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Understanding Allemansrätten: Sweden's freedom to roam

February 9, 2024

What exactly is 'Allemansrätten,' the Swedish concept of freedom to roam? In Sweden, it's common to assume you can freely pick mushrooms, go for walks, hike in the mountains, or swim in lakes. But are you allowed to do this anytime and anywhere you please?

Allemansrätten grants you a unique right to access Swedish nature, even on private land. While this concept exists in other countries, it's not as widespread or permissive as in Sweden. Here, it's protected by the constitution, but many other laws govern what you can and cannot do. In simplified terms, this means that the freedom to roam gives you the right to be in nature, provided you show respect and do not harm it or disturb animals and other visitors. At the same time, other laws impose obligations and sometimes prohibitions.

Thanks to the freedom to roam, you have the opportunity for abundant outdoor recreation in Sweden. Since the pandemic, more people have started venturing outdoors, leading to overcrowding in some areas and littering in others. If more people were aware of Allemansrätten, it would be easier for you and others to do the right thing. There are numerous voluntary outdoor organisations whose mission is to spread knowledge about the freedom to roam through their organised activities.

"By increasing awareness of the freedom to roam, outdoor organisations in Sweden contribute to a more sustainable outdoor life."

What are the rules of Allemansrätten?

According to the freedom to roam, the main rule is that you are allowed to be in nature, even on private land, as long as you show consideration for animals, nature, and other people. You'll go a long way with that and some common sense.

However, it's not as simple when you're out there, ready for your nature experience. In some parts of the year, nature and wildlife are particularly vulnerable, and you must take extra care. If you want to be in protected nature areas, such as a national park or nature reserve, entirely different rules apply, and they may vary depending on where you are, your group size, and the type of activity.

"The rule of thumb is always to research what applies to the location you plan to visit and what rules are in place at that particular time."

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency has compiled valuable information about the Right to Public Access (allemansrätten) on its website. Additionally, municipalities' websites provide details about regulations specific to their areas, known as local regulations.

Quick facts by outdoor activities

Remember always to check if there are specific rules at the location where you plan to engage in your activities. In national parks and nature reserves, entirely different rules apply, which may vary from place to place.

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Cycling

According to the freedom to roam, you can cycle both in nature and on private roads. However, avoid cycling near residential buildings, over plantations, newly sown fields, or on ground that can easily be damaged. When the ground is wet, it's imperative to cycle carefully to avoid causing unnecessary damage. In places where people usually walk, such as jogging tracks and hiking trails, cyclists should always give way to pedestrians. Keep in mind that e-bikes are not covered by the freedom to roam and, therefore, may not be used in nature in the same way as regular bikes.

Making a campfire

Making a fire is cosy but can also be risky. You need to ensure that the location for the fire is safe so that it does not spread or harm nature. Avoid rocky outcrops, boulders, moss, or peat for making fires. It's best to use camping stoves or designated fire pits. You can gather pine cones or fallen branches for fuel, but never take them from a living tree. Once you have finished the fire, please ensure it is completely extinguished. The safest way to do this is by pouring water over the embers. There may be fire bans when the risk of wildfires is exceptionally high.

"Remember to take your litter home and not to dispose of food in nature to reduce the risk of spreading diseases."

Picking berries, mushrooms, and flowers

You are allowed to pick wildflowers, berries, and mushrooms except those protected or certain plants for which you need the landowner's permission to pick. Which ones are those? Well, it's quite complicated! Swedish criminal law governs which plants you need the landowner's permission to pick.

Protection usually means that a plant or animal species is completely protected - you are not allowed to pick, catch, kill, or otherwise collect or harm specimens of the species. Some protected plants may not be picked at all, others may be picked but not dug up by the roots, and some may not be picked for sale. More information about protected species can be found at naturvardsverket.se.

Wild camping

According to the freedom to roam, you are allowed to camp for a few days in the same spot. Ensure your tent is pitched on durable ground and reasonably far from residential buildings. If you are a larger group intending to camp, you must seek permission from the landowner first. In national parks and nature reserves, camping is generally prohibited or only allowed in designated areas. Information boards in the area usually provide details on the regulations. Remember - leave only footprints.

”Leave only footprints”

Hiking and skiing

You can hike or ski almost anywhere in Sweden, but some exceptions exist. For example, you are not allowed to be on someone else's property or walk through plantations. However, when the ground is frozen hard and covered with snow, and there are no crops planted in the soil that could be damaged, there is nothing preventing you from walking or skiing across farmland as long as you do so responsibly. If in doubt, speak to the landowner!

Golf courses

The freedom to roam does not apply to golf courses because they are considered facilities. However, crossing a golf course to follow a hiking trail or path in the forest is permitted - just watch out for the white balls!

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