Wild Camping Tips For Beginners
Wild camping is becoming a popular hobby and past-time, however, in England, it is technically illegal. As a wild camper, I cannot just pitch up on private land and camp without permission from the landowner. This includes the National Parks. Except for Dartmoor where wild camping is allowed in certain areas, but with rules attached.
So for this article, I am talking hypothetically of course.
Why is wild camping becoming so popular?
From discussions with customers, and my own thoughts on this. It is clear that many folks wild camp to get away from the stress of life in the 21st century.
We spend a lot of time in front of computers, we're constantly hassled by email notifications, social media notifications, message notifications, and not just whilst at work, but at home, and when we're out and about from our mobile phones.
Sometimes we just need to step back, detox and just relax. Some might join a gym, some might turn to alcohol, but let's not go there! For those that I have spoken to, and for me, we just enjoy the peace and quiet of getting back into the countryside and spending a night out there. There's something therapeutic about it.
But I'm scared of the dark, and other dangers?
Without wanting to get into a whole load of psychology about this. We sleep at home in the dark, mostly. And we have no concerns there, which leaves the deeper issue of other dangers. The chances of coming across anyone else whilst wild camping, if you do it right, are very slim. The only people I tend to come across are late evening or very early morning dog walkers, and they're probably more concerned about your presence than you are of theirs.
Here in the UK, we don't have to contend with Austrailian nasty spiders and scorpions. We don't have wolves or bears, like in the US, and we don't have snakes. Well, we do, but nothing really nasty, and the ones we do have tend to stay away from people. So wild animals are not a problem. Admittedly I have been woken up by passing ponies, or a group of deer. But that's part of the attraction of wild camping.
Choosing your site.
Choose your site carefully, but don't pitch up next to a remote car park in the countryside. There might be a number of other people looking to relieve stress!!
Joking aside. Your site choice comes down to the type of kit you'll be using. The main choices are; tents, hammocks or bivvy bags. Obviously, if your prefered choice is to hammock, then finding a spot on a moor might prove to be a little tricky. Likewise, it might not be very comfortable in a dense forest in a tent because of the uneven ground due to tree roots or drainage ditches.
Whichever you choose, Google maps is very useful for getting a feel for the land. For example, I went out one evening, found a lovely spot away from the path I entered in on, only to find that I was only 10 yards away from a major path from a car park that was popular with early morning dog walkers. Needless to say, I bugged out of there very quickly in the morning. I hadn't done any research and just went out on the fly. Sometimes it doesn't work out.
My checklist for choosing a site. (Since the error above.)
- How long will it take to get there? If you only have an hour to get there, there's no point in it being miles away.
- Is it suitable for my tent or hammock? I've covered this above.
- Is there somewhere safe to leave the car, and will it arouse suspicion? This is actually one of my biggest concerns. I can hide quite effectively if required, but my car is a different matter.
- Are there any buildings nearby? Not just houses, but horse paddocks for example. The owner might be there very early in the morning to muck out, and horses often get spooked easily.
- Am I able to ask someone to give me a lift? This alleviates the car problem above.
- Weather conditions? Will the site flood? Is it exposed to high hinds?
- Will I be able to make a brew at the site? A lot of areas have fire bans for obvious reasons. Plan for this.
So that's a pretty lengthy list, but doing this preparation will save a lot of hassle on the day.
What kit do I need to go wild camping?
To get started you do not need to spend a whole heap of money. As you get more into it, you may well decide to upgrade, which is not a bad idea as you would have worked out what works for you and what doesn't.
If you're not going to walk far to get to your sites, then having minimal kit won't matter so much. But if you're planning to walk further or go on multi-day trips then lighter, less bulky kit will make a huge difference.
The basic kit.
- Sleeping bag or something to sleep in to keep warm.
- Sleeping mat, or some form of ground insulation.
- A shelter. Be it a tent, tarp or bivvy bag.
- A bag or backpack to carry it all in.
- Water bottle. Even if it's the one that came with water in it from the shop.
- Suitable shoes. Nothing worse than a twisted ankle when you're out.
- Maybe a cooker of some type if you want a brew or hot meal.
- A pot to boil water in, or cook in.
- Waterproofs or poncho. Because it rains occasionally.
- Map and compass. Plenty of You Tube videos about how to use these.
- Torch or headtorch. Self-explanatory.
You may already have a lot of this kit as a lot of folks come to wild camping from backpacking or camping on official sites. So make the most of what you have already.
One thing to bear in mind though is pack size. If you're wandering around a National Park with a larger pack, nowhere near an official campsite late in the evening, then you might arouse the suspicions of dog walkers and horse riders. This is where having minimalist kit helps, as you can get away with looking like a day hiker that is making their way to the nearest car park. I'd suggest a bag no bigger than 50 litres for this purpose. Obviously don't hang pots, pans, sleeping mats etc off the outside of the backpack as that too will arouse suspicions. If you can get away with a smaller backpack, then that's even better.
The main thing to remember is that you should take everything back with you. The mantra of 'leave no trace' would be good to remember.
I hope this quick guide to wild camping has been useful. Please feel free to comment below if you would like to add anything.