Building a Stealth Squat on Wilderness Land

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#1
Was curious about experiences with this. I've got a spot I know of by some nice moving water where I know virtually no one ever goes. It's close enough to resources - library, bar, post office, places to find a day's work, etc - but very seldom traveled. It's a stream valley with extremely steep banks that drop in elevation from perhaps 125 feet down to the water, with small hillside knolls, maybe 30 feet above the water, on which I could build. The land is owned by a farmer who uses the nearby field but does not go down these steep hills even when hunting because they are very, very challenging to travel. The area borders a segment of a larger state forest that is a sort of "peninsula", surrounded by private lands that are seldom used - thus, the rangers do not go there as they cannot drive to the area. Satellite imagery of the area does not generally yield much because it is densely forested, as the sun does not shine much on the south side of the valley.

I am thinking that if I built a very tiny concrete block shack set into the hillside, I could remain undetected for many years. Perhaps 8 x 10, with four foot high ceilings and a trench dug into the center of the structure to give me enough room to stand up to change clothes. I would insulate it with rigid foam board and have a tiny woodstove. Because it would be small, insulated and earth-sheltered, it would be easy to keep it warm with fallen dead wood, and because it would be built of brick, it would withstand storms, branches falling on it, deer walking across it, and so on.

There is a spring nearby for water, lots of squirrel to hunt, and blackberries up the yin-yang. Winters are long (6 months), but I grew up here and know how to contend with winter. I would have to ski or snowshoe into the area when the snow comes. Ticks are a concern; I am thinking if I apply a neem oil solution and eat a head of garlic each day, as well as tuck in my clothing, I may stay tick-free.

Even if discovered, it would be such a challenge to remove the building once constructed, that I may simply be given rights from the farmer to stay. A hermit lived in this area in a similar fashion for over 30 years - he died when I was a kid from old age.

Does anyone have any resources or news articles of others doing these sorts of things? I've seen a few mentions of this kind of thing in Dwelling Portably (microcosm press), but wondered if there were other things I haven't seen yet, or if any of y'all have experience with it.

Thanks
 
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#2
No idea but I'm attempting the same thing. I'm going to build a yurt in the woods. Worst that can happen is someone tells you to leave.
 

palmazon

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#3
Henry David Thoreau eat your heart out! Who needs resources when you got BALLS? Keep us posted. As for ticks, vigilance is key -
IMG_9948.JPG
however, solitude seems the most challenging.
Bullshit aside, you strike me as the one who could pull it off - meaning, you'll be the pioneer resource from here on
 
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Drengor

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#4
This is right up my alley. I've never had the resources to pour concrete slabs in. I've stuck to wood and recyclables for now, and mostly above ground, but as you've described, tucked into a hillside. This is precisely the kind of spot I keep my eyes out for:

It's a stream valley with extremely steep banks that drop in elevation from perhaps 125 feet down to the water, with small hillside knolls, maybe 30 feet above the water, on which I could build. The land is owned by a farmer who uses the nearby field but does not go down these steep hills even when hunting because they are very, very challenging to travel.
Ground quality is something I'm trying to learn more about. Lots of the places like this have easily washed away or peaty soil. When building semi-permanent, and I can only assume more permanent, structures you have to take into account how rains will affect the ground around and above the building. I've been watching three of the best camp outs around my stomping grounds and it's eyeopening to realize how much of a hill has eroded away within a spring or two (and more the next, and the next).

Trees and plants are key to holding the ground in place. For both the longevity of the structure and for secrecy's sake I'll clear as little of the plant-life as possible from around the structure. If I was making something bigger than anything I've done so far, I'd definitely plant a few new local trees as part of construction. Best to clear an area for you to be productive a ways away from the structure. More safe from the eyes of other people and you may attract less curious animals back home.

Digging raises even more concerns about the ground stability. I can envision getting halfway through digging a cavity and realizing that digging any further wont leave the hillside structurally sound. Nothing to do, just gotta find a nicer hill. Carrying on, the hillside will quickly wash away and your shack will be out in the open!

I'll mull this over more and be ready to delve into it at the camp out
 
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#5
Better build yourself a rocket stove otherwise someone is eventually gonna notice that smoke. Even if you have zero air traffic, if anyone gets lost hunting or hiking in your area you're gonna stick out like sore thumb from the sky. Also, you're gonna wanna pour concrete. Repeatedly heating and cooling cinder blocks is a great way to crack em.
 

Dameon

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#6
thus, the rangers do not go there as they cannot drive to the area.
Rangers really get around; to my understanding, they gotta get out of their vehicles and hike some, and they don't mind doing that. You also have to worry about hunters, mushroom hunters, and random hikers - having lived in rural areas, I can tell you that all types of people will wind up wandering random forest. And then I'm assuming that this is a standard rural area where the locals pay pretty close attention to what's going on in the area, who are going to start wondering after a while where you live. I'd also worry about the possibility of this farmer having younger relatives who have no problem with steep hills. Generally, country people aren't friendly about the idea of non-paying tenants moving into their land and building on it unannounced, and have a tendency to own guns. Be careful.
 

palmazon

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#7
Yeah, everything posited so far falls reasonably within the realm of possibility - however, you’re best situated to survey & assess what’s probable. I’ll qualify my earlier remarks as enthusiastic support, and I disagree with bazarov regarding ‘the worst that could happen.’ Still, I’d love nothing more than to see each of you pull it off - a lot of work, butI imagine it’d be extremely satisfying.
 
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#8
Best of luck to you. Sounds like it's worth a shot even if it doesn't work out long term, or seasonally. You've probably already considered all this thoroughly, but I would be most concerned about smoke and cooking smells, wearing trails, trash and food scraps, shit pits, and debilitating injury from slipping down a steep hill.

I've spent lots of time trying to design a hidden home. My parameters are very different though: I own a large plot of land that I can (potentially) fence, so ground detection is much easier to control. However, it's desert. So evading air patrol is much harder.
You'd think that I'd have it made after making a land purchase, but all the fucking rules and permits keep me from being able to build anything at all to live in without $$$ to comply. Live and learn.
 

Minky

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#9
Are there any tax forfeited lands in your area? Land like that can be gotten cheap. That way no worries about upset land owners.
 

DrewSTNY

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#10
Being heavily forested, I would think it's a good deal. The farmer I work for hardly ever ventures far from the tractor. His brother in law has hunting rights and gets around pretty good. Considering that, I'd scope it out real good looking for even old trail signs or fire pits near the water.

Path wear is a concern, but you will probably use multiple entry and exit points to minimize someone noticing you. Waking down the creek bed may be the best bet.

Utica/Herkimer has pretty good geology, so I would expect some rock. Might be good for stability.

The other thing to think about is local kids build stuff out in the woods (or at least we used to) all the time, so the ranger might not care unless it looks inhabited. Could you try to make it look like a debris shelter? That might never be noticed.

Just some thoughts. Upstate New York is definitely going easier to disappear into the wild with people leaving the state all the time.
 
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#11
@hiveranno did this for awhile and posted about it. Can't say I've ever spent more than the typical few consecutive nights on other private properties while passing thru. Maybe think lighter and more portable? tarp tipi or sort of outfitters tent set up. why not public land? plenty of that and where my place is it nearly touches many towns to go into for supplies and dumpsters etc and is very rural in comparison to most of east coast. I plan to do this this year and possibly build a few decent shelters to move around from my main place for hunting and general restlessness and to network possibly for others. Oh yeah ticks are moving down here in South PA despite freezing temps and snows here and there. Been pulling them off my dog, they usually are hot spring for a month or two then summer peter out till cooling down in fall again into winter. . .

Hate to be the "nowadays" guy, but some people really are lame about "land ownership". But as well its because no one else really tries it that it is misunderstood or not done. Worktrade the farmer for time on the land/living?
 
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#12
6 mil plastic, organic tar paper, 5 gallon buckets, axe, bow saw, shovel, small stove. Build it with short logs, rocks, limbs, mud, grass and hides. Take your time, camoflage it well, peolpe have built these for thousands of years. With the plastic and tar paper placed correctly, you'll stay dry and warm. ~ peace and Drones, drones are the new problem as far as detection goes.
 

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#13
There are several reposted articles about this in the alternative housing section. Try filtering with the 'news and blogs' thread prefix.
 
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#14
If you can get your hands on a sas survival guide they have some very useful builds in it. As for a fire you can dig a squared out hole for the pit for your stove and dig dual vents leading away from your shelter in the pit. The ground will naturally filter the smoke from your fire and the leftover exhaust will come out away from your fire. You can actually build it completely out of wood using staking logs to hold your beams in place and cover the top with a tarp and moss providing water proofing and camouflage to heat sensors used by local police attempting to find hidden grow operations. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials on dig out builds and the type of fire pit I'm describing. The logs and moss will last a long time depending on rain and will be very easy to reacquire if maintenance is needed
 
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#15
If you can get your hands on a sas survival guide they have some very useful builds in it. As for a fire you can dig a squared out hole for the pit for your stove and dig dual vents leading away from your shelter in the pit. The ground will naturally filter the smoke from your fire and the leftover exhaust will come out away from your fire. You can actually build it completely out of wood using staking logs to hold your beams in place and cover the top with a tarp and moss providing water proofing and camouflage to heat sensors used by local police attempting to find hidden grow operations. There are plenty of YouTube tutorials on dig out builds and the type of fire pit I'm describing. The logs and moss will last a long time depending on rain and will be very easy to reacquire if maintenance is needed
The SAS Guide has it all. ~ peace and start working on it slowly but gathering a log or two that you like (say with a good fork in it) that may be a distance away each day. Slow and steady wins the race
 
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#16
I think private land is the way to go. Like Dameon said, rangers get around, but in my experience they aren't likely to bother with you if you're not on public land, even if it's adjacent. And who knows, stay there long enough and you might get to keep it through eminent domain ;) Not sure what the squatting laws are where you're at but here in maine its 20 years lol

For ticks a lot of people where im at have resorted to treating their pants every month with permethrin and tucking them into sox. pretty shitty to be using chems.... but man lyme is brutal

good luck, it sounds awesome
 
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#18
All good replies, thanks folks.
It doesn't get anymore local than land - and thus, conditions will vary. I think a lot of concerns raised are quite relevant in some areas, particularly the likes of what's out on the west coast. I grew up in this area and can say that I have scarcely ever seen the DEC rangers come through these state lands, and have never heard of them getting out of their cars.
In addition, the boundaries of where state land ends and private land begins are hard to discern up there.
While rural areas tend to have a lot of random folks walking around the woods, my area is weird because it's on the south edge of the Adirondacks. Most people drive that extra half hour to the larger wilderness areas, and those who come to these smaller state forests do so in their car, with lots of beer. The only folks I've ever seen going up the creek are friends of mine riding ATV's. I know everyone here for the most part. Saying "I grew up in the old parsonnage by the bar" is sort of like carrying a small-town ID - as soon as you say it, any trouble I've ever been in seems to become a lot easier to deal with. It's out-of-towners that people seem to watch, and rightly so.

Drones? Hell no, nobody here owns a drone. If I saw one, I'd shoot it, and I think a lot of the folks up here would consider doing the same.

The median age here is high. Most young people seem to leave or get knocked up and work a couple jobs to feed their kids. While the county has only lost about 2-3% of its population in ten years, the rural areas seem to be losing about a percent or two of their population each year. It's a commute to any real work. Thus, fewer people - and fewer young people - means traffic is low. And in addition, a lot of the farmers up there are selling out and getting old.
There is already a squatter on the other side of the river up in the hills there who's been there for 20 years. He patrols his side of the river, but the other side does not have a squatter anymore since the old hermit died.

Probably a double-burning rocket stove would be the best. If I can build a stove rig that will reburn the exhaust from the fire and spit out relatively pure co2, I'd keep prying eyes away. And building it with walls that are 4 feet high or less, earth-sheltered, with camo netting over them and a door that faces uphill away from the river would keep it low profile.

My only concern that's been raised here would be erosion. These creek valley walls are STEEP and mostly slate underneath that can crumble. What may be the best is to scour the whole valley for a boulder / glacial erratic butting right up against the hill. Which is very possible as there are a lot of boulders up there.

And I think it'd be funny to make it look kind of official, like put a "Property of NYS DEC contact Daniel Boone 315-666-6666" sign up or something like that in case someone gets close enough to wonder what the hell it is. Maybe use a federal agency so the staties won't touch it, or a gas-electric company sign and padlock it with windows covered. Or make it look exactly like a small springhouse so the property owner might think it's literally just an old well or something whenever I am away.
 
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#19
Nowwww I know what you mean by "upstate represent"! Your profile says Salt Lake City, Utah. But South of the Adirondacks, then yeah, you are close by. Drones are all over in Otsego County. Real estate agents, marketers, and hobbiests. ~ peace and this fuckin winter sucks
 
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#20
Rangers show up in the most unlikely places. I was once about 30 miles back, off trail, in the N Cascades and when i got back on trail and went around this bend in the trail, a Ranger just strolls right by like it's nothing. And this was pretty difficult terrain up around 4,000 ft. We just said hello and kept walking in opposite directions. Also had that happen one other time on a really remote trail, same area. Those fuckers are like Ninjas. Both times scared the shit out of me because I didn't think I'd see anyone else back so far in such a remote area. Then out of nowhere someone just appears it throws you off- defense mode kicks in until you realize who/what it is.
 

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