I am 22 and am looking to do some backpacking with a friend in Austria’s Alps this summer, specifically the Grossglockner and Schober Groups out of Zell am See.
You wrote an article in 2009 for Backpacker Magazine on backpacking Austria’s Alps and so I hope you can help me with a question on the subject: What is the tent environment like in the Alps?
I have done much backpacking in the Sierra Mountains, where I can set up my tent wherever I want as long as it’s not intruding anyone or any animals. Is it frowned upon to do this in the Alps? I have never backpacked there and this is why I am asking you.
I hope to hear back from you soon.
Thanks for writing. Yes, I did write that article. I haven’t hiked in the specific area you mention, so I suggest you find a good guidebook, and I think the best guidebooks for the Alps (and much of Europe) are published by Cicerone Press in the U.K.
In general, though, you’ll find very limited tenting options in the Alps. The vast majority of trekkers do not tent; they stay in huts. I believe the ethic is that tenting is permitted in some areas, as long as you stay out of sight and away from trails, huts, lakes, private property, and the like. Because almost no one tents out there, you won’t find established campsites as you do in U.S. national parks and forests; and compounding this is the fact that much of the terrain is steep, rocky, and exposed to weather.
If you’re good at stealth camping, set up late in the day, and can deal well with very small, rough tent spots, you might get away with it. If you don’t have much experience with that sort of thing, I suggest you seriously consider staying in huts. They’re really a great part of the experience, anyway, and it makes your pack much lighter, which is part of the fun of trekking in the Alps.
Thank you for responding to my inquiry and for doing so as quickly as you did. I appreciate it very much.
What you say makes sense to me now and I will hold onto the information you have given me, as I know it will be useful. I am sure from experience that I would have luck in stealth camping, but you do make a compelling argument for a light pack and the hut experience. I have a guidebook about ten routes in the Austrian Alps but I will also look into those guidebooks you mentioned.
[In Ask Me, I share and respond to a reader question. Got a question about hiking, backpacking, gear, or any topic or trip I write about at The Big Outside? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet it to @MichaelALanza. I will answer the ones I can in a post, using only your first name and city, with your permission.]