A worse case wild camping scenario:
It happened again the other night. We were sound asleep when a car came by. 500 watts shone around, and within seconds, a man walked up and checked the contents of our car. He shone around until he found my face. My heart was pounding so hard. My hands were already grasping for the pepper-spray that laid always within reach, until I realised, he was in a uniform. It was the authorities.
I felt lucky not to be awoken and sent elsewhere, felt lucky that he wanted us to know it was tolerated. I also felt lucky, it wasn’t going to be a robbery. We were not alone that night, we shared our spot with 20 other cars, vans, motorhomes and tents, we felt quite “safe”. Yet, we knew it would’ve been better off if we hadn’t broken some of the rules below.
- In most countries in Europe, wild camping is forbidden. Be well aware of this before setting out with a tent. Fines can go as high as 2500,- € in certain zones. Often it is generally tolerated. It also depends if you are in the mountains or in the valley near towns. As far as I know, it’s legal in Scotland if you’re at least 100m away from the road and the next town is 1-2km away. Also in Sweden and Norway. This article shows where wild camping could be possible.
- Do not leave rubbish behind. Isn’t that logical?
- Do not poo like nobody’s business. You might not be aware but even some part of forests, accesses and crags belongs to someone; its private property. If you have to, do it in a manner that nobody can see it, step on it, and far away from the paths. Dispose your used toilet paper in the bin or bury everything. Avoid doing your business under a boulder, or an overhanging crag. Its takes longer to decay and, you can’t be serious about pooping just before a route ?
- Avoid making fireplaces. It brings the child out in every adults heart. Its romantic. But making a fire in a non designated, sensitive area can cause a lot of problems with the authorities and locals. Don’t use prepared wood lying around from the farmers or foresters. This is also known as stealing. You won’t be making friends.
- Don’t camp directly at a climbing / boulder area. It’s so convenient to sleep at the parking lot of the crag. But this behaviour will lead to the closure of the crags in a matter of time, especially when hoards of vans and cars gather at the scene at night. Drive off somewhere else to look for another secluded possibility and spread out. Avoid National Parks and protected areas.
- Avoid switching on loud music. It’s cool to have your favourite reggae, or hard rock drums in to your ear into the evening to go with a beer but take some respect for the nature. Ton down a little. It’s not the city. Do this in the official camp grounds or the city, or put on your head phones. Don’t scream or yell or go havoc. Ever realised that the mountains transmit sounds easily to the other end of the valley? Use common sense.
- Don’t spread out. Tables and chairs are comfortable. They are also the first signs that you are in camping modus. Use them exclusively at the campgrounds. Be discreet and pack up when the crowd comes in.
- Don’t camp out in big groups. The next time you come back to the same place, you’ll be wondering why a no entry sign is up or police cars are coming by to fine and chase you away.
- Don’t argue with the locals or hunter. If asked to leave. Do so quietly. If anyone passes by, be friendly, smile, greet, wave. Don’t be grumpy even if you are.
- Leave early. If you’re sleeping over in a spot that you know it’s going to get crowded the next morning, make it an attempt to leave by 8 am. The earlier the better. Also, try to vary your sleeping spots now and then. Don’t stay on a spot for too long. It’s not always easy in Europe, but avoid wild camping near any civilisation or where you can be seen.
Always put yourself in the shoes of the local /farmer /hunter that sees you, and ask yourself if you like what you are seeing. It doesn’t matter if you’re sleeping in your car /van, or your tent. A bivouac is the better word to practise on. Small, discrete, unnoticeable. In fact, try to make yourself invisible, blend in. And use common sense.
Help keep those wild spots of yours to last forever. Be considerate, be sustainable.
Leave no trace but footprints.