Wild camping is one of the best ways to enjoy the great outdoors. While there is no formal definition of wild camping, it basically means any camping that is outside the confines of an organised camping site. But it’s not just about falling asleep to wildlife rather than the neighbouring pitch’s campfire singsong. Here’s what to you need to consider before you search for a secluded spot to pitch your tent under the stars.
Check the law
For most of the UK, there is no right to camp. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, wild camping is only permitted on parts of Dartmoor. Anywhere else, and you will need to seek the landowner’s permission or find areas where it is tolerated. While Scotland allows wild camping, there are now areas where, because of problems caused by previous wild campers, it has been banned or requires a permit. The common-sense approach is to check before you camp.
Wild camping, by definition, means that you will be away not just from creature comforts, but also from help if needed. Always make sure that people know where you are going, and when they can expect to hear from you. Keep your mobile phone charged — no draining the battery on games — and, for those areas where signal may be weak, ensure you can use a map and compass, so you aren’t reliant on GPS.
Ensure the site you choose is safe. The UK is not known for its natural dangers, but there are still risks from flooding to unstable ground or even rockfalls. And high-quality equipment is important, from having a good tent and sleeping bag, to taking layers and gear to keep you warm and dry if the weather changes.
Follow the wild camping code
A key principle of wild camping is that you leave no trace. Anyone coming across your site should have no idea that you had been there. This is not, however, just about ensuring you take litter away with you, but also ensuring that you minimise your impact.
A general principle is to arrive late and leave early. This means that you are camping for as short a time as possible, and that you aren’t camping at times when you might obstruct walkers or other people in the area.
While camping, you should ensure that your activities do not leave any marks. So if you light a fire, or even use a stove, make sure you do it in a way that does not burn or cause heat damage to the flora. Overnight you should keep noise and light levels as low as possible to avoid disturbing local wildlife, ideally lights should have a red filter and group size should be as small as possible.
And one question everyone asks: if you need the toilet, you need to dig a hole. However, any toilet paper you use should leave with you and not be buried, since it does not biodegrade easily. You might want to invest in sturdy sealable bags!
Invest in equipment
Wild camping requires a large degree of self-reliance. Investing in quality equipment can make a huge difference, from keeping you warm and dry at night, to keeping the weight of your load as low as possible.
Whatever equipment you choose, you should always make sure you have a good quality first aid kit, and check the contents are in date and undamaged. You should also ensure you have the means to purify water, whether that’s by using a filter or boiling water on a stove.
Most of all, though, you need a sense of adventure. Those who have tried wild camping will all agree, it’s the best way to enjoy camping and nature.