Wild camping is the dream of the adventurer, the true meaning of camping and experiencing nature firsthand. Wild camping in a motorhome provides the added bonus of being able to bring all your stuff along, being able to explore further and having safety from rain or other weather perils. Whilst it can be tempting to just stay in your motorhome, wild camping allows you to gaze at the stars while you fall asleep, or to listen to the sounds of wildlife around. It provides the best of both worlds. We’re going to give you the lowdown on wild camping for motorhomes, including what to do to avoid any trouble and where to go!
#1 Respect the Space
Wild camping is all about immersing yourself in nature, and bringing you back to the true roots of camping - and perhaps saving a few quid! To achieve this, it is vital to ensure that you leave the places you’re camping in exactly the same state you found them.
Pick up all litter, do not damage your surroundings and be careful with any campfires! The old saying goes; leave only footprints, take only photographs! In respecting your litter and pollution, you must also consider your noise pollution. Playing loud music or yelling can bother nearby inhabitants or disrupt the wildlife around, so try to keep it down, especially after 10pm.
A rule of thumb for most wild campers is to arrive late, leave early. Spend your day exploring and then find a campsite purely to eat and sleep, and the next morning pack up and move on. Try not to stay somewhere for longer than a night, and then you’re likely to not run into any trouble.
Usually you’ll have no trouble with wild camping in the UK or Europe, as long as you’re respectful of the area and its inhabitants.
#2 When in Doubt
However it can often be unclear if you’re allowed to pitch camp somewhere, particularly in National Parks or forests. When in doubt, simply check! A quick search on Google can reveal the rules regarding a particular area, or lead you to a phone number where you can check. If you feel a land may be owned by a nearby house, simply go and ask. Often if it is, they’ll allow you to stay as long as you follow the rules above.
There are also numerous sites and forums online that provide lists of areas allowing wild camping, for countries across Europe. If you cannot find a place to camp for the night, you can always find somewhere to at least park your motorhome. The rules on parking overnight in the UK are super unclear, as there are no official rules prohibiting it. It seems to be up to the jurisdiction of each local government and law enforcement, who tend to follow the unofficial rule of allowing it unless it is on private property. Thus, stopping at a lay-by or in a public car park probably won’t get you in any trouble, but setting up camp on someone’s property or staying in the car park of a specific business could lead to you being asked to move.
Our advice is to be on the lookout for truck stops along the roads, or for car parks, simply go and ask the owner first. Often supermarkets or casinos allow motorhome owners to use their car parks overnight, as long as it isn’t for more than a night and nothing is being blocked.
Lately there has also been the new trend of Nightstops, allocating specific places for motorhomes to park for the night. Organisations and businesses can sign up to be a Nightstop, and in return may ask you to purchase a meal there or simply allow you to stay for free! Sites like this one show the currently registered Nightstops , so you can always find your closest one. If you’re a business owner, consider registering to be a Nightstop to help your fellow motorhome travellers, it could result in some good karma for you or them visiting your store!
#3 Plan Ahead
Don’t find yourself in the dark with nowhere to stay, planning is key in finding wild motorhome camping sites. While we agree a lot of the charm of motorhome travel is the freedom and being able to go wherever you want, make sure to always have options. If you know you’re heading to the south of France, look up forests or parks in the area that allow camping, so you know which directions to go. You can move around those areas as you please, a night on the hills and then a night by the lake, but just know the guidelines. Ensure you’re always safe with where you stop, keeping valuables close and a phone charged in case of emergencies!
#4 All about Packing
The key to wild camping is the packing, you need to pack all the appropriate things yet somehow end up with almost no belongings to carry. Luckily, wild camping for motorhomes solves a lot of these issues, as you aren’t carrying everything on your back and you have the space to store things. But as we know, some motorhomes, like the famed Mazda Bongo, have limited storage space, so it is all about packing smart. Bring a good tent, size dependent on how many of you will be sleeping in it. You can save space with a compact sleeping bag, or by getting a two person one instead of two individual bags! If you check out our blog on camping hacks, you’ll find many more space saving tricks and general tips for camping. Tips include removing the derder within the toilet roll so you can flatten it and pack more rolls with less space. Also this allows you to put it in a plastic bag and reduce the risk of it getting wet!
#5 Great Destinations
Now that the boring practicalities are out of the way, it is time for the fun part of wild camping, the destinations! Wild camping in Europe provides a ton of great places to stay, and we’d need a whole series of blogs to even begin naming them all. So for now, we will settle for mentioning some of the most popular wild motorhome camping sites!
Within England there is a longstanding tradition of wild camping in the Lake District. Wild camping is tolerated here, as long as the previously mentioned wild camping code is followed. Two particularly good spots are Thornthwaite Beacon and Place Fell, both are gorgeous sites away from the path. They are also both within reach of freshwater streams for drinking - but always boil and/or sterilize before you drink!
For wild camping in Wales, we recommend Snowdonia National Park, which is renowned for being wild camping friendly. As long as you camp off the beaten track and follow the general codes, you’ll have no issues. In particular, camping above Aber Falls is breathtaking, and will reignite your love for camping! A road trip in Wales will be made all the more fun by camping under the stars.
Scotland is a great place for wild camping, as it is allowed almost anywhere and there are vast rural areas where you will go unnoticed. For example, Cairgorns National Park and Loch Lomond are great sights for wild camping in Scotland.
Moving away from our wonderful island, we now consider the rest of Europe. Wild camping in France is a grey area. It is tolerated as long as you stay away from tourist sites and you get permission from the landowner. However, campfires are a big faux pas for obvious reasons, so do not get caught lighting open fires when wild camping in France! French nationals favor the Ardennes in the north-east and the Movan peaks in Burgundy for camping. Wild camping for motorhomes in the South of France is best done around Saintes Maries-de-la-Mer in the Camargue, which is known for a more laissez-faire attitude towards it.
Our top place for wild camping is Norway, as is is enshrined in the Allemannsetten - every man or woman’s right of public access. There are hundreds of miles of areas waiting for you to pitch at. A great area near Oslo is north to the wooded area around Sognsvann lake. Also the dramatic Lofoten islands, inside the Arctic Circle, where you’ll get to savour the dramatic midnight sun, the best Norway road trip.
Sweden also has a similar outlook on wild camping, so you’ll be welcomed here with open arms. Skuleskogen National Park is one of the 29 national parks in Sweden, and is situated on the coast of the Baltic Sea is northern Sweden. It is home to one of the Swedish coast’s few remaining old-growth forests and is filled with high mountains, rocky grounds and breathtaking views of the sea, lakes and woods. There are numerous of spots to pitch your tent, but avoid staying more than three nights on the same one.
In Estonia, wild camping is widely tolerated but they advise getting permission from the landowner first. The best spot for it there is on the large island of Saaremaa, in the Baltic, which is covered in thick forests. It has a handful of campsites (in case things fall through) but most locals pitch on the beaches in the north of the island, around Murika. Another spot is in the north-east of Estonia, in the Lahemaa national park. It is smothered in forest, and landowners are well-known for welcoming campers.
You can also wild camp almost anywhere in Bulgaria, deep into the stunning nature. This makes a road trip in Bulgaria the ideal choice for your next summer holiday!
#6 Places to be Wary
Not everywhere is so lenient to wild camping. In Greece, wild camping is illegal, as authorities prefer to direct tourists towards money-making, taxable hotels and campsites. The rule is often ignored, but we still will not be recommending it. If you insist, aim for the Cyclades islands, the north-western coast of Amorgos and the southern beaches of Anafi, which go unpoliced. Bulgaria has some great spots for wild camping, but keep in mind that wild camping here comes hand-in-hand with political activism and nudity. It is usually done as a protest against the aggressive private land grab that has claimed 90% of their beautiful coastline. And the nudity is usually part of that statement, or simply how camping is enjoyed. So be wary of being mistaken for a protest against the government, or shield your children's eyes when necessary.
Now you’re ready to go wild camping in Europe! Campervan hire and wild camping is the best way to experience the beauty this continent has to offer, and to experience the dramatic landscapes hidden deep within. Search for a motorhome through our site and then get packing, wild camping awaits!