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Are there countries in Europe where wild camping with a tent allowed or at least tolerated? How high is the probability that someone will get angry at you or even call the police?

Please consider only cases where the travellers would be using common sense - not making noise, leaving no trace behind, staying out of sight of roads and houses, etc. In our case, the tent is small and easy to hide (dark green) and we won't need a camp fire.

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@hippietrail Not quite right: meta.stackoverflow.com/questions/11740/… –  VMAtm Aug 2 '11 at 9:12
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I'm going to split off a separate question asking just about the Balkan countries since if this gets an answer for every country in Europe it will be pretty unwieldy: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/1856/… –  hippietrail Aug 31 '11 at 8:35
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This question has also come up on the outdoors site so there might also be interesting answers there outdoors.stackexchange.com/q/96/33 –  Phil Feb 10 '12 at 17:48
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I'm an American, and we don't use the term "wild camping." Can someone define it for me? –  Ben Crowell Apr 11 '13 at 3:40
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@MarkMayo: I see. I guess in USian we'd refer to this as "backcountry camping" or "backpacking," as opposed to "car camping." –  Ben Crowell Jul 1 '13 at 10:16
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10 Answers

In Poland camping in the wild is tolerated, especially in the mountains. Just make sure that you camp outside the National Park (where camping is prohibited and the law is enforced), and behave well. For camp fires, choose spots that have been used before and stay away from the trees.

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I've investigated related topic for the bicycle trip over Italy, and I can say this:

  1. There are many camping zones where you can easily stay for the night and even get a tent for rent. You can easily find such camping by internet, and choose ones matching your criteria.
  2. About tolerance - remember one thing: If there any fence, rope, metal wire or something like that - it is a private territory. And you should find the owner of this zone and check, is the owner comfortable with your staying on his territory.
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Camping zones? Is that equal to camping sites? Google thinks it is...If yes, those are exactly places I don't want to go to - lots of screaming children etc. –  M.K. Aug 1 '11 at 10:23
    
@karinqe I meant a parks, where you can set your tent anythere you like. I'll provide some examples later this day –  VMAtm Aug 1 '11 at 10:27
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There are many places in Spain where you can camp, on the beach for example, if you are careful about bringing drinking water. Friends have travelled across Spain without ever stopping at a formal site. The small villages in the Sierra Nevadas will mostly allow you to sleep in the vicinity, and it is possible that this is also true for the rest of Spain. This map, in Spanish, seems to provide a more formal list of pleasant areas.

For the most part, this is legal. There are certain restrictions, such as not camping near paid camp sites or in urban areas. Military areas need to be avoided as well. Lighting fires is forbidden most places for a lot of the year. Sleeping in the open air is the easiest, because you cannot just set up a tent and leave it there.

There can be problems with gangs of thieves, though I have not encountered them in the areas that I visit around the Sierra Nevadas.

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But is it legal? –  M.K. Aug 25 '11 at 16:20
    
For the most part, there are certain restrictions, such as not camping near paid camp sites or in urban areas. Military areas need to be avoided as well. Lighting fires is forbidden most places for a lot of the year. Sleeping in the open air is the easiest, because you cannot just set up a tent and leave it there. There can be problems with gangs of thieves, though I have not encountered them in the areas that I visit around the Sierra Nevadas. –  Remou Aug 25 '11 at 17:03
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Wild camping is not allowed in Germany; you have to go to a campsite. From what I have heard, it's more tolerated in Eastern Europe, and no problem in Norway and Sweden.

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You are also allowed to camp on private property if you have the permission of the owners (I actually did that last summer, on my family's land). Some states (mostly the eastern ones) also have slightly laxer rules. –  Martin Sojka Aug 1 '11 at 14:10
    
@MartinSojka that effectively turns the private land into a camp ground... –  jwenting Dec 20 '13 at 9:28
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I've been living in Poland for over 16 years and lead survival camps and do some "Solo Survival" in the many forests and mountain ranges. Technically speaking any camp fire away from designated areas is illegal but, if you're sensible and keep it modest - well, you know the rest : )

As regards wild-camping, simply follow the rules of common-sense - small, modest group; leave no mess and keep the volume low - I've yet to have a problem. In fact, a few weeks ago, with a group of 7, we camped by the edge of the forest and had a nice fire - the police visited at 2 am, saw we were causing no harm and wished us a delightful night and a delightful trip : )

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In Estonia it is allowed/very much tolerated! Estonia has a very low population density in rural areas and a lot of very beautiful spots to pitch a tent for a night or a couple of days. If you're on private land, you should always ask the owner of course but Estonia also has a lot of Riigimets (state forest) where you can freely camp, pick berries and mushrooms and even cut your own christmas tree for free.

In Switzerland it's not allowed but while hiking in higher altitudes it's absolutely ok. Often farmers even let you sleep in their sheds or pitch your tent on some nice even ground. When hiking even more remotely, you just tent wherever you find some even ground without worries.

Here's a Guardian article about wild camping in Europe.

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In Scotland, UK you are legally allowed to camp on privately owned fields that don't have crops. Scotland does not have a law of trespass - although camp on military land at your peril. The rest of the UK (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) do not have this freedom, you legally have to go to campsites.

In Ireland you do not have the legal right to roam (like Scotland), and legally must go to campsites.

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There's a certain amount of common land in Ireland, and there's a lot of land (especially in Connemara) which is accessible from the road without fences, and where camping is usually fine. Technically, you should ask the owner's permission, but it's not always obvious who the owner is. My family have been wild camping in the west of Ireland since I was tiny. It's never been a problem. One farmer spotted our tents and came down for a chat. He offered us some turf for the campfire. –  TRiG Aug 3 '11 at 1:00
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Yeah, in the more remote parts of Ireland, especially coastal parts, I don't think anyone would mind as long as there weren't farm animals around you. –  Alan B Oct 7 '11 at 10:28
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In Switzerland it is officially not allowed, but if you behave normally, it is widely tolerated. Especially during summer it is not a big problem to build up your tent by a river or somewhere else. If you get caught by a police officer it really depends on the person. Most of them are very friendly and won't forbid it, but it can happen that you're forced to move on.

In the mountain regions it is different. There you are allowed to make a bivouac.

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In Finland/Sweden/Norway/Iceland you are allowed to do this by law as long as you stay away from houses and use common sense like you say. It is literally translated as 'every mans rights' (See also this question on Travel-SE for more information). In the summer these countries are perfect for this kind of holiday and I can recommend it to you very much.

In The Netherlands it is not allowed to camp in the nature (at least not during the night) as far as I know, so it is best to find a camping. I assume it is similar in Belgium and Germany but they do have more nature so I could be wrong.

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France

Wild camping is allowed except in specific protected places, depicted here:

Wild camping in France

Anyway there are many local rules, so the best is to find the city hall of the village where you want to camp and ask there. An alternative to city hall is church, where the priest might be able to tell you whether the local church owns some field in the country side.

If you can read french, or don't mind asking google to translate for you, check le-camping-sauvage.fr site.

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Those are national parks? What does the pink color mean? –  M.K. Aug 1 '11 at 10:28
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@karinqe - The pink ones are national parks, the green ones are "regional nature parks" (parc naturel régional). On that note, I highly recommend camping on Corsica's beaches in the summer. –  Martin Sojka Aug 1 '11 at 14:29
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There is also the rule in France, that you need to be 1 hour of walking distance from public roads. –  andra Aug 24 '11 at 10:17
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@Andra But this is virtually impossible and probably not enforced. –  Jules Aug 24 '11 at 13:22
    
I know, but I guess it is a stick for the police to send you away if you sleep next to the street –  andra Aug 30 '11 at 14:46
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protected by Mark Mayo Dec 18 '13 at 22:32

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