Twelve tips for wild camping beginners

How to go wild camping: wild camping tips beginners

Dreaming of sleeping wild but not sure where to start when you’re away from the safety of your favourite campsite? Grab your tent and get exploring – my twelve top wild camping tips for beginners will give you the knowledge and confidence you need to go further afield.

1, Know the law
Sadly, wild camping isn’t legal in most of Britain. The exception in England is Dartmoor National Park, where it’s permitted in some specific parts of the park, and some other (usually mountainous) areas where wild camping can be tolerated. The good news is that you can camp on unenclosed land in Scotland if you follow the access rights established by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 – note that Loch Lomond is one exception, as the area is subject to its own bylaws. Do some research before you go, and read online rules and advice carefully for your chosen spot. On Dartmoor, for example, ‘backpack’ or wild camping is accepted if you camp for one or two nights, stay well away from roads and houses and leave no trace of your visit, and the park authority have an interactive map where you can check where wild camping is and isn’t permitted.

2, Be safe
Make sure you’ve let someone know where you’ll be and when you expect to return. Carry both a physical Ordnance Survey map and a GPS app on your phone, as well as a head torch and a first aid kit. It’s best to avoid heading out in very bad weather, too.

3, Practise at home
You don’t want to be faffing around with a tricky new tent or a temperamental camping stove when you’re camping somewhere remote. Practice setting up your tent and using your equipment at a campsite (or even in your back garden) before you venture further afield.  

Wild camping in Scotland Sian Lewis The Girl Outdoors

4, Start simple
Even if you’re dreaming of epic multi-day hikes and remote wild camping spots, it’s best to start with a simple, easy wild camping night while you learn the basics. Pick a spot close to home and camp just for one night. Dartmoor is a great choice, as it’s legal to camp on some parts of the moorland, and you can park up your car, map a route onto the moors and spend a night in the open without being miles away from roads and your phone charger (or from that extra down jacket you wish you’d put in your rucksack).

5, Pack light
Wild camping is all about packing light, so you aren’t weighed down when walking finding a camping spot, and so that you leave as little impact on the environment as possible. That said, some kit is non-negotiable – you’ll need a tent or bivvy bag, a sleeping bag, sleeping mat, water, food, a stove and fuel, a head torch and a map, plus warm, waterproof clothing.

6, Choose a small tent
You’re aiming to blend in to the landscape, so don’t bring your massive family palace complete with porch – a lightweight one- or two-man tent is your best bet. Or even better, try hammock camping – hammocks blend in nicely in woodland.

wild camping tips for beginners The Girl Outdoors Sian Lewis

7, Pick the right spot
Look for flat, dry ground and some shelter from the wind. Avoid camping on farmland, and don’t camp anywhere that looks like it might be in use (such as fields or near houses or roads).

8, Arrive late, leave early
It’s good practise to set up your tent at twilight and leave it early in the morning, thus leaving as little trace of your presence as possible for other people working or walking in the landscape where you’re camping.

9, Leave no trace
There should be no trace of your visit – carry all your trash home with you.

wild camping in Snowdonia

10, Never light a campfire
Never light an open fire – this is to avoid damaging the ground or a letting a fire getting out of control. Take a small camping stove to cook on, instead.

11, Pack a few luxuries
Wild camping is definitely all about being minimal – but it can make all the difference if you pack a few extras to make your tent feel like a cosy home. A camping pillow makes for a good night’s sleep, a small lantern is useful if you’re arriving in the evening and if you’re on your own, a cheerful book or a funny podcast to listen to can help you relax.  

12, Try bivvying
Got the wild camping bug? Go even more minimal and try bivvy bag camping. A bivouac or bivvy is a waterproof bag you pop over your sleeping bag to protect you from the elements. It’s no-frills camping, but it’s also the most subtle way to wild camp – and you’ll also feel really close to nature. You might even get to wake up to a wonderful sunrise.

Wild camping at night under stars Sian Lewis

After more wild camping tips? Try my guides to How to go bivvy bag camping

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