In my humble opinion, one of the best things about owning a campervan is having the freedom to park up in a remote location, settle in for the night then wake up for a morning run from your mobile doorstep. And a lot of the time it’s as simple as that. But if you want to avoid giving yourself – and other campervanners – a bad name, there are some essential pieces of etiquette you should know.
First up, the legal bit. The laws around wild camping vary depending which country you’re in. Remember that all land is owned by someone, even if it’s classed as ‘public’ land. So your best option is to get permission from the landowner before parking up for the night. In England and Wales, wild camping in technically illegal so you’ll need landowner’s permission to stop overnight. In Scotland, wild camping in tents is allowed, but the law around campervans is a little hazier. If you’re out of people’s way, not obviously parked on someone’s land and don’t make a nuisance then ‘informal camping’ is tolerated in most places. Across Europe and further afield the laws vary: there’s a useful guide here on which European countries do allow wild camping.
With that bit out of the way, if you fancy a bit of wild or stealth camping in your van, then here’s a quick guide to essential etiquette for wild or informal camping in your van.
Don’t ignore ‘no overnight parking’ signs
If someone has gone to the trouble of putting up ‘No Overnight Parking’ signs it’s a clear indicator they’ve had trouble with campers before. If you decide to stay regardless, you may get a rude awakening by an angry landowner, or even the police. A lot of local authorities in England are cracking down on previously frequented overnight stops. Even if you want to argue about the technical legalities of this, please don’t give campervanners a bad name by blatantly ignoring the signs.
If you’re struggling to find somewhere to stop for the night, it’s worth trying pubs (particularly in remoter areas). They may be happy for you to park up overnight if you eat and have a few drinks inside.
Park up late and leave early
No one’s likely to take much notice of a van that’s gone in the morning. Spending the day lounging outside your van with a barbecue and the awning out, however, is more likely to draw the attention of an unfriendly landowner. If that’s the kind of camping you’re after, then pay for a campsite.
It’s also a good idea not to stay in the same spot for more than two nights on the trot. After all, one of the joys of wild campervanning is waking up to a different view each morning.
Keep the noise down
As above, the best way to enjoy success with wild camping it to be unobtrusive. That means no loud campervan parties (unless you’re really in the middle of nowhere!). If you park up outside of towns and away from houses, you’re unlikely to have a problem and can karaoke along to your heart’s content. If you’re stealth camping in a town, you’ll need to be a bit more careful. Blackout curtains can help, as does accepting you’re in for an early night.
Leave no trace
It sounds obvious, but litter is one of the main gripes about wild campers, and in some places has resulted in wild camping being banned altogether. It’s easier in a campervan than a tent, so there are no excuses for not taking your litter with you.
Be considerate when toileting
I haven’t come across this so much in the UK, but I have in Europe, where popular campervan car parks are turned into open-air toilets. It’s not nice and it definitely gives van-dwellers a bad name. If you don’t have toilet facilities in your van, pick a pee-spot that’s well away from any watercourses. Carry a trowel and bury more solid waste, and bag toilet paper to dispose of in a bin.
Don’t run generators or engines late at night
Another thing that shouts, “Hello! I’m illegally camping here!” is running engines at night. And generators are most definitely a no-no. If you need to charge your leisure battery, do it during the day. If you need more electricity than that, consider paying for a site with a hook-up.
Empty chemical waste at a designated disposal area
If you’re lucky enough to have a toilet in your van, make sure you dispose of the contents appropriately. Most public toilets are not suitable for emptying chemical toilets, so you may have to check-in to a campsite for the night. Use it as an opportunity to have a hot shower before you hit the road again!
Be considerate, but have fun!
Wild campervanning allows you to spend time in some truly beautiful landscapes. Respect these landscapes, be considerate to other people and you’re guaranteed an enjoyable and memorable trip.