Camping at Refuges with own tent and walknig at own schedule (not booking a site in advance)

Mark B

Posted: Tue, May 2, 2017, 10:34

Hi - Is it possible to walk at your own pace - camping at Refuges with your own tent, without booking in advance?
Many Thanks


Posted: Tue, May 2, 2017, 10:55

No booking in advance needed if carrying your own tent.....just show up at the refuge and pay for the camp... it was 7 euros in 2013.




Posted: Tue, May 2, 2017, 20:18

It was €9 last time I looked, and it wouldn't surprise me if they rounded it up to a crisp €10 note soon.


Posted: Thu, May 4, 2017, 5:04

Well I enjoyed having my tarp, and pre-booking is not required, but it is a bit misleading that you can entirely "walk at your own pace". There are a few places where you might consider camping for the night between refuges, of dubious legality, but most people end up stopping at each refuge, or doubling up stages, but still landing at a refuge area each night.

Mark B

Posted: Thu, May 4, 2017, 6:06

Thanks for that info Backstroke - very useful - how would you compare and contrast walking the John Muir Trail with the G20?


Posted: Thu, May 4, 2017, 12:25

Is it possible to camp with temt for a night outside the refugee or official camping places?


Posted: Thu, May 4, 2017, 14:34


Camping outside the refuges away from the immediate surroundings is possible, but officially illegal.


Posted: Fri, May 5, 2017, 3:03

@Mark B: On the JMT you can indeed go whatever pace you want, with the only possible limitation that the longest resupply is in the south and a slow pace would exceed the size of bear canisters on that portion. I found the distance between most refuges on the GR20 on a traditional 15 day trip to be a bit short for my preference, sort of like 75% days, but double days are more than I would enjoy. I like taking my time and don't consider it a race. A 15 day pace feels equivalent to a 21 to 24 day pace on the JMT. An 8 to 10 day pace would be similar to a 12 to 14 day pace on the JMT. Many PCT hikers zoom through the JMT at that pace and don't enjoy it at all. I hear comments like "someday I'll go back and have fun on the JMT".

I am not clear about the tent question however. There is this distinction between "camping" and "bivouacing" in France, where in some places a "bivouac", which is to say a one-night stay along a trail trip where you set up after 7 and leave early for one night only, is allowed. I have read conflicting reports about this for the GR20. However, I did not see anyone bivouacing on my trip.


Posted: Fri, May 5, 2017, 5:27

'Camping' and 'bivouacking' are prohibited on the GR20. Sure, people still do it and they get away with it, but if PNRC staff catch you, then it's big trouble.

Mark B

Posted: Fri, May 5, 2017, 11:47

@Backstroke -I should have explained, I have walked the JMT, I just wanted to get a comparison with the GR20, thank you for the reply, it was very helpful. I completely agree with you about not rushing through the JMT. We will take a tent and it looks like we will stop at the refuges. The "walking at own schedule" in my question was referring to the pace rather than where to camp.


Posted: Fri, May 5, 2017, 19:29

If you want to spend two nights camping at a refuge, then mention it to the guardian when you arrive. I only ever did it once, at Petra Piana, so that I could spend a day climbing Monte Rotondo. They weren't keen for my tent to be left pitched during the day, but they were happy for me to roll it up and leave it with them all day, rather than having me carry it up the mountain and back down again.


Posted: Sat, May 6, 2017, 6:07

@Mark B: Even if you only camp at the refuges and not take meals, the rather ridgid schedule of the walk defined by stages without many options means that you will come to know many people along the trail who started when you did. This social aspect is a unique feature of this walk that I found enjoyable, especially since my walks in the Sierra are increasingly solo off-trail. A nightly refuge stop also means plentiful inexpensive wine each night...


Posted: Sat, May 6, 2017, 6:14

GRRR 20,

So if l decided to stay two nights at the same camp l can't pay up front for two nights and leave my tent untouched?
Do they have regulations- one night per camp?
I do not plan to stay two nights at any camp, but what if something happens (bad weather, sickness..., or side hike) ???





Posted: Sun, May 7, 2017, 0:11

@kazbar: Most gardians seem personable and easy. I did indeed get sick and spent all day in my tent at Manganu. The gardiens were solicitous of me, gave me tea, and did not charge for the second night.


Posted: Sat, May 6, 2017, 17:38

Kaz - I doubt that they have actual regulations, but all the guardians have their own ideas about what should and shouldn't happen around their refuges. I just reckon that anyone wanting to stay two nights should make it clear on arrival.


Posted: Sun, May 7, 2017, 17:15

Hi GRRR20, when you say big trouble you mean a fine?
I'm not intending on any wild camping, but in a mountain environment one can be forced by injury, sickness or inclement weather into an emergency bivouac.
Or do you mean they intend forcible ejection from the park, or something more sinister ?


Posted: Sun, May 7, 2017, 17:24

A few years ago, after the burndown of the ref. Altore, people would still reach the area and camp there. At the time I heard that the park rangers used to climb up there even in the middle of the night, wake up those campers and force them to leave.
Not sure if the same happens nowadays.



Posted: Sun, May 7, 2017, 19:08

That's what used to happen - they'd move you on and threaten you with a big fine, but I don't think they ever made anyone pay. It seemed to do the trick and you rarely see anyone wild camping.

I once walked past a notice that said things like - no camping, no fires, no horses, no hunting, no fishing, etc. And there he was - a Corsican guy who'd pitched his tent, tethered his horse, lit a fire, had his fishing rod propped beside the lake and his hunting rifle nearby. I'm guessing he took the view that French laws don't apply to Corsicans.