Wild camping is camping anywhere outside of a recognised campsite. It could be pitching your your tent on the mountain-side in preparation for a sunrise summit, stringing your hammock up in your local woods, or a weekend bikepacking bivvy trip.
Make sure you have a rough idea of where you're going, map out your route, and that you tell someone where and for how long you'll be gone. Although you can wild camp totally safely in the UK, it's always best to let friends know where you are just in case you do need some help in an emergency.
In the UK most land is privately owned and so strictly you need landowner permission to camp otherwise you may be asked to move on. Scotland and is an exception to this, where local laws allow wild camping.
Wild camping is generally accepted in unenclosed fells when done responsibly by small groups. If you do have your eye on another spot, we recommend seeking permission from the landowner.
Wild camping is totally safe compared to driving, nights out and most other activities. Just take necessary precautions: take appropriate kit for the weather; telling people where you're going and when you expect to be back; take basic first aid equipment and a battery pack for phones and electronic navigation.
When you need to go, find a spot at least 50 metres away from running water (streams and rivers); dig a hole; leave your business and cover with earth when finished. Take toilet paper and wipes out with you. It's the one thing everyone wants to know but no one wants to ask!
Our UK wild camping kit list always includes:
Ultimately what you take with you will depend on where you're going, how long you're going for and what you expect the weather to be like.
Remember you'll also be carrying your wild camping kit, so it all needs to be light, packable and, at the end of a long day of adventuring, make your life a little bit better.
Exactly how you pack your rucksack will depend on your trip, but we've developed a few tips for keeping weight down...
We all have a tendency to over pack, throwing in things we think will be necessary. Though this may seem like a good idea, trying to stuff 50kg of kit into a 35 litre backpack, whilst making sure everything is accessible is a nightmare (believe us). Not to mention trying to haul everything up and down mountains!
Dehydrated foods are a lifesaver. They're lightweight, packed full of calories, and some don't even taste half bad either. If you're really gram counting, freeze-dried meals are even lighter, but you often end up sacrificing taste for weight.
Of course, how many calories you need to consume depends on how much you're burning throughout the day. Will you be strolling through fields or pedalling up mountain passes?
We often need nibbles to see us through the day. High energy snacks like bananas, nuts and dried fruits are great for keeping spirits high and legs moving. Energy bars take up little space but are worth their weight in gold when you're in need of a boost.
Sam Needham wild camping and cycling across the Faroe Islands | Image: Sam Needham
Look at the surrounding area and ground conditions. Think about possible flooding or water-logging: are you away from the trail, are the trees safe to shelter under? If you don't have a planned spot in mind, be sure to keep an eye out well before sunset.
Knowing what to look for can be the difference between getting a great meal and good night's sleep, or wandering around in the dark for hours being cold, tired and hungry.
Is it flat? Anything that might damage the tent or cause discomfort? Any sign the ground is waterlogged or might be? If in hilly terrain and there is a chance of rain, might water get funnelled towards the camp?
Any signs of large or potentially dangerous animals that suggest this is a spot best avoided?
"Even in the UK I’ve had a stag get furious at me for camping in his woodland, and on another occasion, a small herd of cows and horses appeared together because I had apparently chosen their favourite tree to bivvy under." - Mark Hines
Any danger of falling rocks or trees? Is the area too exposed if there is a thunderstorm? Are you likely to be disturbed during the night or morning by walkers, vehicles or people in nearby towns/buildings?
Sleeping close to a river can be lovely but is the camp in danger if the water level rises?
Time spent ensuring the location and camp set-up are both very good is time well-invested. The reward comes in the form of a better night’s sleep and being in better shape for the next day as a result.
If someone catches you wild camping, just be polite and move on - unless you had permission to sleep there! If not, you could be fined for trespassing on private land.
Mark Hines wild camping in the Arctic | Image: Mark Hines
The first rule of Wild Camping Club is...actually really simple! Leave No Trace: if you take it in, you carry it out.
Good wild camping practice makes it possible for us to keep getting out there! Wherever you choose to camp, make sure that you always do the following: