Hikers enjoying a camping meal along a craggy coastline

How To Leave No Trace When Camping

By Alex Guerrero

When we go wild camping or bivvying, we should leave no trace. Just a patch of dry grass where we've been. Here's our guide to respecting people and nature when sleeping out.

We’re advocates for leaving a trace. Controversial we know. Whether we like it or not, we will all make our mark on the earth - let's leave a good one. But when it comes to sleeping outdoors, here are the Alpkit team’s tips on being a respectful wild camper. The aim? To only leave a patch of dry grass where you’ve slept.

10 Tips to Traceless Fun

How do I choose where to camp?

camping tent in mountain scenery
  1. In the UK, it’s only legal to wild camp in Scotland. Everywhere else, it’s best practice to ask the landowner’s permission. Pick a point as far away from habitation as possible so you’re not disturbing anyone.
  2. Stay out of the view of paths.
  3. Find somewhere flat and dry, to avoid soggy bottoms and unwanted in-tent-sliding.
  4. Think about shelter from rain, wind and cold. Exposed areas can be breezy but some wind can keep the midges away! And a top tip from our photographer, Joe: it’s often cold near bodies of water. So if you’re wanting to stay warm, stay away!
  5. Sheltered nooks and crannies are great for keeping away from people.

Check the area when you leave

Double check, triple check, quadruple check that you haven’t left any ridgelines or cords up between trees. It’s easy to do! Especially when you’re in a rush. But they can be dangerous for people and animals moving through the area. It’s not just dangerous for everyone else – it gets expensive for you to replace kit, and it counts as litter.

Avoid fragile animal habitats

Jenny Graham bikepacking tent with water in background

Don’t camp anywhere that’ll affect livestock. That’s dwellings, gardens, farms and some moorlands. In spring and summer, you could disturb ground-nesting birds on moorland. And in the words of our team: “avoid disturbing animals in winter, they have a hard enough job finding food without having to burn calories running away from humans looking for a place to drop a sleeping bag for the night”. We don’t need to make their lives harder just for a midweek bivvy!

How do I protect trees when camping?

Man relaxing in hammock in woodland

If you’re rigging hammocks from trees, take tree protectors to prevent ringbarking (also known as girdling). These can be Velcro tree protection panels that prevent the bark from damage. We recommend using webbing to set up your hammock instead of rope or cord for the same reason. Our E-Commerce Exec Dan advises not to repeatedly use the same trees every time you go hammocking to prevent them from further damage. Those poor trees deserve a rest too!

He also recommends, if you’re hunting for firewood to set up your campfire, never cut branches from live trees. Freshly cut wood is full to the brim of sap. It doesn’t burn well, and it’ll make for a very smokey campfire. Not worth it.

How do I wash up after camping?

Jenny Graham washing up in a stream after bikepacking

“Use 100% natural multipurpose soap for washing so you're not adding any nasty chemicals to the water sources.” – Design Tech, Gabe.

We strongly advise against washing up in a stream. It’ll contaminate the water that other people might be drinking from. Just collect some water (in your pan, or your camping sink), do your washing up elsewhere, and pour your grey water away onto dry land to minimise damage. Easy peasy!

Arrive late, leave early

It causes minimal disturbance to others and means you’re not as likely to be spotted by passersby!

Be discreet

Man lying in Soloist one person tent

To be discreet while camping, pitch out of the line of sight of major footpaths. That’s even easier if you’re following our advice about arriving late and leaving early. Leave nothing but a dry patch of grass when you leave.

How do I go to the toilet when wild camping?

Grab a lightweight trowel and wander away from your camp spot. You want to be away from your water source and your bivvy. Dig, dig, dig! Do your business. Cover the hole with earth – not a rock as this prevents biodegradation.

“Either do a controlled burn of toilet paper or bring a sealable plastic bag to carry it back out with you.” – Alpkit Design Tech, Gabe

How do I light a fire safely when wild camping?

Group around campfire

In the UK, it’s best to avoid lighting a fire. They can spread rapidly, causing a threat to biodiversity, people and properties. Our Alpkit advice is, if you really have to do it, dig slightly down into the grass to find some damper ground, line the outside with stones and flatten any overhanging grasses or bracken which could catch fire.

What do I do with my litter when wild camping?

group camping

If you carried it in, you can carry it out. This includes food which doesn’t decompose as quickly as we think. It just disrupts the ecosystem and the aesthetics. Our Product Developer, Rowan, always carries an empty 3-litre dry bag with him into the hills: “A top tip is to turn your litter drybag inside out. This keeps dirty, wet, saucy, or crumbly rubbish from getting the rest of your kit messy”.

It doesn’t just stop at your own litter. You can even leave a spot better than you found it! Another team tip is to line your dry bag with a bin bag so you can pick it out and dispose of it when you get home.


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