Is it legal to stay overnight in the Polish forest?
Will it be possible to legally camp in the forest soon? It seems so! In 2019, a pilot program was launched, which allowed sleeping in the wild in certain areas, i.e. in very secluded places. There were over 65,000 hectares of Polish forest districts at the disposal of bushcrafters and survivalists, because the pilotage was mainly directed to them. It was enough to notify the State Forests, gather a group of at least 4 people and go camping together. Due to the success of the program, from May 1, 2021, forest accommodation will be even more affordable for fans of wild nature.
Overnight stay in the forest - how was it so far?
Although a wild overnight stay in the bosom of nature seems to be something completely natural, it was forbidden until 2019. It was allowed to camp in designated places, which were not too many and had little in common with the wilderness adored by nature lovers. In any other place, the stay could even end with a mandate, arrest or fine, although it must be admitted that it was extremely rarely enforced. It should also be added that penalties were imposed not for overnight stays themselves, but for camping activities, for example logging. Importantly, there is not much news in this matter - the change concerns mainly the overnight stay itself.
Details of the program "Stay overnight in the Forest"
Both the "Stay overnight in the Forest" campaign, which started in May, and the earlier pilot program concern some areas of Forest Promotional Complexes, i.e. areas of sustainable management and forest education. Contrary to the pilot, from May 1 it will be possible to sleep in a group of up to 9 people. It is also not necessary to notify the forest inspectorate about the camping, although the State Forests indicate that it is welcome. If there is a desire to stay longer than two days or overnight with more people, the forest district office should be informed and formal consent should be obtained.
How to camp in accordance with the "Stay overnight in the Forest" regulations? You can use tourist hammocks, as well as tarps and tents, which should be pitched on a hard surface so as not to damage the litter or undergrowth. After the camping is over, you have to leave the forest in the same condition as you found it - according to the rules of the program and the "Leave No Trace" rule, you should also take food leftovers with you.
Stay overnight, but don't make a fire
It is worth noting that legal overnight stays do not mean legal bonfires, as there is a risk of reprimand or even a fine. Fire - the basis for survival in difficult conditions - can be kindled only at designated points, although some of them may be located in the area described in the program, it is best to ask the State Forests about it. You can freely use the gas stove, but away from peat bogs, heaths and thickets, as well as low trees or tall grasses.
How is it in other European countries? You can spend the night in the wild in many of them, for example in Scandinavia or the Baltic States, as well as in Scotland, Slovakia or Spain. In some EU countries the situation is not clear-cut - in Denmark, apart from designated places, you cannot sleep in a tent, or in anything that resembles a tent. If a tourist plans a wild overnight stay in France, Greece or the Netherlands, he must take into account the fine. It is worth noting, however, that in many EU countries - for example in the aforementioned Netherlands - the infrastructure of campsites is much more common than in Poland. It does not always have to do with an even lawn and a parking lot right next to it.
Author: Tomasz Świgoń