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Free Camping Across Europe

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  • #12931
    VBJ
    Keymaster

    Editor’s note: The following travel question was sent to me direction and would normally be answered on the blog, but I’m trying to get this forum going so I’m answering it here. Feel free to contribute any advice, additional questions, or comments!

    Hi there,

    My boyfriend and I have the summer off between university semesters 3 Months (in Europe), so as students budget is tight, but not too tight. We’ll be walking hitching and have the good fortune of having an interrail pass for a while too. We intend to free-camp and couch surf as much as possible. We would way rather spend the money we have on getting to see amazing sights or trying some delicious local delicacy now and then, rather than on basics like accommodation and daily meals in restaurants.We’ll be on Crete, Greece for about a month and a half (June to mid July), there are some do-able walking routes to get around the south western part of the island and there is the possibility of working on farms etc or maybe in hostels if we feel like sticking around in one spot. That being said I fully intend to carry tent, sleeping mat and bag (night time ferry trips on deck) and cooking gear and at least one book. After Greece we’ll be going to a festival in Portugal for about a week and then using the train and hitching around to see some more of the med and France until the end of Aug. I know that it may not be that easy to camp outside of campsites around these areas in Europe but I put my faith in the generosity of the Couch surfing network and if worst comes to worst we can shell out for a camp site. So, now that you have an idea of how we’ll be spending our time, when and where, maybe you can help me with a few questions.
    How to clean my cooking gear (and laundry) etc when there is no sink? On non-walking trips I’ve had tubs for that purpose, but do you think it is do-able to take a bucket or tub when it has to be carried around in/on a backpack? What would you do if you were travelling on foot? Is a travel chopping board worthwhile? I usually eat out of bowls at home anyway, so we’d skip taking plates in that case.
    How little cooking gear (like pots or pans) can I get away with? Is there any particular brand of compact pots that you know is good?
    Is cooking over a fire rather than taking a stove over-kill in terms of trying to save on space and weight and fuel costs?
    Should we take something like oats for a good cheap breakfast or is carrying a bag of oats around a ridiculous idea?
    And finally, I have yet to purchase a backpack, can’t decide between a 50L or 60L version of the same pack (Vaude Astra Light) the price difference is almost nothing in the long term, the 50L being slightly more, maybe 200SEK. However the 50L weighs about half a kilo less so that helps, especially when it comes to making the weight limit on the plane. So it is really an issue of size vs. packing space (with future use in mind). I have seen on backpacking forums that people suggest trying to take a 40L pack, but that seems ridiculously small, maybe they are staying in hostels and not cooking though. I’m afarid I don’t have a very good sense of howm much goes into a back pack and what a full pack would weigh with the type of stuff I’m taking.

    Hope this hasn’t been too long-winded! Thanks for any advice you can give me!
    Kind regards, Dirkje

    #12940
    VBJ
    Keymaster

    First of all, realize that you’re not going on some kind of epic voyage into unknown and remote realms of the planet. You’re going to Europe, so it will be extremely rare that you will ever be completely out of earshot of civilization for over a day at a time (if that). So there will more than likely be places to restock and clean up all along the path.

    How to clean my cooking gear (and laundry) etc when there is no sink? On non-walking trips I’ve had tubs for that purpose, but do you think it is do-able to take a bucket or tub when it has to be carried around in/on a backpack?

    As you’ll pretty much never be out of a day’s walk from a sink (at a gas station, restaurant, hostel), I wouldn’t worry too much about cleaning cooking gear and doing laundry. No, it is not my impression that carrying a tub would be worth it. As far as dishes go, pouring a little water on them and giving them a good wipe down with a cloth is usually a good enough temporary solution until you can come across a place with a sink. Remember that rivers can also be used to get water from. Just filter some water into a “wash” bottle (a plastic bottle) and you’re good to go.

    Clothes generally don’t need to be washed everyday. If you find that you’re clothes are dirty, have a spare set. In all my travels I’ve never been in a situation where I ran out of clothes (even when traveling in extremely remote places). One that that I do occasionally do is wash an article or two of clothing in a river or lake (if you feel that polluting with soap is an issue, just rise them) and then attach them to my bag and let them air dry. This is especially useful for underwear.

    Is a travel chopping board worthwhile?

    I don’t even use a chopping board when staying in a hostel or apartment, so I’d say no. A plate is good enough chopping board as far as I’concerned.

    How little cooking gear (like pots or pans) can I get away with? Is there any particular brand of compact pots that you know is good?

    I use stainless steel cooking wear, as I don’t like aluminum or teflon, and glass pots and pans are heavy and should not be traveled with. You can get these pretty cheap at a camp shop, or online. I can’t say that my cooking rig is anything to brag about, but it works. I just have a small, normal pot, a camp pot, a pocket knife, a spoon, a fork, and a tuna can stove. This is the cooking gear that I carry.

    The following gear is similar to what I use:

    Is cooking over a fire rather than taking a stove over-kill in terms of trying to save on space and weight and fuel costs?

    I would not recommend relying on cooking over a camp fire. First, you need to be in a place that has enough wood/ kindling to start the fire and keep it going. Second, it has to be legal for you to use and legal to start an open fire (or you have another risk on your hands). Third, there’s always the risk of starting a bigger fire — especially if you’re camping out of bounds. Forth, starting a camp fire is going to draw a whole lot more attention to you than a fire over a stove.

    I highly recommend carrying a camp stove and fuel. Mine is incredibly simple: it’s just a tuna can. Check out this video to see how I made it. I use denatured alcohol as a fuel, which is common and easy to get in Europe — just go to a hardware store. This stove gives me the ability to cook just about anywhere.

    Should we take something like oats for a good cheap breakfast or is carrying a bag of oats around a ridiculous idea?

    It is an excellent idea to carry food in larger quantities. Though you’re probably not going to be too far away from civilization, it’s not always a guarantee that you’ll be able to readily find something you want to eat or want to afford to eat. Being able to sit down and cook a meal for yourself is essential. Making up a large amount of your own muesli mix with oats, dehydrated vegetables, chocolate, and nuts is a really good strategy. Also carry rice and noodles. Tuna fish, peanut butter, and pre-cooked meat like sausages is also good to have as a meal plan. Be sure to pick up vegetables and fruits when you can on the way. Don’t be afraid to walk up to farms and ask to buy their produce.

    And finally, I have yet to purchase a backpack, can’t decide between a 50L or 60L version of the same pack

    Either will be fine. You may have difficulties carrying either on an airplane, but there will be a better chance with the 50L. I’ve done long distance walking trips with bags smaller than this, and if you’re not carrying a lot of extra stuff it’s fine. You can also strap a lot of stuff to the outside to make room for food and water on the interior.

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