A Beginners Guide to Wild Camping

UK WILD CAMPING ESSENTIALS + TIPS (A BEGINNERS GUIDE TO CAMPING IN THE WILD!)

Over the last 10 years or so wild camping has become more and more popular in the UK, with people wanting to be more at one with nature and the great outdoors. If you are new to this concept, you may be curious how it all works and what to do. Well, look no further as this article will be your basic guide to wild camping.

Wild camping is when you set up camp in a remote location, not on a public campsite. You can wild camp in many locations such as Moorlands, forests, peaks, and beaches. 

In this article, I will not reveal any of my favourite places to wild camp as I wouldn’t want them turning in to a camping site, besides what I prefer may be nothing like what you like. But we will discuss etiquette and best practices to get the most out of your wild camp experience. 

Are you wondering if wild camping in the UK is for you? 

Here is my beginner’s guide to all you need to know on the ‘wild camping essentials’ in the UK. From finding the best wild camping spot, what essential wild camping equipment you need and even going to the bathroom!

Ok, firstly let’s get the boring stuff out of the way.

1. Legality

In England and Wales, except for some areas on Dartmoor, most of the land is privately owned. Therefore you should ask permission from the landowner before setting up camp. The issue with this is finding the owner of the land you are on. One idea can be to ask any locals you may come across such as farmers or public house owners if you are near a village. 

Now, I used the word “should” because there are cases where it is not possible to find a landowner and people just set up camp anyway. Nine times out of ten, this will not be an issue as long as you keep a low profile. In the event of the landowner seeing you, my advice is to be polite and courteous, explain that you didn’t know who owned the land to as and ask now if it is ok to stay, in the event you are asked to leave, politely and promptly leave.

The key is that you are respectful of the land and the people that own it. Whether you’re camping or hiking through it remember to leave no trace, meaning that when you leave nobody should ever be able to tell you were there. One issue with wild camping is you can be asked to be moved on at any time as I explained above.

In Scotland, it is legal to wild camp (praise the Scottish), with a few exceptions in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. In Loch Lomond you must register and pay for a permit to wild camp on that location, the fee helps to protect the popular spots in the parks, this is not really an issue such as after you pay the fee you are ok for the night and will not be asked to move on. 

2. As a solo day hiker, night hiker and wild camper, I get asked this question a lot. Aren’t you scared when you wild camp on your own? What if something happens?

Firstly, if you’re worried about wild camping solo, then you should ask a friend to join your first time. As the saying goes, there is safety and comfort in number. 

Secondly, always prepare for the challenge. Research online and ask others in the hiking community for advice and recommendations of places. Hikers are the nicest of people, and I’m sure you will get lots of useful feedback. 

I feel completely safe when I wild camp, I always find a well-hidden spot that nobody would stumble across. 

Thankfully the Uk is a very safe place, especially for hiking and camping. It is certainly safer than a night out in most city centres such as Leeds, Manchester, London etc. 

Top tip – Remember if you are solo wild camping, let someone know where you are going, where you intend to pitch camp and when you are expected to return. Obviously don’t broadcast it on social media until the next day and you’ve moved on! As you wouldn’t want anyone spoiling your trip. 

3. Finding a spot and setting up camp

Here is some basic advice for finding a great location and setting up. 

  • Find a spot that is nice and flat
  • Clear the area of any stones, sticks, rubble and anything any else that could damage your tent. 
  • Please do not cut down any plants or trees, there is plenty of room somewhere to camp. #respectnature
  • Do not pitch near a footpath/carpark/houses, this is supposed to be wild camping. 
  • Be inconspicuous. (Stealth mode)
  • Top Tip

During cold periods consider using a hammock to sleep in this helps to reduce the cold from the floor. 

4. When to set up camp

The most important part of wild camping is to arrive late and leave early. This shows consideration to other hikers, Imagine going for a peaceful hike and being met with hammocks, campfires and tents along the way. In order to reduce the impact on wildlife and fellow hikers be considerate and plan your wild camp arrival and departure when it will least impact them all. Remember nobody is supposed to know you are there. 

Top Tip

  • Ideally, you want to arrive one hour before the sun goes down, so you have time to assemble your test and fire if needed. Arrive too early, and you risk being seen by other hikers, arrive too late, and you have the challenge of setting up in the dark.
  • The time of year will depend on what time you will need to set up, in winter this could be arriving at 5 pm or in summer months much later around 8.30 pm. Don’t let the seasons or weather put you off, wild camping can be fun all year round if you are prepared for the situation.

5. What to take with you camping

Wild camping is very different from regular camping as in what you are planning to take, you must carry on your back to your spot of choice. So being prepared with the correct equipment is essential and not carrying any unnecessary weight is vital. The less weight, the better. 

You will need

  • Tent or Hammock
  • Sleeping Equipment (Bag/ Mat) I use …………….
  • Warm clothing
  • Food and water (link)
  • Cooking equipment (stove link)
  • Dry bags for cloths

6. What food to take camping

Camping can get a bad reputation for awful food, but you can get some great camping food. Some suggestions for camping food are:

Tinned tuna

Summit eat freeze meals

Porridge pots

Chunky soup

Bread

Pasta

Banana

Tea/coffee

Protein bars

7. How to cook

So we discussed what to eat, let’s look at how to cook it. First things first, do you need to cook? During the summer months, cold snacks and food prepared at home may be more than enough. During the colder season, you will want something warm to eat and drink. Depending on what type of person you are, I like a cup of hot tea before sleep, and there is nothing I enjoy better than waking up to a freshly made coffee. 

I do recommend a small, simple gas cooking attachment. Make sure you find a flat space, away from any grass or plants. Use a rock if necessary to raise from the ground. Depending on the situation you may not need a stove, but a simple, small campfire will suffice which we will talk about next.

8. Camp fires

What about having a campfire while wild camping? 

This is an option and can make your trip much more fun and comfortable, but before you consider making a fire, really think about whether it’s the right decision. 

. Do you need a fire for cooking or heat? Or would a simple cooking attachment do

. What is the condition of the ground like, is it dry enough?

. Is there enough firewood?

. Are you able to extinguish the fire quickly if needed?

. Will it draw unwanted attention to your location?

If you are going to start a campfire, clear an area, building a ring with rocks to contain the fire safely. Keep it small and simple.

Misuse of fire can cause fires like seen on Saddleworth Moore. If in doubt then don’t light it!

9. What do you do with your rubbish?

Your rubbish is your responsibility. There are no bin men or littler pickers there ready to clean up when you leave. Whatever you take, you should pack up and take back with you. This is following the leave no trace policy.

Also, if you see some litter along your way, even if it isn’t yours, pick it up and take it home, I’m sure it won’t weight much, but little things do wonders for our environment. I have, on many occasions, collected litter dropped by others, and I’m sure that nature is thankful.

10. The bathroom dilemma

It’s inevitable that at some point you’re going to need to go. This is a lot easier for us guys than it is girls. 

No. 1s – If you need a wee, just make sure it’s behind a tree, big rock or wall to hide from anyone else walking by. Also, make sure to go at least 30 metres from any water source.

No. 2s – This is a little more complicated. Firstly, try and find a discreet spot where you won’t be disturbed hopefully there aren’t too many people about or you will have to move to somewhere private. Then, using a stick, walking pole or trowel (if you found space to pack one) dig a hole, the deeper, the better. Do what you need to do and refill. Simple! Again, leave no trace, nobody should know you were there. 

11. The next morning

In the morning, wake up early, see the beautiful sunrise and get some snaps, I discuss how to take great pics on a hike here. 

Top Tip – Get up early, enjoy a peaceful and relaxing start to the day, with a cup of coffee and breakfast to wake up. Then pack up and be out on the trails before fellow hikers.

Remember, you’re wild camping not on a campsite, you can’t and mustn’t leave your tent set up for the following night!

Always check thoroughly where you camped to ensure you’ve not left anything behind, small pieces of rubbish, tent pegs or food. If you lit a fire, make sure it is fully put out, use water if possible. The idea is for people who pass that area to never know you were there. 

Of course, when wild camping, the simple way to remember is – Leave No Trace.

Would you like to try wild camping in the UK? 

Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below.

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