This Wild Camping Dorset guide is designed to help anyone wanting to wild camp in this beautiful county. Wild camping means pitching your tent, not in a designated campsite.

Dorset, a county steeped in natural beauty and rich history, lies along England’s southwestern coast. Famous for its Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Dorset offers a stunning mosaic of breathtaking cliffs, idyllic beaches, and fossil-strewn shorelines. Beyond the coast is rolling countryside, dotted with quaint villages.

It’s one of my absolute favourite places to visit!

Wild camping is a great way to connect with Dorset’s natural spaces. It’s important to note, though, that the wild camping opportunities are fewer in Dorset than in many other counties. There are a lot of organised campsites in the region and few truley vast open. There are many bird nesting sites which should be avoided by campers at all costs.

When done respectfully and considerately, though, it is entirely possible. If you are unfamiliar with the ‘Leave no Trace’ practices, it is vital that you If you are unfamiliar with these or are new to wild camping, start by reading my comprehensive Wild Camping UK guide.

Because there are fewer opportunities to wild camp, using a bivvy bag (camping without a tent) can really open up Dorset for wild campers. For advice on bivvy bag camping, check out my Bivvy Camping Guide. 

You might also want to check out:

Before we begin…

If you are new to this blog, I’m Bex Band – a full-time UK adventurer, bestselling author, and founder of the women’s adventure community Love Her Wild. I never used to be outdoorsy, but that all changed when, in my late 20’s, I decided, on a whim, to hike a 1000km trail.

Since then, I’ve been addicted to going on adventures and have made it my mission to make getting outdoors as easy as possible.

For ongoing tips and inspiration on camping and adventure, make sure you follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Or you can subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Is wild camping in Dorset legal?

It’s important to acknowledge that wild camping in the UK, including in Dorset, isn’t officially permitted without the landowner’s consent. Unfortunately, much of the country’s natural landscapes are privately owned, making it difficult to ascertain ownership and secure permission for camping.

This shouldn’t deter you; trespassing is considered a civil matter, not a criminal one. This means you won’t find yourself in legal trouble for simply camping. The worst you will likely face is an angry farmer asking you to move on.

If you wild camp properly, no one will see you, and no one will ever know that you were ever there!

To camp respectfully means to LEAVE NO TRACE of your stay, set up your camp late in the day and depart early in the morning, avoid starting fires, and if you’re ever asked to leave by a landowner, to do so calmly and without argument.

I’ve personally only had positive experiences of wild camping. I’ve never been asked to move on. Even in urban settings (like in London), I’ve been able to find somewhere to pitch my tent undetected.

Best places to Wild Camp in Dorset

One of the most satisfying parts of wild camping is planning and discovering your own camping spot. Use these suggestions below as a general guide before grabbing an OS Map of Dorset and working out your own potential wild camping spots.

When choosing potential spots on a map, you are looking for flat spaces (contour lines are far apart), away from residential houses and main paths. I usually have three potential spots in mind as backups.

Trails are usually a safe option for wild campers. In Dorset, the South West Coast Path stretches the full length of the Jurassic Coast. It’s, in my opinion, one of the best trails in the UK, offering endless rugged coastlines.

There are endless opportunities to pitch a tent or bivvy on quieter stretches of the path or on secluded beaches. This blog post about a Kayaking and wild camping adventure shows the sort of spaces you are looking for. As does this short video:

Winspit Caves is a popular choice for a Dorset wild camp. Don’t camp in the caves, but head to the flat areas above the caves or near the trail.

Or find a quiet spot overlooking Chapmans Pool:

Never camp too close to the cliff edge! You’ll want to avoid exposed cliff edges in bad weather.

Also, remember to check tide times and lines if you ever camp on a beach.

If you aren’t confident with knowing where the tideline is, then it’s best to camp off the beach on a grassy verge like this guy did while wild camping on the Jurrasic Coast:

If you prefer the idea of camping in the woods (not in strong winds due to the risk of falling branches), then Puddletown Forest, Thorncombe Wood or Wareham Forest are good options for a wild camping Dorset adventure.

Best resources and gear for wild camping

These are two great books that any wild camping enthusiast should have on their shelves:

  • Britain’s Best Small Hill’s – written by adventurer Phoebe Smith, this book lists suggestions for wild camping spots on hills across Britain
  • Microadvenutres – a guide packed full of inspiration for camping and other micro adventures, written by adventurer Alastair Humphreys

Always check The Met Office for a weather forecast before you head off. When wild camping, you are exposed to the elements, so be wary of places that might flood in wet weather or other dangers such as falling trees or rocks.

I’ve spent many years reviewing and trying out different gear and brands. Here are my top recommendations:

  • Tent: The MSR Hubba Hubba (2 person or 1 person) , available in both two-person and one-person sizes, stands as a top-tier choice for wilderness camping. For a more budget-friendly option, the Vango Nevis 200 offers affordability and resilience against storms. For those contemplating a bivvy camp, the Alpkit Hunka bivvy bag is an excellent choice due to its lightweight and reduced condensation.

  • Sleeping Bag: Opt for the Tundra Pure and Dry 0 for its warmth and lightweight; a simpler and less expensive Vango sleeping bag suffices for summer use.

  • Other essential gear for wilderness camping:
    • Headtorch: Choose the Petzl Tikkina or simply use your phone’s torch.
    • Water Bottle
    • Food and Snacks
    • Rucksack: The Osprey Eja 38 is perfectly sized for wilderness camping.
    • Phone: Essential for safety.
    • Anker Power Bank: A backup charger for your phone.

Good Luck!

I hope you found this wild camping Dorset guide helpful. If you have any questions, or know any good places that you are happy to share, please use the comment box below. I’d also love to hear how you get on with your stealth camp!

For more adventure inspiration and advice, follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Or you can subscribe to my YouTube channel.

I give all my advice for free on my website. If you want to say thanks, you can buy me a coffee!

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