If you’re after some cheap San Francisco thrills – consider Guerrilla Camping. It’s risky, sure. It’s dirty indeed, but it’s free. That’s what makes sleeping in our van, our San Francisco lodging of choice.
This method of stay is also called Wildcamping or Urban Camping. They all refer to sleeping in your car or conversion camper, on the streets, incognito.
Whether you’ve done it or are thinking of doing it, guerrilla camping in the inner city is a viable and frugal way to travel. We camped in our super stealth Chevy, a partially converted “camper van.” It has a bed, curtains, some storage for our things, and four wheels. It’s a great guerrilla vehicle.
San Francisco is a top destination with everything you’d want to experience. It has great food, a great skyline, street wizards, abandoned panties, spray-can art, and chimps in little cute hats that play tricks on you for a dollar. The only things missing are affordable, inner-city camp spots.
Unfortunately, the “closest to the city” campgrounds can be very expensive. They leave you broke and stranded. Your budget has a snowballs chance in hell of surviving a San Francisco trip if you don’t find alternative way to sleep here.
So, if you have a small budget and a vehicle you can camp in, well, then you’ve found your San Francisco lodging solution. Get funky, strap some curtains on your car and visit San Francisco, guerrilla-style.
How to Guerrilla Camp:
1. During light hours: Scout out your night-time guerrilla camp spot.
Tips: Choose a level parking space. Make sure there are a few streetlights around. Scope the street for unsavory characters that would make you uncomfortable. Read all signs and pay attention to street sweeping hours. If RVs are already parked there you might be ok. Plan one night per location only.
2. Arrive at your pre-scouted spot NO EARLIER Than 10 PM!!
3. PARK and SECURE your vehicle. Don’t use lights inside. Sleep tight.
If you get a knock be courteous, smile, and leave. (have a plan b if you’re a worst case scenario person)
4. In the morning, LEAVE before 7 AM or before your neighbors wake up.
5. RELOCATE to freshen up if possible. (See whore bath).
6. Hit a cafe or coffee shop where you can PEE, of course you’ll EAT… and then start your urban TREK.
7. Rinse and repeat in a NEW SPOT.
Beware the pitfalls of lodging without a proper bathroom:
It’s 6am, you awake in your Guerrilla camp spot and realized you gotta go!
Your FREE OPTIONS are limited before 7am and after 7pm. The city parks, including Golden Gate Park, Embarcadero and the Beach area have toilets. (Locked after 7pm till 8am).
Ok, before you get excited, these options are for the desperate. They’re dirty, usually “in-use” by someone who is living there or “renting it by the hour.” Soooo, they might give you herpes but in a pinch they’ll save you from Kidney stones. If there is an “attendant” asking for money, just give them a dollar, okay?
Your BEST OPTION is to enjoy some local coffee or a good meal somewhere. Heck, you saved big on your nights sleep, why not. All sit down spots have bathrooms.
Your STAND-BY OPTION is an emergency Pee bag, sold at WalMart. Poop bags are available too.
Extended weekends when a shower becomes essential.
Your FREE OPTION is the “Whore Bath” or “Italian Spit bath” etc. Is a quick fix and when done daily, MAY extend your freshness for the duration of your trip. Google it if you need explanation.
Your BEST OPTION is your Gym. Clean, abundant, etc. If you have a membership, you’re in it to win it.
Your STAND-BY OPTION is a Truck Stop. A bit outside of the city, but if you’re in need they’ll be there. They’re clean, safe and worth the $5-$8 bucks.
Your WORST OPTION are Public Pools. They’re cold and the showerheads are on public display. At 35 years old, we stood out. Knee biters and senior citizens make getting naked or touching/washing your private parts impossible and a crime.
Guerrilla Camp Spots you might take note of:
- O’Farrel & Pierce (Lat: 37.782803 N & Lon: 122.436377 W)
- Sunset Beach on HWY Access road at Lincoln. There were other RVs parked up this street, but there are “No Habitation” signs posted. We noticed this in the morning, after we slept there. Ooops.
- Webster & McAllister, Near the School
- Hubbel Street (word from some locals)
- On Geary, Near the Park and Japantown (we seen another camper parked there)
- Front & Pacific (Business Park Mall) Until 9am
Laws. In some areas, mostly by the ocean, there are signs posted that read; “Habitation in Vehicle Prohibited 10PM – 6AM. Violators subject to Fine and or Arrest PC SECS. 97-98.” Abide by these signs. Don’t give residents or business reason to put up more.
Obey street sweeping and parking signs. Getting towed will run you much more than a hotel.
- Where have YOU successfully “Guerrilla camped?”
- If you haven’t, WOULD YOU think about doing it?
- Are HOSTELS an option when traveling with a mate of the opposite sex, a boyfriend/girlfriend, or spouse?
- Hey, urban-bound RVers (that don’t have big bucks or big rigs), do you feel us on this?
- Does this post offend you?
We are not responsible for your tickets or misfortunes. Park and camp at your own risk, like we do. However, you CAN share with us. We’ll cry in our beer together, or laugh and cheers together, in honor of good road tripping.