Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Rules of Campsite Selection

Let's start assembling some rules for this new field of Free Sleeping, starting with what we learned in the previous posting.
  1. Try to go where it is WARM and doesn't rain very often. (If you have the option to choose better weather, it makes life so much easier.)

  2. Choose a campsite close to services and transportation but away from human activity.

  3. When possible, get away from the city and go to the safe and affluent suburbs.

  4. Choose industrial neighborhoods rather than residential ones.

  5. Use your campsite ONLY for sleeping. Preferably arrive and depart under cover of darkness. Conduct your waking activities elsewhere.

  6. When you leave camp in the morning, hide your supplies and try to leave behind no obvious signs of your presence.

As mentioned before, sleeping is the key vulnerability of homelessness. If you can safely pull off those 7 hours of unconsciousness, then everything else is negotiable. The two problems of sleeping where you are not authorized to are safety and legality, and both of these demand that you not draw attention to yourself. If no one knows you are there, then no one is going to arrest you or beat the crap out of you.

If you find a good sleeping spot, you need to protect it by using it only for its intended purpose and then getting away. In future posts, we'll talk more about legalities and safety, but it should be obvious that sleeping in the open in an urban environment needs to be done covertly. Figuratively speaking, "Loose lips sink ships."

We are also going to talk about those other homeless people, the smelly ones. Those are the folks that give us Free Sleepers a bad name. The conventional homeless, pushing shopping carts and muttering to themselves, are a big problem for local authorities because they leave behind big messes wherever they go. When they make a campsite, they fill it up with junk and it becomes an eyesore and a health hazard. They also tend to sit all day at their campsite, which upsets the neighbors. No wonder there are laws against vagrancy!

I propose not being lumped with those homeless by obeying strict security procedures to avoid revealing your presence. You can't just assume that you are coming and going unnoticed, you have to know it for sure by understanding where other people go, what they see and what draws their attention. Just like a wilderness traveler, you have to "listen to the land" and understand your environment if you want to be safe.

I even look at the tracks I am making in the dirt or grass. If you walk anywhere in nature several times, a path is going to appear. Is there a visible trail to my campsite? If so, I may need to vary my route or obscure the trail. It's like tracking in reverse: You want to do everything in your power to NOT leave a trail and to hide any signs of your presence. If you do things right, then a good campsite will remain available to you for a long time.

Here's another rule of campsite selection...
  1. Vary your location by staying at, or at least preparing, multiple campsites.
Because you have no right to sleep on any urban land, there is always the possibility that you will be evicted or that the site will become uncomfortable to you for any number of reasons. You prepare for this by having multiple campsites whenever possible.

If I stay in San Diego much longer (It has been three nights now.), I am going to start scouting out alternate sites that meet my needs. Then I am going to start sleeping at some of these sites to test their viability. I may also begin to hide supplies at one or more of these sites, like tarps or sleeping bags, so if one site becomes inaccessible, I can easily move to another.

I don't want to fall into too much of a routine at any one site, because this increases the likelihood of detection. (If a neighbor sees me walking in and out of an empty lot at the same time every day, they may get suspicious.) Campsites can also wear out. For example, if I sleep for too many nights on a patch of grass, the grass is going to get matted and eventually torn up. Like sheep grazing in pastures, you want to give each pasture a rest.

Diversification is a good rule in almost any field. If I am going to be homeless at all, I might as well take full advantage of the lifestyle and be homeless in a lot of different places. I could move all around San Diego or, more likely, all around North America and Western Europe. I am limited to the south right now because of the nasty Northern Hemisphere weather, but that will all change in few months when a vast world opens up to me. Then, my primary enemy will not be the cold but the nasty mosquito.

More camping rules will be coming later as our experiment continues.

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