Freedom with responsibilities
Outdoor recreation is a wonderful part of the Norwegian identity. From ancient times, we have had the right of access to forests and fields, rivers, lakes, the skerries and the mountains. Provided that you show consideration and take any waste with you, the Right to Roam ensures that you can move freely around the countryside.
The main principles of the Right to Roam were enshrined in law through the Norwegian Outdoor Recreation Act (Friluftsloven) of 1957. The basic rule is as follows: Show due care and consideration to the countryside, private property and other walkers. Do not cause any damage, and leave the countryside as you would like to find it.
The opportunities and rules of the Right to Roam
You may set up a tent or sleep under the stars anywhere in uncultivated areas. Take care not to damage young forest when setting up your tent. In uncultivated areas you may set up a tent provided that it is at least 150 metres from the nearest occupied house or cabin. You may camp for up to 48 hours in the same location. You may camp for longer than 48 hours in the high mountains or far from habitation. On cultivated land, you may only set up a tent with the permission of the landowner or user of the property.
It is prohibited to light a fire on forest or uncultivated land from 15th of April until 15th of September. However, it is permitted in places where the risk of fire is unlikely, such as at the water’s edge. If you are making a fire next to the sea, avoid lighting it on bare bedrock as the rock may crack. Do not damage trees when looking for firewood; use dry twigs. Never leave a fire before ensuring that it has been completely extinguished. Remember to tidy up after yourself before leaving.
In uncultivated areas, you are free to roam on foot or skis, to ride a horse, or to cycle on paths and roads. You may also paddle, row and use a sailboat. You may pick berries, fungi, flowers and the roots of wild herbs. Familiarise yourself with the rules on protection if you are in a nature protection area, and do not pick endangered and protected plant species.
You may fish for salt water fish all year round, whether from a boat or on land, provided that it is for your own use. If you wish to fish for salmon, sea trout and Arctic char in rivers and watercourses, you must pay a fishing fee to the state and, usually, buy a fishing permit from the landowner.
Motorised means of transport on land are essentially prohibited in the protected area. A boat is required in order to access the protected areas, and there are no restrictions on the use of boats.
In both cultivated and uncultivated areas, you must always close gates behind you and show due consideration to grazing animals. Dogs are welcome on your trip. In Norway, dogs must be on a leash from 1st of April until 20th of August. In the Måsvær, Flatvær, Kvitvær and Sørfugløya Nature Reserves, dogs must be kept on a leash at all times. You have a duty to show due consideration to wildlife, grazing animals and other people all year round. Reindeer are particularly vulnerable during the late winter/early spring. It may be a good idea to keep your dog on a leash even outside the mandatory leash period.
Clothing and equipment
The weather out here can change abruptly in both summer and winter. The summer may offer warmth and blue skies, or low temperatures and fog. Winter trips may bring sun and excellent visibility, or cold winds and thick snowdrifts. It is your job to assess the weather and conditions, your fitness and abilities, and to prepare by wearing suitable clothing and taking suitable equipment. Travelling at sea can be demanding.