Campervan Overnight Parking and Wild Camping
There are many people, like us, who enjoy the freedom campervan and motorhome wild camping gives you. The freedom to travel wherever and whenever you want (within reason) without having to go back to the same place every night.
One of the biggest concerns for people with campervans and motorhomes is trying to find suitable overnight parking if they don’t intend to use a campsite.
It needn’t be as it’s actually pretty easy as long as you don’t expect to have top class views and have spots to yourself every night. There are of course some places which are easier than others to wild camp in and the good news is there are plenty of tools to use to find good (and often reviewed) places to park overnight.
Before we share the variety of tools and ways you can find overnight parking we wanted to cover a few concerns that many fellow van lifers have shared with us over the years.
Is Wild Camping Legal?
Photo courtesy of Eric Jones.
Wild camping is technically only legal in England and Wales if you get permission from the land owner. This is of course very difficult to do in most cases as it’s not always easy to find out who that is.
The rules differ slightly in Scotland as they have the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 which allows camping on nearly all unenclosed land. However, this apparently does not include vehicles.
So basically, the answer is no - but everybody does it right? In most cases, people have no problem with you sleeping overnight in your campervan in a wild camping spot if you are considerate and leave no trace. We have only ever been moved on once and in our experience - if you follow the below wild camping tips you should get left alone.
Wild Camping Tips
- Arrive late and leave early - If you arrive in a spot late (ideally after dark) you are much less likely to be spotted and potentially be moved on.
- Use black out blinds - Try not to make it obvious you are sleeping in the van.
- Park away from houses/dwellings - If you park near houses or a development then you might aggravate whoever is living there and potentially be moved on. As a general rule try to stay as rural as possible.
- Leave no trace - Or ideally, leave it better than you found it! If campervanners / motorhomes continually leave a mess then there will inevitably end up being ‘no overnight parking’ signs going up or you will get reported and moved on. Litter will mean bad press and will ruin it for everyone…..don’t do it!
- Park considerately - Park out of the way with plenty of room for people to get passed. Do not park in passing places - these are exactly what they say on the sign - passing places, not parking places. Also do not park on wet ground that you might churn up - it will annoy land owners and you might also get stuck which would be embarrassing!
- Avoid sitting outside with chairs, tables & BBQ’s etc - Unless you are in a well known wild camping spot away from lots of people and it’s regarded as acceptable in that area then you really shouldn’t be sat outside making it obvious what you are doing. Use a campsite for that.
- Avoid overcrowding - If you can see a parking spot you had in mind is already busy with other vans then find somewhere else. People are much less likely to get annoyed if places are not overcrowded.
- If you can ask for permission - do it! This goes for places like parking in pub car parks, village halls etc - anywhere where you can easily speak to whoever owns the land. If you get the green light to stay you are much more likely to switch off and get a good night's sleep.
Is Wild Camping Safe?
The short answer is - it’s as safe as you make it. There are lots of things you can do to make yourself feel secure - read our campervan security blog for more information.
There are some easy easy and free ways to make yourself safe:
Look out for broken glass or signs of vandalism - these are all warning signs a place is not safe.
If you use parking apps like park4night then read the comments - they often say if there has been trouble in particular spots.
Follow your gut - if somewhere doesn’t feel safe then move on and find somewhere else otherwise you probably won’t get a restful night.
Where to find Campervan overnight park ups
Campervan Overnight Parking Apps
There are quite a few apps and websites that now list overnight parking and campervan park ups. We use Park4Night app which is really good - it has a map and list view and lists wild camping park ups, motorhome stop overs, pub stop overs, campsites and urban car parks where wild camping is acceptable. There are usually lots of comments on there too so you can do research before travelling to a spot.
There are plenty of other apps and websites you can use too including:
- Searchforsites - Similar to park4night this is a community based app. This app probably contains more official campsites and official stop overs than Park4night.
- Google Maps - If you have a particular location in mind then you can scope out the area on google maps using google satellite view. This isn’t always the easiest way of doing it as it can be a little out of date and we have turned up at places which have new ‘no overnight parking signs’ up that weren't showing on google.
- Campercontact - This is similar to searchforsites but is geared more towards official campsites and overnight stop overs.
- UK Motorhomes.net - These are official places you can park for the night which has been agreed by the landowner. These are usually paid for spots however some have facilities and they are cheaper than most campsites.
Overnight Parking Subscription Services
There are some subscription services available where you pay a yearly fee and get the details of 100’s of overnight campervan parking spots where you can stay for free. These are very often pub car parks but can also be places like farm shops or restaurants.
They are a great thing to do when going to places where wild camping is known to be difficult e.g. Dorset and the South West in the UK.
The landowners of the places where you stay usually benefit because the temptation to go in for a pint or even a meal is usually too irresistible for most people stopping over. Some have facilities such as water and electric which is useful.
There are 2 of these type of overnight parking subscriptions that we have used:
Social Media Groups and Forums
There are specific groups on Facebook which are dedicated to overnight parking and wild camping. These are open groups where people can share places they have parked up. You can also ask on there for any recommendations before travelling to an area.
Facebook Campervan Overnight Parking Groups
The Facebook groups we have used before are:
Campervan Wild Camping Practicalities
So....you have all the necessary tools to find some amazing wild camping sites. Have you considered the practicalities though? Wild camping does require some consideration on the following things:
- Water - If you are not staying on a campsite are you able to either carry a large amount of water around or able to find somewhere to fill up on a regular basis. Read our how to wash and stay clean in a campervan blog for tips on find water for washing and Living Full Time in a campervan blog for tips on finding drinking water.
- Waste - If you have a toilet on board then you will need to dispose of your waste properly (mainly waste disposal sites, services and campsites) Use the apps mentioned above to find places to do this.
- Fires - You cannot easily have campfires when wild camping like you would in special designated camping areas. If you are sure camp fires are permitted then you must always take care to protect the ground and not become a danger or a nuisance to anyone else. Also remember to ensure the fire is out before going to bed.
- Power - If your van isn’t off grid then you may struggle to wild camp night after night without hook up. If you use up too much power without resupplying it by solar or a split charge system then you may run the risk of damaging your leisure batteries.
- Food & Essentials - Make sure you have enough food stocks and essentials just in case the weather turns bad. Of course this isn’t such a problem if you are travelling in hot countries with plenty of places to get supplies, however if you are travelling out of season and in the winter you may not be able to find what you need easily or get cut off for a few days.
If you are prepared and have a fully functioning off grid campervan then wild camping is an amazing experience. Using all the tools we mention above will make sure your experience is a good and a safe one whilst also being considerate of others.
Do you have any wild camping tips of your own? If so we would love to hear from you - feel free to leave a comment below.