Beginners Guide To Wild Camping
She's Going Solo may receive commissions for links included in articles to Amazon and other affiliate partners. Recommendations are not given out lightly and all products recommended have been tried and tested.
Are you looking to experience the wonders of Wild Camping in the UK? If so, then you've come to the right place!
I'll cover the basics of Wild Camping UK, from local laws to leave no trace principles and what to pack to finding the perfect spot. We'll also look at what to eat, entertainment options, safety advice, where to go to the toilet, and some frequently asked questions.
So, if you're a beginner, let's go with our Guide to Wild Camping in the UK.
What is Wild Camping?
Wild camping is an outdoor activity that involves setting up a temporary campsite in a remote, outdoor location without the use of any existing facilities or services. It is an opportunity to disconnect from everyday life and explore nature, often with minimal gear and little planning. Wild camping is an excellent way to experience the great outdoors, and with the proper preparation, it can be a safe and enjoyable experience.
Wild camping is generally permitted throughout Scotland under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, which outlines access rights. However, the 'anywhere' rule has a few exceptions, such as not pitching up in someone's front garden or making a nuisance.
In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, due to the Countryside Rights of Way Act of 2000, the vast majority of mountainsides, which before were off limits, are now accessible to the public. However, general camping rules require permission from the landowner.
There seem to be similar regulations in England and Wales; it may not technically be illegal; one doesn't have the right to pitch a tent without the landowner's permission. However, you would commit a crime due to your refusal to leave, and the police could arrest you. In addition, Wild Camping was allowed in parts of Dartmoor; however, this is now in debate following a ruling to ban wild camping by a court case from a landowner. For up-to-date details on this, please see here.
All that said, In England and Wales, wild camping is tolerated (although I cannot speak for all areas). The National Trust, which owns much land in The Lake District, has recognised guidelines (see here) due to its desire to preserve the countryside. Their primary focus is distinguishing between illegal fly camping (not following this post's guidelines) and acceptable wild camping.
I have never been asked to move on; however, if a landowner insists that you move on and it is safe to do so, you should with little fuss. Furthermore, I have only wild camped within National Park boundaries, where we have the right to roam. If you move outside of these boundaries, then you may run afoul of a farmer or landowner.
Unfortunately for Northern Ireland, it seems much less tolerated as there is no right to roam.
What are Wild Camping 'Rules'
Wild camping is a unique and thrilling experience that allows adventurers to explore nature in its purest form. However, before embarking on any Wild Camping trip, it's essential to know the local rules, as above, and follow some regulations to protect the environment and other campers.
Camp Above the Highest Fell Wall
Your campsite needs to be unobtrusive, away from footpaths, not near a water source, and above the highest fell wall (Usually around 400m+). The National Trust consider camping below the fall wall and at a lakeshore or any lowland area illegal fly camping unless it is in a designated campsite.
Keep Your Group Small
Never camp with more than three tents; if you arrive at a spot where other people are camping, then move on and find somewhere else, so always have a backup plan. I have seen some popular places with around 35 tents pitched up; this isn't wild camping! This is a campsite, and these areas cannot sustain this. Please move on.
We must have all seen the devastation fires have caused in our countryside over the warmer months, so fires and BBQs should not be lit. They will damage the ground and can quickly spread, particularly in summer. Any fire, even enclosed by rocks, will damage the environment, as will a disposable BBQ, so these should not be used any time of the year.
From Dusk till Dawn
No one should see you, so you shouldn't be setting up camp at dusk, and you need to be clearing camp at dawn, therefore only staying one night. Let's keep the countryside view for other people wanting to experience it as it's meant to be.
I have written a full blog post on The Rules of Wild Camping, see here
Leave No Trace Principles
As well as the rules above, the leave no trace principles must also be adhered to. This important concept is a widely accepted code of outdoor ethics and involves respecting nature, wildlife and fellow visitors. The goal of 'leave no trace' is to help preserve the beauty of the environment for years to come by being mindful of our impact on it
Plan Ahead and Prepare
Respect the signs and regulations.
Check the weather forecast and be prepared for changing weather conditions by having the skills and equipment you need for your activity.
Keeping group sizes small is essential for environmental and safety reasons and minimises the impact.
Be Considerate of Others
Try to park sensibly - don't block gateways, forest entrances or narrow roads. Try to remember that other vehicles need access at all times.
Allow nature's sound to prevail. Make as little noise as possible.
Respect Farm Animals and Wildlife - Avoid disturbing them as much as possible, and don't feed them.
Travel and Camp on Durable Ground
In popular areas - please use existing tracks to help avoid erosion.
In remote areas - disperse your tracks so as to avoid creating new paths.
Leave what you Find
Respecting property, such as farm machinery, fences, stone walls, etc.
Keep gates open or closed as you find them.
Preserve the past - archaeological structures, old walls, and mine workings.
Be respectful of the present: leave rocks, flowers, plants, animals, and all-natural habitats as they are.
The creation of rock cairns, structures, and shelters should be avoided.
Dispose of Waste Properly
Remember, If You Bring It In, Take It Out
For the toilet, dig a hole at least 20 feet from water, campsites, and other visitors. Cover up and disguise your hole after you're done using it. Carry out toilet paper and hygiene supplies.
Rinse yourself or your dishes 30 metres away from rivers or lakes, and use small amounts of biodegradable soap if necessary.
Minimise the Effects of Fire
Using a lightweight camping stove instead of a fire can prevent lasting damage to forests, natural habitats, and farmland.
Finding a Spot
When it comes to wild camping in the UK, the trickiest part of the process is locating a suitable camp spot. There are no designated campsites with wild camping, so you must be savvy about how and where to set up your tent. The good news is that there are plenty of incredible wild camping spots in the UK to be explored, as long as you know where to look.
Social media can also be a great way to discover new wild camping spots, with many dedicated wild camping groups online offering tips on where to find the best places. Youtube is great for looking for sites but not just from other wild campers, but watching photography Vlogs too, as they always find great spots; they just don't sleep there.
Apps like Google Earth and OS Maps are all brilliant, too, if you know what you are looking for. Ideally, you want a flat spot away from the paths and far enough from the water. However, you need a water source close enough so you don't have to carry everything you need up the mountain with you. Unless you want to camp right on the summit in the hope of getting 360-degree views, I recommend finding a spot that can shelter you from any wind, such as in front of a rocky outcrop.
I was nervous for my first solo wild camp (see blog here) as I had no clue where to go or the confidence to go off and try and find anywhere without knowing where I was going. So, I picked a popular spot I saw on Youtube, Angle Tarn. An area where I learned the views were terrific.
However, I planned on camping away from the Tarn and other people and finding myself an inconspicuous spot yet still with amazing views. (see the circle on the map) It paid off and is still one of my favourite camps ever. As you can see on the map, the spot is flattish; you can tell by the distance between the contours it's protected by a bit of rocky outcrop. It's away from the Tarn where everyone else was and is close to a source of water (see blue lines).
Once you've identified a few potential spots, it's time to explore. With some research and exploration, you'll soon have the perfect, wild camping spot in the UK!
What to Pack
Before heading out on your wild camping trip, it is essential to ensure you have all the necessary items in your wild camping kit.
There are a few essential items that every wild camper should bring along with them, such as a sleeping bag, tent and camping stove. Also, bring basic things like a first aid kit, rain gear, food, water, and a flashlight. It would help if you also packed clothing and shoes appropriate for the terrain and weather conditions you may encounter.
One of the biggest considerations for your gear is the weight; you don't want to be carrying up more weight than you can actually manage, so go as light as possible when choosing your kit. Unfortunately, the lightest gear costs the most, so research your products wisely. My ideal summer gear weighs in at around 10kg, including food.
Packaging the right items for your wild camping adventure ensures a safe and enjoyable experience. Please look at the complete list of gear I use here: Wild Camping Gear List.
Food - Freeze-dried packs or similar
Water bottles and/or reservoir
Firestarter e.g. lighter/matches or fire steel
Toilet Bag e.g. sandwich bags to carry waste out and toilet paper
Click on the button below for a downloadable checklist:
Once you've assembled your wild camping kit, you can head out into the Wild and start your adventure. Remember always to respect your surroundings and leave no trace during Wild Camping. By following these simple guidelines, you can ensure that everyone can enjoy their wild camping experience and that our environment stays pristine.
A Good Starter Pack Example
All in all, a wild camping starter kit doesn't have to cost a fortune. By investing in a reliable tent, sleeping mat, stove, and sleeping bag, you'll be well on your way to a successful and enjoyable trip in the great outdoors. All of these items come together to create the ultimate wild camping starter kit. Whether you're a seasoned camper or just starting out, this kit has everything you need to make your next outdoor adventure a success. Below are the main 4 items of anyone's kit and I feel these items make a great mid-range reasonably priced starter kit suitable for 3-seasons. It will give you an idea of the price range and the weight of items in that price range.
Wild Country Zephyros 2 Compact 2 Man Tent - £199.99 and a weight of 1.95kg
Sea To Summit Womens Ether Light XT Extreme 10cm Mat - Regular - £214.99 and a weight of 685g
JetBoil Flash Java Kit Cooking System - £134.99 and a weight of 368g
Vango Nitestar Alpha 350 Sleeping Bag (Fog) - £51.99 at a weight of 2kg
So for the price of £601.96, your base weight comes in at 5kg. So, yes it's still a bit of money but it gives you an idea of what you have to pay with regard to the weight ratio. Plus this kit is a quality kit, you would probably only need to replace it to reduce weight further! (You do need to carry other items but these are the essentials and the heaviest)
What to Eat
When you're wild camping, you'll want to ensure you have enough food, snacks and water to sustain you throughout your adventure. There are many delicious and nutritious food options that can keep you full and energised while on the road. Try to focus on lightweight foods that only take up a little room. Whether you have made a homemade recipe at home, bought a dehydrated version, or created your own mix of fresh and dehydrated ingredients.
You can burn around 400-600 calories an hour when hiking in the hills, so replacing these is essential; hunger can lead to an accident, just like being dehydrated and cold. So, snacks as well as thinking about main meals when camping is also essential. There are a lot of energy bars/protein bars etc., on the market, and ideally, rely on something other than sweets and chocolate as they are fast-acting energy, and you lose it quickly.
When wild camping having dinner at your tent once you're all set up is so satisfying and well-needed after that big trek up the hill. One of the easiest meals to have is ready-to-eat meals you can buy that are pre-cooked, can be eaten hot or cold, and do not need to be refrigerated. These meals can be eaten straight from the bag, placed in hot water, poured into a pan, and heated as usual.
An even lighter meal is a freeze-dried or dehydrated meal that you can get. These meals offer a perfect way to get a balanced, nutritional meal. Add boiling water to the packet and allow your food to rehydrate. So many companies are making freeze-dried meals, so there are lots to suit all your tastes, including vegan and gluten-free options. See a good selection here:
The Real Turmat range is my favourite as they taste great but are slightly more expensive than other ranges. However, the price difference equates to the taste difference; believe me, some of them do not taste great.
No matter what type of food you bring when wild camping, ensure you follow all Leave No Trace principles. Properly packing all trash and food waste and disposing of it at a designated disposal site is a must. Bon appétit!
Water is heavy to carry, so unless you know that you are camping near a reliable water source, you will have to carry some water up with you. For a wild camp, you will need the water needed to rehydrate you when you ascend the mountain and then the water required at camp to drink and prepare your meals. This could be around 2-4 litres! Water weighs about 1kg per litre; therefore, this is a lot of weight to carry along with your kit.
So, camping near a water source is ideal as you only need to carry your walking water. Carry a water filter with you (I use a BeFree Katydyn filter). When you get to camp, get as close to the water source as possible, this can usaully be identified on an OS map (look for a spring/stream), and it will be safer. Check upstream from your current location for animal carcasses. No filter can eliminate the disease an animal carcass can give you. I recommend filtering and boiling the water to make it safe to drink.
Where to Go to the Toilet
If you're planning a wild camping trip in the UK, one important thing to remember is the rules regarding where to go to the toilet. Generally, it is best practice to bury your waste in a shallow hole to leave no trace of your stay and not attract any animals. You should carry a trowel and bring a plastic bag/doggy bag to pack your paper and dispose of your waste correctly. Additionally, you should 'go' at least 30 meters away from any water source.
When camping in the Wild, there are plenty of ways to keep yourself entertained. With the lack of modern distractions, you can explore the natural beauty and wildlife around you. So get creative with your activities and maximise your time outdoors. I like nothing more than sitting and watching the sun go down!
If you're looking for a more low-key form of entertainment while Wild Camping in the UK, you can use this time to pick up hobbies such as sketching or photography. This will allow you to appreciate the beauty around you and also be able to bring it back home with you. Plus, this entertainment has the added bonus of helping to relax and calm your mind.
If you would like to do something more engaging, you can always carry up a book or Kindle, listen o podcasts or music or even watch a film on your phone/tablet.
No matter what form of entertainment you choose, Wild Camping is an excellent opportunity to get out into nature and enjoy the peace and tranquillity that comes along with it.
#1 - Plan Your Route
Choose a safe and achievable route using an Ordnance Survey Map, using a 1:25,000 for detail (use an OS Explorer) and a 1:50,000 suitable for viewing the general area (use an OS Landranger). Make sure the route is within your level of skill and experience. Leave your planned route with a loved one at home so they know exactly where you are going.
The OS app is excellent for plotting the route and seeing how far it is, how long it will take and what the ascent is. However, always carry the paper version and a compass with you in case of technology failure.
#2 - Check The Weather Before You Set-Off
I always check multiple forecasts to get a good idea of what it will be like. I use the Met Office and The Mountain Weather Information Service. I will also check a local weather service like The Lake District Weather Line.
Remember that the higher you get, the colder it gets (air cools one °C every 100 vertical meters, and wind chill can knock off ten °C), so ensure you have enough clothing. I will never go up a mountain if the wind speed is more than 40mph and if the gusts are more than 50mph. This kind of wind speed can be dangerous and knock you off your feet, potentially causing an injury.
#3 - Carry A Satellite GPS/Messenger
If you have an accident, get lost, there isn't always someone around, and you don't have a phone signal, or you have broken your phone/its run out of battery, what will you do? For all of these reasons, I carry a Garmin Mini, a small and light device that can help me navigate but also a message for help and message home if I have no phone signal. I always check in with home when I leave the car, when I arrive at my camp spot and when I'm setting off back to the car, if I have no phone signal this would cause worry at home so the Garmin Mini gives me and my loved ones peace of mind.
#4 - Use A Map And Compass
Like with the signal, you cannot rely on your phone for navigation; I always carry an OS map and compass. I use the OS maps app (£4.99 a month or £20.29 for the year for a premium subscription), which I love to plot my routes on and pick out my wild camp spots. I have to say that the OS App is great for showing you where you are; however, phones can die and break, so if you don't have a map and compass, you could get very stuck. Therefore, I highly recommend some day courses in navigation
#5 - Do NOT Take Any Risks
I feel one of the most significant pieces of advice I can give is that it is ok to stop and turn around if the weather comes in or you don't feel safe, don't feel like you have to reach that summit or get that photo for Instagram; your safety is far more critical. I've turned around a few times and changed my route to keep low, and that's ok.
There is no point in risking your safety whatsoever. I have seen many photos on Instagram of people sitting at the edge of cliffs, sitting on the end of a train line hanging over a cliff edge, and for what a good photo? It's stupid, to be honest. But, if you plan on reaching the summit of Scafell Pike and it's suddenly getting really windy, it will be there another day, so turn around and stay safe.
#6 - Do NOT Post Your Location
Many people ask me if I get scared of other people going solo, and to be honest, I don't; you are so often alone up in the hills, and therefore no one sees you. I wouldn't advise posting on social media when and where you are going until you are back down. Therefore, wait to post pictures of where you are until you are back too. If you see anyone up in the hills, they are probably there for the same reason as you camping, running or hiking; I feel far safer up in the mountains than in the city centre.
See my full blog post on safety here.
Wild Camping in the UK is an incredible experience you can enjoy safely and responsibly if you follow some basic guidelines. Here are a few tips to ensure you have a great time:
If you are worried about going Wild Camping on your own, go to a 'Nearly Wild Campsite' first to test your kit etc. and see if you actually like camping on your own (See a recommended site here)
Go on a recce first, and go on a day hike to find your first spot, so you know the lay of the land, where the water source and just to make comfortable with where you are going.
Borrow the kit from someone you know before forming out on all the kit you need; you don't want to spend all that money if you are not going to go again.
Pack as light as possible. Unfortunately, the lightest kit on the market comes at a price but go as light as you can. You will appreciate it when you are hiking up the hill.
Wild camping in the UK can be an enriching experience. Whether you're looking for an adventure or just a peaceful night under the stars, wild camping can be enjoyed in many locations with the proper preparation and respect for the environment. Remember to follow the local laws, practice Leave No Trace principles, and use designated wild camping spots whenever possible. With that said, go out there and explore! Have fun, be safe, and enjoy your fantastic camping experience in the UK!
Remember to always respect the environment by following Wild Camping Rules, such as packing out everything you bring in and leaving no trace of your presence. If you choose to camp near public access areas, try to pick Wild Camping Spots away from where people frequent so as not to disturb them. It's also wise to inform someone of your whereabouts when Wild Camping UK, especially in remote areas with limited phone service. Also, check weather forecasts before heading out on your wild camping trip. The last thing you want is to be caught in bad weather while being unprepared.
My blog is a free resource; however, if you enjoy my content and would like to support more adventures, then please click on the button below.