Wild Camping


Our Beginners Guide to Wild Camping covers everything you need to know – how to prepare for your wild camping trip, what to do and what not to do in the great outdoors, and all the essentials you need to bring.


Campsites are convenient. They provide almost everything you need. Almost. While running water and actual toilets are an advantage, there is something that you often can’t have on an official campground: A quiet, star-filled night sky all for yourself.

Usually, you fall asleep to the noise of the loudly chatting neighbors to the left and wake up to the earth-shattering snoring of the neighbor to the right. And there’s light pollution.

The ultimate solution if you just want to reconnect with nature and leave everything else behind: wild camping. Nothing is more refreshing than setting up camp among the wilds of nature and enjoying this feeling of emotional, mental and physical freedom.

While there are lots of similarities between a stay on the good old campsite and a night far away from civilisation hidden in the bushes, there are also a couple of things to do differently.

But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here’s everything to know before you go, what to bring, what NOT to do and a country guide to check the legal situation in places all over the world.

If you are just getting into camping, visit this page. 

Before You Go

Do your research before you go. If you don’t, you might get soaked to the bones, or lost, or arrested, or attacked by wild animals. Or a combination of everything. It makes for a cool story, but trust me – it’s not that fun.

Location

If you are unfamiliar with the area, choose a spot on a map. That way you know what you can expect and have an idea of where you can set up camp away from civilization. Use Google Maps, maps.me (works offline) or be oldschool and bring a paper map.

Laws

Make sure that wild camping is allowed in the area that you are targeting. Each country has its own laws and in some places, wild camping is not legal at all. You will find more information about that in our Country Guide below.

Weather

Check the weather forecast before you go. It can make or break your trip. If you are expecting rain, come prepared. If it is going to be very hot, don’t forget sunscreen and mosquito repellent. If they predict a tornado, don’t go.

Animals

Watching wild animals in their natural habitat while wild camping can be an unforgettable experience. However, you don’t want to be attacked by one. Make sure you don’t camp next to a bear’s den or a bee hive and inform yourself about poisonous insects.

Safety

Be prepared and bring a fully charged mobile phone in case of an emergency. A first aid kit is a must as well. Depending on the area, you might want to take a pepper spray with you. Especially, if you are a solo (female) camper. I always have one on me – just for the peace of mind.

Questions

If you have any specific questions that we don’t answer here (which is unlikely though), ask. You are not the first wild camper out there. Lots of like minded travellers exchange their tips, tricks and experiences in Facebook Groups. Alternatively, send us a message.

Choosing The Right Gear

The beauty of wild camping lies in the possibility to trek further into the wild every day. You pitch your tent for not more than a night or two, and then you continue to explore untouched nature off the beaten path. That means that you want to pack lightly.

If you aren’t expecting lots of rain and are only going to wild camp for a few days, you can bring a bivy bag. A bivy bag is basically a waterproof cover for your sleeping bag. It’s much lighter (and cheaper) than a tent, quicker to pitch and allows you to watch the night sky until you fall asleep. On longer trips you are on the safe side with a tent, though. In nights with heavy rain you are going to need the space to protect yourself and your equipment.

wild camping in the mountains

The third alternative and my personal favorite for short trips free from downfall: a hammock. There is nothing more beautiful than spending the night that little bit closer to the stars. The obvious tip: Make sure that there are enough trees (or other objects to attach the floating bed to) in the area that you want to wild camp in.

What exactly you bring always depends on the region you will be camping in and the length of your excursion. The following checklist is supposed to give you a general overview items that are necessary and stuff that can be useful. Keep in mind: Every gram adds up.


Wild camping in a hammock between trees

Wild Camping Gear Checklist

  • A tent/ bivy bag/ hammock
  • A sleeping bag
  • A sleeping pad (Unless you’re going to spend the night in a hammock – another reason why they are great.)
  • An outdoor stove and a pot/ pan
  • A firelighter/ matches
  • Camping cutlery (a bowl and a spork)
  • Sealable containers for prepared food. (Less disposable waste means less harm to the environment and more space in your backpack. A classic win-win-situation.)
  • Food (Prepared or canned food are easy to heat up. Don’t carry anything that takes forever to cook or takes up a lot of space in your backpack. Bring a few herbs to spice things up a little!)
  • Tea bags, instant coffee, hot chocolate (Whatever your favorite hot drink is – bring it! It will make chilly evenings and early mornings SO much better.)
  • A headtorch (or torch)
  • A multi-tool/ Swiss Army-knife
  • A map and a compass
  • A (solar-powered) powerbank to recharge your phone etc.
  • Toiletries (toothbrush and toothpaste, toilet paper and whatever else you need)
  • A travel towel
  • A water bottle with filter (more info below)
  • Sealable plastic bags for any kind of waste you produce
  • Hand sanitizer (the eco-friendly, vegan version)
  • Warm clothes (dress in layered clothing to be prepared for every temperature)

A guy using wild camping gear in the mountains
Equipment for wild camping

Wild Camping Code

Keep the following rules and tips in mind when you wild camp. They not only ensure a smooth experience for yourself but also a respectful and sustainable behaviour towards your environment.

Arrive Late And Leave Early

Pitch your tent at sunset and leave your spot at dawn. Keep the noise low and leave the spot exactly how you found it. Move every single rock back to where it was. Pretend you’ve never been there. The beautiful sunrise will make up for the early morning, I promise.

Leave No Trace

This classic wild camping rule also applies for your human waste. Make sure you are at least 50 meters away from any nearby water source when you need the toilet. Dig a hole (15 – 20 cm) in the ground and DO NOT bury your toilet paper. This is one of the rather unsexy sides of wild camping, but if you don’t want your improvised toilet to be found by an innocent animal, stick to the rules. ‘Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories’ … and your used toilet paper in a sealable (!) bag to throw away when you’re back in civilization.

Avoid Open Fires

I know, bonfires are amazing. Not only do they provide warmth, light and an area to cook your food on, they also create this very special atmosphere. Unfortunately, open fires in the wild can be dangerous. Wildfires spread quickly. Moreover, the light and smoke can be seen from far distances and could expose your hideout. Stay on the safe side and have a romantic evening with your gas cooker.

Waterfall in Iceland

Filter Your Water

Especially if you are planning a longer trip into the wild, you should get yourself a water filter. Stream water can look beautifully clean, but also make you terribly sick. In the middle of nowhere, an upset stomach and dehydration aren’t conditions you want to have to deal with.

waterproof tent

Keep Groups Small

Wild camping is not a party holiday. If you prefer long nights with all of your friends, stick to the classic camp site. That doesn’t mean that you can never have beer and board games out in the wild (go ahead, if the space in your backpack allows it!). But you also want to be mindful, enjoy the silence and by no means scare wildlife or pollute your environment.

Wild Camping Country Guide

Check the laws for countries worldwide below.

Wild Camping in Europe

wild camping under the Northern Lights
Unsplash/ Paxon Woelber

A quick foreword: Just because wild camping is illegal in some countries, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t do it. We are obviously not recommending to break the law. Nooo. But theoretically, just theoretically, there are places where it is very unlikely that you will get caught. If a wild camping spot is chosen well and you stick to the rules, you could get away with it. Just saying.

In the Balkan countries wild camping is mostly either legal or nobody seems to care. It’s a region with beautiful nature and very hospitable people. Explore, explore, explore!

Albania: legal
Bosnia & Herzegovina: legal (However, there are still lots of landmines in the ground! Look out for signs and ask locals.)
Bulgaria: the legal situation is unclear, but wild camping widely tolerated
Croatia: not legal, but wild camping is possible (However, the growing tourism industry makes it harder to find remote spots.)
Kosovo: legal
Macedonia: not legal (However, locals are very hospitable and wild camping easy.)
Montenegro: technically illegal, practically very easy (as long as you avoid touristy areas)
Romania: not legal, but tolerated
Serbia: unclear (but wild camping is possible.)
Slovenia: illegal, but widely tolerated (As always, stay away from touristic places.)

Estonia: legal
Latvia: legal
Lithuania:legal
(And camping in general is widely encouraged in all three countries!)

Belarus: legal
Moldova: unclear, but wild camping is tolerated.
Russia: legal

Armenia: legal
Azerbaijan: legal
Georgia: legal
(You can also ask locals if you can pitch your tent in their garden. More about Caucasian hospitality here.)

Austria: not legal (Exception: bivy bag for one night)
Czech Republic: same as in Austria, legal for one night without tent
Germany: not legal (Exception: see above)
Hungary: unclear, but wild camping is possible. To be on the safe side, ask land owners for permission.
Liechtenstein: illegal
Poland: illegal
Slovakia: legal (with exceptions)
Switzerland: unclear. (Apparently, it is recommended to ask the local police for further information.)

Italy: illegal
Malta: illegal
Greece: illegal, but tolerated
Spain: widely tolerated (but there are different laws applying to different areas of the country)
Turkey: legal
Cyprus: wild camping is possible in unprotected areas. (Note: they are apparently very strict when it comes to open fires.)

Denmark: illegal (However, wild camping is explicitly permitted in some areas and forests.)
Finland: legal (as long as you don’t disturb the land owner.)
Iceland: legal
Norway: legal and encouraged (you can wild camp for up to two nights on uncultivated land no closer than 150 meters from a house or a cabin)
Sweden:

Belgium: illegal (However, pole camping is allowed.)
France: French laws allow so-called Bivouac camping. (You don’t necessarily need to stay in a bivy bag, however, you should be as discreet as possible.)
Luxembourg: illegal
Monaco: illegal
Netherlands: illegal (However, pole camping is allowed.)
Portugal: illegal (but apparently tolerated)

England: only permitted with land owner’s approval (However, you can safely wild camp in Dartmore and the Lake District.)
Northern Ireland: permitted with the land owner’s approval
Scotland: legal
Wales: only permitted with land owner’s approval

Wild Camping in North America & Canada

wild camping in Canada
Unsplash/ Matt Thomason

In general, wild camping is quite easy in the US and Canada. You are allowed to camp in US national forests and grasslands, on Bureau of Land Management grounds and on Canadian Crown Land. With a permit, it is also possible to camp in the ‘backcounty’ of national parks.

For more information about (free) campsites in your area, you can also check out Ultimatecampgrounds.com.

There are usually no amenities in the national forest areas and grasslands.
You are usually permitted to stay for 14 days (sometimes more).
Stay away from official camp grounds and do not camp closer than 200 feet away from a water source.
A helpful tool is this Interactive National Forest Map. Moreover, here you can download maps for the areas that you are going to camp in.

There are usually no amenities on BLM land.
You are usually permitted to stay for 14 days (sometimes more).
Stay away from official camp grounds and do not camp closer than 200 feet away from a water source.
Use the BLM Interactive Map to find information about the area that you are targeting.

Canadian residents are allowed to camp for 21 days.
Foreigners have to pay for a permit (varies by province).
For more info check out Backroad Mapbooks, freecampsites.net, or WikiCamps Canada.

Wild Camping in Central America & Mexico

wild campingin Guatemala

Wild camping in Central America and Mexico can be an unforgettable, wonderful experience. However, you need to be extra cautious when it comes to safety. And: Speaking Spanish will make life much easier!

Wild camping is illegal.

Wild camping is illegal. However, if you camp in remote areas, it is unlikely that you will be disturbed.

Wild camping in Mexico is definitely possible. Inform yourself about the area before you set up camp and take safety precautions.

Wild Camping in South America

a beach in Peru, possible spot for wild camping
Unsplash/ Jessica Knowlden

From thick jungles over pristine beaches to some of the biggest glaciers worldwide – South America is full of contrasts. If done right, wild camping is an exciting way to explore its beauty.

Wild camping is legal and a common activity for locals and foreigners.

Wild camping in Bolivia is less common, but possible. Inform yourself about the political climate before you go. Also make sure you don’t camp in areas that are known for drug trafficking.

Wild camping is possible, but make sure you stay in rural areas. If you camp near houses, ask land owners for permission.

Wild camping in Chile is permitted and a great way to explore its nature. Ask land owners for permission if there is cultivated land or a house in sight.

Colombia is not a wild camping hotspot, but it is definitely possible. Avoid urban areas and ask for permission if you camp near cultivated land or private property. The local’s hospitality sometimes even leads to access to a shower or and kitchen – and some great conversations!

Wild camping is legal. Avoid urban areas and ask for permission if you camp near cultivated land or private property.

Wild camping is possible, but make sure you stay in rural areas. If you camp near houses, ask land owners for permission.

Wild camping is legal. Avoid urban areas and ask for permission if you camp near cultivated land or private property. The local’s hospitality sometimes even leads to access to a shower or and kitchen – and some great conversations!

Wild camping is permitted and becoming more popular. Ask land owners for permission if there is cultivated land or a house in sight.

Wild camping is legal and quite easy in Peru. Stick to the rules (stay in rural areas or ask land owners for permission if you camp on private ground ) and you will be rewarded with beautiful star-filled night skies in the mountains.

Wild camping is not very popular in South America’s smallest country. If you attempt it anyways, keep in mind that Suriname is covered by rainforest. Beware of the wild animals and the rules regarding their national parks and nature reservoirs.

Wild camping in Uruguay is legal and a common way for hikers to explore the country. As always, Avoid urban areas and ask for permission if you camp near cultivated land or private property.

Wild camping is legal. Avoid urban areas and ask for permission if you camp near cultivated land or private property.
Also, inform yourself about the political climate in your targeted area and make sure you know about the wildlife.

Wild Camping in Australia & New Zealand

Night sky in a wild camping night in Australia
Unsplash/ Ken Cheung

Australia and New Zealand are a backpacker’s paradise. Wild camping (or rather ‘free camping’) is possible and encouraged. However, there are a few things to know before you start the adventure.

Australia is a very camper-friendly place. However, it is illegal to wild camp in Australia. That means that you are not allowed to just camp anywhere you want. Here’s the good news: There are lots of rest areas that are not only remote and quiet, but also free! (Find free camp sites here.) As they don’t have any facilities, it will feel like proper wild camping.

[Obvious side info: For a good free camping experience you should travel in your own car (or hitchhike). Australia is huge and the public transport not that popular.]

In New Zealand, you are allowed to camp in any local authority area unless camping is actively restricted or prohibited in that area. Enjoy!

[Find more info here.]

Wild Camping in Asia

Wild camping in Asia
Unsplash/ Lucija Ros

The Earth’s largest and most populous continent has a lot to offer. Whether you would like to camp in Siberia’s icy landscape or in Thailand’s humid forests – you’ll find the details below.

Kazakhstan: legal
Kyrgyzstan: legal
Tajikistan: widely tolerated
Turkmenistan: not allowed (And it is not that easy to get around the law, as tourists need to register at their accomodation)
Uzbekistan: legal

Siberia: possible (with a registration)

Bangladesh: legal (but not common)
Bhutan: illegal
India: legal
Maldives: legal, but widely discouraged (make sure you ask for permission from the land owner)
Nepal: legal (except Nepal’s restricted areas)
Pakistan: legal
Sri Lanka: mostly illegal, especially in national parks (ask for permission from land owners or officials)

China: technically illegal, but usually quite easy (note that the restirctions vary per area)
Hong Kong: possible (list of (free) designated campsites)
Macau: possible
Japan: possible (either urban camping in city parks or anywhere in rural areas)
Mongolia: legal
South Korea: legal
Taiwan: legal

Brunei: widely tolerated (but not very common)
Cambodia: possible (but not very common – ask locals for permission)
East Timor: possible
Indonesia: possible
Laos: possible (legal situation is unclear)
Malaysia: possible (but not common)
Myanmar: illegal (but possible)
Philippines: possible (but not common and might attract unwanted attention)
Singapore: illegal (for foreigners)
Thailand: possible (ask for the land owner’s permission)
Vietnam: illegal (but possible)

Wild camping in Africa

Wild camping spot in Namibia
Unsplash/ Peter Syme

Africa covers 20 % of the Earth’s land area. I promise, you can find a few amazing wild camping spots on the world’s oldest populated land.

Algeria: /
Egypt: possible in remote areas
Libya: possible. (There are also free camp sides in the Sahara)
Morocco: possible
Tunisia: possible
Ceuta: possible
Melilla: possible
Western Sahara: possible

Botswana: illegal (check out camp sites in Chobe National Park here)
Eswatini (Swaziland): possible in remote areas
Lesotho: possible in remote areas
Namibia: possible
South Africa: possible in remote areas

Madagascar: illegal (but possible)
Mauritius: possible
Comoros: /
Seychelles: uncommon, but possible
French Southern and Antarctic Lands: see France
Réunion: s. France
Mayotte: s. France

In general, a safe option is to ask the chief of a village for permission to camp in the area.
Uganda: not legal, but possible
Rwuanda:
Burundi:
Kenya: possible
Tanzania: possible

In general, a safe option is to ask the chief of a village for permission to camp in the area.
Mosambique: /
Malawi: /
Zambia: possible
Zimbabwe: /

Wild Camping in the Middle East

Is it possible to wild camp in countries like Iran, Iraq and Lebanon? YES, it is. Been there, done that, and loved it! However, communication (with other travellers and locals before and on your trip) is key. Always inform yourself about the current political climate and never take unnecessary risks.

Wild camping in Iran

Wild camping is possible in remote areas.

Wild camping is legal.

Wild camping is possible, if you take the necessary precautions. Especially Iraqi Kurdistan (north Iraq) is a wild camping-friendly place.

Wild camping is legal.

Wild camping is technically illegal. However, if you find a remote spot to pitch your tent for the night, it is unlikely that anyone cares.

If you don’t camp on the beach, you will have no problem wild camping in Kuwait.

Wild camping is technically illegal (there are many official campsites near hiking routes etc.). However, if you camp remotely or ask land owners for permission, it should be fine.

You can legally camp in the countryside of Oman.

Inform yourself about the different control areas of the West Bank before you go. Stay up to date on the political developments and ask fellow travellers about their experiences.

Wildcamping in Qatar is tolerated.

Wild camping is tolerated.

Overnight camping is legal. For more info, check out this camping guide.

Wild camping is possible in remote areas.

We have created these lists based on our best knowledge from own experience and research. They will be updated regularly. Please note that laws and political climates can change anytime. We have excluded warzones and a few areas that we don’t have sufficient information about from this post. If you can add value to this list or have any questions, you can send an email to leoni@softbacktravel.com or contact us here.

Read more: 10 Essential tips for campers.