Under legislation being considered by the European Union, lightweight campers and backpackers face the possibility of a tax on their tents and possible fines for breaking environmental guidelines. Also being considered in Brussels are measures to enforce the registration of tents being used for wild camping in national parks across Europe.
The developments are being driven by the perception that the outdoor environment is suffering from increasing numbers of campers and needs practical support to achieve sustainability in maintaining pollution-free landscapes. "It is a delicate balance that needs to be achieved," said a spokesperson, "On the one hand, we want to encourage people to stay fit and healthy so enjoying the fresh air outdoors is a good thing. However, we have a responsibility to future generations to protect all areas, whether currently popular or not."
Draft proposals include:
1. Tax - all tents weighing under 8.76 kilos will be subject to a sliding scale of charges to be levied at the point of purchase. The lighter the tent, the higher the tax to maximum of 20% of the purchase price for 2-person tents weighing under 500gms. Similarly, other camping gear may be brought into the tax regime, particularly stoves.
2. Licence - campers will have to buy an annual licence from national camping clubs and national parks (similar in concept to existing Camping Carnets).
3. Fines - campers found to be camping outside designated 'wild' areas will be subject to fines graduated to the overall weight of their gear and environmental footprint.
4. Environmental Passport - all lightweight campers will be obliged to complete a variety of short distance learning Internet-based courses on subjects including sanitation, ergonomic load carrying, picking a tent pitch and their green credentials. Campers who cannot produce up-to-date documentation will be liable to on-the-spot fines.
Czech outdoor campaigner Havno Chantz is urging all lightweight campers and backpackers to band together to resist the introduction of such legislation. "Before long, fascist authorities will be checking the tread on our walking boots before allowing us off the enviro-bus," he told a conference of outdoor activists held this week in Ecalpon.