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.
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:
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:
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…).
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.
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?
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