Legal

Can you sleep in the wild in the woods? Now yes!

Ognisko

Exactly 30 years had to pass before the act on forests was interpreted to the satisfaction of lovers of entertainment such as survival or bushcraft. This is great news! Because let those who have never spent the night in the wild in the forest, risking a mandate from the forest inspector, throw a stone … How did the changes come about? Where in Poland can you legally sleep in the forest? Do you have to meet any conditions? You can read about it later.

Sleeping in the wild in the forest and the Forest Act from 1991

Until 2019, the law for sleeping in the wild in the forest was unclear. In the Act on forests of 1991, Art. 30 said:

 “It is forbidden (…) to camp outside the places designated by the owner of the forest or forest inspector”.

It did not specify what camping is and how an authorized area should be designated. The forest inspectorates created tourist points with toilets and litter bins. Any wild camping was therefore illegal and carried the risk of a mandate from a forest ranger.

Bushcraft and survival require wild terrain, far from civilization. Therefore, fans of outdoor entertainment were not satisfied with the permitted camping points. In addition, there were definitely too few of these spots on the entire map of Poland. The only thing left was to give up your favorite way of spending time, or break the rules and set up a campsite in the middle of the forest. Some tried to come to an agreement with local foresters, but such arrangements could end up unpleasant for both sides.

The State Forests pilot program – from 2019 sleeping in the forest is allowed!

When, in 2019, the State Forests announced the annual pilot program for wild camping in the forest, enthusiasts of survival and bushcraft saw a light in the dark tunnel of the existing regulations. Although the program did not guarantee complete freedom, its assumptions led to the designation of initially 41 (later 46) areas with a total size of over 65,000. ha. available to anyone who wanted to spend the night in the forest.

The legal re-interpretation of the 1991 Act made it possible to change the perception of the “allowed place”. Instead of specific points, forest districts could indicate a larger area with specific, clearly marked borders. And so, from November 21, 2019, for 12 equal months, not only survivalists and buchcrafters, but all lovers of spending time outdoors, could legally plunge into the forest and enjoy contact with nature.

Of course, the program had some limitations, mainly due to security regulations. No open fire was allowed under any circumstances. It was forbidden to destroy trees, bushes or forest litter in order to create a camp. After the bivouac was finished, it was necessary to restore the place to its pre-arrival state and apply the international principles of the Leave No Trace philosophy at all times.

Successful pilot? Yet how! From 2021, staying overnight in the forest is permanently legal

During the pilot program, opinions of both foresters and participants of forest expeditions were collected, surveys and interviews were conducted. After its completion, it was verified whether the opening of larger forest areas for campers would actually take place without harm to nature. The conclusions were surprising – 70% of foresters voted to keep the program. We didn’t wait long for the results.

Already at the beginning of 2021, the State Forests announced that the assumptions of the pilot program will be introduced permanently as the “Night in the forest” program. Moreover, the existing 46 areas will be joined by new ones, and ultimately each forest district would have an area at the disposal of people interested in spending the night in the wild, with an area of approx. 1500 ha.

Legal accommodation in the forest – where, from when, what rules?

You will be able to spend the night in the forest legally from May 1, 2021. This information is especially pleasing now, during the pandemic, when more and more people are looking for alternative ways to spend their holidays. However, everyone should remember to follow the regulations, which say, among other things, that:

  • you can only stay in designated places,
  • in one place you can camp for no longer than 2 nights, and with a team of no more than 9 people,
  • if you stay overnight for more than two days, or there are more than 9 people, you are required to report your stay to the appropriate forest inspectorate, min. 2 working days before arrival. Remember to wait for the return e-mail,

Before you go to the forest, check if the area you are interested in is not forbidden at the moment, e.g. due to a fire hazard. The entry ban may also apply permanently in places of forest cultivation or animal sanctuaries,

  • do not enter the forest with any motor vehicle, moped or car,
  • do not light fires outside the designated places,
  • do not use wood from the forest for a bonfire or for building a campsite. If you took a knife with you in the hope of cutting a few stalks, better use it to make a tasty forest meal. And if you don’t have a knife, get one of our models, e.g. the foldable Penguin by QSP Knife,
  • avoid contact with forest animals, do not feed them, do not camp on their routes,
  • take all your rubbish with you, do not leave food residues, cover all traces of physiological needs,
  • keep silent and for your safety mark the campsite with bright colors. Leave the light on at night with the rugged RovyVon titanium flashlight with a removable battery and a maximum runtime of 72 hours.

Full regulations can be found on the State Forests website.

“Stay overnight in the forest” – exceptions to the regulations

From the point of view of survival and bushcraft enthusiasts, the most important exception is the one concerning gas cookers. Although open fire is forbidden in forests, this type of equipment can be used in areas that have already been piloted. However, you must ensure your safety and the safety of the forest by meeting the following conditions:

  1. On the day you plan to use the stove, double check the fire hazard: 10:00 and 14:00. You will do it using the map (select BDL maps, then the fire hazard map). In case of a degree 3 hazard (red), the use of the gas stove is absolutely forbidden.
  2. The fire must be under constant supervision.
  3. It is not allowed to use the stove on “peaty soils, in young stands and stands where the height of tree crowns is less than 5 m from the ground, and on forest surfaces covered with tall grass and heather.”

Sleep in the wild, Leave No Trace

In order to spend the night in the forest, you should also learn the philosophy of the Leave No Trace movement, ie “leave no traces”. These are the 7 basic principles of good tourism practice:

  1. Plan and prepare accordingly.
  2. Travel and camp on rugged surfaces.
  3. Dispose of your waste properly.
  4. Leave what you find.
  5. Minimize the impact of fires.
  6. Respect wild life.
  7. Remember the others.

Following the above rules, will be made easier not only by your own sense, but also by properly prepared equipment. When getting ready for a trip to the forest, always remember to pack all the necessary things. Our tips on what to take with you for survival can be found in this article. Personally, we recommend a good knife that will not let you down at any time, for example this trinket from MK Knifes & Tools.

Are you sleeping in the wild? Take care of nature!

Only appropriate behavior in the forest and in other wild areas will guarantee that the Polish Forest program will not be cancelled, and the areas available for camping enthusiasts will be regularly enlarged. Leaving rubbish behind, destroying trees, shrubs and forest bedding or making noise and scaring animals is a simple way to return to old, restrictive regulations.

It seems, however, that the social awareness of caring for nature is growing year by year, also due to ecological environments. Therefore, our task is to ensure that man and the forest can live in harmony. As close to each other as possible.

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