Camping is a great way to reduce accommodation and other costs. This is especially true when it is for free, like "wild camping". Free or wild camping requires some improvisation, but can provide a sense of freedom and adventure. Whilst hitchhiking, you never know quite where you'll end up in the evening. Camping can be a good safety option, allowing you to sleep peacefully outside overnight. Here you can find info about several types of camping, as well as some tips for outdoor survival.
Leave no trace
Leave no trace is a set of principles regarding responsible wild camping. In short, it tries to preserve the outdoors for the current and next generation.
The most important ones to know and remember when camping are:
- Take your trash (rubbish) with you and dispose of it properly. It's very important to leave a place clean. Ideally cleaner than you found it.
- Don't alter your camping place, for example by digging or destroying trees and branches
- If you need to make a fire, minimize the impact of the fire.
Detailed information about these principles can be found all over the internet, including the Leave No Trace Seven Principles.
Set up late, clear out early. Discrete camping on the road means different things for everyone. Accommodations can range from tents to tarps, bivouacs to hammocks depending on personal preference. The requirements for shelter vary for everyone, in every environment.
Tents are the heaviest option for shelter, but are the most private and sealed.
See also tent
More lightweight than tents and probably the most versatile in its possibilities.
See also tarp
Basically the bivouac sack is a plastic bag, which is pulled over the sleeping bag. It keeps you warm and protects you from the rain. A bivouac sack is very light and is set up in no time. Disadvantages can be the high price (although there are bivys in every price category) and if you wake up in a rainfall, you can have an unpleasant night.
Bivvying gives the biggest sense of freedom while still keeping you warm, dry and relatively comfortable. It's also the most stealth way of camping, since you're even less likely to be spotted in comparison to a tent or tarp.
See also Bivouac sack.
A small nylon travel hammock has many uses, though is more suited toward fair-weather travel. It allows you to sleep in many places, without needing a flat dried land.
If you need a bigger comfort, you can choose a hammock with a mosquito netting and a tarp: it will provide you with great comfort even if it's raining or if there are plenty of bugs. A nice hammock, but an expensive one, is the Hennessy hammock.
Notice that a hammock is much cooler than a tent. It is recommended to use hammocks only for the summer period in quite hot countries. Insulation can be improved though, for example by using an extra blanket or sleeping bag between yourself and the hammock.
See Hammockforum.co.uk for more information about hammocks.
Also check things to carry
Always useful to carry matches. Be wise when starting a fire. Consider forest fire threats and damage to nature. If you don't want any unwanted attention, choose a quiet location off the beaten track for your site. Preferably near trees for kindling. Remember that any local people could report smoke they see to relevant authorities.
A big issue while camping is access to water. Sometimes it can be really easy to get fresh clean water, otherwise, there are multiple ways to purify water. Don't forget to always have water with you and to refill as soon as you find some drinkable water.
If you are unable to filter the water, make sure the water is relatively safe to drink. Be as high up in the terrain as possible, take water from smaller streams rather than bigger ones, check for animal excretions near and in the water and make sure there are no animal carcasses lying upstream. Clear water doesn't always mean clean water!
"How to sh*t in the woods" is both a comical look at some of the more awkward aspects of camping, as well as a useful resource for information. While using leaves or other local plant life can work, carrying a small amount of toilet paper may make for a happier experience. In general, dig a small pit, squat over it, do your business, toss in the paper when finished, and cover the hole back up. Try to make your pit at least 20cm deep (6 inches), as nobody wants to accidentally step in it. If no digging tool is handy or the soil is shallow, cover with leaves and put a big rock onto it - its an oldy but a goody! Oh, and a personal recommendation: don't make your bathroom near where you plan to sleep. This lesson is generally only learned once. Also, keep a good distance away from rivers, creeks and other water sources, especially if you plan on using this water later.
There are several ways to take a free shower while camping.
Best to try and avoid fields with livestock in them. Mostly because they could trample your tent or the farmer could be checking on them and inadvertently see you. Also farmers don't take kindly to crops being bent over by people walking through them, and they can potentially track you this way! A lot of agricultural land is unused. And a lot of farmers wouldnt care if somebody was camping a night in a field they're not using for anything. Obviously some nasty farmers would engage, if only for the power trip "You're trespassing on my private property" etc. in which case you reason with them or just move out of sight and pitch again.
Legal free camping
Even in Germany wild camping is legal in specific places. The Saxon Switzerland National Park has a tradition called Boofen, which means you can pitch your tent at designated places inside the park. Mostly these are quite scenic locations under or between rocks, close to climbing areas. For a list of these places, see here (in German). Note that wild camping at other spots then these designated ones is strictly prohibited!
The Netherlands has some so called pole campings (dutch: paalkampeerterreinen), where you can camp for free. These places are nothing more than a grass field in the forest with a pole in the middle and a water pump. For an overview, see here or http://sites.google.com/site/paalkampeerders/kaart (includes some location in Belgium) (both in Dutch). You're allowed to stay up to 72 hours, and there can be a max. of 3 tents at one camp site.
Coilte, the semi-state forestry body in Ireland is currently designating a number of wild camping sites across the estate which can be used by long distance hikers using their own equipment to camp overnight on their hike. These sites will be a grassy or flat area adjacent to a National Waymarked Way with enough space for one or two tents, usually beside or close to a stream or watercourse. They are intended for use for one night only and their use will be in line with principles of responsible use, in line with Leave No Trace, to assist with maintaining the camping site. See more atthe Coilte website.
Illegal free camping
In Western Europe it's not legal to just place your tent anywhere you wish. However, it is still possible if you take precautions. Some tips:
- Find a secluded spot where you're not directly visible from the road or any houses
- It's best to pitch your tent after dark
- Break up your tent early in the morning
in the United States boondocking.org offers a web application which will allow you to enter GPS coordinates for your favorite camping spots, and find spots near your current location. By combining a mapping program and GPS, you can now you be able to find free camping spots on your favorite public / private lands.
Many companies now facilitate landowners, including those with gardens, when offering places to camp for a price.
- Camp in my Garden. This was the first garden camping organisation, launched in 2011 in the UK. By the end of 2014 the org is offering more than 1300 locations, 60% in Europe
- Home Camp currenty only has presence in Australia.