Camping in Dartmoor: Tips, Wild Camping, Best Campsites, and More
The call of the wild is a strong reason why so many seek out the tranquility and isolation of wild camping. There’s nothing quite like packing in all of your belongings on your back and hiking into a campsite in the countryside to have a bit of wilderness all to yourself! With the rise in popularity and accessibility of car camping, wild camping is the answer to many who seek solace in the wilderness as established campgrounds become increasingly crowded.
If you’ve never gone wild camping before or you’ve never visited the wonderful countryside of Dartmoor and you want to plan a great trip, you’ve come to the right spot! This guide is chalked full of tips on how to plan and where to camp so that you can fully enjoy your wild camping adventure!
Planning Your Trip
One of the most important steps in going wild camping is to have a plan in place before you set foot on trail. There are a lot of considerations to account for when planning a trip, so to make it easier to figure out what you need to take into consideration, we’ve divided up the planning phase of the trip into 2 categories:
- Equipment- the items that you must bring.
- Skills- the knowledge of how to use your equipment
When planning a trip to Dartmoor, you’ll want to bring gear that is best suited for its climate. Dartmoor gets a fair amount of rainfall each year, with the most precipitation falling in the winter months and the least amount falling in the summer. Gear that is waterproof (or can be waterproofed) is a must when visiting during any time during the year.
The temperature can also vary pretty widely in Dartmoor. During the summer, temperatures can get as high as the mid 60s and as low as the low 50s. Winter months see a significant decrease in temperatures with highs in the mid 40s and lows in the mid 30s. With that in mind, it’s important to pack layers of clothing so that you can add layers when you’re cold and take them off when you’re hot.
Fabric matters when choosing your layering system. For your outer layers, aim to bring a waterproof jacket and rain pants to keep your clothing dry when it rains. Inner layers must be made out of a synthetic material like polyester or nylon or they must be made out of wool. You want to avoid wearing cotton at all costs, as cotton absorbs moisture and is incredibly difficult to dry out.
With how rainy and cold Dartmoor can get, you’ll want to stay nice and dry as being wet can speed up the onset of hypothermia. You can begin to experience the symptoms of hypothermia in temperatures as high as 50°F, especially when wet, so try to stay as dry as possible and wear moisture wicking fabrics throughout your trip to avoid hypothermia.
Now that you’ve got a good understanding of the climate considerations to keep in mind, here’s a basic packing list of gear items to ensure that you have before you set out on your wild camping trip in Dartmoor:
- Backpack to store all your gear (aim for a pack that is no smaller than 40 liters in volume)
- Tent with a rainfly
- Sleeping bag and sleeping pad
- Rain jacket and rain trousers
- Synthetic or wool warm layers (top and bottom)
- Synthetic or wool socks
- Trekking poles
- Comfortable hiking boots
- Small first aid kit
- Butane stove
- Small cooking pot
- Long handled spoon
- Water filter
- Water bottles
- Toilet paper
- Fire starter kit
- Map and compass or GPS for navigation
Something to remember when picking out all your gear is that your gear is only useful to you insofar as you know how to use it. Be sure to practice with your gear before going out on the trail so that you feel confident in how to use it no matter what the conditions are.
Set up your tent at home. Get familiar with how each piece goes together and make sure that you feel comfortable taking it down as well. Put a system in place so that each piece goes back into your backpack in the same order each time so that you don’t have to think about where things are or how to put them together when you’re in the mountains.
Consider taking a first aid class before going into the mountains in Dartmoor so that you feel comfortable treating minor injuries that can occur while wild camping. For an added layer of confidence, consider signing up for a wilderness first responder course to get tips and tricks on how to address injuries with limited resources.
And the most important skill to learn is to know your limitations and plan around them. People often find themselves in trouble in the mountains when they either push their limitations or they are ignorant of them. If you’re new to wild camping, it’s highly recommended that you go with someone who has experience so that you can follow their lead and learn from them.
Where to Camp
Dartmoor is full of fantastic areas for wild camping. There are a few things to keep in mind to ensure that you’re camping in a safe and responsible spot. Keep in mind the following when selecting your camping spot for the night:
- Always camp at least 100 feet away from any trail or roadway and at least 200 feet away from any water source.
- There is a military presence surrounding Dartmoor. Pay attention to the signs at the trailheads and stay out of areas that have red flags raised as the military will be actively using that area for training.
- Consider using an itinerary from a website like AllTrails to help alleviate figuring out where to go.
AllTrails is great because they list several trips in Dartmoor and attach maps to them so that you know exactly where you’re going and what to expect. You can even download the maps to your phone to use them offline!
Dartmoor is a great place to immerse yourself in nature. You can leave behind the crowds and find the tranquility that soothes the soul, reconnecting with a primal side of your being that is quieted in the constant grind of modern life. Remember that wild camping requires you to be prepared as the beauty of this natural wonder can often turn to danger if you don’t have the right gear or skills. But so long as you go prepared, you’ll be able to get the most out of your trip and continue coming back time and time again!