Am I allowed to bivouac in the German Elbsandsteingebirge (Elbe Sandstone Mountains)? If no, is it considered as a peccadillo/unenforced law (Kavaliersdelikt)?

In both countries ((Czech and Germany)), the mountain range has been declared a national park.

  • What is a peccadillo?
    – imsodin
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 13:31
  • @imsodin en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peccadillo though it's not really a word you hear used very often.
    – user2766
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 13:37
  • In German it's called a "Kavalliersdelikt". I don't know how to translate it correctly. Linguee says it's translated as "peccadillo" or "petty crime". However, it can be described as a crime which is so common, that you don't get sued for it.
    – OddDeer
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 13:54
  • 2
    @Aravona A "Kavaliersdelikt" is something which is ethical acceptable in the eyes of the general society. It's a crime which the society doesn't want to be tracked. For example being 5 km/h too fast is a "Kavaliersdelikt" or a "Bagateldelikt" in Germany.
    – OddDeer
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 14:01
  • 1
    @OddDeer: I suspect the translation you're looking for might be unenforced law. Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 18:20

3 Answers 3


Yes, there are special places where you are allowed to sleep outside if you are climbing there. And by "outside" I mean without a tent, because these locations are (more or less) weatherproof by having roofs of rock. They usually have a a lot of sand on the ground which makes them quite comfortable.

The local term of such a place is "boofe". They are a bit hard to find, even if you know the location on the map. To be sure, each location should have this sign somewhere: It's usually attached to the rock and very small.

official sign

Here is an example picture of such a place:


The website of the national park covers this in more detail:

In the National Park it is forbidden to sleep outdoors in the open.

As an exception, and in respect of the tradition of Saxon climbing, it is possible to spend the night outdoors in 58 marked bivouacs only, if this is done in connection with rock climbing activites. All official bivouacs are marked as such. They are located outside the core zone.

I have always been there when climbing or together with people who climb.

There's a (very rough) map of where the locations are on the website and also a German pdf file about what you are allowed to do and what not. As a member of http://german.stackexchange.com I guess that you have the Sauerkraut to understand German. If you need a translation, please leave a comment and I'll add it to my post.

There's also a German website that lists all "boofen" with GPS coordinates. But even with those it can be a bit of a challenge to find them, because the paths leading to them are often not labelled, blocked or marked to be for climbers. Try to acquire a map made by Dr.-Ing. Rolf Böhm which is a beautiful map of the Elbsandsteingebirge that shows many of the paths and rock formations in great detail, which is helpful because a GPS distance only a few meters away might mean that it's actually 30m higher and getting to this location might only be possible with a long detour around the mountain.

It should go without saying but don't make a fire. Leave the place tidy.

I've done it several times, also in winter. It's a great experience, especially when your boofe is higher up, so you have a great view on sunrise.

  • great answer, you indeed covered the most important points. The 'core zones' are the most protected areas. As you said, don't make fires even outside the core zones. I'll add a picture because lots of people don't know boofen here I assume ;)
    – Wills
    Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 21:24
  • A pity that I can't +2 this answer! Wow! Many, many thanks. Sorry for that silly comment though. My Sauerkrautness is strong enough btw^^
    – OddDeer
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 7:56

According to German law, bivouacking (defined as sleeping outside for one night without a tent) is generally allowed in Germany, but only outside from nature protection areas. Camping is generally forbidden outside of designated campsites.

As you mention, large parts of the Elbe Sandstone Mountains are under statutory protection within Saxon Switzerland National Park and protected area surrounding it. There is also Bohemian Switzerland National Park on the Czech side. So, in short, it is not allowed to bivouac in Elbsandsteingebirge. You should look for available campsites or bivouac outside of the protected areas. As @null pointed out in his excellent answer, there exists an exception to that rule in Saxon Switzerland National Park - there are designated bivouacking places for climbers one can use.

Source: Deutscher Alpenverien

  • 2
    From the source: "In Schutzgebieten ist Campieren in der Regel verboten. Ausnahmen können in den Verwaltungen von Schutzgebieten [...] nachgefragt werden." meaning "In general, bivouacking is not allowed in protected areas. You can ask the administration of the protected area for exceptions" Such an exception does indeed exist in the Saxon Switzerland National Park at specific locations Commented Feb 2, 2016 at 19:25
  • @null I didn't know that, thanks for clarifying!
    – Klara
    Commented Feb 3, 2016 at 10:43
  • Do hammocks count as bivouacking or as camping?
    – gerrit
    Commented Mar 24, 2021 at 22:33

Yes, it is forbidden make a fire, build a tent or sleep outsite also in the national park Bohemian Switzerland. Offical website: www.npcs.cz

  • Worth noting a large part of Elbsandsteingebirge lies in the protected landscape area PLA Labské Pískovce where the rules are different. Or at least people are likely to be more benevolent there. Commented May 15, 2017 at 14:17

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