Wild camping is prohibited in many European countries, but thanks to the everyman’s right (also known as Allemansrätten or Right of Public Access), this is not a problem in Sweden and Norway. Such public law ofcourse has a number of rules, but everyone is free to enjoy nature. However, the right of public access only applies to camping with a tent. Wild camping with a motorized vehicle such as a camper does not fall under this law and is even prohibited in Norway and Sweden. But what exactly is allowed and how can you camp freely in all those beautiful places? In this blog we go over all the rules and explain what really is allowed when you go free camping with a camper in Scandinavia.
We have been coming to Scandinavia for years, but we have never seen so many campers, overland trucks and cars with roof tents as in the summer of 2023. It was extremely busy and even in the far north there were many tourists. We fully understand everyone’s choice, Scandinavia is full of beautiful places and is the perfect destination for those looking for peace, nature, endless hiking, making campfires and beautiful places to camp. But with so many new tourists there is also more irritation, mainly due to driving and bad camping behavior. From off-road driving, emptying the toilet in nature and leaving waste behind, to illegal parking and camping in places where this is not allowed at all. With a bit of bad luck, some of these illegal adventures are also shared among the many followers on social media, inspiring others to do the same.
Understandably, some locals are really starting to get fed up with it. A shame, because the Scandinavians are very friendly, open to new tourists and see it as a part of their culture everyone can enjoy nature in a free way. But things can’t go well this way for long. That is why you are increasingly seeing prohibition signs and there is even a rumour of introducing some kind of vignette or even banning free camping for motorized vehicles at all. This would of course be a great shame, but the good news is that it doesn’t have to come to that if we take responsibility. This means that if we use our common sense, take each other into account and comply with local laws and regulations we can all enjoy our trips through Scandinavia without breaking any laws, bothering local residents or destroying nature.
That is why in this blog we share everything about the rules regarding wild camping with a camper in Sweden and Norway. So we all can continue to enjoy the freedom that Scandinavia has to offer in the future.
What is wild camping and the everyman’s right (Right of Public Access)?
Wild camping means, as you would expect, camping in the wild. So you don’t stay at a campsite or camper place, but go into nature to find a nice spot and spend the night there. It is part of the ‘everyman’s right’ law to enjoy nature. Such public law ofcourse comes with a number of rules, but you are free to walk, swim, sail and camp in nature. As far as we are concerned, it is a super beautiful concept and it brings people closer to nature, which also means that you (usually) treat it more respectfully. And wild camping is of course also super adventurous! You spend the night in the middle of nature, you are completely alone and there are no facilities. So you have to take care of yourself with little more around than a flowing river, the wind blowing through the trees and the sound of animals in the forest. Such an adventure attracts many people and wild camping is therefore very common. We also like to go wild camping, but in our case free camping is often a better term. We travel a lot with our campervan and the right of public access only applies to camping with a tent. Wild camping with a camper or other motorized vehicle is even prohibited.
With the camper off-road in Sweden and Norway
The reason why it is not allowed to go wildcamping in Sweden and Norway with a camper, overland truck or car with a roof tent is mainly due to the ban on off-road driving. To protect nature, it is not permitted to leave the main roads with a motorized vehicle. Not everyone is familiar with this rule, but it also causes some confusion. Because for some beautiful campspots you really have to leave the asphalt and enter nature via that one forest road. The good news is that it is allowed to spend the night there. Provided of course it is not private property, there is no prohibition sign and the site is accessible via a direct connection to that road. Off-road actually means off-road. This means that you may only take your vehicle to places where there is a clear (motor) road. This could also be a gravel road or sandy forest path, as long as it is clearly a road for motorized vehicles. What is absolutely not allowed is for example a river crossings and driving over moss, rocks or other nature. You are destroying nature with this! So remember: you don’t see a clear path? Then you are simply not allowed to drive there. And that’s totally fine too. Sweden and Norway are full of beautiful camping spots that you are welcome to visit!
Overlanders, 4×4 vehicles and some adventurous campers in particular tend to go off the beaten track and like to share their off-road adventures on social media. Be aware that this behavior is prohibited! So don’t do it because someone else does it too. Set a good example and speak to others if they do not follow the rules. It is this small group that may ruin it for the rest and as a result of which free camping may be banned in the future.
General driving and camping behavior
Another increasing annoyance is the general driving and camping behavior of some tourists. This does not exclusively, but mainly concerns tourists who drive a larger camper or overland truck. Norway in particular has many narrow roads that are not really suitable for larger vehicles. People often drive slower than officially allowed partly because of this. Because there are hardly any multi-lane roads in the center and north of the country, a row of cars quickly arises. Are you at the front and notice that the people behind you are faster and might like to overtake? Just pull over as soon as safely possible so that the people behind you can pass. This is much appreciated and prevents a lot of annoyance in traffic, from both parties which may end in unsafe driving/overtaking. Especially in the high season, where some locals end up behind a slow camper several times a day driving from/to their work.
Furthermore, do not camp or park in places where this is not allowed. So not on private property and in any places where no clear road leads, but also not at passing places (often indicated with a blue sign with the letter M on it) or along/on the road where it is often already so narrow. The same applies to taking out the complete camping setup with all chairs, tables and the washing line in a parking lot. Don’t do this even if you see others doing it. This is a major problem during the high season, especially at popular hikes, national parks, sights and places such as the Lofoten. Is the parking lot full or does your vehicle not fit in a parking space because it is too large? Do not park it right on the street, in a place where it protrudes very much, on the grass or along/on the road. This also causes enormous inconvenience. Especially because people tend to do what others do and thus follow each other’s (bad) example. Not participating in this may also save you a large fine.
Rules for (wild) camping with a car or camper
For wild camping – or actually free camping – with a car or camper in Sweden and Norway, you can basically adhere to the rules of the right of public access, with a number of additional rules such as the ban on off-road driving. Below we list the most important rules for camping (with a camper or car) in Scandinavia:
- You are not allowed to camp within 150 meters of buildings
- You are not allowed to camp on private property unless you have permission from the owner
- Check local websites for the rules of camping in national parks
- You often may stay in the same place for a maximum of 24 hours
- Off-road driving is prohibited
- Always take waste (yes, also toilet paper) with you, do not use dishwashing liquid or shampoo in nature and only empty gray- and black water at designated points (really, just leave nothing but footprints).
- A general open fire ban applies from April 15 to September 15 so you only are allowed to make a campfire at the designated fire pits. These can be found almost everywhere and are also safer to use. Outside this period, open fire is allowed in some places, but it is also advisable to use a fire pit, make it yourself or use a safe fire stove (we often use this Solo Stove). Also keep an eye on weather apps or local websites for a possible total fire ban in a certain region due to periods of drought and an increased risk of forest fires. Furthermore, do not build fires on rocks (risk of cracking), moss, peat bogs and humus-rich forest floors where fire can spread quickly and only use loose branches and pine cones to start the fire (breaking off branches from living trees, cut off bark or use fallen trees as firewood is forbidden). And important of course: make sure that you always have control over the fire and extinguish it properly when you leave again.
Free camping with the camper in Scandinavia
Wild camping with a camper in Sweden and Norway is not allowed, but there are so many beautiful places where you can stay with your camper, overland truck or car with a rooftop tent. You don’t necessarily have to go off-road for that and destroy nature. There are plenty of other places that are just as beautiful or even much more beautiful! And those few rules that come with it are actually very self-explanatory. They only ensure that residents and nature are not inconvenienced by all those campers, so that we can all continue to enjoy the possibility of free camping in the future. It is also good to visit a campsite every now and then. The price for overnight accommodation and hot showering, washing/drying and discharging gray water also provide people with an income. And especially in Scandinavia, where the season is very short, it is nice to contribute financially to the country and people in this way.
We would also like to give the tip not to share found camping spots on certain camper and overland apps. Such an app is very useful, but it also ensures that all those beautiful places can be found very easily and that it is much busier than it would otherwise probably be. And bigger crowds logically also cause more inconvenience. Therefore, it is better to share those beautiful places with each other if someone asks, but do not put it in an app or online where everyone can find it. As mentioned earlier, Sweden and Norway are full of beautiful camping spots in nature that you can visit with a vehicle. You can easily find them by just going off the main road every now and then (make sure you don’t go off-road). By not sharing them with everyone, there is also a greater chance that you will have such a camping spot all to yourself. And that is often one of the reasons why people like to travel to Scandinavia: peace, space and nature!
In short: enjoy beautiful Scandinavia, but do it responsibly 🙂
This article contains an affiliate link. Read more about this in the disclaimer.