A Guide to Wild Camping
If you're a keen camper and want to take your camping trips to the next level, wild camping might be exactly what you're looking for. There's nothing quite like finding a peaceful spot beneath the stars, in the middle of nowhere, with nothing and no one to disturb you. But, don't be fooled by this romanticised idea of what wild camping is actually like. Yes, it can be peaceful and beautiful being surrounded by nature, but if you're not prepared to experience the great outdoors in any weather or situation, wild camping could come as a bit of a shock.
In this guide, we answer your burning questions about wild camping and share some of our top tips so you can enjoy a fun, safe wild camping experience.
What is wild camping?
It's pretty simple. Wild camping is basically camping in the wild, without a campsite and with no facilities. So, you can forget a toilet or shower block and somewhere to wash your dishes and say goodbye to the electric hook up. It's just you, your tent and the great outdoors. This may seem like a huge step away from your usual creature comforts, but being alone in nature can be extremely liberating.
If jumping straight from a campsite to a wild camping spot seems like too much of a leap at first, you could always try Nearly Wild Camping. This is a network of secluded wild campsites that have very basic facilities and have large pitches, far apart from each other, to give you a taste of what wild camping is all about.
Where can I wild camp in the UK?
The only place in the UK where you can enjoy an authentic wild camping experience is in Scotland. The general guidance is that you can camp in one place in a very small group for up to three nights. However, if you do choose to wild camp in Scotland, you should camp away from animals, livestock and private land or buildings and leave absolutely no trace of your stay. This means taking all of your litter with you, removing any traces of your tent pitch or open fire and burying human waste at least 30 metres from open water. It is also advised that you should use a camping stove, rather than a campfire, where possible as you have more control over it.
Is wild camping legal?
If you're looking for an authentic wild camping experience in the UK, your options are going to be pretty limited as wild camping is illegal in most places. Wild camping is illegal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and while there are a few loopholes, we'd never advise breaking the law and pitching up wherever you want to. However, if you are able to gain the landowner's permission, you may be able to enjoy a wild camping trip, hassle-free, without breaking any rules.
To make things easy, take a look at our wild camping UK map for guidance.
Why is wild camping illegal?
Unfortunately, if you give some people an inch, they take a mile and ruin things for everyone else. When some campers don't respect the land, animals or locals and display anti-social behaviour, the privilege of wild camping is taken away. Additionally, almost all of the land in England and Wales is owned by someone so in most cases, you would be trespassing on private land if you do not have the land owner's permission.
If you are caught trespassing on someone else's land then this is considered a civil offence and you cannot be arrested. In this instance, you should apologize, tidy up all of your belongings and leave immediately. If you fail to do so then you could be subject to further punishment for wild camping in the UK. This is known as an aggravated trespass which is a criminal offence and you could be arrested for it by the police. So, the best thing you can do is to avoid camping on private land altogether if you do not have the landowner's permission.
Is wild camping safe?
If you're well prepared for a multi-day wild camping trip, then it can be perfectly safe. Before you even think about setting off on your trip you should plan ahead. Plan your route in advance and choose places to stay where you are certain you can wild camp without issue. Ideally, you should plan to stay or walk near running water so you always have a freshwater source available. Ensure to pack enough food and layers of clothing in case the temperature drops and ensure your sleeping bag is appropriate for the season. Finally, you should keep checking the weather forecast prior to your trip and be prepared to reschedule if there are any drastic changes to the weather which could pose a risk on your camping trip.
Wild camping equipment
It is vital that you are well prepared for your wild camping trip. You will likely be far away from your usual creature comforts and amenities so it is important to pack all of the wild camping essentials. Our must-haves for wild camping include:
- Lightweight tent or bivy bag & repair kit
- Season-appropriate sleeping bag and sleeping mat
- Cooking stove, pan, lighter or matches and cutlery
- Mug, water bottle and water filter or purification tablets
- Comfortable walking boots & socks
- Waterproof jacket and trousers
- Layers of clothing like base layers, jumper or mid-layer, hat and gloves
- Sunscreen and bug repellent
- First aid kit
- Map and compass
- High energy dried food like oats, pasta and trail mix
- Torch and spare batteries
- The golden rules for wild camping
- Before you hit the road, remember these wild camping tips to stay safe and respectful:
- Leave absolutely no trace of your camping
- Choose a spot at least 100m from a trail and private property
- Do not spoil wildlife or agriculture when making your pitch
- Choose a small tent that blends into the scenery
- Camp in small groups
- Pitch your tent late and leave as early as possible
- Camp out of sight
So, if you're ready to embark on a wild camping adventure, you really are in for a treat. As long as you have permission to camp on the land and are well prepared for your trip, wild camping is an amazing experience. If there are a few of you travelling as a group on your wild camping trip, you may need some extra space in the car. So, why not add a towbar and trailer to carry your luggage to the starting point of your wild camping trip.
Remember to prepare for your trip and respect the land and you're in for a great wild camping experience.