Rules for camping in the wild in France

Are there any restrictions related to camping in the wild in France? Anything we should be aware of? G.B.

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Basically you can camp anywhere where it is not forbidden by the land owners… but working out who the owners are and what their rules are is not always obvious.

Nature reserves and classified (protected) sites, and the seaside are generally off-limits, for example. However that is not necessarily the case in the national parks, especially if you are only camping out for one night – which is referred to as a bivouac (especially if it is a small, simple tent). In which case there are often specific rules, for example in the Ecrins or Mercantour national parks in the south-east, it is possible to bivouac from 19.00 to 9.00 if you do it at more than an hour’s walk from the park limits or a road. In the Cévennes the rules specify it is limited to people without a vehicle, using a tent which is not large enough to stand in, and that you should do it near to a marked path. It would be advisable to find out the rules for the area you plan to visit, for example on a website for a national park or from the mairie or directly from the owner if it is private land.

A distinction is sometimes made between bivouacking – a single night by a walker, in a simple tent, and ‘camping sauvage’ (for example with a larger tent, coming by car and camping out for several nights). Apart from checking permission, the basic advice for cam­ping in the wild is to minimise noise and disturbance, not pick the plants and flowers, not start fires (and avoid smoking), not leave rubbish and keep to as small an area as possible.

Natural human waste should be buried.