Primitive camping in Denmark covers the subject of camping in Denmark for hikers, bicyclists and other non-motorized modes of travel. Due to the country's compact size and dense population, Danes and visitors do not enjoy the right to access, which exists in the other Nordic countries. This means that it is generally illegal to pitch a tent outside the organized commercial camping grounds. The exceptions are covered in this article.
Commercial camping grounds
Commercial campsites are the traditional place to camp but are not seen as attractive to some tourists travelling by foot, bicycle or the like, as the Danish campsites mostly cater to the caravan community. As they are not primitive, they don't really fit into this article, but should be mentioned since they are useful to do the laundry, get a shower and recharge the mobile phone. The Danish Camping Board has a list of all the commercial campsites in Denmark.
Primitive camp sites
The primitive camp sites are small designated areas where you may camp with a tent, provided you are not travelling by motorized means. The owner may choose to charge you up to DKK 30 per person per night, and in some cases you may need to call ahead. The information indicating whether you need to call ahead is so far only available in Danish, so you may have to ask a Dane to translate for you. In Danish these primitive camp sites are called both "Lille lejrplads" and "or små lejrpladser" in plural which means small campsite. This name contrasts these sites with another group of larger camp sites mostly meant for larger organized groups such as Scouts.
There are around 1,100 of these sites scattered throughout most of the country. A lot of the sites are owned by farmers who are offering the use of a corner of one of their fields to travellers. In other cases the sites are located in a publicly owned forest. The owner will in some cases be willing to provide access to bathing facilities (typically his own private bathroom) and is allowed to charge extra for this service. In most of these sites there is a place to have a camp fire and access to water. Some of these sites have shelters or toilets.
The rules for using these areas are:
- The primitive camp sites on the Danish Nature Agency (Danish: Naturstyrelsen) grounds can be used without prior permission. On other primitive camp sites it may be required to contact the owner before using the site.
- Unless you have obtained a permission from the owner of the primitive camp site you may only stay for one or two nights.
- Keep the primitive camp sites tidy and bring your trash with you when you leave.
The rules can be found at the Danish Nature Agency.
Unfortunately the information on the internet about the locations are in Danish only, but it can be found at the Danish Nature Agency outdoor facilities portal. There is also a free app available called Shelterapp which uses the same underlying data as the Danish Nature Agency outdoor facilities portal. Another option to find these sights are to buy a printed guide book called Overnatning i det fri which costs DKK 139, and is available from many tourist informations desks or the Danish Cyclist Union. This book also has an associated web site which also has a general introduction to these sites in English and German.
Areas with free camping
A newer alternative is the areas with free camping. In Danish these are called "Frie teltningsområder" while the official English term is "free camp sites". In contrast to the primitive camp sites these areas are typically larger, since it is typically a whole publicly owned forest that have this designation. On the other hand there may be no facilities. In these areas there are never any requirement to call ahead, and the use of the area will always be free of charge. There are around 170 of these areas, with a lot of them located in the less populated interior parts of Jutland, while there are almost none at Funen and South Zealand.
The rules for these areas are:
- You may only spend one night at the same site.
- You may only pitch two tents at the same site.
- The tents may only be three person tents or smaller.
- The tents may not be visible from any buildings, commercial camp sites or roads with car traffic.
- You may only have open flames in places where there are facilities for this.
- You may only use a camp stove if the burner are enclosed (such as in the Swedish Trangia models). You may not place the camp stove on any flammable materials.
- A forest may be temporarily be off limits to all kinds of open flames due to draught. In these cases use of camp stoves will also be banned. This may be announced on the homepage of Danish Nature Agency or by signs posted at entries to the forest.
- You may not use motorized means of transportation of the forest roads.
- Tents may not be pitched at beaches or dunes when these are part of the areas.
- When leaving you should clean up the area and take all of your garbage away.
Like the primitive camps sites, the Areas with free camping sites can be found on the Danish Nature Agency outdoor facilities portal. These areas can also be found through the free app available through the Shelterapp web site.
The rules can be found at the Danish Nature Agency [dead link] (in Danish).
Sleeping on the beach
You may sleep on the beach in the sandy area between the water and continuous vegetation is growing. However, you may not pitch a tent to do this, since this would put you within the legal definition of "camping". You also need to keep a distance of more than 50 metres to any building. You may also only stay for up to "a day" which is interpreted as less than 12 hours - even if these hours are during the night. Some people do not know of this part of the law and may take offence to you doing this. To avoid having to prove them wrong, it may prove smarter to use this option discretely.
Sleeping in public forests
You may sleep anywhere in forests owned by the Danish Nature Agency provided you are only lying on the ground in a sleeping bag, in a hammock or under a poncho. If you want to pitch a tent the rules listed above applies. This is described on The Danish Nature Agency website.
Finding places to camp without speaking Danish
- Go to udinaturen.dk
- Select "Overnatning" on the very left of the top bar (which means "Accommodation").
- Select "Frie teltningsområder" (free tenting area) and/or "Lille lejrplads" (small campsite) according to your preferences. The third category "Stor lejrplads" (large campsite) are the sites for larger organized groups such as Scouts and always requires reservation well ahead.
The map will now show the locations of the selected categories of camp sites. Click on the sites, then "Læs mere" to find detailed information (in Danish).