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Camping.

Im planning on camping while backpacking instead of hosteling. I'm visiting England, France, Brussells, Netherlands, Germany, Czech Rep, Austria, Hungary, Greece, Italy and Spain. As I'll be backpacking, I wont a lot of space to carry a whole bunch of things. So, I would like to know if anyone knows the essentials of camping, light and practical, what should I buy, what I shouldnt buy. Which Cities are best for camping/sightseeing, Any brand for light camping tents and stuff. or any other advice based on your personal experience.

Thanks!

Posted by
1005 posts

For gear, I would google "lightweight backpacking" and see what recommendations come up. You also might go to your local REI and ask for suggestions. I've camped in France (decades ago) and I still do backpacking, and your plan can work. A few things to consider--most campgrounds are far away from the city center. You may have to take a bus to the end of the line and then hike on. For major cities like Paris, London, Rome, they are not practical--use hostels instead. The campgrounds in France are pretty swanky--many have swimming pools, cafes, and playground for kids. That means they can be more expensive than you imagined. Some of them can even get booked up in advance. Two websites you should consider are Eurocampings.co.uk and Roadtripeurope.com.

Posted by
419 posts

It sounds as though you are very inexperienced. Maybe you are more intrigued by the idea of camping, rather than understanding what it actually entails.
I would suggest that you go to Amazon.com, books, and search for camping in Europe. Lots of titles available and they look as though they would supply you with the knowledge that you need.
As has been mentioned, some of the campgrounds in Europe are almost like resorts with restaurants, playgrounds, stores, etc. Lots of cars around and trailers of every sort and description.
Believe it or not, one of the best meals that I ever had in France was in a restaurant at a campground.
Good luck!

Posted by
5504 posts

You may want to have a confirmed booking for your first night's stay on arriving. As earlier responder notes, camping sites are not city center facilities.

My anecdotal observation is on arriving at Heathrow on my first trip to Europe some 15 or so years ago, a long-haired bearded young person with a large backpack was just ahead of us in the adjacent LHR immigration/passport control line. He was still in line after we were admitted. The young person fit the "hippy" appearance profile and as said was carrying a large backpack. I overheard the immigration officer quizzing the "camper" about where he was planning on spending the night on arrival in London. I have to say in the couple of minutes of overhearing the conversation from behind the line and at the adjacent control station, I sounded like the young person was planning on "camping" somewhere. I suspect that the English were not keen on folks camping in London parks.

You may be better received as a "camper" in the Scandinavian countries where "everyman's rights" or "freedom to roam" are historic generally accepted public rights often codified into laws. The Austrian-Hungarian historic countries and the Czech Republic have similar "freedom to roam" rights but those generally apply to walking/trekking, skiing and not to camping. Each country had specific practices and you should be knowledgeable about where and when wild camping is allowed.

Regarding equipment, what would be appropriate for North American wild camping would certainly work in Europe, especially if you are camping late spring to early fall. You may want to check with an outfitting store like REI as to stove gas common to the areas you are planning on visiting. You would not be permitted to transport flammable gas/liquids by air and in any event, would need to restock while travelling. I have no idea about water quality, but a filter or UV sterile pen may be a good idea if you will be camping wild.

PS Have you considered hostels?

Posted by
16771 posts

See http://www.ricksteves.com/travel-tips/sleeping-eating/camping, for a start. At one point, when comparing car vs. train travel, Rick said that camping and using public transport was "more like boot camp." More common choices would be either to have a car to carry your camping gear or to stay in hostels and carry much less gear. Those who have enough backpacking experience to know what they're getting into might choose the harder path. I think that the lightest and best camping gear won't be cheap.

Posted by
5504 posts

I think that the lightest and best camping gear won't be cheap.

I learned over time, the best/better outdoor gear has the highest/higher initial cost but not only works best/better but also has a longer life. Good stuff can be cheaper on a per year basis and certainly cheaper than an item that fails to perform.

Posted by
11613 posts

There are some nice beach campsites in Europe, but camping in most countries is confined to specific campgrounds. You can't just roll out your sleeping bag somewhere. Considering the cost of campground fees and the outlay for equipment (sounds like you are starting from scratch), you might want to reconsider hosteling instead.

Posted by
796 posts

This article is very useful for someone planning to camp in Europe- www.bootsnall.com/articles/09-02/camping-europe-first-timers-guide.html and it covers what to carry along and a lot of useful info.

For info on what you need to take along, there is this- www.bootsnall.com/articles/10-07/gear-items-you-need-for-any-camping-trip.html

For info on individual campsites www.eurocampings.co.uk

France (near Paris), Spain, and Italy are the best for camping in.

Posted by
10264 posts

How many of you out there have camped throughout Europe?

Posted by
10264 posts

Only one Euro camper/backpacker out there?
I'm surprised.

Posted by
419 posts

Not a back-packer, but a camper who camped in Germany, France, Italy, the former Yugoslavia, Greece with husband and three children. But--we had a VW camper which made the experience a bit more comfortable than just a tent, although we did use the tent that, at that time, came with the camper and was attachable to the vehicle or free-standing, depending on what the camping conditions were.

Posted by
143 posts

The only European country I've tented in is Iceland and it was fantastic. We intended to camp in the Faroe Islands and schlepped the gear but ended up in hostels because the weather was miserable. If you stick to smaller cities and towns with camping facilities nearby, I see no reason not to camp in Europe. EXCEPT... do you like camping? It's sounds like this is perhaps a new adventure for you. My advice is to borrow or rent some camping gear and try it out on a weekend trip near home to see if you enjoy camping first. I've had the unfortunate experience of being on an extended camping trip with people who had never camped before who discovered that they hated it. Their negativity and constant complaining made it less than fun for the rest of the group.

If you decide to take the plunge, I agree with Edgar. Purchase the best lightweight equipment you can afford. My husband and I have enjoyed camping for twenty years with the equipment we bought for our honeymoon with money we were given as wedding gifts. And, we're still using the same tent he owned before I met him. It was a great investment and the travel memories of course are priceless.

Posted by
1005 posts

Here's another Euro-camper, though it's been many years. The wife and I did Provence--Arles, Avignon, and Aix--in the spring. The Avignon campsite was the best--right across the river from the Old Town, so everything was walkable. It had rosemary bushes for hedges dividing the campsites. We just plucked some and added it to our dinners. The Arles and Aix sites were out-of-town so that meant a long walk or a bus ride. The Mistral wind was blowing in Arles--it was like someone had turned up an air conditioner full blast blowing through our tent. One great part about camping is that you get to meet lots of Europeans who are also traveling--in our case lots of French families. It's also the cheapest way to sleep and eat your way across Europe (unless you have friends and relatives in every city!).

Posted by
10264 posts

It doesn't sound like our regular contributors are big on tent camping in Europe.

Posted by
5504 posts

It doesn't sound like our regular contributors are big on tent camping in Europe.

RS tour, guide book and PBS TV show are not camping as is sleeping on the ground oriented. Campers would be better served watching the Globe Trekker series, buying Lonely Planet guide books and checking the Lonely Planet Thorn Tree forum for off the beaten path exploration:
https://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree

And the Rough Guide series is more youth and backpacker oriented than Rick Steve's:
http://www.roughguides.com/community/

Posted by
143 posts

Just because the "regular" contributors don't have much to contribute on this particular topic doesn't mean that the "occasional" posters like Terri Lynn, T, and I won't have something valuable to say.

I think some of the comments in this thread border on being unwelcoming to a brand new poster, as though such questions are inappropriate on this forum. Edgar's suggestions of Lonely Planet and rough guides are helpful as another point of view but to imply that Rick's website and programs aren't for the young or adventurous is unfair.

We have no idea of the OP's age and although I'm middle-aged, love classical music, enjoy visiting churches, museums and historical sites, I also enjoy trekking through nature, and don't mind getting dirty or sleeping on the ground. I've used Lonely Planet guides but prefer Rick's when available for the area where I'm travelling. I like the way he describes things and that he gives his opinion because it helps me make more informed choices.

And yes, I realize this site might not be the best place to learn about camping, CouchSurfing, cycling, hiking, or other less main-stream tourist activities, but I see no harm in asking. You never know. This forum is, in fact, where I first heard about CouchSurfing and have since met so many interesting people that I'm glad someone asked about it.

Posted by
10264 posts

Rick says camping in Europe is "more like boot camp."
I've been to boot camp, wouldn't want to do it on vacation.
Different travel preferences for different travelers.