I don't pay for campsites. I don't stay in hotels or hostels or motels or alberghs. So where do I sleep?
Short answer - I 'wild camp' every night.
I met another cycle tourist (my first!) the other day, and as we were discussing our tactics for wild camping, we found they were surprisingly different. At least, he was surprised.
His tactic was to be fairly obvious about what he was doing, especially in places that aren't so touristy, so people don't think he's trying to be sneaky. I explained my - very different - way of wildcamping, and suggested that the reason is down to gender differences. I don't like to let anyone know I'm around for my (maybe just perceived) safety. He admitted he hadn't thought of it like that. So here's my way, that I feel comfortable with as a lone woman.
It takes a number of different skills, figured out over the time I've been cycling. Now I look back on the first few weeks of my time wild camping and have to laugh a little - sometimes I would worry so much I couldn't sleep all night!
1. About two hours before sunset - make sure I'm not heading towards a huge urban area. If I am, slow down or see if I can get across it.
2. Find a place to pick up water. I use about 2 or 3 litres plus my two drinking bottles for the night and in the morning, and I also have enough to keep one bottle filled for the morning trip to a tap.
3. About an hour before sunset - look on the map for a national park/forest/beach/extensive farmland etc - wherever is close to my route, to avoid making too much of a detour, but is also likely to be free from too many people wandering about after dark, and also free from streetlights.
4. Cycle towards/around that area, constantly on the lookout for a sweet spot to camp. If it's very remote I don't mind setting up the tent in a place that could be 'seen', like not completely hidden by trees or bushes from a path. Usually I'll try to find somewhere that is completely hidden.
5. If this isn't possible, I try to find somewhere that is hidden from streetlights at least. Corners of fields that are shadowy behind industrial areas are great, especially on the weekends as there wont be anyone around. Example of stealth camp:
6. Camp. Depending on the place and likelihood of being spotted I'll use my big lantern or my head torch. Sometimes I get super scared if I'm in the woods and it's windy (fricking Blair Witch Proj will always be with me) so I put on music or podcasts so I don't have to listen! I always collect all my rubbish in a bag to take to the bin the next day, and If I need to poop I dig a hole about a foot deep and bury it. Human waste isn't good to leave lying around. I also don't bury the toilet paper/baby wipes.
7. In the morning, I wake up half an hour after sunrise usually, and pack down my tent asap. That way, if anyone comes around, it looks like I'm just having a nice breakfast or whatever, so they can't really get annoyed unless I'm on private property, in which case they'll just ask me to go away, This has never happened though. Plenty of times people have walked past and just said good morning, and I've been very glad that I packed down my tent already :)
It's really interesting to hear the different ways people go about finding a free and easy place to rest their head. I'm always looking for new tips and ideas.