What is wild camping?
Wild Camping is pretty much camping anywhere outside of a recognised campsite. It could be pitching your your tent on the mountain-side in preparation for a sunrise summit, stringing your hammock up in your local woods, or a weekend bikepacking bivvy trip.
Experience the joy of piecing together your own multi-day adventure with overnight stays in secluded spots. A trip that isn't reliant on a town, pub or established campsites.
Eat well, sleep well and enjoy dusk till dawn resting your weary head hopefully under a star-filled sky.
Make sure you have a rough idea of where you're going, and that you tell someone where and for how long you'll be gone.
Although wild camping is totally safe in the UK, it's always best to let friends know where you are just in case you do need some help.
Is Wild Camping Legal in the UK?
In the UK most land is privately owned and so strictly you need landowner permission to camp otherwise you may be asked to move on. Scotland and Dartmoor however are exceptions to this, where local laws allow wild camping.
Wild camping is generally accepted in unenclosed fells when done responsibly by small groups.
If you do have your eye on another spot, we recommend seeking permission from the landowner.
Is wild camping safe?
Wild camping is totally safe compared to driving, nights out and most other activities. Just take necessary precautions such as telling people where you're going and when you expect to be back and take basic first aid equipment and battery pack for phones and electronic navigation.
How do you poop when wild camping?
The one thing everyone wants to know but no one wants to ask. When you want the loo, find a spot at least 50 metres away from running water (streams and rivers); dig a hole; leave your business and cover with earth when finished. Take toilet paper and wipes out with you.
For wild camping in the UK we'd always suggest taking waterproofs, something to cook with, something to cook on and of course, something to sleep in.
Ultimately what you take with you will depend on where you're going, how long you're going for and what you expect the weather to be like.
Remember you'll also be carrying your wild camping kit, so it all needs to be light, packable and, at the end of a long day of adventuring, make your life a little bit better.
How to Pack a Rucksack for Wild Camping
Exactly how you pack your rucksack will depend on your trip, but we've developed a few tips for keeping weight down...
- Lay everything out that you think you might need
- Group the items together (e.g. camping gear, spare clothing, food etc)
- Put items you'll need in emergencies (such as your first aid kit or waterproofs) to one side
- Whittle out the extra kit (be ruthless, do you really need 5 t-shirts?)
- Load everything into your backpack - try to keep the heavy stuff like camping equipment around the center to the bottom, with those emergency essentials at the top, this will help create a balanced pack
- Weigh your pack and try it on, if it's too heavy, go back to whittling out unnecessary kit until you've got a good balance between what you really need and how much your pack weighs
We all have a tendency to over pack, throwing in things we think will be necessary.
Though this may seem like a good idea, trying to stuff 50kg of kit into a 30 litre backpack, whilst making sure everything is accessible is a nightmare (believe us). Not to mention trying to haul everything up and down mountains.
What Food to Take Wild Camping
Dehydrated foods are a lifesaver. They're lightweight, packed full of calories, and some don't even taste half bad either. If you're really gram counting, freeze-dried meals are even lighter, but you often end up sacrificing taste for weight.
Of course, how many calories you need to consume depends on how much you're burning throughout the day. Will you be strolling through fields or pedalling up mountain passes?
Work out how many calories you'll be burning and pack accordingly.
Although a nice hot meal at the end of a long day is extremely rewarding, we often need nibbles to see us through the day.
High energy snacks like bananas, nuts and dried fruits are great for keeping spirits high and legs moving. Energy bars take up little space but are worth their weight in gold when you're in need of a boost.
Sam Needham wild camping and cycling across the Faroe Islands | Image: Sam Needham
Look at the surrounding area and ground conditions. Think about possible flooding or water-logging, are you away from the trail, are the trees safe to shelter under? If you don't have a planned spot in mind, be sure to keep an eye out well before sunset.
Knowing what to look for can be the difference between getting a great meal and good night's sleep, or wondering around in the dark for hours being cold, tired and hungry.
What are the Ground Conditions Like?
Is it flat? Anything that might damage the tent or cause discomfort? Any sign the ground is waterlogged or might be? If in hilly terrain and there is a chance of rain, might water get funnelled towards the camp?
Any signs of large or potentially dangerous animals that suggest this is a spot best avoided?
"Even in the UK I’ve had a stag get furious at me for camping in his woodland, and on another occasion, a small herd of cows and horses appeared together because I had apparently chosen their favourite tree to bivvy under." - Mark Hines
Is the Surrounding Area Safe
Any danger of falling rocks or trees? Is the area too exposed if there is a thunderstorm? Are you likely to be disturbed during the night or morning by walkers, vehicles or people in nearby towns/buildings?
Sleeping close to a river can be lovely but is the camp in danger if the water level rises?
- Plan before you put the shelter up: do you have everything you need?
- Do you need/have access to sufficient water?
- What is the bug situation? - Being close to water or in damp areas of woodland will increase the chances of attracting mosquitoes and midges. An area exposed to higher winds will mean fewer bugs.
Time spent ensuring the location and camp set-up are both very good is time well-invested. The reward comes in the form of a better night’s sleep and being in better shape for the next day as a result.
Mark Hines wild camping in the Arctic | Image: Mark Hines
The first rule of Wild Camping club is...actually really simple! Leave No Trace: if you take it in, you carry it out.
Good wild camping practice makes it possible for us to keep getting out there! Wherever you choose to camp, make sure that you always do the following:
- Set camp late and leave early
- Carry out all litter when you leave, whether it belongs to you or was left by someone else.
- Leave camp as you found it and remove all traces of your pitch.
- Don't have a campfire.
- Camp as unobtrusively as you can. That means away from roads, houses and other habitation.
- Keep groups small and avoid staying in one location for extended periods – normal etiquette is to pitch at dusk and strike at dawn – or as close as possible to.
- Keep noise and disturbance to a minimum.
- Respect the environment and wildlife and don’t pollute