The A-Z of Wild Camping

 

 

 

You all asked, and so I shall deliver…

Wild camping is my favourite.

For one, you don’t have people up late drinking and making noise on a campsite (generally) but I also prefer to just get away from it all and wake up to far better views than a campsite could ever give.

WHERE CAN I WILD CAMP?

Wild camping is legal in Scotland (aside from Loch Lomond) and on Dartmoor it’s generally allowed as well, though check this map for spots where it’s not. Everywhere else, it’s generally suggested that you ask the landowners permission. Of course, as you can imagine, this isn’t as easy as it seems… A lot of our beautiful countryside is privately owned, even within the national parks, which is why caution and common sense should be exercised more than anything else.

I’ve slept behind hedges in farmers fields a plenty, atop Dartmoor’s highest point, in an old quarry, next to a lake in Snowdonia, on a beach… The list goes on. I’ve never once been asked to move on, but I put this down to truly leaving no trace, and not making an impact. I don’t light fires, I arrive late, leave early and there’s no sign I was even there aside from a small patch of flattened grass to show where my mat was.

A lot of this comes down to common sense, the more remote you are, generally the higher your chances of not being asked to move on. Though, I’ve heard of people being spotted by farmers, or even the police, and having a great chat with them with no problems at all. Don’t make a mess, don’t draw attention to yourself and if for some reason someone does come across you and asks you to move off their land, do so.

To quote a great post by Alastair Humphreys – I suppose really there are two answers about where you can sleep wild: the theoretical, legal one is “almost nowhere” and the practical one is “almost anywhere”

So, on with the post, now the legal part is out of the way!

A – ARRIVE LATE
Arrive late. Set up as late in the day as you can, so as to go unnoticed and make as little of an impact as possible. I try to get to my chosen spot either literally just before sunset or just after (when it’s still light enough to see what you’re doing).

B – BIVVY BAG
Dependent on the weather/how much kit you want to carry, you may want to consider a bivvy bag (a waterproof bag that covers you and your sleeping bag), rather than a tent. They’re not for everyone, and you’re definitely far more exposed if the weather turns, but you’re also far less noticeable. I say that, my Alpkit Hunka is bright blue, but still… For me, there’s nothing better than being able to see the night sky in all its glory! On top of this, the sun acts as a natural alarm clock and you get to witness some beautiful sunrises! They are colder than a tent though, so make sure you have layers!

C – COOKING
Honestly, this one is entirely down to your preferences. I tend to eat before I set up camp somewhere as I’m aware I’ll be arriving late, then when I wake up, and after packing everything away I will eat breakfast. Generally, I either have a boil in a bag meal, or a Firepot meal, where you just add boiled water. This means I don’t have to carry tins or loads of food around, and only need to take my jetboil and spoon! Obviously, it depends how long you’re wild camping for…

D – DRY BAGS
Especially if you’re bivvying, this is a big one. There is nothing worse than waking up to find that your boots and bag are soaked. I stick everything inside my bag inside individual dry bags anyway. Some people just take a bin liner. I have a dry bag which actually fits my bag in, though it does depend a lot on the weather. On my most recent solo divvy I left everything out all night and it was totally fine.

E – EARPLUGS
1. If you’re a very light sleeper, like me, they can be a blessing. Especially if you’re wild camping with friends who sound like Darth Vader.
2. If you are nervous about being outdoors solo, it can block out the noises of twigs breaking that you might think are murderers coming to get you. (I can vouch that in every case I’ve thought I was about to be murdered it was a sheep or bird, though…)

F – FIRST AID KIT
Self explanatory really. I take one every time because you never know what you might do to yourself. I woke up with a splinter once.
How? I have no idea, but I was very thankful for my tweezers!

 

G – GREAT VIEWS
As I said, where else would you find a campsite that gives views like this, with the waves crashing beneath you, and so little light pollution that you spend the night watching a meteor shower and can see the Milky Way with your blind eye?!

H – HEADTORCH
Arriving late/leaving early means that you may well be setting up in relative darkness. At the very least if nature calls in the night, you’ll need to see where you’re going.
Worried you might be spotted (by people/murderers) again? Choose a head torch with a red light. It’s less obtrusive then a white light & you can still see where you’re going!

I – INSECT REPELLENT
If you’re in Scotland during midge season especially, but also if it’s a bit warm and you’re near water, the mosquito’s will come out to play! An alternative is an insect head net, which can take some getting used to, but a friend of mine swears by hers because she’s paranoid a spider will crawl on her face (a valid fear, I feel).

J – JACKET
1. Always have your waterproof jacket as the weather can change quickly in the hills/at the coast.
2. It’s handy to take a down jacket… I use it either as a mid layer or a main, based on the weather, but it also doubles up as a great pillow if I don’t need to wear it!

K – KIT BAGS
This links in with dry bags to some extent, but I always put each group of kit into a different (colour coded) dry bag so it’s easier to find in the dark, with just a head torch.

L – LEAVE EARLY / LEAVE NO TRACE
Don’t hang around later than you need to in the morning. In some cases, you may be woken by dogs and dog walkers. I’ve never had this, but friends have. I usually wake up around 0500/0530 when I’m wild camping in order to avoid this, if I’m somewhere that isn’t super remote. As for leaving no trace, this includes going to the toilet, folks. Either wait until you find civilisation or dispose of it properly. There are so many websites that will tell you how to do this in an environmentally friendly way!

M – MUG
I always take a couple of ‘luxuries’ with me when I go wild camping… My bodum french press travel mug adds some weight, but it also means I can have a beautiful fresh coffee first thing, and it’s the best way to start my day, watching a beautiful sunrise, coffee in hand!

N – NERVES
I remember my first solo wild bivvy. I thought every noise was someone coming to find and kill me. I was adamant that I was done for, and so I didn’t get a wink of sleep. Truthfully, this weekend was the first time I’ve ever had someone stumble across me. Their head torches woke me, but they spotted my bag and turned and headed back from whence they came… and I wasn’t murdered. Think of it this way- if someone wanted to kill you, would they go to the effort of navigating out to a remote spot on the off chance someone is there? Probably not…

O – OS MAP & COMPASS
Another that goes without saying.
If you’re heading into the hills, always take a map and compass with you. You can’t rely on technology 100%, as much as many would like to!

P – PICKING YOUR SPOT
As already mentioned, pick somewhere as remote as possible. Just use common sense really, and try to stay as far away from people’s houses etc… Also make sure the ground is as level as possible. Camping on an angle is never that enjoyable!

Q – QUALITY SNACKS
Is there anything better than an adventure Mars Bar?

R – RUCKSACK
If I go wild camping, it’s usually only for 1 or 2 nights, so I don’t go bigger than a 55l pack, which fits everything I need into it –  Sleeping bag, mat, bivvy bag etc… If you take a tent, you may need something bigger, but as mentioned I tend to bivvy most of the time!

S – SLEEPING BAG
Make sure it’s warm enough for the weather you’ll be sleeping in, especially if you’re bivvying as bivvy bags are chillier than tents. Check the temperature rating, and if need be you can add a sleeping bag liner and layer up. You can always de-layer if you get warm, but it’s far more difficult to warm up when you’re cold!

T – TENT
The majority of people I know use a tent for wild camping. I do as well, but only in bad weather. Tents are warmer than a bivvy bag, you’re more protected from the elements and often feel more secure and safe. That being said, they’re also bigger, heavier in your pack, draw more attention and you don’t get the same views of the stars!

U – UTENSILS
An easy thing to forget, but if you’re planning on eating when you wild camp, don’t forget something to eat with… The amount of times I’ve had to attempt eating food with 2 sticks, like chopsticks, is ridiculous…

V – VALUABLES
I’ve heard horror stories of people wild camping and waking up to have things like GoPro’s go missing. I always keep my valuables/car keys etc inside a small dry bag at the foot of my sleeping bag. Nobody can get their hands on them without waking me up!

W – WATER
Make sure you have enough clean water with you. If not, and you want to go light, then ensure that either you’re near a water source and either have purifying tablets or a fantastic filter bottle like this one from Water to Go.

X – [e]XPERIENCE
Ok, I know it’s cheating… X is a hard word for outdoor kit.
Wild camping is an amazing experience so enjoy it and hopefully it will be the first of many.

Y – YOUR COMFIEST WALKING BOOTS
If you’re headed somewhere remote, you will want comfy shoes for the walk in/back. Especially if you’ve failed to pack light…
I always take flip flops too, just to wear when I’ve stopped walking to let my feet breathe.

Z – Zzz
Try to get some sleep, relax and enjoy your wild camp!

This is not an exhaustive list of things to take with you, or even how to wild camp, and I could go on forever…
However, it is a quick list, and hopefully it proves helpful to someone!
What are your must take items or pieces of advice for people who’ve not wild camped before? 

7 thoughts on “The A-Z of Wild Camping”

  1. Always take my tarp as it packs small, couple of tent pegs and some rope. I’ve seen ppl use walking sticks and bike wheels to hold the canvas up. Last thing you need is to Pitch up under some trees and for it to rain in the night.

    Always take treats and a cooker for tea!

  2. I’ve had an Alpkit bivvy bag for a couple of years now, but never quite managed to have the balls to get out there for a night. A great post and maybe just the inspiration i need to make that first step.

  3. Good post Kate, informative. Never done such a slimmed down overnighter but looks good and very at one with mother nature. Top share, thank you Tony.

    1. I think there’s something quite nice about going back to basics (ish) but obviously when the weather isn’t so pleasant I have a lot more kit with me!

  4. I think something could be added with regards to car parking. I’ve been reading a lot about a 300% increase in car crime incident surrounding Dartmoor this year… It’s quite frightening! Maybe the better option is to park considerately within a nearby village? Of course, there will also be those using public transport.

    If you can remember why and how you woke up with a splinter, I’m sure the story would make for a great post of its own! 😉

    1. Yeah definitely. For Winspit it’s easy as the village car park has CCTV and I know it’s safe/people are near. Then again, have left my car at Meldon on Dartmoor a number of times and it’s been ok. Think the same applies everywhere, don’t leave anything on show and use common sense!

  5. Your ‘princess camping’ made me laugh. I do an event
    every year, my only time camping, in a tent made over from a car port to look like a Roman temple (yes, with
    columns and a faux-marble finish) with a full-size loungy
    Roman-type bed inside. None of that roughing
    it crap for me, thanks!

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