Sleeping under the stars, waking up in the fresh air and escaping everyday life … that is camping. But why not go a step further and camp in the wild nature? Pitching your tent wherever you like is a romantic concept. But be aware, wildcamping comes with restrictions and rules and lots of responsability.
What is wildcamping?
Wildcamping is camping on places that are not designated to camp such as campsites. People often tend to see this as a way to save money, but more importantly it is a way to experience nature more intense. Imagine waking up on the shores of a lake with mountain view and no one else around. Cool right?
Apart from the wind, running water and an army of crickets, you don’t hear anything at all. Cooking in a small camping pan – and then eating from the same pan is one of the most satisfying things of your day. And we haven’t even talked about stargazing without light pollution or waking up with fresh mountain air in your face and a cup of self-made coffee. Yes people, we are talking about wild camping: the cream of the crop among outdoor activities.
Wildcamping does come with some rules however, and in this post we will share everything you need to know for wildcamping in Europe.
Is Wildcamping illegal?
The real camping enthusiasts have known for a long time: nothing beats wild camping. With your tent or camper in the middle of nature, you can´t get closer to a real wilderness experience. Unfortunately in Europe it is not always allowed to wildcamp. Before you go, check the rules of your destinations.
In which Countries can you Wildcamp?
Some great destinations in Europe that allow wildcamping include: Norway, Sweden, Finland, the Baltic States and Scotland. Bivouacing above the treeline in Switzerland is also allowed. I said great destinations because these countries are also amazing when it comes to nature. It´s not so hard to find a camping spot with mountain view in Norway, nor is it difficult to camp by a lake in Sweden or Finland.
The ultimate of wild camping in Europe is of course Scandinavia. This is because of the so-called Allemansrätten. With this law you can legally camp wild in Norway, Sweden and Finland, provided you follow the rules properly. This means that you are not allowed to stand on private property or public parking spaces. In addition, always keep at least 150 meters away from the buildings and limit your camping adventure to 2 nights per location, after which you have to move on again. But that is of course no punishment in such a beautiful region!
In Denmark it is not allowed to wildcamp, with the exception of Greenland. Also in 2017, Iceland prohibited wildcamping because of booming tourism.
In the Baltic States, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, similar rules apply for wildcamping. Both wild camping and bivouacing are allowed here outside private land and protected nature reserves and provided that you handle nature wisely. In addition to wild camping, there are also sufficient nature camping pitches in all three countries where you can camp for free and all basic facilities are available.
Another beautiful country to travel around: Scotland! Since 2003, the beautiful “Right To Roam” has been in place with which campers literally have the right to wander off nature trails and stay overnight. As a camping enthusiast, you can’t be luckier, because the Scottish Highlands in particular are a spectacular camping experience. A number of rules are there, especially aimed at leaving the area as you found it. You can read everything about this in the Scottish Outdoor Access code.
Wild camping is also well organized in Switzerland. In short, it means that camping above the treeline is legal. You can stay in the same place for a maximum of 1 night with never more than 4 people and always out of sight of other camping locations, such as mountain huts. There are more exceptions regarding wild camping in Switzerland. For example, in the canton of Obwalden, wild camping is completely prohibited and in some areas throughout the country you can come across signs prohibiting it. So pay close attention to this.
In most other countries in Europe, wildcamping is illegal. However in some, such as France, bivouacing is allowed under certain conditions. Also in countries such as Poland and Spain, wildcamping is technically illegal, but often tolerated.
Basic Rules for Wildcamping
Set camp late and leave early
Carry out all litter when you leave, whether it belongs to you or was left by someone else.
Leave camp as you found it and remove all traces of your pitch. (Leave no Trace)
Camp as unobtrusively as you can. That means away from roads, houses and other habitation.
- Camp only for one night at the same spot.
Keep noise and disturbance to a minimum.
Respect the environment and wildlife and don’t pollute
What about water?
In contrast to well-organized campsites, you will not always find an accessible water source in the wild nature. Are you going on a multi-day trip? Then, while planning your wild camping trip, find places to pitch your tent that are near water. Place your tent at least 150 meters away from the water, in order to prevent possible contamination of the water. Do you encounter stagnant water? Then don’t drink from this. You can drink clear water with the help of a water filter like Lifestraw.
In Sweden and Finland it is easier to find water as there are many lakes and rivers. Most of them have wildcamping spots on the shore.
What about fire?
For most campers, wild camping is inextricably linked to having a campfire. Making a fire is not only super cozy, it is also essential. You need fire to cook on, keep yourself warm and possibly dry your clothes. Did you know that you can easily make a fire yourself with a magnesium firestick?
There are certain risks when it comes to making fire. Always keep in mind drought and the local weather forecast. For a thumb rule, try to avoid making fire outside of designated areas. You will find them plenty in the countries mentioned above.
What about wildlife?
We are of course not the only ones who stay in nature, research well before your departure whether local wildlife such as bears, wolves or certain reptiles are a risk. You can easily avoid some dangerous situations by, for example, not leaving food lying around.
How to Find a good Wildcamping Spot?
Finding a new good wildcamping spot takes a trained eye as it should meet certain standards. Access to water, flat terrain, etc..
However, in the Scandinavian countries and the Baltic States there are numerous wild camping spots spread over nature. If you go hiking or canoeing in Sweden, you are most likely going to encounter these shelters or unmanned cabins.
The same goes for the Baltic States. Here are a few websites that show these locations.
Great Tips to make your Wildcamping experience unforgettable
- Check and doublecheck where you are allowed to wildcamp
- Deliberatly choose your spot
- Choose a flat over a regular surface
- Only make fire where and when you are allowed to
- Never wash the dishes with soap in a natural water source
- Have an adventurous mindset (read: be flexible) and make sure your outdoor partner has it as well.
Extra tip: get the right gear. Read our blogpost about 10 Essentials for Wildcamping