Survival in nature and wild camping are on the rise: nature camping sites and pole camping sites see the number of visitors increase. But that growth is accompanied by the necessary tensions.
"I prefer to sleep in a hammock or in a bivouac sack in the open air," says avid wild camper Mathieu Ogay, chairman of Stichting Wild-Kamperen.nl. "It is completely quiet there, you have all the time to study nature and look around you. You won't find that anywhere."
Primitive camping, without running water or electricity, is on the rise. In 2018, 58,000 people spent the night at a nature campsite, an increase of 17 percent compared to 2017. Nature sites are very simple and naturally located sites that are only accessible to visitors with a valid Nature campsite card (€ 14.50 per year).
Also more crowds at wild camping spots
The pressure on the even more primitive wild camping sites is also increasing, as far as you can speak of real wild camping in the Netherlands. Wild camping is only allowed at seventeen locations designated by Staatsbosbeheer and marked with posts. Three tractor tents may be placed within a radius of 10 meters around such a pole. After a maximum of three nights you have to leave without leaving traces, such as garbage or toilet paper.
Staatsbosbeheer describes pole camping on its website as "sleeping under the starry sky in a quiet place in nature, with a good chance of meeting a red deer, roe deer, wild boar or beaver".
Mathieu Ogay (right) with Bas van der Voort (left) on a wild camping trip. (Photo: Stichting Wild-Kamperen.nl)
Nuisances on camping sites
In reality, an overnight stay at one of the camping pitches sometimes turns out to be less idyllic. Earlier this year, Staatsbosbeheer closed the Campanula site near Zeewolde due to "persistent nuisance". As of January 1, two more sites in Utrecht will be closed for the same reason.
"The pile camp is dirty, there is human stool and toilet paper everywhere." Forester Corien Koreman
The wild camping spots were originally intended for long-distance walkers in transit. "But lately you also see large groups of young people with cool boxes full of beer playing loud music," says Ogay. "I was recently at a campsite where a bachelor party was in full swing."
"Sometimes Paalkamp Austerlitz has twenty tents, while three are allowed," says ranger Corien Koreman. "It is dirty, there is human stool and toilet paper everywhere. It is a great pity that we have to close, but it is getting too out of hand," she says.
How does wild camping work in the Netherlands?
- Wild camping is not permitted, except at the indicated camping poles.
- You are not allowed to make an open fire, cooking on a gas burner is allowed.
- Only permitted with a tractor tent and within a radius of 10 meters around the camping pole.
- You can remain in the same place for a maximum of 72 hours.
- All the garbage, including biodegradable waste, must be taken back.
The right to free access to nature
"In the Netherlands we have become alienated from nature," says Anne Tusveld. She was born in Sweden and informs tourists about the country through her Visit Sweden platform.
In Sweden, Norway and Finland it is legally established that everyone has free access to nature.
"In Sweden, private ownership and nature merge," says Tusveld. "For example, you hardly see any fencing in the Swedish countryside. In the Netherlands, everyone has a fence around their garden. In Sweden, there is less distinction between your land and public space."
Nature belongs to everyone in the Scandinavian countries. (Photo: Stichting Wild-Kamperen.nl)
Grilling a sausage with your family around the fire
The right to free access to nature is enshrined in the Scandinavian countries in the " allemansrätten" . Except in certain national parks you can in principle camp anywhere.
However, your tent must be set up at least 150 meters away from homes, you must not leave any clutter and stay for a maximum of two nights.
"In the Netherlands you only walk the forest with the dog on weekends." Anne Tusveld
"In Scandinavia it is the culture that you and your whole family go out into nature, make a fire and grill sausages," says Tusveld.
"Children here learn at school how to survive in nature. It is part of your general education. In the Netherlands you only walk the forest with the dog on weekends."
First on the survival course
Tusveld would like to see Dutch people first receive a course in bush crafting before they head out into nature. Students learn to survive there in nature. "For example, to make a fire. If you make a fire on a bone-dry ground, as was the case last year, it still smells in the underlying roots and you can get huge fires from it. Some people don't know that. "
"If you go wild camping you have to deal with nature. You are a guest there and you have to take responsibility for your environment. I think people realize that too little," says Ogay. "I hope that people will be more aware of the environment."
Koreman says that Staatsbosbeheer is looking for a new place to replace Paalkamp Austerlitz. "We want to keep the concept, because camping in nature is great fun." A condition for the new site is that it is easier to supervise. Camping will therefore no longer be really wild.