Primitive camping in Denmark

Wild camping. It’s permitted all over Scandinavia, as made infamous by Sweden’s “Allmansrätten” (the “everyman’s right”). Correct?

Well, not quite

Being significantly more densely populated and with far fewer wilderness areas than its Nordic neighbours, Denmark somewhat understandably has a more restrictive policy on wild camping. However, it is still easy to get out and enjoy a night under canvas in a  natural environment by going to one of the country’s many “primitive camping” spots. Keen to see what these “overnatningspladser” were like, Mia and I stuffed a tent, sleeping bags and – most importantly – my coffee pot into a couple of rucksacks and struck out to find the “Grund Skov” campground on the north shore of the Vejlefjord in Jutland.

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There’s a Robens Voyager 2 tent AND a three-season sleeping bag in that rucksack. A guaranteed good night’s sleep!

Our first surprise upon arrival was that we were not alone: an off-duty army officer  had already nabbed the best spot by the campfire, and another family were contentedly skimming stones down by the water. Obviously primitive camping is more popular in Denmark than I had considered…

But not to worry – I had chosen this particular campground for a number of reasons, one being that it was located in a “frit teltningsområde” or designated wild camping zone. In other words, unlike most of the other primitive camping sites in Denmark – where camping is limited to a strictly defined area – here we were free to pitch our tent wherever we wished within a much larger zone. Of course, we needed to abide by a few simple rules, the more important of which being:

  • The tent must be small: no bigger than a three-man (the Outwell Bear Lake remained in Daisy the bus, and we used our Robens Voyager 2 instead).
  • The tent must not be pitched within sight of any buildings or roads.
  • All litter must be taken home.
  • Be discreet with toilet business; at least 50 metres from a water source, and cover up the number twos with leaves or earth.
  • Do not spend more than one night in the same spot.
  • Camping on the beach is not allowed.

When we eventually settled on a pitching spot we, admittedly, were pushing the boundaries of the “beach” rule somewhat; we found a beautiful and secluded grassy spot between the beach and the forest, only metres from the sea (but well above the high tide line – careful!).

The friendly army officer may have had first pickings, but he didn’t have a view like this:

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And if he used the dying rays of a Danish summer’s evening to read himself a bedtime story, the scene wouldn’t have resembled this:

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Evening at the Vejlefjord near Grund Skov primitive campsite

The night passed to the sound of the waves gently caressing the beach, the occasional rain shower pitter-pattering against the flysheets, and a small mammal scuttling around near our heads (never managed to figure out what it was…).

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Robens Voyager 2 tent near the “Grund Skov” primitive campground in Jutland, Denmark

After making my morning coffee on the beach (and realising with some dismay that I had forgotten to pack a cup…), we saw the army officer waving us goodbye. So we took our breakfast up to the main “campsite” to check it out further. A picnic table, a campfire, a pretty wooden shelter with grass on the roof: primitive, yes, but undeniably cosy and quintessentially Scandinavian.

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A good night’s sleep, a feeling of peace and serenity, a deeper appreciation of Jutland’s natural environment… and completely free of charge: what is there not to like about primitive camping in Denmark?

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PRACTICAL INFORMATION ON PRIMITIVE CAMPING IN DENMARK

  • Here’s a useful tool for finding primitive campsites and free camping areas. (It would be even more useful if it was available in a language other than Danish…)
    • Click on “Overnatning” on the left-hand menu, then choose between Frit teltningsområde (wild camping zones), Stor lejrplads (large campgrounds) or Lille ljejrplads (small campgrounds). And marvel at how many there are!
  • For further information on the various rules on wild camping in Denmark, try the Danish Nature Agency. Some – but not all – of their website is in English.

Daisy the bus visited Denmark in July 2017 (but couldn’t get anywhere near the primitive campsite: they are strictly for non-motorised forms of transport only).

(c) Jonathan Orr 2017

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Author: daisythebus

Father-of-four based in Luxembourg. I write about "off the beaten track" travel adventures with my family. Expect to read about nature, outdoor activities, the arts, authenticity, and alternative ways of discovering the world around us.

32 thoughts on “Primitive camping in Denmark”

  1. What a blissful way to spend a night and morning. Falling asleep and waking to the sound of the sea, just wonderful. We haven’t done any wild camping yet, although we camp regularly. This has made me more inclined to give it a go 🙂 #CountryKids

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  2. I’ve only ever Wild camped in Scotland before, some spectacular places. It’s brilliant to do and will do it withy kids one day when they are old enough to carry their own gear. We stopped in a remote camping spot by a beach with my son when he was about 9 months old and it was magical. You looked like you had a really good experience like non other! Happy days 😀 #countrykids

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  3. I wish we had more primitive campsites and free camping areas in the UK. It’s extortionate how much campsite charge these days especially in the New Forest 😦 what a fab spot you picked with an amazing view. Sounds blissful #CountryKids x

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  4. I’m a bit of a luxury camping kind of girl but I can really see the joy in this adventure, especially as I have developed a things for Nordic countries over recent years. Lovely for you to just escape with your daughter – a magical experience.
    #farawayfiles

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    1. I’m kind of caught in the middle. When I’m with the whole family I do enjoy the comforts of a large tent and well-equipped site. But I find a closer connection to nature – and feel a sort of contented bliss – when I have a more minimalist camping experience. I guess both are good! Thanks for reading.

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  5. I do like how this is organised yet free to roam. The photos look amazing and the whole scene looks so peaceful. How amazing to go to sleep to that beautiful view and wake up to it again in the morning. I can almost feel those waves lapping at the shore. My kids go wild camping here on the farm, the river is a little like the sea with the gentle all night babbling and tweet of an owl. I try to impose the same basic camping laws on them too but always seem to find some of their litter around int he morning! This little adventure with Mia is the sort of thing you will look back on so fondly in years to come.

    Thank you for sharing with me on #CountryKids

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    1. What a fantastic and genuinely lovely comment. It’s no wonder that #CountryKids is such a success. Thanks for reading and for taking the time to write such a thoughtful comment! Greetings from Luxembourg.

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    1. Denmark is wonderful – do try to get there sometime soon! And, yes, kit is a problem for this sort of camping. A decent tent + sleeping bag + carry mat (I.e. the bare essentials) will probably cost around €400-€500, which is rather a lot if you are not going to use them often. Minimalist, but not exactly cheap!! Thanks for reading.

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  6. This looks like a really beautiful spot. I enjoy when there are other people around. Feel more like a little community. Here on the States you can camp or stay overnight in public lands (for free). We prefer private campground that charge $25 to $30 per night (they have showers, restroom and garbage bins). I have a lot of friends who cannot camp without the coffee pots. We went camping about a months and we drank coffee like 5 times (hey we need a drink while conversing). #FarawayFiles

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  7. How do you all fit in a three man tent? I really didn’t know that there was even a primitive camping culture here in Denmark to be honest! I was only aware of the organized campgrounds that people tend to set up shop with their caravan for the entire summer. Lovely space – thanks for sharing with #FarawayFiles, Erin

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    1. Oh no, we don’t ALL fit in here 😀 We use the big Outwell tent for family camping, and this tiny ultra-lightweight two-man Robens tent for solo adventures or me plus one kid. That’s already a tight squeeze! 😉 Both “brands” are owned by the same company, so the quality of both is comparably (and impressively) high. I have camped quite a lot, and adore both tents for different reasons.

      I think this “primitive camping” idea in Denmark is simply brilliant – it really encourages and facilitates a close-to-nature “wild” adventure, even in this densely populated country. I wish we had something similar in Luxembourg!

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  8. A campfire is such a luxury. I know that might sound a little weird but you’re really not allowed to have them too often in Australia due to the bushfire danger. It’s such a shame as they are wonderful. Here’s to a Scandinavian summer! #farawayfiles

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    1. I can completely understand! My wife is half-Portuguese, and summertime family visits there regularly feature bushfires in the local region. Scary stuff, and a stark reminder of the destructive power of a careless flame. Thanks for reading!

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  9. What a novel idea Denmark have come up with to still achieve wild camping in their more crowded Scandinavian country. And yes, the Army Officer may have arrived earlier but you win on the tent view! Thanks for joining us on #adventurecalling I hope you can again this week.

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  10. I love this idea, such a great way to get out and try wild camping. We’ve decided to go back to more basic campsites this year, but we still yearn for the simplicity of a bit of wild camping. You definitely got the best spot, what a view! Bet the Army officer was kicking himself really. Thanks for sharing with us #AdventureCalling

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    1. I totally agree with you. We have just spent a few nights in a luxury five-star camping in Norway. It had undeniably great facilities, but it was close to a busy road, with little or no “natural” areas. As a result, it didn’t really feel like “camping” and certainly had none of the warm, happy feelings one achieves by being out in nature. Given the choice, I would choose this primitive campsite anyday. Thanks for reading!

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    1. You have just made me realise that I have absolutely no idea what the rules are on wild camping in the UK. I used to do it rather often in my youth in the mountains of Northern Ireland without even thinking about the legal side of things. Need to do some research before my next trip back! Thanks for reading.

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