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Backpacking in Europe

Discussion area for peaks outside of the USA.
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Backpacking in Europe

Postby Steve Gio » Wed Jul 07, 2010 2:57 pm

I have seen info on hut to hut trips and guided trips but what about just hiking and backpacking, say the Alps in Austria or Italy. Is it allowed, do you need permits or must you stay in a hut? I have not looked into this much just more of a curiosity if it is as free and open as here in the States.

Anyone done any backcountry camping in Europe?

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Re: Backpacking in Europe

Postby ftfunmom » Wed Jul 07, 2010 4:26 pm

We did a walking route from Chamonix to Zermatt years ago, and from what I could tell, it is a bit more difficult to backpack than it is here. There isn't a lot of public land so you need to ask permission to camp in most places. We saw one or two people with tents doing part of the route we did, but no one that we know of did the route end-to-end with a tent and backpack.

Hut to hut is really pleasant. You should try it. It's part of the charm of Europe, really.

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Re: Backpacking in Europe

Postby llamaman » Wed Jul 21, 2010 10:26 am

We're leaving tomorrow for France and part of our trip will be a hiking tour of the La Vanoise national park, staying in huts (or Refuges, as the French call them). At least in France, my research suggested that camping on some of these hiking routes would be difficult.

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Re: Backpacking in Europe

Postby Steve Gio » Tue Jan 15, 2013 4:51 pm

Well it is that time again. We are heading to Czech this summer to visit my wife's folks. I know I posted this a while back but resurected in case we do get the chance to go to the Austrian Alps.

So that said, does anyone have any suggestions for hiking/backpacking trips. Open to suggestions as it is getting dizzying looking through various poetic descriptions of trails. Not really looking for a hut to hut as it seems kinda $$$. Plus I would like to camp out in the high peaks. Which regions would be best in early July, good high passes and peaks class 3 or below. That kinda stuff.

Thanks for any info.

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Re: Backpacking in Europe

Postby Scott P » Tue Jan 15, 2013 4:57 pm

Steve, as I understand it (and I haven't climbed the Alps, but several of my friends have and one even wrote a guidebook covering many mountains there) that in almost all of the National Parks in the Alps, camping is illegal. Bivouacking on technical routes is allowed, but if you use a tent, it cannot be visible during daylight hours. I don't know about outside the national parks, but most of the famous mountains at least seem to be in the national parks.
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Re: Backpacking in Europe

Postby Steve Gio » Tue Jan 15, 2013 5:18 pm

That is what I am affraid of Scott. For now though I am looking for some good route suggestions or at least regions to explore. We could do the hut trip if necessary or just stay in say Salzburg and do day hiking trips. Don't know, never been there and finding it hard to narrow it down.

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Re: Backpacking in Europe

Postby gdthomas » Tue Jan 15, 2013 5:37 pm

You mentioned hiking so I assume that includes day hikes. We hiked established trails in the Jungfrau region of Switzerland above Interlacken from TH's and off of the Jungfrau Railway with no problems other than weather. It's a magnificent region of the country.

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Re: Backpacking in Europe

Postby Carl » Tue Jan 15, 2013 6:05 pm

Steve Gio wrote:That is what I am affraid of Scott. For now though I am looking for some good route suggestions or at least regions to explore. We could do the hut trip if necessary or just stay in say Salzburg and do day hiking trips. Don't know, never been there and finding it hard to narrow it down.


I've camped in/near a number of small and mid sized towns in Switzerland, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Found nice campgrounds in Salzburg and Interlacken for example. I agree Jungfrau is a great area to explore and the campground in Interlacken was on the river and within walking distance of the downtown area. In places where I couldn't find a campground or if it was a bigger city I paid for a hostel. It's been a while so I don't recall the details but for what it's worth there are places to camp if you seek them out. I've seen folks camping with tents set up throughout the day in areas in the Alps where it's prohibited but never risked it personally.

Re: Backpacking in Europe

Postby KyleS » Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:42 am

I solo hiked the Haute route from Zermatt to the French border in 2009 and I found it ridiculously easy. There is potable water everywhere and you'll typically pass through at least one town per day, so you don't need to carry much. I slept in a hut once when it was convenient, but the rest of the time I slept in a small backpacking tent without any hassle. The unspoken rule is don't set up camp until dusk, break down camp at sunrise and don't build a fire. I never asked permission to camp and I was never hassled, but I usually camped where I wasn't visible from trails, roads or buildings and always below treeline. Just follow above unspoken rule and common sense leave no trace policy and you'll be fine. Also, pretty much every town has a private campground where you can camp for less than $10, even big resort towns like Zermatt.

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Re: Backpacking in Europe

Postby Scott P » Wed Jan 16, 2013 9:56 am

Have you thought of Gerlach in Slovakia by chance (which is closer to the area where you will be visiting your wife's family)? There are many campgrounds in the area (including what is apparently the largest in Europe). I haven’t climbed Gerlach (Gerlachovsky Stit) or in that area at all, but my guidebook makes it sound really nice as do the photographs. Gerlach isn’t as high as some of the Alps, but supposedly the climbing and hiking is really good and the mountains are really rugged. It might be worth looking into.
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