Wild camping is a fun outdoor venture that is becoming increasingly popular. If you love the natural world and want to challenge yourself, wild camping could be the perfect thing to try.
In this overview, we cover everything relating to wild camping. This includes a basic definition, the types of wild camping, when to do it, and what to take with you. Once you have read this guide, you will have an excellent idea of what wild camping is, and if it is suitable for you!
What is Wild Camping?
The term wild camping is used in a generic way and can encompass a variety of camping scenarios. At its most basic, wild camping can mean any type of camping NOT on a campsite.
Traditional camping that most people enjoy is done inside the boundaries of a campsite. You pay for a pitch and are allocated a spot on the grounds. Within the campsite, you can usually find amenities like toilets, a shower block, and maybe a shop and cafe. Oftentimes you will also find caravans and campervans at campsites too.
Wild camping removes these boundaries. Your campsite is essentially wherever you decide to pitch your tent! This could be on the shores of a lake, on the side of a mountain, or deep within a forest, for example. Wild camping gives far greater freedom. It also allows you to explore, test yourself, and maybe practice some survival skills too.
When wild camping, it is just you (and maybe a camping partner) and the great outdoors. There are no amenities, no restaurants, and no allotted pitch. This of course means wild camping can be more challenging, but that is often part of the fun. It is an encompassing experience that can help you grow as a person and develop new skills.
What are the different types of Wild Camping?
As mentioned above, wild camping is a generic term that covers a myriad of camping situations. To give you a greater understanding, we have listed the main types of wild camping below:
The most common type of wild camping is done using a tent. These are not your typical large campsite tents. Tents for wild camping are much smaller, lightweight, and practical. Generally, they are not meant to be a luxurious item, but a shelter – you will not spend much time in these tents aside from sleeping.
You can find a range of one-person and two-person wild camping tents. When inside these shelters, you will not have a huge amount of space. However, they will keep you warm, and protect you from the elements. Wild camping tents should be waterproof, easy to pitch, but also be lightweight and easy to carry.
- Provide the best form of shelter and comfort
- Can accommodate more than one person
- Can be used as a place to rest and cook food
- Take the longest time to set up
- Heavier and bulkier to carry
Next, we have the trusty hammock. Wild camping hammocks are not like the hammocks you see in movies strewn between palm trees. They are durable and are meant to provide a place to sleep or to take a break from a tough slog of hiking.
Wild camping hammocks are made from waterproof material. Also, they contain a rigging system such as ropes or webbing. Some hammocks also have a detachable top cover for additional shelter. Hammocks obviously offer less shelter than a tent. However they raise you from the ground, and they are much quicker to erect.
- Easy to set up
- Comfortable to sleep and rest in
- Lightweight to carry
- Less cover and room than a tent
If you want a rough and ready wild camping experience, try a bivy! Think of a bivy as an insulated sack. That is what it is – basically a sleeping bag with a breathing hole. Bivies are single-person shelters that you can place your sleeping bag inside. It’s like a double layer of insulation against the weather.
Originally, bivies were used as emergency shelters. However, today, technology has improved and they are made from much more durable materials that offer greater warmth and comfort. If you want to travel lightweight, and want to set up your campsite quickly, a bivy is a great choice. Also, bivies can be used virtually anywhere, regardless of the ground.
- Incredibly light to carry
- Versatile and can be used anywhere
- Quick to set up
- It May not be as warm or comfortable as a tent
Last we have the bothy. Bothy bags are emergency shelters that can also be used as a place to sleep. This marvelous piece of equipment is basically a durable, waterproof bag that you pull over yourself to provide shelter.
Most bothy bags can accommodate multiple people and they could be a great piece of equipment for small group wild camping trips. They are usually made from tough materials but are easy to fold up and carry. You could use a bothy in-conjunction with a bivy as an extra layer of shelter.
- Extremely quick to erect
- Offers quick shelter in bad conditions or an emergency
- Doesn’t have the stability or structure like a tent
Is there an essential Wild Camping equipment list?
Yes! But this will vary depending on where and when you camp. The following are some basic items we advise taking on your wild camping trips:
- A durable, lightweight, waterproof tent
- A sleeping bag and/or a sleeping mat
- A large waterproof backpack that allows for easy packing and unpacking
- A head torch with spare batteries
- A camping stove
- Plenty of water
- Basic cooking & eating utensils
- Matches and/or a lighter
These are essential items that will help you have a comfortable and enjoyable wild camping experience. You should also consider your clothing and the accessories you take with you. Ideally, you should have durable hiking boots that have great support for your ankles. This will make walking with your pack easier.
Also, you should have several layers of clothing that you can take off if you get too warm. It is always better to have too many layers, than not enough and suffer in the cold. This should include a warm base layer with insulated socks and thermal leggings/top if possible.
You should of course also have waterproof trousers and a jacket – there is nothing worse than sitting in damp clothes that won’t dry. This can also be dangerous and lead to health complications if you cannot get warm and dry.
Pro-Tip – Always have sufficient clothing even during the warmer summer months. Temperatures can still plummet at night and you could be caught out in the cold.
Where can you go Wild Camping?
That is the beauty of wild camping. You are not limited to a campsite. Within reason, you can camp wherever your imagination and desire takes you. If you see a high-up spot with amazing views of the valley below, you can camp there. Maybe you have found a large sheltered forest instead that will cover you from the harsh rain, you can camp there too.
However, and this is important – there are laws and rules to follow.
Generally, in the UK, wild campers have no legal rights. Therefore, first and foremost, you should always try to get permission from the landowner before camping.
Additionally, you should camp responsibly, and follow the wild camping code of conduct. The main principle of this is that you should leave no trace. Also, you should aim to minimize the environmental impact you have, leave no rubbish, and be considerate to others. Some simple wild camping rules include:
- Pick a spot that is out of sight from buildings and livestock
- Try to use equipment that blends into your surroundings
- Avoid choosing spots too close to water sources
- Burry any waste at least 100ft from water sources
In most instances, if you abide by the code of conduct, and camp responsibly, you should encounter no issues. We always advise checking the regional rules beforehand, and also researching the area you intend to camp on.
When is the best time to go Wild Camping?
So when should you embark on your wild camping expedition? This is an important thing to consider, and we have broken it down into two sections – seasons, and time. Both play a vital role in wild camping, and can drastically alter your experience.
Wild camping seasons
Your wild camping experience will vary greatly depending on the time of year. In reality, there is no period you cannot wild camp. This is an activity not bound by campsite opening times, or holiday seasons, for example.
However, it is important to consider the different seasons and how they can affect your wild camping experience. Also, please note that the seasonal variations will of course vary depending on what country you camp in.
The spring can be a brilliant time for wild camping. It is generally less busy than the summer, and the weather is also much better than autumn and winter. Also, during the spring, new life is emerging and you will see landscapes that are slowly emerging from the harsh winter – it can be one of the most beautiful times for wild camping.
Ah the summer! Yes UK summers can be short, but we do get them! The summer months usually offer the best wild camping conditions. The ground is softer, temperatures are higher, and we get more daylight. For first-time wild campers, the summer could be the best time.
On the flip side, you can expect wild camping spots to be busier during the summer. As the weather and temperatures improve, more people will venture out and summertime may be less peaceful for wild camping.
During autumn, the landscapes you see start to change. Greens turn to orange and yellows, and we feel this is one of the most beautiful times to camp. Imagine camping in a verdant forest whose trees are shedding their leaves – the floor is covered in a gorgeous multicolored blanket. It can be spectacular.
As you would expect, however, temperatures do fall somewhat, and you may experience tougher wild camping conditions. On the plus side, crowds should start to die down, and you should enjoy a peaceful trip.
The winter months are usually the most challenging for wild campers. Temperatures drop, the ground can become tough and icy, and even freshwater sources can freeze solid. Winter can present a host of problems, and it is possibly the most uncomfortable time to wild camp.
Staying warm is vital during winter, as is having an accessible source of water. In contrast, you can expect wild camping spots to be much quieter and you may not see anyone else at all. Also, the landscapes you see will change dramatically and you can gain a different perspective on the outdoors. You will also find the experience more rewarding as you battle through the tough conditions.
Wild camping timing
Aside from the time of the year, you should also look at the time of day. There is a simple saying to remember – arrive late, leave early. This is an unwritten rule that you should try and adhere to – for other people’s benefit, more than your own.
Firstly, you should try and arrive at your wild camping spot late in the day. This helps to minimize any disturbances you may cause to others. Secondly, you should then aim to leave your spot (without leaving a trace!) early in the morning. Again, this minimizes disturbances as people will still be in bed.
Pro-Tip – If you are pitching at night, it may be beneficial to scout the area during the day to ensure you have solid ground and don’t find any unwanted surprises later!
Is Wild Camping for you?
We must admit that wild camping is not for everyone. It can be incredibly tough and hard work. Also, the conditions aren’t always fantastic depending on the weather you get. It is essentially a more extreme form of campsite camping, without the luxuries of shower blocks and other amenities.
Before considering wild camping, we advise asking yourself the following questions:
- Have you done any camping before?
- Have you ever pitched a tent?
- Can you sleep relatively easily in various conditions?
- Are you someone who gets easily cold?
- Do you have a decent level of physical fitness?
Depending on how you answer these questions, you will easily be able to see if you are suited for wild camping. For example, if you enjoy walking and the outdoors, you will fare better in a wild camping scenario. Alternatively, if you are a light sleeper and woken by the slightest noise, you may struggle to sleep in the wilderness.
Look at your strengths and weaknesses, and your personality. You should be able to tell if wild camping will agree with you or not. Also, on a basic level, just think if this is something you would like to try. If you have a desire to test yourself and try something new, the potential negative aspects of wild camping may be irrelevant.
Pro-Tip – If you have a burning desire to do something like wild camping, we wholeheartedly advise pursuing it! Challenging yourself, and stepping outside your comfort zone is usually highly rewarding.
There is no definite answer to the above question. Every person is different, and everyone will have a different wild camping experience. As a minimum, we advise that people who love the outdoors and have some experience of “sleeping rough” will be better suited for a wild camping adventure.
Wild Camping – An exhilarating outdoor experience
We hope you now have a better understanding of wild camping and what it entails. If you are looking for a different type of adventure, this could be the perfect thing to do. Wild camping allows you to experience our natural world up close. Also, it gives you the chance to test yourself, learn some survival skills, and explore places that you may not have previously considered.