You’ve mastered camping in your RV at campgrounds with amenities and dry camping at places like Harvest Host without hookups. Are you ready to go a step further with RV wild camping? How about wild camping in Europe?
Sometimes referred to as “boondocking,” wild camping takes you deeper into nature so that you can set up camp wherever you roam. It allows you to fall asleep under the stars to only the sounds of nature and wake up to your own private sunrise.
Wild camping presents challenges since you’re far away from amenities and services. But aside from being totally free, the rewards are worth it. You can overcome the challenges with these tips for wild camping in a RV in Europe.
Pay Attention to Wild Camping Laws
Wild camping, commonly called dispersed camping in the US, usually is located in US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas. These are typically free to use and you are just asked to follow the Leave No Trace policy. Do remember that policies and closures change so check the latest before heading out to a dispersed camping area.
This is true in Europe as well where things vary a lot more. In England, Northern Ireland, and Wales, there are not specific laws against wild camping; however, these countries do have laws against trespassing. Since virtually all of the land in these countries is privately owned, you’ll need the landowner’s permission to park there. To do so without permission isn’t a criminal matter but rather a civil matter. If you don’t leave when asked it becomes a criminal matter and you could be arrested.
Southern Europe is quite relaxed, especially in Greece and less developed countries. You can park almost anywhere, as long as no one has an issue with it. Which is rare. In places like Portugal and Spain it is becoming more of an issue due to overcrowding, so use your common sense.
Due to Allemansrätten, a law that exists to give everyone access to nature, it is easy to wild camp in Scandanavia. The only challenge is that there are not that many truly wild places that you can reach. Instead, you will often end up in roadside car parks or hiking car parks. The law also allows for camping on private land as long as you stay away from buildings and follow all fire bans and Leave No Trace rules. National Parks like those found in the USA are not nearly as developed and don’t have campsites set up for RVs and the like.
In central Europe, it is a lot more difficult. We live in Switzerland and wild camping there is tough. Same with Germany. France has a system of free camps through a program called France Passion, which you should definitely check out if you want to spend time there.
Pick the Best Wild Camping Spots
If you’re really wanting to “get away from it all,” publicly managed land other than national and state parks and forests may offer more private spots.A small fee for a permit may be required to camp in some state and national parks and forests, and you may need a pass to park in some national parks.
Luckily, apps and websites are available these days to help you find the best spots for wild camping in the USA. Some apps to try include iOverlander, Park4Night, The Dyrt, Freecampsites.net, and Campendium.com.
In Europe the app everyone uses is Park4TheNight. It has a huge range of places there from campsites to wild camping and dumping stations. It is our go-to app for camping and RV travel for sure.
Naturally, it makes sense to stay aware of bad weather, wildfires, etc. These conditions can make some roads dangerous or impassable. Visiting a country or area that you are not familiar with, it is important to take time to find the best resources to keep you aware and to learn about the potential dangers such as weather or wildlife.
Keep An Eye On Your Water
You can live off-grid without electricity or the internet, but not without water, and there’s no guarantee you’ll have a safe source of drinking water nearby. Therefore, you’ll need an RV water system, potentially with a filter, to ensure you have clean water. If you don’t filter your water, that may mean only cooking and washing with your onboard water.
You’ll need to carry at least two liters of water per person each day to avoid dehydration. You may need even more in hot climates. A simple water jug or gallon container can be handy for drinking water.
Don’t forget to include water for cooking, washing clothes, or cleaning, and an occasional shower will be nice. For all of these needs, you could easily consume up to 50 liters a day. When choosing a size for your water system, consider how much water you’ll use each day. Make your calculations on the generous side.
Consider ways to conserve your water too such as using a trigger-style shower head, quick showers, and one-pot cooking. Try to avoid cooking with water, and if you do, think about ways to reuse it.
Filling Up With Water
Ideally, you will have enough water to support your time wild or off-grid camping. However, if you are traveling in Europe then finding water on the road is not always easy.
We found a variety of places to get water, aside from the campsite of course. Gas stations often have faucets for use by truck drivers and the like. In some countries, especially in the south, churches are surprisingly the go-to place to get fresh water as they have faucets on the edge of their property. We suggests using an app like Park4TheNight to help you get creative in finding sources.
Plan for Off-Grid Cooking
Like drinking water, you have to eat while wild camping in your RV. There won’t likely be a steakhouse or burger joint down the road and probably not a grocery store either. Cold foods are always an option and make for a faster dinner as well. And, if you’re camping in a hot climate, a few salads here and there won’t hurt.
Many people in Northern Europe eat cold cuts at night with bread, and this certainly saves on cooking and washing up as well. This is a great way to live like a native and taste the local foods.
Another option is to cook over a campfire or a barbeque when the weather is good and it’s safe to do so. This also helps conserve cooking fuel and helps reduce water vapor and odors inside your RV.
It is quite common to use campfires in more Northern parts of Europe where wildfires are not an issue, but this is something to be very careful about in the south. There has been an increase in the risk of fires in places like Portugal, Spain, France and Greece. And surprisingly even parts of England had major fires in summer 2022. So, keep this in mind if you are traveling in July and August.
Grey & Black Water
While camping of any type in your RV, it’s important to dispose of both grey water and black water responsibly. It’s even more important to prepare for this when camping off-grid for longer periods. By using a fitted greywater and black water tank, you can take your waste away when you leave. Just be sure to consider the size of the tank and how many days it will take to fill up.
One way to ensure you don’t overfill your waste tanks is to reduce what goes in in the first place.
We try to wash our dishes only once a day, collecting or reusing dirty dishes throughout the day. Of course, this depends on what you cook and eat, but it is something you can improve on as you get more experience wild camping.
As for the bathroom, in many ways, things are the same. Reducing how often you use your onboard bathroom is the key. It not only saves water, but also waste. So, use public toilets when possible or even make use of nature when it makes sense.
Just be sure to dig holes when number two is involved, and always leave things as clean or cleaner than when you arrived. That means taking your toilet paper with you. We always have small plastic bags on hand for this. You can use makeup disposal plastic bags, or those used by dog walkers. Such small bags are ideal as you can tie them up and throw them away responsibly more often.
Practice Safety While Wild Camping
No matter where you camp, it is important to be safe. These safety rules are good to keep in mind while wild camping. Print out the list and post it in your RV as a great reminder.
1. Tell someone where you are and when to expect you back.
2. Avoid driving down unknown roads or a road you don’t think your vehicle can manage.
3. Carry a toolkit and a first aid kit for emergencies.
4. Find your spot well before dark.
5. Plan for exits and turnarounds.
6. Always park ready to go and face in a direction you can leave if need be
7. Consider keeping something nearby to keep you safe such as a weapon, flashlight, and whistle.
8. If you’re going to drink alcohol while wild camping, have a designated driver in case you have to leave on short notice.
Anna Timbrook was born to travel the world having studied languages all her life. Although she has traveled the world, she now calls Switzerland home and spends her time writing about her experiences on Expert World Travel. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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