Over the past few years I have spent many nights free camping across various parts of the world. Armed with little more than a sleeping bag and a tent or a hammock, I have found myself a home for the night. And I have very much enjoyed the experience. These experiences have been very compatible with my ultra low budget trips based around hitchhiking, cycling, hiking, and even rafting. However, free camping has not been so successful when staying in city environments. In Amsterdam, my friends and I were arrested for free camping in a park and quite often I have struggled to find anywhere to camp when staying in a city.
Before I ever encountered the world of free camping, I had always stayed in hotels while on short trips, and upon reflection of both experiences, I can see pros and cons of both.
What I Love About Free Camping
- The freedom to find a quiet spot in a pretty setting at the end of a long day.
- The cost – it’s free!
- The opportunity to undertake long term trips, carrying all supplies with you.
What I Hate About Free Camping
- Searching for somewhere to stay, late at night, in the pouring rain.
- Having to carry all belongings with you at all times of day.
- The possibility of a cold, wet, or uncomfortable night’s sleep.
What I Love About Staying in a Hotel
- Having somewhere warm and dry to stay at night, close to amenities.
- Convenience, comfort, and security of knowing where you will be at night.
- Being able to store belongings and ask for advice about the local area.
What I Hate About Staying in a Hotel
- The accumulated cost that increases night upon night.
- Not having the freedom to keep going on a long journey, then sleeping when you get tired.
- Having to prearrange a bed in advance.
Is One Better Than the Other?
No, I don’t think so. I think each has a place in the world of travel, dependent upon the situation. On a long distance journey, involving great physical exertion, free camping is a brilliant option because it allows you to sleep wherever you find yourself without having to plan in advance. When on a trip of limited duration or staying in an urban environment, staying in a hotel is one hell of a lot easier. It also allows you to stay much closer to places that you want to visit and avoid getting in trouble with the law.
Advice For Hotels
If you’re staying in hotels, there is no better resource for finding an awesome bed for the night than the internet. Searching for a hotel online allows you to asses your options by location, date, and rooms required – you can then refine your search by facilities offered and even check out reviews to see what other people have thought of the places that are available to you. Lower prices are offered online, deals area available last minute, and all-in-all, a much better value service is offered to consumers who book hotels online, rather than those who turn up and ask for a room.
Advice For Free Camping
Carrying a sleeping bag is a must. Beyond this, you are free to choose a tent, a hammock, a bivvy bag, or nothing at all. Be flexible, look for somewhere where no-one is going to spot you, don’t trespass, and be flexible (it’s so important that I had to mention it twice). [Read my full guide to free camping]
All in all, pick what is right for your trip, and with increasing importance, I have found it crucial to not pass judgement on what others do – We are all different, in different situations, with different budgets and requirements. Now, where am I going to sleep tonight…?