Motorhome Wild Camping- Everything you need to know

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Ever wanted to go wild camping in your campervan or motorhome, but weren't sure on the rules or how to find free places to stay? This post shares everything you need to know about motorhome wild camping and how to find off-grid parking spots with a motorised vehicle in the UK & Europe.


Motorhome wild camping is one of our favourite ways to spend a night in our van. We prefer to be away from people and like to avoid noisy, over-crowded campsites wherever we can- whether we're touring in the UK or around Europe.

We've wild camped with our motorhome in some incredible places- next to rivers, by the sea, in the middle of forests and up mountains whilst staring in awe at the Milky Way as it sparkles overhead.

But I remember how daunting it is the first time you plan to stay off-grid with your motorhome. Not knowing how to find places to stay, or what the ‘motorhome wild camping' etiquette is, can make the whole thing feel totally intimidating.

I get it- and this post is written to help you. We want to share the secrets of wild camping with a motorised vehicle, whether that's a motorhome, campervan or RV. Once you know these, the world is your oyster!

It's also a great way to explore the local area- I often use the tips we share below to find free motorhome overnight stops near me which are perfect for a quick weekend getaway.


What is motorhome or campervan wild camping?

Wild camping with a motorhome could technically be described as staying with your van anywhere which doesn't have facilities. So no electric hookup or waste disposal.

We also don't consider it to be staying on a street, or outside someone's house. For us, motorhome wild camping is free overnight parking in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature.

Is it called motorhome wild camping, or free overnight parking for motorised vehicles, or…?

We call it wild camping with a motorhome.

My parents often laugh at me- they consider wild camping to be up a mountain with a tent, but we did a poll in our Motorhome Facebook Group and most people in the UK seem to call it motorhome wild camping too. You can call it campervan off-grid parking or free motorhome camping if you prefer. It all means the same thing.

motorhome wild camping checklist

Want to stay off-grid with your motorhome?

Grab our FREE wild camping checklist and make it easy for yourself. Everything you need to do, bring or remember when you stay off-grid.


Wild Camping with a motorhome or Campervan- where to start

I remember when we bought our very first motorhome- it seemed impossible to find all these amazing locations to stay overnight. HOW did people find free parking for campervans or motorhomes? Is it magic? (Spoiler- it's not magic)

Wild camping sounds (and is) idyllic… but if you've never done it before it can definitely be intimidating. What are the rules? How do you stay safe? What if you get arrested?

Don't worry- it's not as scary as it sounds and, hopefully, by the end of this post you'll feel confident to go off for a little motorhome wild camping adventure of your own. If you're worried about safety, here are some tips to improve motorhome security, both at home and while travelling with your camper.

Motorhome Wild Caming in the Brecon Beacons in Wales
Motorhome Wild Caming in the Brecon Beacons in Wales

*There may be affiliate links in this post, meaning if you click and make a purchase, we earn a small commission (from the seller- no cost to you) We are very selective about our partners and who we recommend- if we wouldn't recommend it to our family, we won't recommend it to you.


Wild Camp in the UK with a motorhome- Our first-time!

The first time we considered motorhome wild camping in our van, I was absolutely TERRIFIED. I seriously thought we were going to be either murdered in our beds or woken up at 3am and moved on by the police (complete with a criminal record).

Honestly, I'm not sure which one scared me most!

Our first time was on our Scotland road trip and, honestly, I didn't enjoy it much. As a planner, I struggled not knowing where we were going to stay that night, or if we would be safe.

When we did find somewhere to stay I worried we were doing something wrong. I barely slept (although some of that had to do with the lorries which used the road as a rat run during the night- live and learn!)

But as the new morning dawned, here is exactly what happened on our first night of motorhome wild parking….. NOTHING. Not a thing. Nobody cared, nobody commented. It was a little anti-climatic- and yet completely free-ing. And the more we did it, the easier and more fun it became.

So if this is you, please rest assured. Less than 3 months after that first night, we merrily wild camped our way around Europe without any issues whatsoever. In fact, it was one of the best motorhome holidays we've ever had.

In 2018, we spent 5 weeks touring with our motorhome in Denmark, Norway and Sweden- and only stayed in a campsite for one night!


What are the laws for wild camping with a motorised vehicle?

Well, that depends on where you are. Europe is a LOT easier to wild camp in than the UK. Sorry to say but it's true- motorhome and campervan parking laws in the UK are strict! I break down the current camper wild camping laws for Scotland, England and Wales further down the post.

Wild Camping. What is it, is it legal and where do you go? How do you find places for a motorhome or campervan to wild camp in the UK? Tips and hacks for finding the perfect wild camping spots for your road trip. Wild camping is fun- this guide will help you get it all figured out. #motorhome #camping #campervan #wild #scotland #UK #tips #hacks #ideas #rvliving #rvlife #boondocking
Free overnight parking or wildcamping in a campervan

Wild Camping – How to find free places to stay with a motorhome

Some people research places before they set out. For us, that takes some of the spontanteity out of the journey, so I tend not to look for locations until we're in the area and ready to stop.

To do this I need internet in the motorhome. If you're going somewhere really remote (like the Swiss Alps) you might need to do some advanced searching, but in all honesty, if the place if that remote, you'll have no trouble finding somewhere to stop for the night!

If you need the internet whilst you're driving, we highly recommend this Wifi dongle. We've used it all over the place and rarely had a problem finding a signal. We use the yellow one, but there are several versions which all get great reviews.


Watch the video about how we find Wild Camping spots for Campervans & Motorhomes

This video shows you how we use the motorhome parking apps and how I find free overnight parking places near me.

If you have time, I highly recommend you watch it. If you found it useful, subscribe to our Youtube channel here so you can get more free motorhome and campervan tips for the UK and Europe.


Motorhome Wild Camping – how we find places

Depending on what we're doing will depend on how we look for wild camping places. If we're heading into the countryside for a weekend, we'll look for remote car parks or lay-bys which won't have much noise or passing traffic.

If we're just stopping on the way to somewhere else, such as on the way down to Cornwall, we look for places not too far off our chosen route. Again, we try to pick somewhere quiet that's not by a busy main road- otherwise the van shakes violently all night as trucks drive past.

Want to learn everything about motorhome wild camping?

Motorhome wild camping guide

It's ok to be nervous. Maybe even slightly terrified. I remember exactly what that felt like. Thinking everyone else had some secret that I just couldn't figure out.

If you want to know what they know, grab our step-by-step guide to motorhome wild camping/ off-grid parking. 80+ pages of tips, step-by-step walkthroughs, videos, checklists and more- everything you need to get started, find places, stay safe, manage power, water, waste and more.


Useful Motorhome wild parking Apps

I use three apps to find free overnight motorhome parking spots. Each app has its pros and cons, and we use them for different things.

Park4night

The best app for finding wild overnight parking spots in Europe or the UK is park4night.com. This site is FREE to join & there is both an app and a website. Most of the users are European, so you'll find thousands of spots all over Europe (and much of the rest of the world too.)

It lists a lot of aires in France, car parks and approved motorhome overnight stops, which is useful if you need something with hardstanding and not too far off the main roads.

Searchforsites

Another good app for UK motorhome wildcamping is searchforsites.co.uk, which we really like due to its ease of use and wide range of various options. Most places have photos and a review- which we find really helpful when picking a location.

However, this site is a PAIN to use on a mobile phone, especially if you could go anywhere within a 20-mile radius and are looking for options. Each time you come back to the main map you need to search all over again.

Searchforsites has a small subscription cost for the year.

Wildcamping in campervan next to Stonehenge
Motorhome wild camping in Stonehenge, UK

Campercontact

If you have a larger motorhome or RV, or are towing with your motorhome, this is a great option as it allows you to narrow the search results by length or vehicle height.

As we spend most of our time pulling a trailer with motorbikes on it, it's really useful for us to know which free overnight spots won't be suitable for us. It also has several options which aren't listed on the other two apps.

Again, I tend to use this motorhome parking app more in Europe instead of the UK and it does have a charge for the year.

I tend to check all sites, read the reviews, look at the photos and then pick somewhere. Most sites have a postcode so we put that into our motorhome Sat Nav and off we go!


Britstops- a campervan wild camping alternative

Brit stops is a collection of farms, pubs, breweries and other businesses in the UK, which allow motorhomes and campervans to park overnight on their land for free, in return for the hope of some sales (food, drink etc) that evening or the next morning.

It's a great scheme, especially for the UK which doesn't have motorhome aires like in Europe.


Motorhome pub stopovers

The other option is to find pubs which allow/ encourage motorhomes to stay over. Many pubs will allow campers to stay in their car park or even in a dedicated field for free, as long as you eat in the pub that evening. Seems pretty fair to me! You can use the motorhome parking apps above to find good motorhome pub stopovers near you.

motorhome wild camping checklist

Want to stay off-grid with your motorhome?

Grab our FREE wild camping checklist and make it easy for yourself. Everything you need to do, bring or remember when you stay off-grid.


How to Wild Camp in the UK with a campervan- Practicalities

There's no point planning a wild camping trip if your van/ motorhome/ vehicle isn't set up for it. There are a couple of motorhoming essentials to figure out before you go off-grid with your vehicle.

Water

Consider what your water requirements are. In the motorhome, we carry 95 litres, which is enough water for 3/4 days if we're very frugal- but that does include a quick shower for each of us every day.

There are some great solar devices which can store water on your roof so it warms up as you drive- allowing you to have a nice hot shower when you park for the night.

We also carry one of these lifesaver jerrycans, which is AMAZING for getting clean drinking water wherever you are.

Campervan wild camping
Wild camping with a camper in the UK & Europe

Waste

Consider your… errr… bathroom set up. Most motorhomes and campervans have a toilet built in- but even with a bathroom/ toilet installed you need to make sure it has enough space to take …. anything you put into it. No point camping in the middle of nowhere and then realising the toilet is about to overflow & needs emptying. So be sure to empty your toilet at a responsible and sanitary place whenever you can.

If you don't have a toilet in your camper, consider how you will ‘do your thing' in the woods/ countryside around you. You'll need a way of disposing of soiled toilet tissue- PLEASE don't leave that behind. Waste (including urine) must be at least 100m and ideally 200m away from any water source.

Consider your grey waste capacity too. Many people empty grey waste (which is water from sink and shower) into the wild. If you're going to do this, please use products which will not be harmful to the environment and don't empty black waste anywhere except for in approved areas where it won't do any damage.

It angers us how many people give motorhome wild camping a bad name by being lazy and disrespectful, both to the environment and the locals. Please don't be one of them.

For this reason, we tend to empty grey and black waste at the same time in an approved motorhome emptying facility, like a campsite. Alternatively, you can use public toilet blocks and use a bowl to empty grey waste and then pour it safely down a drain.

Planning a motorhome trip? These posts might help:


Fires while motorhome wild camping

There is nothing more romantic than an open flame, as you sit around of an evening and enjoy your secluded spot.

HOWEVER, please ensure the fire is off the ground and doesn't leave any scorch marks and be sensible- if it's been very hot and dry the surrounding area is likely to go up with a stray ember and could potentially cause a devastating wildfire. Nobody wants that. Also, having a fire is not always sensible or tolerated. It depends entirely on where you are and what is around you.

Remember, wild camping is not always a ‘right', more of a tolerance from the land owner. A fire could be the thing which gets you moved on.

We LOVE our BBQ/ Fire, which is set off the ground and folds flat when not in use. We leave it to cool off overnight and then it folds away very easily the next day. Such a brilliant bit of kit.

Wild Camp in the UK with a motorhome. What is it, is it legal and where do you go? How do you find places for a motorhome or campervan to wild camp in the UK? Tips and hacks for finding the perfect wild camping spots for your road trip. Wild camping is fun- this guide will help you get it all figured out. #motorhome #camping #campervan #wild #scotland #UK #tips #hacks #ideas #rvliving #rvlife #boondocking
Motorhome Wild camping in Europe

Cooking while wildcamping with your campervan

 We've already mentioned using a campfire (when it's safe and sensible), which is an obvious and fun method to cook on, but if you use gas check that there is enough gas in your cylinder. Especially if you use it for heating.

We use our motorhome all year, including throughout winter, and we find one 6kg gas bottle lasts us about 3 days- which is used for cooking, fridge and the heating on constantly nearly all the time. Obviously, it lasts us a lot longer in summer!

TOP TIP: If you DON'T use your van during winter, you need to close it down properly. Read our essential motorhome/ camper winter storage preparation tips


Motorhome Off-grid Power

We try hard to keep our power useage to a minimum. When we're off-grid parking, we make sure we have already topped up all our phones, ipads, laptops, drone batteries and the wifi dongle as we are driving (using 12v chargers and an inverter), so we don't use our precious battery power while we're wild camped.

We also carry a small generator- as an EMERGENCY BACKUP! I refuse to be that couple in a motorhome who ruins a beautifully serene location with a noisy electric engine- but I agreed to it for when we tackled the wilds of Norway- and it did come in handy. This is the generator we use and LOVE.

We use the bare minimum of lights of an evening, preferring instead to sit & chat by a fire until bedtime.

Related Posts: 5 Motorhomes essentials you need for wild camping- and 2 you don't!


Supplies

Make sure you have enough water, food, tools, fuel, motorhome essentials & spare parts if you are going somewhere really remote.

Also, make sure your vehicle is in good working order before you set off. Breaking down in a remote car park is not going to enhance your motorhome wild parking experience! Here are the essential checks you should do before every motorhome trip

Motorhomes wildcamping on the Isle of Skye
Motorhome Wild camping on the Isle of Skye

Motorhome Wild Camping – advice for beginners

Wild camping with a vehicle is not a right. Anywhere. But in many places it is still tolerated for people to park up off-grid overnight, provided they are considerate, responsible and follow these simple guidelines:

  • Only stay one night in any one place
  • Don't put up awnings, outside furniture or make a lot of noise.
  • Don't block access to fields or park in overtaking places (that's illegal)
  • Keep well away from buildings and don't block anyone's view (unless you seek owner's permission)
  • Take away all litter and waste
  • Obey local bylaws (especially where you need a permit to park in certain places)
How to wild camp in the UK with a motorhome or campervan. Tips and hacks for finding the perfect wild camping spots for your road trip. Wild camping is fun- this guide will help you get it all figured out. #motorhome #camping #campervan #wild #scotland #UK #england #tips #hacks #ideas
Wild Camp in the UK with a motorhome or campervan

Campervan Overnight Parking- what to do/ what not to do

  • “DON'T leave anything other than tyre tracks” was how it was explained to us- and I love that definition. If we want to keep wild camping, for free, across the UK, we need to respect the land we are staying on and the fact that most of the time we are there with kind permission of the landowner. The more people who leave rubbish/ cause damage, the quicker we're ALL going to be stopped from staying anywhere.
  • DON'T play loud music
  • DON'T put up awnings/ permanent structures. You need to look like you are just stopping for a few hours.
  • If there is a charge, pay it. It's still a heck of a lot cheaper than a campsite for a night.
  • You can always move. Should other people move in who are noisy/ unsociable or who you just don't want to be parked next to, then just start the van and move.

How to Wild Camp in the UK- Safety

A short word on safety. If you are wild camping on your own, PLEASE tell someone where you are going- or tell them where you are when you find somewhere. We also don't recommend posting your whereabouts on social media until after you've left. There are several motorhome security products which can help you be more secure on the road.

We also recommend fitting an additional motorhome door lock for added security.

motorhome wild camping checklist

Want to stay off-grid with your motorhome?

Grab our FREE wild camping checklist and make it easy for yourself. Everything you need to do, bring or remember when you stay off-grid.


So, after all this advice, is it even legal to wild camp in the UK or Europe in a motorised vehicle? The honest answer is….. kinda.

Wild camping in England & Wales in a motorhome

Pretty much every piece of land in England & Wales is owned by someone, and you DON'T have right of access onto their land without their permission. Therefore if you are asked to move on, you need to do so. Wild camping is also prohibited on Open Access lands (shaded orange on Ordnance Survey Maps) and in most National Parks.

Wild Camp in the UK with a Motorhome. What is it, is it legal and where do you go? How do you find places for a motorhome or campervan to wild camp in the UK? Tips and hacks for finding the perfect wild camping spots for your road trip. Wild camping is fun- this guide will help you get it all figured out. #motorhome #camping #campervan #wild #scotland #UK #tips #hacks #ideas #rvliving #rvlife #boondocking
Motorhome wild camping- just look at those views!

HOWEVER, there are many places in England & Wales where wild camping is tolerated. Heck, we camped next to Stonehenge for the night and spoke to the security guards from English Heritage at 6am (we were filming the sunrise). They didn't bat an eyelid at the fact we were parked there, for free, for the night. There were in fact several other vans around and they could easily have asked us all to move if it was an issue…. but they didn't. Because it wasn't.

It's a lot easier to motorhome wild camp if you head for more remote areas on your UK road trip– such as Cumbria, the Peak District, Yorkshire, Wales and Scotland. Here landowners are more used to wild campers and much more tolerant- although they still have the right to ask you to move.

The practical answer is that most people don't mind as long as you are not blocking their view, making noise or causing damage and not disobeying an obvious parking sign saying ‘no overnight camping'. A bit of courtesy and consideration will go a long way to making your wild camping trips more enjoyable.


Motorhome & Campervan Wild Camping in Scotland

Scotland has long been considered much more tolerant of wild camping than the other countries in Britain, especially in the Highlands. However, some confusion exists about the definition of wild camping in Scotland (or free parking).

The often-quoted Scottish Outdoor Access code does NOT apply to motorised vehicles, so, contrary to popular belief, it is NOT ok to just park a motorhome or campervan wherever you like in Scotland.

Sadly, the pressure on the infrastructure is creating more and more tension between residents, tourist boards and motorhomers. A few irresponsible idiots who leave rubbish and human waste lying around have led to many more restrictions on where you can legally park overnight, and there is increasing pressure to shut down even more places- especially in the heavily congested areas of the Isle of Skye and NC500.

For more information, check out the UK campervan and motorhome parking laws or find out more about motorhome wild camping in Scotland.

Another TOP TIP for Scotland- do not take your Motorhome into Edinburgh. Under ANY circumstances. You can take kids into Edinburgh, but not motorhomes. There's nowhere near enough space!


Motorhome wild parking in Europe

Finding free overnight places for motorhomes and campervans in Europe is almost identical to the UK- but a LOT easier.

There's more space to avoid people and, as long as you stay away from popular tourist attractions, there are loads of places to park up overnight across Europe.

There are also a system of approved motorhome parking spots in Europe called aires. Find out how to find and use wildcamping spots and aires in Europe.


I hope the above has been helpful and allayed some of your fears over wild camping in your motorhome. The best thing you can do is just get out there and give it a go. Good luck- let me know how it goes! 🙂


The Ultimate Guide to campervan travel in the UK. Tips, tricks, how to find places to park for free- everything you need to know to have an AMAZING UK road trip. #campervan #campervanliving #travel
Awesome campervan living tips- including how to find the best campervan parking spots for free! Everything you need to know for campervan life on a budget. #campervan #campervanlife #vanlife

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31 thoughts on “Motorhome Wild Camping- Everything you need to know”

  1. Hi Kat, 20 seconds to decide? It took me less than one second to decide to take voluntary early retirement from the Sellafield nuclear site when I was 57. The deal was far too good to refuse. Shortly after my wife of 27 years left to be with another man and, in retrospect, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. After selling the house and dividing all possessions I bought a 57foot narrowboat and continuously cruised for 13 years with my rescue dogs. In April last year I sold the boat and bought a motorhome that was 8 years old and had only 21,370 miles on the clock. I then drove two thousand miles around Scotland, including the NC500, and the north of England. So far I’ve only used campsites on four nights, much preferring to wild camp.
    Currently I’m parked on my friend’s farm with electric hook up and fresh water for £10 per week, plus helping with odd jobs. My two rescue dogs love it here because they can run free. As soon as winter is over we’ll be off on our travels again. Plan A is to drive the 1500 mile Wild Atlantic Way and tour Ireland for six months. Plan B, if A doesn’t materialise, is to island hop through all of the Outer Hebrides and then explore Orkney where I have a contact. Do you know that if visiting a friend or relative on Orkney you can claim 30% off the ferry charge?
    Best Regards,
    Graham.

    Reply
  2. A nice read looking at all angles of wild camping in the uk. Ive never properly wild camped but would like to get out in my landrover with the roof tent on and do it as much as i can, and trying to convince my partner to think the same way, we’re moving from essex to cumbria next month so i think we’re heading the right way. My question is have you seen many wild campers in the uk with a roof top tent on their 4×4 and do you think if we find some spots tucked away we shouldnt have a problem with being moved on etc?

    Reply
    • Hi Aaron! Don’t tell Mr WB- he loves a good 4×4/ roof tent combo. That’s like his dream life! 🙂 We’ve seen a few- especially in Europe. In the UK we try to stay as far from other campers as possible, but I’m sure there are a few around. I don’t see why you would have any more problems than anyone else- if wild camping is tolerated, then it’s tolerated, especially if you only stay for a night. Let me know how you get on!

      Reply
  3. Hi
    Nice article we wild camp everywhere exept Dorset they don’t seem to like Motor homes.
    I just wondered how you have found the Hydrolic levelling system.

    Reply
    • Hi David,

      Im actually writing a blog post on that right now! Hope to have it out in a week or two, but we really like it. Don’t consider it an essential though!

      Reply
    • We had a great night on Exmouth sea front. They have a designated area for motorhomes, cost me £3.40 for 24hrs. See Park 4 Night.

      Reply
  4. Thanks Kat
    Thanks for your comment as i have already booked mine in to have fitted in April,hopefully worth the expense.

    Reply
    • Definitely worth the expense if you wild camp a lot like us! So much easier than chocks- and more stable. I’m sure you’ll love it.

      Reply
  5. Hi
    Interested in Norway and Denmark
    Where did you travel from it did you rent a camper over there
    Great info by the way
    Thanks sharn

    Reply
    • Hi Sharn,

      We drove up to Norway from the UK. There’s several posts on it (and the cost!) in the Norway section under Destinations. 🙂

      Reply
    • There’s not one from the UK. We drove through Belgiumn, Holland, Germany, Denmark and got the Ferry from Denmark to Norway! 🙂 It was an adventure!

      Reply
  6. Hi Kat,
    Great blog really helpful and insightful
    You mention you have the heating on all the time, does this include the night and what heating are you using, do you have any concerns regarding carbon monoxide poisoning whilst your sleeping if your using gas. If not what set up are you using.
    Cheers
    Paul

    Reply
    • Hi Paul- great question! We fitted a carbon monoxide in the motorhome and we always try and leave one roof vent open where possible/ safe to do so. But the van is a fairly big space, and we’ve never had any problems. The properly fitted heating systems are all tested to be safe for use overnight.

      Reply
  7. First camper coming in September 2019 a Toyota Alphard but should be room for me and my French beauty Jaques Roosell, enjoy your advice and tips no end, can’t wait to get going. Keep up the good work all the best Dave.

    Reply
  8. What a brilliant post. I can’t even drive but have been daydreaming about doing this recently. I think in maybe 2/3 years or so it could be a reality.

    Reply
    • Not in our van. We’ve been on US road trips, but it costs a lot to ship a van, not to mention the trouble with getting Diesel in the US, so not sure we ever will!! We’re hoping to do Alaska in a few years- we’ll probably hire one then.

      Reply
  9. This is just the blog/post I have been looking for. We have just recently booked a converted Citroen relay for a trip planned (ish) week around the South Coast of the UK with the view of purchasing one in a few years time. We also love remote/wild camping so your advice & tips were priceless. Totally agree with how Cumbria has more wild spots than many other parts & we look forward to exploring there too, amongst many other parts of Europe. Happy travelling 🚐

    Reply
  10. This made me laugh. Wild camping is sleeping in a tent away from civilisation. Sorry it’s not sleeping in a comfortable bed with toilet and cooking facilities near a road.
    Very funny 😂

    Reply
  11. Hey Kat and Mr WB, I came across your site looking at motor homes. And OMG! Everyone of your videos are truly amazing, plus I love the music. I’m looking at selling up at 55 taking early retirement and doing a grand tour of the UK. But I might slightly add in the whole of Europe as well. Your vids on Norway blew me away amazing. it’s definitely on the list! so thank you for opening my eyes to what’s out there. All the best for the future and safe and happy travels to you and your family.

    Reply
  12. Interesting article and good to see your approach is to leave tyre tracks only and that you point out that wild camping isn’t permitted in National Parks. Therefore it’s surprising and concerning that websites you link to such as searchforsites recommends locations in U.K. national parks. Not good!

    Reply

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