Words of Wisdom: “Don't do anything that attracts attention to either yourself or your vehicle. People cannot object to your presence if they do not notice that you are there.” – lennyflank1)
Stealth camping (sometimes called “urban camping”) means finding a place to park your camper and sleep in it with no one knowing. The goals are two-fold:
get through the night without a “knock” from police
do it for free
Common approaches to stealthiness include:
arriving late to the spot and leaving early
rotating spots instead of staying in one place. If you are stealthing in a particular city, build a rotation of sleep spots to keep from overusing any
street parking around businesses where others street park
parking near 24hr businesses
parking between two 24hr businesses so each thinks you are at the other
using the spot only for sleeping, not cooking or anything else
staying inside, and keeping all belongings inside
staying still to avoid moving the van
tinting or blacking out windows to minimize light exposure
parking under streetlights to help hide light leakage from your windows. Also helps with security
blackout curtain between van cab and living space
staying in more working-class neighborhoods if residential stealthing is necessary. Park in front of vacant lots if possible to avoid police calls.
entering vehicle through the driver's door instead of through back hatch or side doors
beware local laws
Some cities or counties forbid sleeping in vehicles, parking RVs, etc.
Famously, the Los Angeles law against living in a car was struck down by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as being “unconstitutionally vague”.2)
Since the 9th Circuit covers much of the west coast this may have special value for snowbirds.3)
A similar shift occurred in 1972 when SCOTUS struck down Jacksonville, Florida's vagrancy law.4)
finding industrial areas
Some cities have their local zoning maps online5)
You may also be able to use Google Maps or other imagery to see where the warehouse/industrial districts are.
It is possible to get a DUI in a parked vehicle.6)
Normal activities like using the toilet or bathing could be considered indecent exposure if witness by the public.7) Be discreet!
Further reading and viewing