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Bivouac / Camp outside campgrounds in Europe?
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Casey Ryska
(cryska) - F
Bivouac / Camp outside campgrounds in Europe? on 05/19/2006 12:09:49 MDT Print View

I'm not sure if anyone can answer this. I currently live in Germany and love getting down to the Bavarian and Swiss Alps. On my last two trips we decided to bivouac instead of staying in the hut. However, I'm not sure if this is exactly legal or not. The huts are great and it is a nice way to go lite. However, I really like getting out in the wilderness and appreciate sleeping out under the stars and getting to use all this expensive gear. Just wondering if anyone had anyone experience in the European Alps and could help me out.

Thanks in advance.

Patrick Baker
(WildMan) - F
Re: Bivouac / Camp outside campgrounds in Europe? on 05/19/2006 12:51:00 MDT Print View

Likely against regulations, but ...

you could BIVOUAC,
if you are alone or with just one other person,
do it off the trail,
right before or after dark,
pack up first thing in the morning,
and leave no trace.

If you want to CAMP, or are with a large group, do so in the huts or in the valley campgrounds.

In Switzerland (Interlaken), I remember an official looking helicopter came snooping around the area right around dusk.

Dan Healy

Locale: Queensland
go lite in France on 05/25/2006 03:26:44 MDT Print View

Casey, we have had no trouble in the Alps in France or Italy. Generally as long as you are actually in the wilderness (not near a hut etc) and don't put up the shelter till the evening and are gone by early morning you are fine. Lonely Planet guide books are great. Norway and the Scandanavian countries are much better. We are off to Norway this year and there it is very much encouraged. There are plenty of resources on the net also. good camping

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Bivouac / Camp outside campgrounds in Europe? on 05/25/2006 04:52:19 MDT Print View

I can tell you what the rules in France are, and I suspect they will be similar elsewhere.

You are not allowed to CAMP in many places. But the word CAMP refers to CAR camping. I assume this is not what you mean.

Putting a little one or two man tent up somewhere up in the mountains just for the night is called a BIVOUAC. This is usually quite legal. Even in some places where you are not meant to bivouac, there is little anyone will do about it.

There is a restriction on bivouacs next to SOME gites and refuges. You have to be a minimum distnace away - out of sight is usually enough. I was challenged once when camped up above a refuge in Spain - in my very bright orange! tent, clearly visible from the refuge, but by the time the Guardian reached us we were in our sleeping bags, and not moving that night! Since we were coming down towards his refuge rather then starting from it, we were able to say we hadn't seen the signs. He asked us to be away by 9 am the next morning, I assured him we would be gone before that, so he wished us a good night and left.

So you should not have any problems if you are out of sight of the huts.

Casey Ryska
(cryska) - F
Thanks Guys on 05/25/2006 12:09:19 MDT Print View

Thanks everyone,

The past two times we did camp out the situation was just like you described. We set up our tents at dusk and were out of there by morning. A group of guys and I climbed the Zugspitze last weekend and we decided to stay in the hut. It was fun (a.k.a large amounts of beer) but actually pitching a tent and sleeping in the open is a large part of the experience for me.

Thanks again.

Tjeerd Andringa
(tjeerd) - F
Re: Bivouac / Camp outside campgrounds in Europe? on 05/26/2006 08:03:13 MDT Print View

Even in the Netherlands, one of the most crowed places in the world in which whatever is left of Nature is managed as a park, it is possible to bivouac. Officially it is forbidden, but I have done it many times and occasionally I have been discovered by officials. If you camp in a minimalist way, and not in the middle of a bird nesting area or so, it is usually tolerated if you camp late and leave early. The only “penalty” I ever had to pay was listening to a lecture about the local nature and the plans to improve its quality. Pleasant and informative enough!

The same holds for the rest of Western Europe. Sleeping at the fields of a farmer is usually OK as well after you have asked for permission at the closest farm, which may not even own the land. In practice some sort of permission is arranged easily. The only exception may be camping near a well trodden long distance track where people might be exposed to people who abused the hospitality.

If you end up in a village, try camping in a public park and don’t try to hide yourself. You’ll be surprised how easy you can get away with this. In towns along waterways or lakes you can often pitch your tent where boats are allowed to moor. Usually this is quite legal and often it even toilet facilities are provided. This can be the cheapest way to spend a night with all the benefits of civilization.