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Wild camping in Europe

Learn all about wild camping, where it's permitted, and some great alternatives for where it is not. Wild camping, freedom to roam, or allemannsretten, are all useful terms to know when you feel the urge to take on true wilderness.

The term wild camping refers to setting up camp or spending the night in the wilderness, meaning no borders, no facilities and a heightened need for outdoor knowledge and/or survival skills. Wild camping isn't allowed everywhere in Europe –in fact, it's restricted in most European countries. In this article, we tell you all about where it's allowed and what to look out for, but we also share great alternatives to give you the same feeling of peace, serenity and adventure! There's no reason you can't still have that real off-grid feeling without the risk of a fine. 

Wild camping Europe Campspace

Is wild camping allowed in Europe?

There are only a few countries in Europe where wild camping is allowed. Read on to learn more.

1. Norway

In Norway, the 'freedom to roam' or allemannsretten applies. This Scandinavian term literally translates to 'everyman's right', and means that people are free to access to the countryside, wilderness and national parks for camping purposes. No matter the terrain, one is allowed to pitch their tent and (provided there are safe conditions) light a campfire. You are never allowed to camp on cultivated fields and must also keep at least 150 metres away from the nearest residential house, especially if planning to stay longer than two nights. If you follow these rules, wild camping in Norway is fantastic, especially for its impressive and dramatic landscapes. 

2. Sweden

Sweden also has the allemannsretten law which follows the same rules as Norway. Camping in the wild in Sweden is fantastic. In the forests and along the lakes, you can always find a spot. You also have a good chance of spotting wildlife and many places also have facilities. You can often find a dry toilet and many places have barbecue areas too. 

3. Finland

Finland is also a country where there is no specific law against wild camping and in many national parks you can find specially equipped camping sites with free facilities. These are not very 'off-grid' if that's what you're after, but they're comfortable and still in the heart of nature. Here, too, there's a high chance of spotting wildlife.

4. Scotland

Scotland is another well-known place to go wild camping. It's a wonderful experience to pitch your tent in the rough, mountainous landscape or at the edge of one of the many lochs. It's fairly common to leave your tent up for the day while you go out for a walk, or plan a multi-day hike where you spend the whole trip wild camping in the rugged countryside. 

5. Iceland

Wild camping is also allowed in Iceland, but the rules here are a lot stricter. Wild camping is allowed in Iceland if you're travelling with three tents or less and don't stay anywhere longer than one night. You're also not allowed to camp in  national parks. Also make sure you're not on private land and that you keep enough distance from farms. Often the land surrounding the farm also belongs to the farm and is thus private land. If you follow these rules, wild camping in Iceland is fantastic and you might even catch a glimpse of the famous Northern Lights! 

6. Switzerland

Wild camping in Switzerland isn't possible just anywhere. In fact, it is only permitted high in the mountains, above the tree line. So if you love a challenge, opt for a hike of several days. If you think that challenge is a bit too much, browse campsites in Switzerland instead! Do you like the mountains and hiking? Then a camping trip in Switzerland is definitely worth it. Just make sure you stay out of sight of mountain huts if wild camping.

Wild camping Europe, what to look out for

When you go wild camping in Europe, there are a few things you need to pay attention to. The most important rule is: leave no trace. For obvious reasons, it's important to preserve and protect local flora and fauna, to not leave a mess in or disturb nature and to leave the place tidy for other campers.

When wild camping, please remember to:

Be very careful with fire. Don't light a fire during dry season and especially not during severe drought. Make sure you are a good distance away from any flammable materials, natural or otherwise, and don't destroy grass with your fire. Please read the Campspace campfire disclaimer for our stance on campfires.

Take your rubbish with you. In addition to leaving no trace with your campfire, make sure to carefully search your pitch for rubbish and especially inorganic materials before you set off.

Bury your business. And stow your toilet paper to throw away elsewhere, as it takes a long time to decompose.

Treat nature and animals with respect. Keep noise levels to a minimum and be sure to keep your distance when observing wildlife.

Don't overstay your welcome. In nature, as in any other place where you are a guest, it's important to remember just that. You are a visitor to this spot in nature and should do your best to avoid making your presence a nuisance. There is an endless supply of beautiful nature spots to keep exploring, so keep it moving!

Wild camping in Europe

To learn more about wild camping in the Netherlands, specifically, we asked hiking and outdoor expert Rick Mulder of Ik Wil Hiken. You can learn more about the guided hiking expeditions he offers in the Netherlands on his website or on his Instagram page.

Is wild camping allowed in the Netherlands?

I am Rick and I am an outdoor fanatic. I love camping and preferably in a wooded area. Wild camping in the Netherlands is technically illegal, but there are still many possibilities to spend the night close to nature. Campspace has some beautiful places where you can spend the night where you feel like you are in the middle of nature. In this blog, I will tell you more about wild camping and what you can and cannot do as a camper in the Netherlands.  

What is wild camping?

Wild camping is a way of spending the night where you sleep somewhere with no facilities. As our encyclopaedia says: 'wild camping is a form of camping at locations not designated for it (i.e. not at a campsite)'. You often go wild camping if you want to spend the night somewhere along a multi-day trek. Think, for example, of an L.D.W. (long-distance walk). You can wildcamp in certain countries. There are possibilities, but they are limited. 

Is wild camping prohibited in the Netherlands?

In the Netherlands, just wild camping is indeed illegal. You cannot just put up your tent in a forest and spend the night there. Wild camping in the Netherlands is therefore prohibited. It is even punishable by a €140 fine. Not only wild camping with your tent or tarp is prohibited, it is also forbidden to just bivouac somewhere with your camper. 

What is pole camping?

Pole camping is a phenomenon that is not very well known yet. However, it is perfect for long-distance hikers. There are pole campsites all over the Netherlands. You can often find these poles by means of coordinates. Sometimes there is a water source near the pole, but often it's just a patch of grass in a wooded area. There are some rules you have to follow, like leaving early in the morning and bringing your rubbish. Read the blog on pole camping in the Netherlands here. 

Spend the night in nature, nearly wild camping

There are many more opportunities to spend the night in nature in the Netherlands. Via Campspace, you can spend the night at a private home and be close to nature for a small amount of money. At Natuurmonumenten you can also find campsites in the middle of nature, where costs are low. You can also buy the green booklet. It contains small campsites in the heart of Dutch nature. It is therefore compulsory to have the green booklet to be allowed to stay at such a campsite. So it will be less crowded than on an ordinary campsite. 

The best alternative to wild camping in the Netherlands

The Netherlands is a country in which a lot is regulated. The reason why you can't camp everywhere is because nature conservation wants to prevent pollution and disturbance of nature. Actually, real nature lovers want this too. I have therefore sometimes slept not on a pole campsite but really in the middle of nature. Of course, this is at your own risk. Therefore, I would not recommend it, but try one of the options above. Campspace or pole camping in particular gives you a wild camping feeling. With a bit of luck, you will be all alone. 

With Campspace, you have spots throughout the Netherlands that are in the middle of nature. At a wild camping spot, for instance, you have no toilet or running water. At Campspace, you have a beautiful spot for your tent for just a small amount of money. Sleep in this micro camping Karmijn in North Brabant or go to the Cadettenkamp. You'll find all kinds of idyllic sleeping places in the middle of the woods for just a few euros. 

At Campspace campsites in the Netherlands, you feel like you're wild camping but often with the added comfort of sanitary facilities. After all, the spots are far away in someone's meadow, at the edge of a forest, or in someone's front garden. Often there are some facilities, but there are also quite a few places where this is not the case. These places feel as off-grid as the forests of Sweden. 

Besides places in the Netherlands, we also have campsites in Belgium, campsites in Germany, campsites in France, campsites in Denmark and much more! So you can enjoy off-grid camping in many places in Europe without the risk of high fines. You will also meet nice people this way, namely the host who welcomes you to their private pitch. This might make (almost) wild camping even more fun!

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