Norway has one of the world’s best freedom to roam laws, allowing you to travel pretty much anywhere you like in the nature. This makes it ideal for wild camping in the forest or high up in the mountains, and unsurprisingly many people will want to make a campfire when they set up their tent in the wild.
Even though you are allowed to travel pretty much anywhere you like, the rules for setting up campfires or bonfires is pretty strict. Let’s take a closer look at the laws and your responsibilities when setting up a campfire in Norway.
Campfires in the wild are in general forbidden from April 15 to September 15, or if there is a risk of forest fires. You are legally responsible for making sure the campfire does not start a forest fire, and can be responsible for the forest fire if it does spread.
In other words, you should only make campfires in Norway is you can be 100 % certain that it won’t spread to start a forest fire. Not only are you required to be able to control your campfire, but you must also be absolutely certain that it won’t spread.
The general rule forbid campfires during the main summer period, but if there’s a heat wave or another reason why the forest is dry, the local municipalities may even ban grills, gas burners and camping stoves as well.
Also be aware that some websites claim that the campfire law only prohibits you from starting a fire in the forest, but this is not true. The Norwegian word used is “utmark“, and this includes the mountains, fields, beaches or anywhere in the wild.
Some tips for when you want to start a campfire in Norway
Even though the rules for starting a campfire in Norway are pretty strict, they also allow for it during the winter and spring as long as you can control the fire. But how do you go about to start your own campfire in Norway?
Before lighting a fire, find a suitable place to have it. Make sure there are nothing that could catch fire close to the campfire, even if you get hit by a big gust of wind. You need to bring your own firewood, but you can freely pick up dead branches to use for kindling.
Stay away from areas with a lot of trees close by, especially directly over the fire. Other than that, enjoy your campfire, heat some food and make sure to have a bucket of water close by to stop the fire from spreading.
Never burn thrash or anything other than wood on your campfire. After the campfire is burned down, make sure to splash it with water or check to make sure that it’s completely done before you leave. There are many examples of forest fires that have started from an old campfire that the campers believed to be done, but still had glowing embers that started a fire later.
The punishment for breaking the campfire ban
If you get caught breaking the campfire ban, you can expect a pretty big fine even if you don’t start a forest fire. Fines have been in the range of 4000 to 10000 NOK previously.
Good alternatives to making a campfire
Since campfires are illegal for most of the summer, most people who go camping will have alternatives to making a campfire.
The most common method to make hot meals when camping in Norway is to use camping stove. Norwegians often use the brand name Primus as a synonym to these portable gas kitchens, so you can ask for a primus in any outdoor goods store. These can be pretty cheap at places like Biltema or Clas Ohslon. Remember to buy a propane or butane tank to go with it.
A camping stove allows for you to safely cook your meals or boil water to make coffee, but it obviously won’t give you the same fuzzy feeling as when sitting in front of a campfire at night.
A lot of people are under the impression that it is legal to use a disposable grill in the wild at summer (when regular campfire are forbidden), but this is not true. Disposable grills are also prohibited during the campfire ban period.
Many municipalities will also have designated campfire spots. These allow for year-round campfires, and are set up in safe places that will make it extremely unlikely that a forest fire will start from it. However, even these can be illegal to use if there’s a forest fire warning going on. But as long as there is no forest fire warning, feel free to use these at any time.
You can freely grill or make controlled campfires on your own property
Despite the general campfire ban, you are usually allowed to grill or even start a small campfire in your own back yard. This is because you will be more capable of controlling the fire in these situations, and can bring a garden hose close to the campfire to easily stop a fire from spreading.
Hanging fire pits like on the photo below are very popular in Norway, and we call these bålpanne. These are used to grill food on it, or just to chill out in front of when it gets cold at night.
If there’s a heat wave or general forest fire warning in your area, the municipality might choose to temporarily ban all fires even on private property. This usually happens every few years in southern Norway, and even prohibits the use of gas grills, hanging fire pits or any open fire.
Exceptions to the campfire ban
The general campfire ban has a few exceptions, and the big one is that you are allowed to make a campfire even during summer if it’s obvious that it cannot lead to a forest fire.
The problem with this is that people need to make their own judgement, and from my experience, people often underestimate how easy it is for a campfire to start a forest fire. Sparks from the fire can travel far if there’s even a little bit of wind, and you need to be absolutely safe that it’s impossible for sparks or the campfire itself to start a fire.
Some times and areas where you can start a campfire even during the general camping ban is:
- It’s bare mountain / rock with no vegetation around to catch fire.
- It’s snow cover on the ground.
- It’s on sand, with no vegetation to catch fire close by.
- There has been a huge amount of precipitation lately. The fire department regularly reminds people that this requires a lot more rainfall over a longer period of time than most people think!