Legal alternatives to wild camping in Germany
After a long hike on the NST, just setting up your tent in nature and enjoying the starry sky – who wouldn’t want that? Sounds super simple and is also very easy in Scandinavian countries. For example, in Norway, Sweden, or Finland, there is the so-called “everyman’s right,” a sometimes very old customary right. This allows anyone to pitch their tent anywhere for one night.
In Germany, unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Our country is one of the densely populated area states in Europe, and true wilderness is no longer present. Camping in areas not designated for it is considered an administrative offense, and if caught, one can be fined, the amount of which varies from state to state.
In reality, enforcement is often not as strict, and if you follow the NST Code and observe general guidelines, 99% of the time, nothing will happen. Sleeping without a tent is still a legal gray area in Germany. However, one thing should be clear: camping in nature reserves is an absolute no-go and strictly prohibited! These protected areas were established for good reason.
We, the Nord Süd Trail Initiative, advocate for a slightly modified German everyman’s right. What could this look like? In Schleswig-Holstein, the „Wildes SH“ project has been launched, which combines designated areas with privately offered land. Here, camping with a tent is completely free and uncomplicated. So, it’s evident that where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Staying overnight in shelters is another form of camping. If you’re interested in this topic, we recommend checking out our other post titled “Staying Overnight in Shelters? Yes, sure.”
In Germany, there are indeed legal alternatives to enjoy the Scandinavian-style freedom in the midst of nature without simply heading out with a tent. It’s important to emphasize that even with these legal alternatives, one should still respect the environment and nature. Trash should be properly disposed of, and nature should be left untouched. By adhering to the rules and treating nature with respect, you can also enjoy a sense of freedom in the middle of nature in Germany.
Here are some interesting and legal platforms:
Trekking sites or nature camping sites.
Trekking or nature camping sites are a blend of wild camping and traditional campsites, specifically designated areas for long-distance and cross-country hikers in Germany. These sites can even be located within nature reserves, showcasing their feasibility. However, trekking sites are not conventional campsites and offer only minimal infrastructure, usually consisting of a compost toilet on the premises. The drawback for long-distance hikers is that capacity is limited, necessitating advance reservations for these sites. Unfortunately, these beautiful spots are often occupied and fully booked by vacationers and weekend tourists. Additionally, trekking sites come with a fee, which we consider to be completely acceptable. Similar to wild camping, there are various rules to be observed at trekking sites.
Of course, all trekking sites along the NST are marked on the Resource Map This offers a great opportunity for nature enthusiasts and hikers to legally and environmentally responsibly camp in nature and experience freedom.
Furthermore, we have compiled a list of the increasingly numerous trekking sites in Germany for you. Of course, you can contribute to keeping this overview up-to-date. Are there new sites? Has the number of sites changed? If you have any information, we would appreciate your notification.
|Region||Number of trekking sites||Information and booking|
The Trail Angels
Trail Angels are an integral part of the thru-hiker culture on the American long-distance trails. They are voluntary helpers or former thru-hikers who provide support to long-distance hikers in various ways. Anyone can register and list themselves as a Trail Angel for free on the NST website. Along the trail, there are now numerous helpful individuals who offer long-distance hikers a bed, a shower, or even a place to camp. This support from Trail Angels can become one of the most beautiful experiences one can have on the NST.
The community and helpfulness of Trail Angels create a special bond among the hikers and contribute significantly to the success and positive experience on the Nord-Süd-Trail. It’s a wonderful opportunity to enjoy nature and, at the same time, experience warm hospitality.
1 Nite Tent
The project “1 Nite Tent,” coined by Patrick Pirl, is often referred to as “Couchsurfing for tents.” Similar to Trail Angels, private individuals can list their properties on the website. Anyone with a garden or property can participate. The overview map provides additional information, such as the availability of sanitary facilities, etc. What sets “1 Nite Tent” apart from many similar platforms that charge fees for matchmaking or usage is that staying at the registered tent sites is completely free of charge.
It is commendable that such initiatives are emerging, expanding the opportunities for nature enthusiasts to legally and sustainably camp in nature while also strengthening the connection with local communities.
Due to data protection reasons, the offerings of 1 Nite Tent unfortunately cannot be directly integrated into the Resources Map of the North-South Trail. Nonetheless, everyone registered with 1 Nite Tent can also register as Trail Angels and offer their support to long-distance hikers. Through this cooperation and close collaboration between the platforms, the experience on the North-South Trail becomes even more diverse and enriching for all involved. For those interested in registering as Trail Angels, you can do so easily via the provided link:<<Trail Angels>>
In our opinion, these are the most important and interesting alternatives to wild camping on the North-South Trail. Of course, there are many other similar platforms, such as, Zelt zu Hause, Campspace or Roadsurfer-Spots. However, all of these platforms charge money for their matchmaking or the use of the property. This goes against our philosophy, so we will not list these offerings for the North-South Trail.