One of the most incredible things about Norway is the freedom to roam principle that allows you to set up a wild camp with your tent pretty much anywhere in nature. This provides a free alternative to spending the nights at hostels, and can be a great experience for people who enjoys being in nature.
That said, there are some potential mistakes that many tourists find themselves doing when setting up a wild camp i Norway. We will be looking closer at some common beginner mistakes that many people commit when going wild camping in Norway, so that you don’t have to make these mistakes yourself.
So without further ado, let’s look at the top 11 mistakes to avoid when wild camping in Norway.
1) Camping too close to agricultural fields or someone’s property
You have the right to pitch a tent anywhere that is considered «utmark» in Norway. Utmark is a weird little word that means «unfenced land», but it can still be «innmark» (the opposite of utmark) even without a fence.
The short summary is that you should not pitch a tent closer than 100 meters to someone’s house, cabin or property, or close go agricultural fields or any industrial site.
It might be a bit difficult understanding exactly where you are allowed to pitch your tent to go wild camping, so check out our guide on understanding exactly what utmark is and what it isn’t.
I have seen tourists who have pitched their tents literary on an agricultural field, so you would be surprised. People in popular tourist areas like Lofoten has also had problems with tourists putting up tents inside someone’s backyard. This is not legal, and the freedom to roam principle only applies for wilderness.
There are also certain areas that have stricter rules on where you can put up tents. These are in 99 % of the cases inside city green areas (like city parks), or in very popular tourist areas like the beaches at Lofoten. So if you’re planning on going to Lofoten, make sure to read up on our guide on how to legally camp in Lofoten.
2) Not being prepared for the changing weather
Weather is a constant X-factor when you are going wild camping in Norway, because you never know what the weather is really going to be like in 12 hours. Sure, you can check the weather forecast to get an idea, but these are far from bulletproof.
You should always prepare for rain when being out in nature in Norway, no matter how sunny and cloudless the skies are in the morning when you leave. There’s always a risk of it raining in the afternoon or at night, and you will not want to be stuck with wet clothing and nothing to change into.
So I would urge everyone who are going wild camping in Norway to bring at least one set of equipment that can handle rain, and make sure that your tent is waterproof.
If you end up hiking in rainy weather, you are absolutely going to be grateful that you have a dry set of clothing ready for you when it’s time to crawl into your sleeping pad at night.
It’s very difficult to get wet clothes dry in a tent, especially if it’s not direct sunlight outside, so don’t rely on having to dry your clothes. It’s not going to be fun putting on pouring wet shoes, jackets and hiking pants when you wake up in the morning.
3) Bringing too much or heavy equipment and gear is one of the common mistakes to avoid when wild camping in Norway
This one is primarily for people who are hiking a certain distance before setting up a wild camp, like if you want to hike up to Trolltunga or the Pulpit’s Rock to set up camp there for the night.
In these cases, plan smart! It’s a common rookie mistake to pack a lot more stuff than you really need for the camping, and those extra 10 kgs are really going to make a big difference if you are hiking for several hours!
Leaning how to pack just right is an art in itself, because it’s a fine line between packing too much and missing out on bringing essential items.
I would say that everyone will make this mistake the first 10 times they are wild camping, but you will get better at it the more you camp outside in wilderness.
So pack lightly, and when out camping, consider if you actually really need all those items you brought.
That said, use your head and read up on some packing guides. Don’t leave important items like a flashlight, an emergency medical kit or waterproof clothing at home, but don’t bring two books or four pair of pants for a single night in a wild camp. Make a packing plan, and stick to it!
4) Planning on making a campfire
Norway has very strict rules and regulations about exactly when and where you are allowed to light a campfire. You are generally not allowed to light a campfire between April 15 and September 15, meaning that it’s mostly illegal all summer long.
There are only a few exceptions to this rule, and the short summary of it is that most tourists should not ever light a campfire outside of designated campfire areas.
Most public camp areas have these designated spots, but you will not find these if you are wild camping in the middle of nowhere in a forest or in the mountains.
This means that you must find another way to prepare how meals when you are wild camping in Norway. Many Norwegians bring a camping stove that run on gas, which is a great alternative to lighting a campfire.
But be aware that there might also be a complete fire ban in certain municipalities in the middle of summer. This only happens when there is a high risk of a forest fire, but you need to check this out before lighting any fire in the wild in summer. To check, go to the municipality’s website and see if there’s a notice for it.
This is especially important if there’s been a long period with little rain.
The total fire bans are luckily very rare, but they are very serious if they are in fact in effect. But lighting a fire when there’s a ban is one of the more common mistakes to avoid when wild camping in Norway. It’s really easy to avoid if you know when or where to light a campfire, but there’s still lots of tourists who break this law every single year.
If there’s a complete fire ban, not even camping stoves are legal to use when wild camping.
5) Going wild camping in winter
Make tourists who are visiting Norway plans on exclusively wild camping as a way of not dealing with the expensive accommodation you typically find in Norway, but I would urge everyone to be very, very careful about considering wild camping if you are visiting in the winter.
Wild camping in the winter is considered both difficult and dangerous, and there are unfortunately tourists who die from hypothermia when wild camping in Norway in the winters. You need really good equipment made for winter camping if you want to try this, and this equipment is going to be very costly in itself.
You should only consider going wild camping in the winter if you are an experienced camper who have dealt with harsh and difficult camping situations in the past. This is simply unsafe for beginners!
It’s even relatively rare for Norwegians to go wild camping in the winter, and those who do are experienced campers, and have a backup plan for changing weather conditions.
6) Make sure to check local exempts and regulations about wild camping
The freedom to roam that regulates wild camping has a strong legal protection, but certain areas and municipalities are able to make exceptions from it.
The biggest and probably most known exceptions is the Lofoten islands wild camping ban. They have forbidden wild camping at beaches and certain other popular places in Lofoten, and you need to actually stray a bit away from the main areas in Lofoten to pitch a tent.
There are few other areas with a wild camp like in Lofoten, but some national parks have limits to where you can wild camp. Again, these are rare, and will be clearly marked by signs when you enter the park.
In most cases, these bans in national parks are between two specified dates, and are typically tied to the breeding rituals of endangered bird species.
7) Forgetting an essential item
Few things feel as worse as being set up at your camp, then realizing that you forget an essential item that you just can’t live without!
Perhaps your completely forgot to bring toilet paper, a water bottle or utensils to eat your food from? You have to get creative or find a solution. But the best solution is obviously to bring all your essentials items with you in the first place.
It’s impossible to make a complete list of all essential items, because some items are essentials to some, but not others. However, we do have some suggestions on things to make sure that you bring along.
Some things to double check that you brought are:
- Toilet paper.
- Flashlight. I would not be comfortable having to rely on the flashlight from my phone, so bring a regular flashlight with batteries.
- Emergency medical kit. You never know when you need to whip this out. It’s strongly advised that at least one member of the party has an emergency medical kit with some basic knowledge of how to use it.
- A bottle to refill water in. Most water sources in Norway are perfectly suitable for drinking from, so make sure to bring a refillable water bottle that allows you to collect as much water as you need.
- A knife and sewing kit. Knives are incredibly useful when camping in the wild, from making utensils to eat from, to cutting loose ropes that get tangled. The sewing kit is often just as useful, because a hole in your tent is likely to ruin your whole trip.
- Waterproof clothing.
8) Under preparing for the coldness
Going wild camping in Norway tend to be a cold experience, even in the middle of summer! While day temperatures in the early or late summer can reach 25 degrees C, you might notice that it can drop to 12 – 15 degrees in the night time.
While this is far from being dangerous, it’s pretty common for rookie campers to be taken aback by just how cold this really is! It’s no fun freezing all night long even inside your sleeping bag, so make sure that you have some warm clothes to put on.
Most Norwegians solve this issue by bringing wool underclothing. This can be put on when chilling outside in the late evening, and even be used a pajama when sleeping.
The great thing about this is that it’s super light to carry with you, and gives a nice heat when worn under other pieces of clothes. At the same time, it’s not prone to overheating you, so it’s not going to be too bothersome if it gets a little on the warm side.
All in all, bring wool underclothing if you have it, or at least another set of warmer clothes for the night time at your wild camp.
9) Not having a backup plan
Whenever you’re camping in the wild, make sure to have a backup plan for when things go south. You might be surprised by a rogue snowstorm, a summer storm or another emergency during the trip, and it’s important to have a rough plan on where you are going to go in case of emergency.
It’s often a good idea to be aware of cabins for rent in the nearby area, leaving you with an option to retreat to one of these if the camping itself turn out to be more than your bargained for.
You are not allowed to break into private cabins, but you are OK to sit on the porch to get away from dangerous weather and things like that in cases of emergencies. In addition, they will usually be tied to a road so that you can call the emergency services.
Likewise, learn where to go for the nearest medical emergency help, or how to travel to a place with people. You never know when you need to leave your camp in a hurry, and might not have the time to bring out your map to look for a nearby settlement.
Hopefully you won’t need to use your backup plan, but it’s great to have ready for those few times you actually do.
10) Not having your tent pitched and camp ready by nightfall
The Norwegian summer nights are long, especially when you are north of the polar circle, but they also tend to be pitch black after sundown!
It’s a common rookie mistake to not have your camp ready by the time darkness hits, and trust me, it’s going to be a lot more difficult getting your tent set up correctly after it’s dark outside. And finding a suitable spot to put it down in the first place is also going to be challenging.
To find out when the sunset it, go to yr.no and search for your location. Look at the bottom of the page where it says sundown and the time, and make sure that you have your camp set up by that time.
11) Overstaying your welcome
The freedom to roam gives us a lot of rights, but it also comes with certain responsibilities. One of them is to not stay at the same place for more than two nights in a row, and to move camp on the third day.
It might not seem like a big deal to everyone, but I hope that people who wants to enjoy the nature in Norway also respect this rule. Staying at the same spot for multiple days in a row do lead to some damage to the local nature, so you should move regularly if you are camping for more than just a few days.
The general rule of thumb is to travel at least 100 – 200 meters away from your original camp when moving. This distance is actually not specified in the law itself, so you are free to interpret it whichever way you want, but you should be okay if you move 100 meters or more.
The idea is that you move far enough to use a different part of the nature, reducing the impact on a specific spot.
Nicklas is the owner and editor of The Norway Guide, and is responsible for most of the content on the website.
He lives in Skien, Norway with his wife and two children. Nicklas is specialized in Norwegian ecology (including Norway’s geology, wildlife and flora) from his degree in Ecology And Nature Management at University of South-Eastern Norway, but has a particular interest in tourism and content creation.
His biggest hobbies are fishkeeping, going on hikes with his dog, and rooting for the local football team.