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Motorhome parked by the lake at sunset
  1. Housecar Magazine /
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Rules for wild camping – and tips for free camping

Are you eager to wild camp, but a little unsure of the rules that apply for wild camping? Then this article is for you. We go through laws and regulations, and offer tips so that you can equip yourself properly and find the best wild camping sites.

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What is wild camping?

When travelling in a motorhome, campervan or caravan, you can choose to spend the night at campsites or stop sites, or free camp, which means that you spend the night in a place that isn’t specifically made for camping vehicles, for example in nature.

To spend the night at campsites

Campsites can often be beautifully located and close to nature, and it isn’t uncommon for a campsite to have the finest location right next to the sea or a lake. At a campsite you will find all the services you need, such as toilets, showers, electricity and the opportunity to fill and empty tanks. At some campsites there are also different types of activities such as restaurants, pools and programs for children.

Staying for the night at a campsite is generally more expensive than staying on a motorhome stop site, but how big the difference is can vary. There is everything from simple nature campsites, which costs much like a stop site, to exclusive campsites with all the activities you can imagine, which of course is also reflected in the price.

Several motorhomes parked by lake on a campsite

Many campsites are beautifully located, such as Wassbackens camping in Töreboda

To spend the night on motorhome stop sites

A stop site is a slightly simpler place, compared to a campsite, and is intended as an overnight place for motorhomes and campervans. In some stop sites even caravans are welcome, but it is common for the stop sites to be intended for motorhomes only. Many stop sites are centrally located in a city or near an attraction, while others are located in the countryside or in nature.

The surface can be asphalt, gravel or grass and there is often some form of service, but not always. For example, there may be electricity, toilets and / or the opportunity to empty and fill tanks. It is, however, unusual to be able to empty greywater and wastewater on a stop site. Unlike a campsite, stop sites are rarely staffed and you often pay the fee via app, via Swish of perhaps in a nearby restaurant or marina.

Small motorhome parked on a stopover site by the sea

Motorhome stop sites often have gravel or asphalt as surface material, like this stop site in Ireland.

To wild camp

The third way to spend the night with a motorhome or caravan is to wild camp. When you are wild camping, you stay the night in a place of your own choosing. Many people like to wild camp near nature, perhaps with a view of a lake or some other beautiful natural area. It is important to keep in mind that you must follow laws and regulations, so that you don’t stay in a place where you are not allowed to stay overnight.  

Several motorhomes and a caravan in a gravel parking lot in nature

Several wild campers have found a nice place by a lake

Where can you wild camp? What does the law say?

When you go wild camping, you need to keep track of laws and regulations for wild camping, which differs between countries. Rules can sometimes also vary between different regions and areas. This means that you need to keep an eye out for local regulations and any prohibition signs.

In general, in all countries, it is important to care for the nature and not litter or disturb. If you choose to spend the night in places other than campsites and stop sites, for example in a parking lot, it may sometimes be appropriate to avoid ”camping behavior”. This means that you should avoid folding out the step or awning, and not to place your outdoor furniture next to the vehicle. Below we go through some of the most important rules in some surrounding countries.

Rules for wild camping in Sweden

It is allowed to wild camp in Sweden, but according to the Off-Road Driving Act, it is forbidden to drive in terrain with a motorhome and caravan. This means that you are not allowed to park in forests, on beaches, in pastures or on lawns. However, you can park on asphalt, gravel or other surfaces that are not damaged by the vehicle, next to a beach or a nature area.

At rest areas and signposted parking spaces, you can stay with a motorhome or caravan for a maximum of 24 hours on weekdays. On weekends, you can stay until the next weekday. If other rules were to apply locally, you will see this on an additional board under the P-sign at the rest area.

Also note that there may be local rules and regulations. According to Region Gotland’s local regulations, for example, camping in caravan and motorhome may not take place in a public place. Also keep in mind that you must ask the landowner for permission, if you are considering staying overnight on privately owned land. 

A motorhome in a parking lot on gravel, overlooking a lake

In Sweden, you can park on gravel by a lake, unless there are local prohibitions

Rules for wild camping in Norway

It is allowed to wild camp in Norway as long as you stay away from inhabited houses. The motorhome or caravan must be at least 150 meters from residential buildings and cottages. Overnight stays in vehicles parked on a public road, street or carpark are also permitted.

Please note that you are obliged to show consideration for the surroundings and care for the nature. You must not litter and you must avoid cultivated and private land. Also remember to keep an eye out for local regulations. In some tourist-dense areas, especially in Lofoten and northern Norway, there may be special restrictions on wild camping, especially in the summer. At these sites you may need to stay at a campsite.

Rules for wild camping in Finland

It is allowed to wild camp in Finland, but not near buildings. It is also permitted to spend the night in vehicles parked on a public road, street or car park. However, you may not stay on private land without the landowner’s permission. You should also avoid cultivated land, nature reserves and national parks. Please note that there can be local camping bans. Look out for the sign ”Leiriytyminen kielletty” (Camping prohibited).

Rules for wild camping in the rest of Europe

Rules for wild camping vary around Europe. In Denmark, it is allowed to spend the night in a motorhome parked on a road, street or car park, while the rules for wild camping on public land are more restrictive. In Italy, wild camping is generally allowed, but as wild camping has become common, more and more local bans have been added that must be followed.

In many countries, wild camping is allowed if the landowner has given permission, while the rules on public land are more restrictive. This applies for example to Germany, Austria, France, Spain and Croatia. In addition, in Germany and Austria, restrictions may vary between regions. In some countries, wild camping on public land is not allowed at all. This applies for example to Poland and the Czech Republic.

Several motorhomes parked on the coast

It is popular to wild camp on the Italian coast

How do you find places where you can wild camp?

Finding the perfect wild camping site can sometimes be easier said than done. Sometimes you happen to find a great place quickly, and other times it can be hopeless to find a good place. In order to take care of nature, and not break the Off-Road Driving Act, it can be good to find a place on asphalt, gravel or other surfaces that are not damaged by the vehicle. Then, of course, it’s not wrong if you get a view of a scenic area!

One way to find free camping sites is just to look for them, for example by looking if there is a suitable parking space next to a beach or a stretch of coast. You can also get tips from other wild campers, for example through Facebook groups, forums, blogs or when you meet other like-minded people in stopover sites. In addition, there are various apps, which help you find campsites, stopover sites, parking lots and rest areas:

  • Park4Night – app for campsites, stopover sites, parking lots and rest areas
  • CamperContact – app for campsites and stopover sites with and without service
  • Ställplatser – app for campsites, stopover sites and parking lots
  • Rast & Camp – app for campsites, stopover sites and rest areas
Five motorhomes parked on grass, sea on the background

Via apps you can find places where you are allowed to stay overnight, like this motorhome parking lot in Estonia

What equipment do you need when you wild camp?

You don’t necessarily need any extra equipment for wild camping, but there is equipment that helps and makes the wild camping more comfortable. Exactly what you need depends on how long and how often you plan to wild camp, what time of year you wild camp and what your needs are. For example, if you plan to wild camp in the winter, it may be a good idea to buy or rent a vehicle that is adapted for year-round use, and thus keeps the heat in better.

Below is a list of extra equipment that can make wild camping easier, especially if you want to be able to wild camp for several nights in a row. If you are planning to rent a motorhome/campervan, you can ask if any of the following equipment is in the vehicle:

  • Solar cells can be good for charging extra electricity to the batteries.
  • A generator, which is powered by petrol, is a way of producing extra electricity. Keep in mind that a power plant sounds and therefore can not always be used.
  • A lithium battery (or other extra battery) helps the energy last longer.
  • An inverter is used to convert 12 volt 220, which is useful if you want to charge computers and other technical equipment.
  • An extra toilet cassette can be good to have if you want to wild camp for several nights in a row. The toilet may only be emptied in designated places. 

En liten husbil parkerad på grus, omgiven av natur och med hav i bakgrunden

How do you prepare for wild camping?

If you are not used to wild camping, it can be good to start with one night, to test how everything works and how much battery capacity is used. How long the energy lasts depends on how good the battery is, whether there are one or two batteries and whether the battery is aided by solar cells or not. It also matters how much energy you consume. If you use an inverter, the energy is consumed faster, as well as if you charge and use a lot of technical equipment.

In order to manage one or more nights without service, it is important to have emptied the toilet and wastewater, and to have filled the storages. A tip is to take the opportunity to fill and empty as soon as you have access to service, so that you are always ready for wild camping. Service is available at all campsites and at certain stopover places. And you can, for example, also empty the toilet at some of the Swedish Transport Administration’s rest areas, and you can fill water at petrol stations. Here is a checklist of things to do before the wild camping:

  • Empty grey- and blackwater so that there is room in the tanks. Greywater is wastewater from bathroom basin, kitchen sink and shower, and blackwater is from toilet.
  • Empty the garbage so that there is room in the bin.
  • Check gasoltubes så that you have enough gasol for cooking, fridge and warming the living area ( if you don’t have diesel heater).
  • Charge the batteries if you have electricity nearby.
  • Fill water in freshwater tank, so that you have enough water. You can also have extra water in bottles or cans.
  • Stock up with food so that you can manage for a few days.

Enjoy wild camping!

Take care of nature and avoid disturbing or littering. As long as we who travel by motorhome, campervan or caravan behave properly och show that we appreciate and cherish the places we visit, we vill also be welcome and well received. And last but not least, remember to enjoy wild camping! What could be more wonderful than opening the motorhome or caravan door to a new amazing view every morning?

View to nature and sea, from the open back doors of a campervan

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