I'm Sebastian from Camping-Pioneers and one thing is certain for me: I love wild camping. Just get out into nature, look for the most beautiful places and spend the night where you like. All day long you can enjoy the fresh air, explore the surroundings and in the evening you can sit in a place of your choice with your favorite drink and let your mind unwind.
So that we're talking about the same topic: What exactly is wild camping?
I've already told you a bit about what I mean by wild camping. But there are different forms of travel, all of which go in a similar direction. That's why I'll introduce you to some common options here:
1 - Camping
Camping, or camping, is spending the night in movable accommodation. These include caravans and motorhomes, specially converted vans and buses, roof tents, tents and hammocks. During “normal” camping, you spend the night in specially designated places, such as campsites or parking spaces. These places are often equipped with sanitary facilities.
2 - Camping
Wild camping is very similar to “normal” camping, the movable accommodation is the same. However, you don't set up your motorhome, van or tent in an official place here. Instead, you stay somewhere you like. However, there are no sanitary facilities here and you have to pay attention to some important basics, which I will summarize below in this article as the 10 golden rules for wild camping.
3 - Bivouac
When bivouacing you are usually traveling without a tent etc. Instead, you simply roll out your sleeping pad and sleeping bag in the open air. Here you are of course heavily dependent on the weather, but you have significantly less luggage. Depending on the region, bivouacing has another meaning: in the Alps, for example, spartan huts or sleeping places under simple roofs are also called bivouacs.
4 - Boofen
Boofing is a special form. It is very similar to bivouacing and you also spend the night without a tent. However, there is a special feature: the word and this form of overnight stay only exists in Saxon Switzerland. Here people sleep mainly under rock overhangs and in caves. That's why people there use this special term. However, since not all hikers, climbers and mountaineers in Saxon Switzerland lived up to their responsibilities, sleeping in the so-called boofen is now strictly regulated. As you can see, there are different ways to be free in nature. Here I focus primarily on wild camping, i.e. spending the night in a motorhome, van or tent outside of designated parking spaces. But you will notice that most of my tips also apply to bivouacing and boofing.
Legal basis: Where and how is wild camping allowed?
I already explained it above: When camping, you spend the night on specially designated pitches. But what about wild camping: Can you just stand anywhere with your tent, van or caravan and sleep there? As is often the case with laws, there is no uniform answer here. The rules differ depending on the state and are often very different depending on the region within the same country! To give you an initial orientation, I will give you an overview here.
Wild camping in Germany
Wild camping is generally not allowed in Germany. However, in Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Schleswig-Holstein you are allowed to set up your tent for one night if the property owner allows it and no rules prohibit it (e.g. in national parks). Some areas also provide special trekking areas that you can use.
Wild camping in Austria
In our neighboring country Austria, wild camping is generally prohibited and you are only allowed to spend the night on special pitches.
Wild camping in Switzerland
Switzerland is very open to wild camping: In principle, overnight stays in a tent and in a bivouac above the tree line are permitted, provided you are not in an ecologically sensitive area. There are also some communities that prohibit wild camping.
Wild camping in Poland
Poland conducted an interesting experiment in 2021, so I've included our neighboring country on my list: The state allowed wild camping in some forest areas, after it was previously completely banned. The experiences were so positive that there are now over 400 forest areas where you can spend the night.
Wild camping in Scandinavia
The Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden and Finland are paradise for wild campers! The right of everyone applies here. Put simply, it allows you to wild camp almost anywhere if it is not explicitly prohibited.
All you have to do is follow a few simple basic rules. This includes keeping your distance from residential buildings, not disturbing anyone and not damaging anything.
Important: Everyone's rights do not apply in Denmark, but they do apply in Scotland.
This small selection of countries already shows that different rules and laws apply everywhere.
It's best to always find out about the rules in your destination country before you start your trip.
You can find a good overview, for example, at the ADAC.
As a rule, it is allowed to spend the night in public parking spaces if the driver needs to restore his ability to drive. Here, safety comes before the ban on overnight stays. Of course, in this case you are not allowed to set yourself up comfortably and set up your camping table, chairs or lounger in front of the car.Now it's time to get down to business: your responsibility as a wild camper
So now the time has come: you have decided to go wild camping, found the right travel destination and are now looking forward to the perfect sunset at your dream campsite. I definitely wish you a lot of fun and the best vacation of your life!
However, so that we can all enjoy wild camping for a long time, there are a few things we need to keep in mind. This is the only way we can live our dream for a long time in harmony with nature, the people living there and with other campers. That is the responsibility we have as wild campers.
The 10 golden rules for wild camping
- Only stay overnight in places where camping is permitted.
- Keep your distance from residential buildings and private property or ask for permission to stay overnight.
- Do not disturb anyone, neither residents, other campers, nor animals.
- Don't make a mess, don't dump your wastewater into nature and keep the place clean. The principle “Leave your place cleaner than you found it” also applies: If there is rubbish lying around, collect it and take it with you.
- Don't destroy anything in nature.
- Don't make noise.
- Don't relieve yourself in nature and use a camping toilet (here in the blog you can also find out more about the topic of "toilet seats when camping")
- Only light fires at designated fire pits.
- If you have a dog with you, make sure it stays with you, doesn't chase animals and collect its droppings.
- If the space is already occupied, look for another location.
If you follow these tips, wild camping will be even more enjoyable for everyone involved. At the same time, you will notice that wild camping is much more fun for you: you will be in harmony with nature and instead of an argument with a local resident or another camper, you will have a nice conversation much more often. This way you will enjoy your vacation even more intensively.
Toilet paper, garbage and noise: the negative examples
Unfortunately, there are always people who do not adhere to these rules and thus ensure that there are always regions, towns and property owners who prohibit wild camping. Unfortunately, I repeatedly had to experience campers who misbehaved and robbed me, other travelers and the local residents of the joy of my vacation.
These are the most common negative examples:
- Relieve yourself in nature and leave the toilet paper lying around.
- Fill the parking spaces with rubbish, cigarette butts, bottles and broken glass.
- Acting as if you were alone in the world: making noise, playing loud music and shouting.
- Park in such a way that paths and exits are blocked, or squeeze into the overcrowded space with the motorhome.
Please avoid such behavior at all costs and wild camping will be even more enjoyable for everyone involved.
Dream experiences while wild camping
I hope the negative examples haven't put you off wild camping. In fact, most people stick to the 10 golden rules and so the perfect camper vacation is always possible. So that you can look forward to your next vacation, I would like to tell you about two of my experiences on recent trips.
Adventure in New Zealand - a short excursion into past travels
I was able to travel through New Zealand in a van for a year and could tell dozens of great stories. However, the following experience is one of the most memorable:
On the map I discovered a small hot spring near the Franz Josef Glacier on the South Island. At the end of the gravel, potholed path there I actually found a small parking lot. Nobody would probably ever come here, but I positioned myself so that there was still room for another car.
Since the mosquitoes were very active, I stayed in the car for a while, in which I could thanks to the
was protected from the little pests and used the time to prepare for the upcoming bath in the hot springs.
The mosquitoes finally disappeared and I was about to leave when another car actually came! Inside was a New Zealander with a rifle. After the initial shock, I started a conversation: the local was a hunter and knew of even more beautiful hot springs than those shown on the map. We set off together, he showed me his insider tip and while I made myself comfortable in the hot water, he went on his way.
I enjoyed the hot water and the view of the mountains surrounding me. Unfortunately I forgot the time and it got dark. Would I find my way back to the car? At that moment the New Zealander came by again, laughed and put a flashlight in my hand and led me along a cliff along the narrow path to the parking lot. In the van I made us both some tea and once again experienced what is possible if you treat each other considerately and politely while camping.
Heavenly peace in Sweden
The following story is less spectacular, but it shows so much of what wild camping means to me:
I was traveling in Fulufjället National Park in Sweden and had a long hike to the country's highest waterfall and the
undertaken. In the evening I was really exhausted, but the place I had chosen to spend the night was already occupied. Several campervans were there and through the open window I could hear music and loud voices.
I briefly considered whether I should squeeze myself onto the edge of the site with the van, thought about the 10 golden rules for wild camping and decided against it. Instead, I drove a little further and quite unexpectedly found a small parking space by a river behind a row of trees. Someone had probably left shortly before, because normally all the dream places were quickly filled this season.
Arrived at this beautiful place, I made myself to my
comfortable, watching the rays of the setting sun on the flowing water and enjoying the immediate nature and heavenly peace.
Although my original dream spot was already occupied, I experienced not the most spectacular, but one of the most beautiful holiday evenings in Sweden.
Enjoy the freedom of wild camping responsibly
I think you felt from reading this post how much joy you can get from wild camping. In any case, I can feel that tingling feeling again and the great desire to explore the world in complete freedom. When I'm back in my van and wild camping responsibly, I can relax and enjoy the sunset at my next dream spot with my favorite drink in my hand.
Maybe we'll meet on the road.
See you then and best wishes
Sebastian from Camping-Pioneers