Wildcamping is sleeping somewhere, outside, that isn’t an official campsite or someones garden, and generally somewhere that doesn’t have facilities.
When we are cycling – on the days that we are not in projects, we wildcamp. This is about half the nights on a typical biketour.
The world is abundant in camping spots – a beautiful lake, a forest of towering pine trees, that abandoned field, a secluded beach – the options are huge!
Because its free, and because its inclusive. Part of our participation guidelines is that we don’t pay for accommodation, therefore we don’t pay for camping. We also aim to include people from all income backgrounds. The biketour might look a bit different if we paid for camping each night – not only is there the cost issue, but also the route would have to be planned so that we reached a campsite each night, so there would be no flexibility in the schedule at all. Instead, when you wildcamp, you get the beauty of a different place every night, sunset river swimming, and amazing nature right outside the tent. Also, campsites are ugly!
I think this quote sums up ‘why’ perfectly!
“regular camping, as everyone knows, suffers from a fundamental contradiction: the urge to escape into rural tranquility tends to bring you, instead, a few unsoundproofed metres from noisy families, revving car engines, and smelly toilet blocks” (https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2010/jul/09/illegal-wild-camping)
So, how do we ‘wildcamp’?
Each cycling day on the biketour, there are at least two ‘scouts’ – people responsible for marking the route and guiding the tour for the day. These people also take responsibility for finding a wildcamping spot (if we’re not stopping at a project or other fixed location). This could involve checking the map for parks, lakes or rivers, or just deciding in the late afternoon to find a spot in the next 10 km or so.
What makes a good wildcamping place?
Generally, to be hidden. However, with up to 30 tents, this is almost impossible! So generally, good places are away from the big roads and not directly next to someones house, somewhere there is plenty of space for tents, some trees around for wood for the rocket stove, and next to some water like a river or lake is always good for swimming. Generally, land that looks obviously used, like a garden or farmers land is a bad idea, unless you ask them for permission.
Good spots can be found around forests, where there are picnic areas, next to rivers where there is some flat space, and public beaches.
What about water? What about toilets? What about rubbish?
On the biketour we carry two 15 l water containers, generally we just ask a nearby neighbour if we can fill up the water bottles, or find a public tap nearby. It’s also a possibility to carry water from the last town on the route, on the trailers.
Toilets – sometimes there are public toilets where we are camping, for example there are often toilets at the beach, but mostly not. Instead we ‘wild toilet’ as well – we have a ‘shit shovel’ – a small shovel for digging a hole to poo into. It’s best to do this away from water sources and the rivers, and to dig 15 cm deep, leave the paper in the hole, and cover it back up again after. As we mostly camp near trees so we have wood, there is always somewhere quite private to do your business.
Rubbish we put in the bin, or take with us to the nearest bin, if there is not one. Sometimes its possible to dig a hole for the vegetable peelings and other compostable waste. We respect the places we sleep so don’t leave trash around.
Wait, isn’t it illegal?
Sometimes, yes, but in reality the biketour rarely has any problems. In fact, quite the opposite! In 2015 in Sweden, the group couldn’t find somewhere wild, so stopped at the back of a town football field. Whilst waiting for the final part of the group to catch up to make a final decision on whether to continue looking, a van drove onto the field. The first reaction was that we were going to be asked to leave, however, instead they greeted us, allowed us to stay, and came back 30 minutes later with the key to the changing room which had showers and saunas!!!!
Some countries have clear guidelines on wild camping, for example in Sweden you can camp anywhere, as long as it’s 500 m from the nearest house. In other countries, it’s not technically allowed, but tolerated. Generally, the biketour doesn’t have any problems – as we are up to 30 tents, we are quite noticeable and not so stealthy! But as in the example above, people are generally welcoming and are happy to let us use their water. It’s not everyday you see 30 cyclists camped at your local lake, cooking some vegan food on what looks like metal drum with fire!