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A Guide to Wild Camping in the UK

Going on a wild camping adventure in the UK offers an unparalleled opportunity to reconnect with nature, sleep under the stars, and experience the great outdoors in its purest form. However, it's essential to navigate the different laws, respect the environment, and be considerate of landowners and each other to ensure these beautiful landscapes remain unspoiled for all adventurers and to ensure we can all continue to wild camp in the future.


Wild camping at The Old Man of Storr, Scotland
Wild Camping at The Old Man of Storr, Scotland

Contents:


What is Wild Camping?

Wild camping is the practice of camping in remote, natural areas away from established campsites and often without the amenities provided at traditional campgrounds. It's an immersive experience that allows adventurers to connect deeply with nature, enjoy the solitude of the wilderness, and explore off-the-beaten-path locations.


Unlike conventional camping, wild camping typically involves setting up camp in undeveloped areas where there are no designated facilities such as restrooms, picnic tables, or fire pits. This type of camping requires a higher level of self-sufficiency and preparedness, as campers must bring all necessary supplies and be ready to deal with various weather conditions and terrain.


Wild camping is about embracing minimalism and self-reliance. It’s about carrying everything you need on your back, from your shelter and sleeping system to your cooking gear and food. It encourages a deep respect for the environment, as campers aim to leave no trace of their presence and preserve the natural beauty of the landscapes they visit.


The allure of wild camping lies in its simplicity and the unique opportunities it offers. Imagine waking up to the sound of birdsong in a secluded forest, witnessing a breathtaking sunrise over a remote mountain range, or stargazing in a field miles away from the nearest town. Wild camping provides a chance to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and reconnect with the tranquility of the natural world.


However, wild camping also comes with responsibilities. Understanding the legalities, respecting the land and its owners, and following principles like Leave No Trace are crucial to ensuring that these wild places remain pristine and accessible for future adventurers.


Whether you’re a seasoned camper or a novice looking to embark on your first wild camping trip, this guide will provide you with essential information and tips to make your adventure safe, enjoyable, and environmentally responsible.



Understanding the Laws: England, Wales, and Scotland


England

Most land in England is privately owned by landowners. While wild camping isn't illegal, the only way to wild camp legally in England is by seeking permission from the landowner. The only place where wild camping is legally permitted in England without explicit landowner permission was Dartmoor National Park. Camping had been assumed to be allowed under the Dartmoor Commons Act since 1985, until a judge ruled otherwise in January 2023.


Following this ruling, the Dartmoor National Park Authority won an appeal against the decision to ban wild camping on the moors. However, the right to wild camp on Dartmoor is under threat again after the Supreme Court granted permission for a wealthy landowner to bring a case against it. This ongoing legal battle continues to put the future of wild camping in Dartmoor in jeopardy. Check out the Dartmoor Wild Camping guide HERE.


Lake District and other National Park authorities are generally tolerant of responsible wild campers who follow ‘leave no trace’ principles, although they don’t have designated wild camping areas.


Whilst wild camping is not a criminal offence (you cannot be arrested), it is a civil offence of 'trespass' (you can be fined) so if you are asked to move on, then be respectful and move on.


Wales

The rules surrounding wild camping in Wales are much the same as in England – permission must be gained from the landowner. In Eryri (Snowdonia) National Park, the park authority owns only a small amount of land within the park, so it recommends speaking to the landowner for permission to camp or finding a campsite within the park.


Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons) National Park authorities have a list of landowners who allow campers on their land. You can pick up a list of wild camping locations from any of the Brecon Beacons visitor centres.


Northern Ireland

Wild camping is illegal in Northern Ireland unless you have gained the landowner’s permission. However, wild camping is allowed at some Northern Ireland Forestry Service sites if you book ahead or buy a permit.


Scotland

Wild camping is legal in most of Scotland, thanks to the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. Under this law, wild campers are allowed to pitch up on most unenclosed land. One exception is Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, which is now subject to wild camping byelaws following overuse and damage to the natural environment. This means that camping is only permitted within campsites or with a camping permit. The wild camping 'leave no trace' guidelines remain vital in Scotland to avoid damaging the natural environment or disturbing local wildlife. It is worth reading up on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code before you go.


Hikers in Scottish mountains with Loch views
Right to Roam in Scotland

Leave No Trace: A Guiding Principle

If you plan to go wild camping, it's crucial to understand the principle of Leave No Trace. This ethos emphasises minimising your impact on the environment:

  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare: Research your destination thoroughly. Understand the local regulations, weather conditions, and the specific flora and fauna you might encounter. Proper preparation helps minimise the impact on the environment and ensures your safety.

  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces: Stick to established paths and campsites whenever possible. Avoid camping on fragile ecosystems such as marshes, meadows, and riverbanks, which can be easily damaged. Instead, choose rocky or sandy areas that can withstand human activity without lasting effects.

  3. Dispose of Waste Properly: Always take all litter, leftover food, and toilet paper. Bring sealable bags for waste and carry it out with you. For human waste, dig a "cathole" at least 15cm deep and 30m away from any water sources, trails, and campsites to prevent contamination and maintain hygiene. You could alternatively bag it and bin it.

  4. Leave What You Find: Preserve the natural environment by not picking plants, flowers, or rocks. Avoid disturbing historical or cultural artifacts. This helps maintain the integrity of the natural and cultural landscape.

  5. Minimise Campfire Impact: Instead of building open fires, use a portable camping stove for cooking. If a fire is necessary, use existing fire rings, keep fires small, and burn only small sticks found on the ground. Ensure the fire is completely extinguished before leaving.

  6. Respect Wildlife: Observe animals from a distance to avoid disturbing them. Never feed wildlife as it can alter their natural behaviours and diet, and always store food securely to prevent attracting animals to your campsite.

  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors: Maintain a low profile, keep noise to a minimum, and respect the experience of other outdoor enthusiasts. Yield the trail to others and camp away from popular paths and trails.

Wild camping in the Lakes at sunset
Wild camping in The Lakes

Dusk till Dawn: The Golden Rule

In addition to the leave no trace principle you should also abide by the 'Dusk till Dawn' rule: arrive late, depart early! Aim to arrive at your chosen spot late in the day to minimise disruption to others, and depart early before other hikers begin their day. Limit your stay to one night whenever possible to lessen your environmental impact. While some areas may permit longer stays, strive to keep your visit brief to preserve the local environment. Keep group sizes small to reduce disturbance to wildlife, and minimise noise and light wherever feasible.


Are you Fly Camping or Wild Camping?

The issue with wild camping is that some people aren't actually wild camping, they are 'fly camping'. Fly camping is where people leave their tents, rubbish, and other belongings behind and it is a significant problem in many wild camping areas. This irresponsible behaviour not only tarnishes the natural beauty of these spaces but also has severe impacts on the environment and local wildlife.


Environmental Impact
  • Litter and Pollution: Abandoned tents, plastic bottles, food wrappers, and other debris can take years to decompose, leading to long-term pollution or leading to others having to come and clear up the mess. This litter can harm local wildlife, who may ingest or become entangled in it, leading to injury or death.

  • Soil and Water Contamination: Non-biodegradable waste and chemicals from camping equipment can seep into the soil and water sources, contaminating them. This can affect plant life and animals that rely on these water sources, as well as other campers and hikers.

  • Destruction of Natural Habitats: Leftover camping gear and rubbish can damage delicate ecosystems. Plants can be crushed under discarded tents, and animals may be driven away from their natural habitats due to the presence of foreign objects and pollutants.


Visual and Social Impact
  • Aesthetic Damage: One of the appeals of wild camping is the pristine, untouched beauty of nature. Fly camping destroys this by leaving behind unsightly rubbish and abandoned gear, ruining the experience for other campers and hikers.

  • Negative Perception: Irresponsible camping behaviour such as fly camping can often be parallel to anti-social behaviour and leads to negative perceptions of wild campers as a whole, but especially from landowners. This can result in stricter regulations and even bans on wild camping, affecting those who camp responsibly and respect nature.


Why Fly Camping Occurs
  • Lack of Awareness: Some people may not be aware of the principles of Leave No Trace and the importance of packing out everything they bring in.

  • Convenience: Carrying all rubbish and gear back can be seen as inconvenient, especially for those who are not committed to responsible camping practices.

  • Inadequate Preparation: Unprepared campers might lack the necessary equipment, such as trash bags, to properly pack out their waste.


How to Combat Fly Camping
  • Education: Increasing awareness about the environmental and social impacts of fly camping is crucial. Promoting Leave No Trace principles and responsible camping practices through various platforms can help educate campers.

  • Provide Facilities: Where possible, providing waste disposal facilities and clearly marked rubbish bins in popular camping areas can reduce littering.

  • Stricter Enforcement: Implementing and enforcing stricter penalties for those caught fly camping can deter people from leaving their rubbish behind.

  • Community Efforts: Organising clean-up events and involving the community in maintaining the cleanliness of camping areas can foster a sense of shared responsibility.


Fly camping in the UK
Fly Camping (photo: Northumberland Gazette)

Wild Camping Essential Kit List

So you've read this Guide to Wild Camping in the UK, planned a trip, chosen an epic location and now you just need to pack! Packing the right gear is crucial for a successful wild camping trip. Here’s a list of essentials to ensure comfort, safety, and minimal environmental impact:

  • Tent: A lightweight 1 or 2 man tent that is easy to carry and quick to set up. Look for tents that blend into the environment to maintain a low profile. I use a Terranova Compact 1 , you can check out the full Terranova range HERE.


  • Sleeping Bag: Choose a sleeping bag rated for the season and temperatures you'll be camping in. Men and women have different sleeping needs due to variations in body temperature regulation and sleeping positions. Women generally sleep colder than men (about 10-15 degrees colder!) and so we require more insulation in our sleeping bags to achieve the same comfort level. Also take in account your height and size when choosing a sleeping bag. I use the Deuter Exosphere -6 To find one that fits your needs check out the wide selection at Go Outdoors.


  • Sleeping Mat: A compact and lightweight sleeping mat for insulation and comfort. Consider getting a self inflating mat! They literally self inflate and are super comfy to sleep on. Check out the selection available at Go Outdoors.


  • Pillow: You don't need to buy anything specific to make a pillow. Simply stuff some clothing into a dry bag and tada.... you've got yourself a great pillow. If that doesn't take your fancy you could always pack an inflatable pillow instead.


  • Backpack: A durable and comfortable backpack to carry all your gear. I manage to fit all my wild camping gear into my 40L Osprey Tempest backpack, but if you'd like to take some extra or luxuries then i'd recommend getting a bigger one. 50-60L tend to be what anyone doing an expedition or long distance trekking use. Osprey have a great range of backpacks for you to check out HERE!


  • Camping Stove: A portable stove for cooking. Examples include the Jetboil range or MSR PocketRocket. Don't forget your cutlery and take a rubbish bag so you can pack all your rubbish and bring it away with you at the end of your stay. I have used a Colemans for years but have now invested in a Jetboil Minimo and boy are they good! Boils water in 2 minutes!


  • Food: Pack lightweight, non-perishable food. Dehydrated meals are perfect! Firepot are my absolute fave offering delicious and nutritious food without any nasties in! Alternatives include; Torq, Wayfayrer, Real Turmat and Summit To Eat. You could also just have instant noodles, tuna salad pots, porridge pots. Take some trail mix (nuts, seeds, granola, sweets- you can make this up yourself) and energy bars. Tea or coffee bags are great to have as a morning pick me up, as is a hot chocolate sachet and a little treat to have before bed.



  • Water: Water is heavy to carry, so it's best to camp near a water source. Running water is generally safer than still water and should be collected as close to the source as possible. Always check upstream for any signs of animal carcasses or waste. Use a reliable water filter or boil the water before drinking to ensure it is safe. A reusable water bottle and a water filter or purification tablets are essential to ensure safe drinking water. I usually carry 1L of water with me and take my Katadyn Be Free 1L collapsible bottle to refill. You could also consider using the Lifestraw Collapsible Squeeze Bottle or similar.



  • Map and Compass: Essential for navigation, especially in remote areas with poor GPS signal! Check out the wide selection at Ordnance Survey.


  • Clothing: Layered clothing for varying mountainous weather conditions, including waterproofs, thermal layers, and a hat/gloves are needed especially for when it gets cold at night. I wear Acai Outdoorwear on pretty much all my outdoor adventures. For sleeping when I wild camp i wear Primark plush lined leggings- they are so cosy!!


  • Emergency Kit: Pack a power bank and charging cable to keep your phone charged and a basic first aid kit for treating minor injuries.


  • Multi-tool: A versatile multi-tool for various tasks and repairs such as a Swiss army knife.


  • Rubbish Bags: To pack out all litter and waste. Remember... Leave No Trace


  • Toiletries: Pack wet wipes for washing, toilet paper, and a trowel for digging 'catholes'. Other essentials include mosquito repellent, tick repellant, tick tweezers, toothbrush and paste.... Try to get some mini toiletries to keep things light and minimal.


  • Fire: Pack waterproof matches, a lighter, or a fire starter kit.


Pack everything in dry bags to keep them, well, dry!




Safety Whilst Wild Camping

The key to safety is in your hands, there are lots of things you can do to make your wild camping experience as safe as possible.

  • Leave a Route Plan: Share your planned route and expected return time with someone trustworthy. Agree on actions to take if you don't return as scheduled, including when to contact emergency services.

  • Check Weather, Daylight, and Tide Times: Before setting out, review the weather forecast, daylight hours, and tide times if near water. Choose your campsite accordingly to enhance safety and comfort.


  • Carry a Personal First Aid Kit: Include essential items and emergency contact details. Store emergency information on your phone for quick access, even when locked.


  • Keep a Head Torch Handy: Ensure easy access to a head torch for nighttime activities around your campsite.


  • Have Your Mobile Ready: Keep your phone charged and store emergency contacts. Use apps like What3Words or Ordnance Survey Locate app to pinpoint your location in emergencies.


Fear can be a huge factor that puts people off going on a wild camping adventure. For women particularly, personal safety, especially when out on the hill or wild camping alone is a huge concern.

Here are some things you can do as a woman to feel safer:

  • Avoid Advertising: Refrain from posting camping plans on social media.

  • Be Cautious with Information: When chatting with strangers, avoid disclosing your exact destination. Use vague responses or mention meeting someone else if feeling uneasy.

  • Choose Remote sites: Camp away from towns and villages to lower the likelihood of encountering others.

  • Carry a Personal Alarm: Keep a personal alarm handy, both for alerting others and feeling secure during dusk or night walks.


  • Blend In: Consider using a bivvy bag instead of a tent for a less conspicuous presence.


Im sorry to say it lads, but men tend to be women's biggest fear, normally due having had previous bad experiences of physical or sexual assault or harassment. We know it's not all men, but it's hard not to feel anxious and vulnerable when you're out alone and you have had these horrible experiences. When wild camping or hiking, men can take specific actions to help women feel safer and more comfortable in outdoor spaces. Here are some things men can do:

  • Avoid Following Closely: If you're walking behind a woman on a trail, maintain a respectful distance, consider speeding up to pass her or slowing down to create distance.


  • Announce Your Presence: If you're coming up behind someone, make some noise to announce your approach, such as a friendly greeting, to avoid startling her.


  • Respect Personal Space: When passing or meeting on the trail, give plenty of room and avoid standing too close during conversations.


  • Limit Unnecessary Interactions: While it's natural to be friendly, avoid prolonged conversations unless it’s clear that she’s comfortable and interested in chatting.


  • Be Mindful of Body Language: Keep your body language open and non-threatening. Avoid gestures that might be perceived as intimidating.


  • Offer Help Respectfully: If you see someone who looks like they might need assistance, offer help in a way that doesn’t make them feel obligated or uncomfortable. Accept a "no" gracefully.


  • Camp Considerately: When setting up camp, choose a spot a reasonable distance away from solo campers or smaller groups, especially if they are women.


  • Keep Conversations Neutral: Avoid making comments about her appearance or personal questions that could be perceived as intrusive or inappropriate.


  • Be an Ally: If you see someone being harassed or in an uncomfortable situation, offer your support in a non-confrontational way. Sometimes just your presence can help.


  • Use Technology Wisely: Avoid taking photos of other people without their permission, and don't share locations of remote campsites on social media without considering privacy.


By being considerate and respectful, men can help create a safer and more welcoming environment for women enjoying the outdoors.



So there we have it, wild camping in the UK can be a magical experience if done responsibly. By respecting the laws, following the Leave No Trace principles, and being mindful of landowners, the environment and each other, we can ensure that these wild places remain pristine and accessible for all adventurers into the future.


So, pack your bag, plan your route, and set out on a wild camping adventure that leaves nothing behind but footprints and takes away nothing but memories and grid full of photos!


Happy wild camping!


I hope you have enjoyed this Guide to Wild Camping in the UK! Check out my social media for more...


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2 則留言

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訪客
6月28日
評等為 5(最高為 5 顆星)。

A very good guide.

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訪客
6月26日
評等為 5(最高為 5 顆星)。

Such a great comprehensive guide! I love it!!

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