Wild camping can be annoying, but if you spend a lot of time slowly traveling through Europe on foot, bike, horse or in a kayak, it’s sometimes difficult to avoid. There should be alternatives. And there are.
Because the coronavirus limited my travel options to Central Asia, I decided to cycle around Europe in the summer of 2020. I really enjoyed using these legal bivouac spots, so I thought I would round up as much information as I could about them and publish it here, somewhat off-topic, since I could not find a round-up like this anywhere else.
There are certainly more spots out there. If you know of resources that are missing here, please let us know! We will expand this article over time as we find out more.
What type of camping are we talking about?
Often these places are just a designated area in a field or forest without any amenities. No toilet, no shower. Sometimes there is seating, a roofed shelter and a fire pit.
Usually they are explicitly aimed at hikers, horse riders and cyclists, and motorised traffic is forbidden. In general, you are also not allowed to stay more than 1 or 2 days.
It is easy to find good information on the internet about the rules surrounding wild camping (meaning, not in designated spots) in each of these countries, so we will not dive into that.
Open Camping Map
A good, worldwide resource is Open Camping Map. It’s a special-interest map based on the info that is already available in OpenStreetMap. So it’s not a complete overview, there are definitely still a lot of sites missing, while others may have wrong information. On top of that, you need to zoom in quite a bit to see the camp sites pop up.
But it is a very good start. Simply tick off all options in the filter menu except for “backcountry campsite” and you are good to go.
Platforms with free locations
You sadly cannot filter on price with either of these, but they both have free and almost-free listings.
Wait, don’t these countries have allemansrätten? Sure, but once you spend some time here you will find that the freedom to roam comes with caveats, and that it’s not always so easy to find a comfortable spot, especially in the more densely populated south. The shelters come in very handy.
Look no further than the excellent Shelter app, which has info on the 1000+ shelters and free camping sites in Denmark.
This article has some more detailed info and another map you can use.
There are no shelters similar to the other Scandinavian countries in Iceland. Some camp sites in Iceland are free, most are not.
Finland, Norway & Sweden
A great overview of all the maps with thousands of shelters for the 3 countries can be found at Gone71.
Le Camping Sauvage collects people who let you camp in their garden.
Almost every federal state now has some bivouac sites, although many of these are not free. Find a complete overview at Ausgebuext.
In the Sächsische Schweiz area near the Czech border you can do what climbers call “boofen”: sleeping in the open air under an overhang in the sandstone rock or a cave. For rules and regulations and a map of Boofen sites, see the website of the national park.
1nitetent collects Germans opening up their garden to your tent for free.
Ireland & UK
Ireland: we haven’t found any designated bivouac sites but here is a map of good wild camping spots in Ireland.
UK: Haven’t found any dedicated bivouac spots.
The UK also has a camp-in-my-garden website, it is called Nearly Wild Camping. It costs 20 pounds to get access to their map of camp gardens, and after that, you still need to pay separately for the camp sites. We agree, that is a pretty bad deal.
There were about 50 bivouac sites (paalkamperen in Dutch), but 17 of these have been closed since 2020 due to people not respecting the rules.
You can find the locations of the remaining ones at Kampeermeneer.
Central & Eastern Europe
Czechia and Slovakia
Boudy offers a map of shelters and bivouac spots in Czechia and Slovakia. They are often not exactly “legal” as I understand, but no one will bother you here, it seems. Mostly geared towards mountain hikers.
Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania
Estonia: Estonia’s national park administration has a list of all their camp spots. There is no map on their website, but 2 apps try to alleviate that problem: RMK’s own app, and a private initiative called Camp Estonia.
Latvia: Latvia also has 100+ places to stay, usually equipped with a fireplace, some firewood and benches, sometimes a roofed shelter. Find them at Mammadaba, filter on “recreation sites”.
Lithuania: Lithuania also has a decent number of marked camp sites you can stay for free, but we haven’t found a map listing them yet.
Czaswlas has a map of bivouac sites in Poland. Tick “Miejsce biwakowania” in the sidebar filter menu and click the Pokaz button to show them on the map.
The Romanian language uses an English word not used in English (linguists: is there a term for that?) for wild camping: off-camping.
Do you know more?
If you know of more resources that gather shelters, bivouac spots and other free camp sites, please let us know!