Everyone should try wild camping at least once in their lifetime. It’s the easiest, most purest way to connect with nature and is perfect for a 1 night mini adventure. If you’ve not done it before, I’ve put together this guide to get you started
What is wild camping and why do it
Wild camping is camping somewhere that is not on a designated camping site. Sometimes I wild camp because I am on a multi-day trek or high up in the mountains and campsites are too tricky to access. Sometimes I wild camp though just because I prefer it – it’s quieter, you get the place to yourself and it’s free!
The downside (for some) is that you don’t have facilities such as running water, showers and toilets. But this is something you can easily get used to.
The legality of wild camping
In most places in the UK it is technically illegal to wild camp unless you are in Scotland or Dartmoor, where the rules are different. Generally speaking though if you follow these basic rules it is tolerated:
- don’t camp if the land is obviously private (without asking permission first)
- be discrete – camp somewhere a bit hidden and don’t be noisy
- pitch late and leave early
- don’t leave a trace – that means tacking all rubbish with you and leaving the place as you found it
- don’t light any fires
You have to accept that there is a small chance you will be asked to move on by land owners. However, in all the times I have wild camped, this has never happened to me.
Where to try it
In the UK, one of the best places to start is the Highlands, Lake District or Snowdonia where you are so remote and out of the way. It is easy to find running water and a suitable places to camp. Another good place to try is Peak District, Yorkshire Downs or the South Downs where you will have no bother pitching, even if it is just off a track. On the top of Box Hill is another favourite of mine.
If you are feeling more adventurous though you can try going anywhere – that woods nearby, a favourite park or a quiet area by the coast. When you do pitch in a less remote place, try and choose somewhere out of site of paths or popular routes and a little bit hidden – for your own feeling of security as much as reducing the chances of being spotted.
I’ve been seen plenty of times and nothing has happened. Imagine if you were walking in the woods and saw a tent, would you do anything? Probably not! The first night you camp will probably feel a bit strange but the more you do it the easier it becomes and the more relaxed you feel knowing that you really can find a sleeping spot anywhere.
While doing my Scoop the Loop challenge, I found places to sleep in London including a rugby pitch and a small well used park. I didn’t get any bother at all.
What does it mean to Bivvy (or bivvi)?
It simply means sleeping out without a tent. There are lots of advantages to bivvying over a tent such as you have less to carry, bivvy bags are cheaper, you are more inconspicuous making it easier to stay hidden. You are also properly outside which is way more adventurous.
Bivvy for a night, what you need
You will need a basic sleeping kit: warm cloths, sleeping bag and a roll mat. If it is really hot and the ground is dry you can just sleep out like that, though dew and showers will likely ruining your experience. To keep you dry you need a Bivvy bag which is basically a waterproof liner for your sleeping bag.
They can cost anywhere between £5-150 pounds and the £30+ one should be decent quality (the better the quality the more waterproof and the less likely it is to ‘sweat’). If you don’t want to spend lots or just want to try it for a night first, get a cheap survival bag which costs just a few pounds. I use a Mountain Hardwear mid range bag which is ok but not the best.
Be warned though you will wake up with the outside of your sleeping bag damp from condensation. If this is only for 1 night though it will do the trick.
Finally, if it is properly going to rain, you can pitch up a basha (tarp) to keep your face and bags from getting wet. Again you can improvise with a cheap plastic tarp you get from the garage or invest in a good quality one for around £30. I use a DD tarp which is great.
Your bivvy set up
To use a bivvy just pull it over your sleeping bag and over your head, but leave a gap for your mouth to breath – this will reduce condensation. It is up to you if you have your roll matt outside of the bivvy bag or inside. I prefer mine inside. It protects it, stops it getting wet and prevents me from sliding off. If you sleep with your legs bent though, you may find it more comfortable with the roll matt outside.
Remember that a bivvy is noticeably colder than a tent so make sure you bring plenty of warm clothing to keep you snug.
If you have never wild camped before, I really urge you to give it a go. If you are nervous, join a group to do it with for the first time. I spent a night wild camping with the Yes Tribe and had a great time.