Camping in the wilds: Rules for undisturbed outdoor nights
For many outdoor enthusiasts, spending the night in a tent is simply an essential part of the whole experience: After a wonderful day spent in the open air, then all meals cooked on the camping stove are going to taste good and definitely better than a quick snack in a local pub-restaurant. So now, you can lie under the starry sky and think about all the events of the day and tank up on energy for the next stage of your tour. When you have eaten well and your body is getting tired then of course, a comfy sleeping bag is very tempting.
On official camping sites an undisturbed night is often only a dream – and quite honestly, the numbered sites and wash room facilities are not exactly “outdoor experience”. On the other hand, setting up your tent free in natural surroundings also demands observance of a number of rules such that you have no problems and also that you cause no problems.
In principle, there are differences between free camping (in a tent) and free bivouacking (for example under a tarpaulin). In general, the latter is permitted but if you set up your night 'accommodation' on private grounds, then of course you must obtain permission from the owner. In Germany and Austria 'wild camping' is expressly forbidden, bivouacking is regarded as an emergency situation and is tolerated. In Switzerland the rules for setting up a tent differ from Canton to Canton and it is therefore advisable to ask on site.
In nature protected areas camping is not permitted and sensitive ecological systems should also be avoided such as the transition area between forest and open meadow, proximity to the tree line, pastures, sparse tree population and rocky forest areas, moorland and wetlands. For your own safety you should look for sheltered places, not close to flowing water. And despite the feeling of being 'away from it all' there are still rules to be observed in nature at night: You must of course conduct yourselves quietly and not disturb the wildlife. No campfires should be lit, rubbish must be collected and taken away and other 'evidence' left by humans should be buried.
In some countries such as Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ireland camping in the open is allowed. A 'right of utilization of nature' is also enjoyed for example by Sweden, Norway and Finland as so-called 'Allemannsrätten' (common rights) that allow any outdoor enthusiast to spend the night in the open. Here too, a few basic rules should be observed: No open fires and no tents should be put up in view of houses. Preservation of nature is absolutely a matter of course.
Basic rules for successful camping in the open:
Avoid dangerous zones and protected areas: These include nature reservations, countryside protection areas and others also including hunting grounds and areas within view of hunting ranges. Areas of agricultural use are taboo as are also areas close to roads, isolated houses or hamlets.
Cooking over a small flame: If you want to have a warm meal, you should use a cooking stove that stands firm; please make sure that the ground below it suffers no damage.
Make yourself invisible: Tents in natural shades of green or brown are ideal for camping in the open. You can be 'even more invisible' without a tent but by simply erecting a tarpaulin to lie under or rolling out your sleeping bag under the stars. Please leave nothing behind, take all your rubbish with you and leave your bivouac spot exactly as you found it.