YouTube RVer Chris Travels experienced.
These urban camping tips help keep you safe.
Another RVer, Nomadic Fanatic, encountered other troubles in Eureka, California (my former hometown). To avoid these unpleasant situations, follow a few common-sense urban camping tips to avoid cops and wrecks.
Talk to other RVers about the area.
Sometimes you’ll have the luxury of time to research your overnight parking destination. That’s when it’s a good idea to chat with other RVers who have been there. Get the scoop through Internet social media groups for RVers and scan RV park reviews to get a good feel for what kind situation you’re about to head into (many RVers include accurate neighborhood descriptions in their critiques).
Check out the parking ordinances.
Overnight parking is banned in many municipalities and the list of towns choosing to ban it grows every day. You don’t have to be a lawyer to understand local ordinances about overnight parking, all it takes is a look around your rig. Before you hunker down, scan the area for obvious signs of no parking ordinances. Are there any obvious “No parking/trespassing” signs in the area? Or signs warning you about security cameras? If so, you are not wanted. Leave.
Look at your surroundings.
Let’s be honest: most cities have a “good” side and a “not-so-good” side of town, but what constitutes “good” and “bad” differs from person to person. To me, if I see a slew of low-budget motels, check cashing storefronts, liquor stores and people sleeping on the street (similar to the part of Eureka where Nomadic Fanatic ran into trouble), those are signs of a depressed local economy which could mean that crime rates are higher in that area.
I try my best not to make assumptions about people or places, but I won’t take any chances in an unfamiliar city. If you drive into an area and you see things that make you nervous, leave.
Try to avoid busy, narrow or residential streets.
Find the widest, quietest street you can to park your rig but do your best to stay away from residential areas. Stealth camping in a neighborhood is asking for trouble, either by a suspicious homeowner who will call the cops on you, or by careless drivers who speed down the street just inches from your rig. My full-time RVer friend was recently stealth camping in an old residential area in Los Angeles when he got his RV smashed to bits by a drunk driver – while he was inside sleeping!
Follow the RVers Code of Conduct.
The RVers Code of Conduct is a general set of rules that responsible RVers live by. You can download a copy here but in general it’s asking us to follow a designated set of urban camping tips that include:
- Stay one night only!
- Obtain permission from a qualified individual.
- Obey posted regulations.
- No awnings, chairs, or barbecue grills outside your RV.
- Do not use hydraulic jacks on soft surfaces (including asphalt).
- Always leave an area cleaner than you found it.
- Purchase gas, food, or supplies as a form of thank you, when feasible.
- Be safe! Always be aware of your surroundings and leave if you feel unsafe.
Making the choice to sleep in your RV outside of a campground or other designated overnight parking area is always a risky situation. Usually things usually work out fine, but you can’t escape the fact that even the most law-abiding RVer is a stranger looked upon with suspicion by locals and police – or as a potential target by criminals. When you just have to pull over for the night, be sure to follow these urban camping tips and set a good example for those who follow in your tracks.