Camping is a great way to reduce costs, especially when camping wild, that is not in a paid for spot. Free or wild camping requires some improvisation and can give you a sense of adventure.
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 trashes with you and dispose of them 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, minimise the impact of the fire.
Detailed information about these principles can be found all over the internet.
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.
Illegal free camping
In Western Europe it's not legal to just put your tent anywhere. It's still very possible. 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
- and break up your tent not too late in the morning
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. Combining a mapping program and a GPS, now you should always be able to find free camping on your favorite public or private lands.