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10 lessons learned while car-camping in Norway


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For part of my summer, I embarked on a road trip across Norway, making the most of the country's relaxed camping rules to sleep in a car throughout. Here are a couple of top tips I learnt along the way.

1. Pack as much as possible

Norway is expensive. This is just an inconvenient truth, but not an unavoidable one. With a mattress in the back of a car, you have already cut a huge section out of possible expenses. Add some durable essentials such as canned foods, camping cooking equipment, toilet paper, and anything else you can avoid buying in Norway and you'll find the costs continually shrinking. 

2. Always look down

'Never look down' may be some comfort to those who are uncomfortable with the vertigo common up in Norway's mountains, but it is poor economic advice for supermarket shopping in Norway. By shopping for your own food the vertiginous prices can be escaped, but the best deals to be found on supermarket shelves are always at the bottom.  

3. Everything good happens after two

During the summer, Norwegian days never end. Darkness never truly envelopes the sky and as a result, sunsets are a long and gradual interplay of colours. The length of daylight is not only useful for travelling throughout the day, but also provide for amazing night-time viewing. Being able to leave the travelling to the morning gives a care-free afternoon and evening under some of the most beautiful skies in the world. 

4. A friend is a stranger you've only just met

If the environment shapes the individual, one would expect the people of Norway to be rugged yet beautiful, often reaching great heights, but most importantly hospitable to foreign travellers. Never had my question "Do you have any suggestions" been met with anything other than the most jovial and helpful advice coupled with expert local knowledge. And... when your car gets stuck descending a steep drop, before long, three cars will stop each offering help and tow you out of peril. 

5. Mark your territory

Deepening our primal roots is a very useful instinct when camping in Norway. When you have found the Elysium you have spent the day searching to camp on, mark it. Spread your picnic blanket, open your car doors, make as much of a statement so passing cars will decide to move on. While it is nice to meet new people, it is a completely different experience to have a small patch of paradise to yourself. 

6. Be like Pinocchio

Norway is full of tunnels. Long (sometimes 25km), dark, and spooky tunnels. It will feel at first as though you're driving down the throat of an immense whale, perhaps searching for Jonah or Geppetto, but hold steady because beauty awaits at the end of the tunnel. The most untouched and least known places are often at the end of these unlit tunnels, so seek them out and treat them as your rite-of-passage. 

7. A map is the measure of all things

Google Maps can do a lot, but there are some functions a physical map does better. When you are in Norway, go to any bookshop and buy a map for the region you are in. Then take a look at the small one-way roads that lead off of the main roads and try to find some that run near or by a lake. This will provide you with endless opportunities to find untouched and beautiful spots that a macro-view in Googe Maps just will not provide. 

8. The wildlife is sheepish

Before going to Norway, I was having panic-ridden daydreams of being trapped in the car with a bear pawing at the windows. This fear was soon replaced by the ubiquitous sight of sheep. Placid and slightly bemused sheep are everywhere in Southern Norway. They are very used to people, and are confident enough to take their time when you are stuck behind them during a grueling hike. 

9. Go naked and noble

Prior to a hike halfway through my trip, I had been slightly concious about swimming and bathing in lakes naked, even though no one was around. However, during this hike I overheard an interesting conversation. One hiker was quoting Michaelangelo's response to critics of the nuditiy represented in his pictures.

"To think a man's boot is more noble than a man's foot is the real sin". This stuck with me, and the next time I was confronted with a lake, I accordingly stripped to my bare "nobility" and never regretted it. 

10. Pick your co-pilot wisely

While this trip could be done alone, it is incomparably easier and a hell of a lot more fun with co-pilot. Prerequisite skills should include: an impeccable music taste, snack distribution, and photography. 

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