Wild camping and bivouacking in Austria - what is legal?

Is it allowed to pitch a tent on the mountain? Can you just stay overnight in a camper van everywhere? Wild camping in the Austrian mountains can quickly lead into a maze of laws. A guide from the Austrian Alpine Association.

In contrast to Scandinavia, there is no legal basis in Austria that allows camping in the wild. The regulations in this country are rather restrictive and vary greatly from state to state.

The legal regulations for camping above the tree line vary depending on the federal state. Photo: Hugues de Buyer Mimeure
The legal regulations for camping above the tree line vary depending on the federal state. Photo: Hugues de Buyer Mimeure

Camping in the forest

The Austrian Forest Act 1975 (a federal law) guarantees the right to free access to forests nationwide, but "camping in the dark, camping..." is expressly excluded.

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"Camping in the forest is illegal throughout Austria unless the property owner has given his express consent."

Camping in alpine wasteland

"There are different legal regulations for areas above the tree line, depending on the federal state," says Liliana Dagostin, head of the department for spatial planning and nature conservation in the Austrian Alpine Association.

In Carinthia, Lower Austria and Tyrol, camping outside of campsites is not permitted and violations can result in high penalties. In Upper Austria, Salzburg, Styria and Vorarlberg there is no explicit nationwide ban on wild camping, but the municipalities can impose restrictions. A prior clarification is therefore advisable.

"If the planned overnight stays are in protected areas, the dream of a night under the open sky will also burst in these federal states."

The responsible protected area administrations, nature conservation and sometimes also tourism departments of the respective state governments or district administrations (district authorities) are available for information and information. A detailed overview of the legal regulations in the individual federal states is available here a DAK Bungalow.

shelters instead of wild camping

“The mountain region is an ecologically sensitive area with different usage interests. That is the reason for the rather restrictive regulations in Austria,” explains Liliana Dagostin. The good news: There is a dense network of mountain huts in Austria. Although their maintenance is associated with considerable costs for the Alpine Club, mountaineers can use them inexpensively - and certainly legally.

However, if you are forced to sleep outside due to an injury or a sudden change in the weather, there are no negative consequences to worry about.

"An unplanned alpine emergency camp (emergency bivouac) is permitted throughout Austria."

Even if the regulations in Austria are rather restrictive, an unplanned emergency camp in the mountainous region is permitted throughout the country. Photo: Cristian Grecu
Even if the regulations in Austria are rather restrictive, an unplanned emergency camp in the mountainous region is permitted throughout the country. Photo: Cristian Grecu

What to do if you auf die toilet must?

The Alpine Club relies on education: “Our campaign RespectAmBerg is committed to nature-friendly and socially acceptable behavior on the mountain and wants to avoid conflicts," says Liliana Dagostin. This also includes an often taboo topic that is particularly urgent when camping wild: the need to be in nature.

The Alpine Club wants to help protect the sensitive high mountain area and avoid conflicts with the other inhabitants of this habitat. Under the motto «Everything sausage?!» the Alpine Association provides tips for emergencies and draws the attention of nature lovers to the fact that what they leave behind can severely alter the ecosystems in the Alps. For example, handkerchiefs take up to five years to decompose.

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Credits: Text of the Austrian Alpine Club, title picture of the Alpine Club/Thomas Wanner

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