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Wild Camping - a beginner's guide



Going on a wild camping adventure can be a thrilling experience that allows you to connect with nature, escape from the daily grind, and explore the great outdoors with a sense of freedom and independence. However, the idea of wild camping might seem intimidating to beginners.


What is Wild Camping?


Wild camping involves setting up camp outside of designated campgrounds and immersing oneself in nature, often in remote locations. It is about simplicity and self-sufficiency, carrying everything one needs and leaving no trace behind.


Where?


Before you set out, it's crucial to understand the legalities of wild camping in your chosen destination. Regulations vary widely between countries and regions. Wild camping is encouraged in some places, while it's restricted or entirely prohibited in others. Always research local laws and guidelines and obtain permits or permissions from landowners if necessary.


As a guide here are the general rules/laws for countries that make up the United Kingdom


England, Wales;


It is illegal to wild camp without the land owners' permission, and in effect, all land in England and Wales is owned, even in areas designated as National Parks. Most landowners happily allow you to camp on their land; ask first and respect the land and livestock. This also applies to land designated as 'open access land'.


There are exceptions, such as Dartmoor National Park, where an agreement is in place that allows wild camping without needing to obtain the landowner's permission. However, this only applies to some areas of the National Park, and restrictions apply to the duration and the type of camping permitted.


Scotland;


Across Scotland, it is legal to camp just about anywhere across the country without needing the landowner's permission. There are exceptions related to land which is otherwise paid to access, private gardens, land used for crops or certain livestock, and you must not obstruct farming and other agricultural activities - all common sense. For further information, go to https://www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot


Northern Ireland;


As with England and Wales it is generally illegal to wild camp without first obtaining permission from the land owner.


Open Access


People are often confused by the term 'Right to Roam' or 'Open Access', but in simple terms, within England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the 'Right to Roam' does not exist. There are designated areas where the general public has Open Access, but unless otherwise stated or if a right of way is established, you are generally not permitted to camp, ride horses, cycle or drive vehicles. Restrictions also apply for private gardens, fields with crops, and other agricultural or industrial areas, even within an otherwise designated Open Access area.


Choosing the Right Gear


Wild camping, by definition, is off the beaten track, usually some distance from conveniences such as shops, cafes and shelters. We must always be mindful that we must carry anything we need. In addition to clothing suitable for the terrain and weather expected, investing in the right basic camping gear is essential for a comfortable and safe wild camping experience.


Key items include:

  • Tent: look for a lightweight, durable tent that's easy to set up and take down. Tent selection is always a balance between space and size/weight.

  • Sleeping Bag: choose a sleeping bag suitable for the climate and season of your camping trip.

  • Sleeping mat: either classic closed sell foam or self inflating air type.

  • Bivi bag: basically a waterproof jacket for your sleeping bag. These can be used to sleep under the stars without needing a tent but are also used within tents to protect your sleeping bag from becoming damp through condensation.

  • Backpack: a comfortable, spacious backpack is crucial for carrying your gear. Go slightly larger than you think, as attempting to squeeze items into a small rucksack is not fun, especially on a hillside in the rain!

  • Waterproof stuff sacks: it may not always rain in the UK, but it does rain quite a bit. Be prepared, and ensure all items in your backpack are protected from the weather. A rucksack waterproof cover is also useful.

  • Cooking Equipment: opt for a compact, portable stove and lightweight cooking utensils and remember the matches!

  • Water Purification: bring a water filter or purification tablets to ensure safe drinking water.

  • Lights: a good quality head-torch is a must


Selecting a Campsite


When selecting a campsite, consider safety, environmental impact, and aesthetics. Look for a flat, dry area away from water bodies and hiking trails. Avoid areas with fragile ecosystems, and always follow the 'Leave No Trace' principle to minimise your environmental impact.


Navigating and Safety


A good understanding of basic navigation is essential, even if you only plan to use marked trails. Familiarise yourself with maps and compasses and how to use both. Don't rely on your phone or GPS device alone. We venture into the wilderness often to get away from the conveniences of modern life; this also means we are probably away from the mobile phone infrastructure. GPS devices need batteries which run out. Carry extra batteries, but also be prepared to navigate without these devices.


Always inform someone of your plans and expected return time. Be prepared for emergencies by carrying a basic first aid kit (and knowing basic first aid), a whistle, and a means of communication.


Food


What to eat when wild camping is a personal decision, but there are some key considerations:


  • Our energy needs: this will depend on the distance we plan to walk, the terrain and our own condition (weight and fitness, etc), but a rough guide is 2,500 to 4,000 calories per day

  • Weight: remember everything we need has to be carried, so we will need to consider lightweight choices.

  • What foods do you like? There is no use packing foods that are high in calories, lightweight, and convenient to cook but you won't eat.

  • Fragility: everything will need to go in your rucksack. Can the food be stuffed into the rucksack alongside other gear without spoiling or spilling?


For beginners, keep it simple. Instant rice, couscous, noodles, pasta, rice mixes, and other cook-in-the-bag type dinners are easy and simple choices. A few favourite spices and sources are also great for adding personal taste preferences.


Consider variety; a good balance of sweet and savoury options alongside texture choices can help for longer multi-day trips. Include fresh foods, nuts, dried fruits, hard cheeses, cured meats, etc., but remember we also leave refrigeration behind.


Remember the beverages, tea, coffee, hot chocolate.


Where to GO in the outdoors?


What goes in will have to come out at some point, and where and how to go in the wild is a subject many people are concerned about but often don't want to say.


Urinating is straightforward but keep away from water courses, buildings, and tents. Walk some distance from the campsite and step off trails when walking.


When it comes to solids, in simple terms, we have two options: bury it or bag it and carry it out.


The bury option is simple but requires a small shovel/trowel.

It may not be possible to bury due to the environment, type of ground or location. If this is the case, bagging it and carrying it out will be necessary. You may also prefer this option as it leaves no trace in the environment. In some countries, bag and carry is the accepted practice or may be required by the environment or wildlife authorities.


The 'bag it' option is what it says; instead of leaving it in a hole, we bag our solid waste and carry it out with us.



Leave behind only footprints and only take memories


Wild camping provides a unique opportunity to observe wildlife in its natural habitat. However, it is crucial to respect wildlife by keeping a safe distance, securing your food, and avoiding areas where animals are known to be active, especially at night.


Wild camping is more than just an outdoor activity; it's a philosophy that encourages a deep connection with nature, self-reliance, and respect for the environment. You can embrace this ethos by leaving no trace, minimising your impact, and fully immersing yourself in the natural world.


With the right preparation and respect for nature, you can enjoy the many rewards that wild camping has to offer. So, happy camping!




Our outdoor programme focuses on inclusivity, catering to both cautious enthusiasts and beginners. We provide options that range from easy and approachable to more challenging adventures; we create an environment where everyone can discover the joys of the outdoors at a pace that feels right for them.

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