Sleep under the stars and reconnect with nature: wild camping is all the rage right now. Just make sure you know the rules and go armed with the right kit.
Is Wild Camping Legal In The UK?
First things first. Rules vary a lot – wildly you might say – across the UK. As a general rule of thumb, wild camping is illegal in England and Wales (apart from certain areas of the Lake District and Dartmoor), but many farmers and landowners are open to allowing passing campers to spend a night. However, express permission must always be sought and you must ensure you abide by the ‘wild camping rule book’ (more below). In short, if you’re not sure whose land it is, don’t camp.
The good news, however, is that if you are heading north of the border, in general you can camp anywhere on public, unenclosed land in Scotland, thanks to its ‘right to roam’ law. A word of warning: just because a spot is legal – it doesn’t mean it’s always the best place to set up camp. Think about access, water supply, conditions and suitability of the terrain – there’s a lot to consider!
If you are not quite ready to head out into the wilderness alone, you can always check out almost-wild campsites that offer no-frills, and are rurally located across the UK. These usually come with rudimentary washhouse facilities and a helping hand on site for novice campers.
The Wild Camping Rule Book
Inform friends and family.
Before heading out into the wild, ensure you inform friends and family of your planned route and overnight locations. Don’t rely on mobile reception, plan your trip and do leave a copy of your map with loved ones.
Although you don’t want to overpack, under-packing when it comes to weather-appropriate clothing can mean an uncomfortable trip at best and be life-threatening at worst. Talk to an expert retailer about the terrain and climate of your destination and download a reliable weather app to keep a close eye on your conditions.
Leave no trace.
This is the guiding principle of wild camping, especially if you are venturing into National Parks or protected landscapes. This is not just about taking all your litter with you (although that’s a given); it’s about being considerate about where and how you set up camp to cause the minimum amount of disturbance to the local habitat.
Don’t light open fires.
The romantic idea of s’mores over a campfire can seem alluring, but wildfires are a real danger, especially during popular summer camping months.
If you have been given permission by a landowner, or you are camping legally in a Scottish National Park, be considerate about where you set up base. Marring a natural viewpoint, or causing a disturbance in a quiet, rural location goes against the ethos of wild camping. Find a sheltered, tucked away spot and follow the rule of ‘arrive late, leave early’, to cause as little disturbance as possible.
The Best Kit For Wild Camping
Reliability, efficiency and weight are probably the deciding factors when packing for a wild camping trip. If you are combining hiking and camping en route, you’ll have to be strategic about what you carry and every item will have to work super hard to make the cut. Here are just a handful of essential kit items to include in your pack:
Wind-proof, stable, super-lightweight, the Fire Mosquito stove is a small but mighty burner that offers high performance, yet comes in a compact size for a warming, hot meal at the end of a day hiking. Shop it here.
This 70l rucksack has a clever detachable daypack, with comfortable, adjustable straps and a hip belt, as well as lots of accessible pockets and high-tech, water-resistant fabric. There’s dedicated straps for your sleeping pad, bag, poles and any other equipment you need to carry with you. Shop it here.
When it comes to sleeping arrangements, if you’re wild camping chances are the blow-up mattress or camp bed might have to stay at home – but you don’t have to give up on comfort all together. The Tensor insulated sleeping mat is just the thing – at 572g for the longest, widest style, it offers a deep, three-inch pad to cushion you from the ground beneath, while shielding you from the cold, too. It’s easy to inflate and once deflated, packs down to the size of a water bottle. Shop it here.
When choosing your wild camping spot, being close to a clean water source is key, as it is unlikely you will be able to carry all the water necessary for more than a twelve-hour period. Check for animal carcasses and faeces upstream from where you collect your water and try to camp as close to the source as possible. A general rule of thumb is the faster flowing the water, the better. And always purify before drinking, either by boiling or using a mini filtration device such as the Sawyer Squeeze. Guaranteed to filter up to 100,000 gallons in its lifetime, don’t be fooled by its 65g size. The clever filter can be fitted directly to a bladder pouch or drinking bottle to allow you to stay hydrated, safely. Shop it here.
For ease of transport, a general rule of thumb when wild camping is to opt for a one-to-two man tent (no yurts here). Agile, quick-to-put-up and designed to be weather-resilient, they allow for relief from the elements for a cosy night’s sleep. The Vango Soul 200 is a great option at under £60 and 2kg in weight. Its credentials make it a great option for first-time wild campers. With only two sturdy fibreglass poles to wrangle, you’ll have it up in a jiffy and thanks to its robust design it should stay that way, with improved weather stability promise. There’s a black-out lining to block the early morning rays and a mesh door to keep out creepy crawlies, too. Shop it here.
Keeping your hands free whilst you cook, answer the call of nature, or even read a book while tucked up in your sleeping bag, a headtorch is an essential bit of kit for every camper. Look for one with a long battery life, a strong wide beam and that is secure and comfortable to wear. This ultra-light model from Petzl is just the ticket; it’s comfy, splashproof and feather weight (75g) with a built-in strobe effect if you need to attract attention. Shop it here.
Cast your mind back to the nostalgic pen knife of your youth. An adventurer’s best friend, they can be used for everything from whittling sticks to opening a beer (both essential tasks). Victorinox Hiker Swiss Army Pocket Knife is the original and it still offers all the gadgets you’ll need for wild camping, with thirteen functions packed into its 77g weight. Shop it here.
By Lydia Mansi
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