I am researching the E-paths and trying to figure out what people do for lodging during their hike. It's Europe, so could I just pitch a tent wherever? Are there marked campsites? Do I need to stay at an inn?
Unfortunately being Europe the situation changes from country to country. But I will try and keep my answer as general as possible.
I most places wild camping is not allowed. Main exceptions are Scotland and Nordic countries and some other places where its illegal but widely tolerated.
I Alpine and other mountainous areas (except in UK) there is a widespread system of mountain huts that are located on hiking trails in the mountains. You would need to look where the routes go exactly to see what huts are nearby.
Hostels are common in larger towns and some other popular backpacking areas. These are probably the cheapest non-camping option if you don't mind being in a dorm room.
In smaller towns/villages there are often B&B/guest houses which are slightly more expensive than hostels (but nicer).
Campsites are fairly common in rural areas and in valleys in some mountainous regions. They tend to be manned and have basic facilities (toilet, shower, drinking water), but exact setup can vary a lot between sites even in the same region.
Camping is probably a viable option for sleeping on most routes, except possibly some areas of the Alps/some other mountainous regions where a long detour would be required to reach a campsite each night.
Its nearly just the half of what you would have expected to see. Honestly I had head-scratched many details for European Long Distance Trails. But I realized that they are so long that even if I plan to complete one of them in sections, it would take multiple years considering my current economic state :-)
By the time I realized that,I already had some data about E1, E2, E3 and E4 trails. And, its kinda hard to wipe them off the drive. I am glad that somehow it just might add two cents to some cause. I'll help you with as much data I have extracted from various internet resources and a few books. You may find many a sections of the answer matching with the contents of one or the other website, at times line by line. Pardon me for that. With all due respect, I cite them in bibliography if I may call it so.
Route: Begins in Sweden or Norway (you have the liberty to decide where to start, make it to Sweden-Denmark boarder to get the ferry), and crosses the Kattegat between Sweden and Denmark by ferry. It passes through Denmark, Germany and Switzerland to finish at Scapoli, Italy. This path is planned to be extended all the way north to the Nordkapp, Norway and southwards to Sicily, in Italy.
Norway Section: Authority - Norwegian Trekking Association The route between Nordkapp and Grövelsjön does in part go in very remote areas with very few shelters and very little service available. Parts of the path are unmarked so that the hikers need to find their own route.
Sweden Section: Authority - Svenska Turistföreningen Wild camping in Sweden is allowed (Please confirm). Alternatively there are many vindskydd or more precisely a Lean-to along the route. These are simple three-sided log cabins with the open side facing a campfire. They are often in idyllic places and are free to use.
(I know I am being nerd, I could have simply translated Vindskydd as Mountain Hut, but whats the fun without the use of local language :-))
Denmark Section: Authority - Dansk vandrelaug Camping in the wild is not allowed in Denmark, however there are primitive campsites (Danish: lejrplads) along the route which commonly have room to pitch a few tents, a water tap or pump and a simple toilet and are often free to use. It often visits larger towns so other forms of accommodation are possible and supplies are no problem.
In Germany, Switzerland and Italy, for most of the part of the route, the trail is merged with one or the other major and more frequently used route, so finding an accomodation should not be an issue, that too with well managed campsites. You can get in touch with local authorities in order to get the pin-point location of the campsite on you map.
Route: Starts at Galway in Ireland to France's Mediterranean coast and currently runs through Northern Ireland, Scotland, England, Belgium, Luxembourg and France, with an alternative midsection equally designated via the Netherlands and east coast of England.
The Irish section of the route is not yet open, so if I were you, I'd start at Stranraer, Scotland. Apart from that, the huge section of the E2 is merged with Trans-Pennine trail which has accommodation available at Youth Hostels, camp sites, B&Bs, and pubs. When planning the walk one must sometimes choose between two places offering on-route accommodation or two shorter days involving an evening descent off-route to a nearby village or farm, with a morning re-ascent.
Once you are in Ostend, Belgium, the trail is merged with GR5 trail, which is one of the GR Foothpaths. This section is more prominently marked with a white stripe above a red stripe. In this section, throughout the distance you should end up at a lodge in nights. Just on a side note, there are very few people who would speak English in a fluent way. For most of the population, English is like a second/third language. In lodgings of all types, if you are polite, people will try to speak English.
Route: Passes through Spain, France, Luxembourg, Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, a short optional(?) stretch in Poland, Hungary, and Bulgaria.
In Spain and France sections, the route is merged with Way of St. James and mainly The French Way, which has pilgrim's hostels with beds in dormitories dot the common routes, providing overnight accommodation for pilgrims who hold a credencial (Refer the Way of St. James wiki). You might wanna try and issue that Pilgrimage Credential passport thing for you. It costs upto roughly 15 Euros per night. From thereon, the further section can really get tricky with finding accommodation and communicating, so be prepared to tent camp.
Route: Starting from Spain it continues through France, Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria to end in Greece.
Spain Section: Follows GR8, GR92, GR172 and GR4. Intermediate Accomodation available.
France Section: Follows GR36, Villefort through Haut Languedoc and Cévennes (GR 71, GR 7, GR 72), Ardèche and Rhône valleys east via GR 44, GR 4, GR 42, 429, Swiss border near Geneva and then through Vercors, Grenoble, Chartreuse and Culoz (GR 9)
Swistzerland section: Follows Jura ridgeway.
Germany and Austria Section: Generally there are detours on the route of E4 to avoid the very difficult sections, so the accommodation should not be an issue, but anyways I think, wild camping is not allowed in Germany (Please confirm).
Romanian Section: The route of the E4 through Romania is not yet clearly defined. No organization is responsible for the trail's upkeep in Romania. Potentially dangerous with civil crime rates.
Bulgerian Section: Authority - Bulgeria Travel Org. Language shall definitely be an issue. Since the route is not neatly marked, you should stick detour the route and look for the villages/ townships in the trail direction, even though the trail is said to be marked in red. If you detour and manage to march in the same endpoint direction along the civilized areas, barring the language, accommodation should not be an issue.
Greece Section: Authority - Hellenic Federation of Mountaineering and Climbing Accommodation will not be available every night, so that lightweight camping, or bivouac gear, is necessary, as well as several days supply of food. Watch out for Bears when you are in North of Greece. In May, in many areas, there may be plenty of springs and/or fast flowing streams, but it would be sensible to carry ample reserves of water—just in case. With regard to accommodation, the Oreivatein site should not be totally trusted, particularly its idiosyncratic use of the word 'motel' (a warning is also necessary with regard to hotels marked on maps). Even if there is a hotel it may only open in July and August, or at weekends. Mountain refuges will also usually be locked. Coffee shops, if they are open and still there, may provide simple meals. Many mountain villages are uninhabited in the winter and only begin to come alive again after Easter, and not fully until high summer.
I hope it adds some value to the data that you have gathered.
Meanwhile, keep an eye on the responses of accommodation-on-the-european-e-paths question on travel.SE.
- Various Britain-based Ramblers websites. Few of them are closed down I guess. http://www.transpenninetrail.org.uk/walkers/e-routes/
- European Ramblers Association : http://www.era-ewv-ferp.com/
- Wikipedia: European Long Distance Paths: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_long-distance_paths
In germany, putting up a tent for the night is OK in many places (except e.g. natural reserves) with permission of the land owner/leaseholder.
The procedure then is to ask locally whether they have a meadow/field/wood where you can camp for the night and LNT when you see someone
- at a farm
- at the sports ground (they may even have showers)
- at the church
- at the town hall
- at the forestry office
There are also associations like the ADFC Dachgeber ("roof givers", they are an association of people who mutually allow staying one night on bike tours. However, I'd expect them to be OK with other non-motorized travel modes such as long distance hiking as well.)
In some places & conditions, camping is permitted without asking, see e.g. my other answer on wild camping in Germany