10 Best Practices for Wild Camping
At first glance, wild camping can appear overwhelming. It may seem like there are too many factors at play and it’s hard to know where to start. This is often a criticism of beginning any new hobby. However, once you get stuck in, you often find things to be easier and more enjoyable than you initially expected!
This is certainly the case with wild camping. Things that seem daunting such as knowing where to camp and how to be discrete all become more manageable with experience. To reduce the distance of this first step, here are some of the best practices for wild camping to ease you into the adventure.
Wild Camping Explained
Wild camping is an outdoor activity where you spend a night or more sleeping in a tent, directly on the ground, in a remote location away from developed campgrounds.
wild camping trips can last for just one night or several weeks. Many people who enjoy this type of camping do so because it allows them to feel closer to nature and experience a sense of solitude that is not possible in crowded developed campgrounds.
While wild camping can be an extremely rewarding experience, it is important to be well prepared before undertaking such a trip. This means having the right gear, knowing how to navigate and being aware of potential hazards such as wildlife.
With proper preparation, wild camping can be an unforgettable way to connect with the natural world.
1 – Be Discrete
Unfortunately, wild camping isn’t officially legal everywhere in the UK. In some areas like Scotland and Dartmoor, you can wild camp without issue, but for most National Parks in England and Wales, it’s not technically legal. This doesn’t put off campers, but it does create a need to be discreet. Many people still go wild camping without any issue and it’s an unwritten rule that if you camp with discretion, you won’t have any problems.
2 – Arrive Late, Leave Early
A good way to be discrete is to keep yourself out of sight. By using the cover of darkness to pitch your tent, you are less conspicuous and freer to camp in exposed areas. You won’t disturb any day hikers as you are only staying in the area for the night. Pitching at sundown and then departing shortly after sunrise is one of the best practices for wild camping.
3 – Leave No Trace
This phrase applies to all outdoor activities but even more so to wild camping. As humans, we should aim to reduce our impact on the environment. Of course, we want to experience and enjoy these nature areas but that shouldn’t be at the cost of the environment. Try not to disturb the landscape when you pitch your tent. Clear up all your trash and aim to blend in with your surroundings. If you leave the site just as you found it, then you’ve done your job perfectly!
4 – Avoid Campfires
Campfires have a time and a place, but unfortunately, wild camping often isn’t it. Due to the reasons just mentioned, campfires are not a best practice for wild camping. They damage the landscape with scorch marks and felled trees, and they also act as a signal of your whereabouts. Save the campfires for beaches or designated campsites to ensure you have a smooth wild camping experience and don’t ruin the area for other hikers. Here are some stoves we recommend for wild camping
5 – Be Camouflaged
Camouflage is the friend of any wild camper. The better you get at wild camping, the more you will appreciate disguising your camp in the surrounding landscape. A tent with muted colours or a low-lying bivy bag can help you blend in like a Ghillie soldier! Aim to pitch your tent amongst trees or boulders to optimise the camouflage of your camp. Consider how your tent will look from afar and try to reduce any obvious indicators of your location.
6 – Stay Away from Slopes
Not every one of the best practices for wild camping is about hiding – comfort is important too! When you’re looking for an appropriate camping spot, avoid slopes. A slanting tent is a recipe for a terrible night’s sleep. Human physiology has not evolved to sleep on angles. We need a flat ground to feel truly comfortable. Ending up at the bottom of your sleeping bag with your gear sliding down the hill hardly makes for a good night of wild camping!
7 – Camp on Smooth Ground
To a lesser extent, you must camp on smooth ground. This can be a challenging feature to find in the wild and sometimes you may need to compromise. To find a pitch that is both flat and smooth can be difficult but it’s worth searching for. It’s important to remember that a good sleeping mat should smooth out the worst of the rough ground whereas there’s no way to level out a slope.
8 – Review Your Surroundings
The comfort and safety of your camp depend on your surroundings. Before you pitch, one of the best practices for wild camping is to review your selected pitch site. How close are you to a water source? Do you need drinking water? Is the ground boggy? Will there be insects? Will the overhanging branches collapse in high winds? Are you in the path of a flash flood or in danger of rock falls? Go through a sort of risk analysis before you pitch up to ensure your comfort and security for the night.
9 – Enjoy Your Evenings
Often you will finish your hike long before you’re ready to sleep. What should you do during your downtime? Stretching and yoga are great ways to warm down after your hike. Perhaps you could focus on cooking a good meal. Try making a hot drink and admiring the surrounding wildlife. Sit up to look for shooting stars. Read a book or listen to a podcast. Prepare a few activities to get the most out of your evenings when wild camping. These are special moments and they’re worth cherishing!
10 – Camp With a View
When all is said and done, a huge draw of wild camping is being able to sleep in a stunning location. Sometimes you need to camp in a pinch and choose a certain place out of necessity. However, if possible, always opt to camp in an area with a wonderful view. Sunsets, stargazing, cloud inversions, and scenic vistas are all events to marvel at when wild camping.
The best practices for wild camping generally fall into two categories: practical tips to improve your experience and tips to maximise your comfort and enjoyment. Focus on getting the rigmarole organised first. Once you have your camp set up and organised, then you can focus on enjoying yourself. As the saying goes, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail – this is certainly true for wild camping!
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