Fancy waking up in unspoilt surroundings to sweet birdsong and falling asleep under the stars? Wild camping could be your next big adventure.

But have you found the courage to go for it?

Maybe you don’t know where it’s allowed or perhaps the thought of having no loo near your tent is putting you off.

Here, some accomplished wild campers give us tips to help everything go as smoothly as it can.

Understanding the rules: Where can you pitch your tent in the wild?

Andy Halliday, owner of the Expert Camper, says: “In the UK, rules surrounding wild camping vary regionally. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, wild camping is generally prohibited without landowner permission. However, Scotland stands apart as a haven for wild campers, where the right to roam allows for camping on most unenclosed land, excluding private gardens and certain protected areas.”

Before venturing to the great outdoors, to wild camp, it’s vital to check the rules in your chosen destination. For most of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, campers have no legal rights so you need to check or get the landowner’s permission. Permits may be needed in popular Scottish locations.

Unveiling hidden gems: Top wild camping destinations

For those eager to embrace the rugged beauty of the UK’s landscapes, several destinations stand out as prime locations for wild camping. These are Andy’s top picks:

Dartmoor National Park, Devon

Dartmoor National Park in Devon offers vast expanses of moorland, punctuated by granite towers and winding rivers, providing a picturesque setting for a night under the stars. With its diverse terrain, from dense woodlands to open heathlands, Dartmoor is a paradise for wild campers seeking both solitude and scenic beauty.

The park’s permissive approach to wild camping in designated areas adds to its appeal, though campers must adhere to specific guidelines to protect the environment.

Exmoor National Park

Exmoor National Park, straddling the counties of Somerset and Devon, is another hidden gem. Known for its dramatic coastline, deep wooded valleys, and expansive moorland, Exmoor offers a rich tapestry of landscapes. Wild campers here can experience the tranquillity of secluded valleys and the thrill of spotting wildlife such as red deer and Exmoor ponies.

Andy notes, “All you need to do to wild camp in Exmoor is ask the landowner’s permission first, making it a straightforward and rewarding destination.”

Eyri, (Snowdonia National Park), Wales

Snowdonia National Park in Wales is renowned for its rugged mountain scenery, including the highest peak in England and Wales, Yr Wyddfa, Mount Snowdon. The park’s dramatic landscapes, from rocky summits to serene lakes, provide an ideal backdrop for wild camping. Hidden valleys and less-trodden paths offer opportunities for solitude and adventure.

Andy recommends Snowdonia for its “abundance of secluded valleys, ideal for pitching a tent and immersing oneself in the tranquillity of the Welsh countryside.”

Peak District National Park

The Peak District National Park, located at the southern end of the Pennines, is characterised by its rolling hills, limestone dales, and picturesque villages. As the first national park in the UK, it has a long-standing tradition of welcoming outdoor enthusiasts. Wild campers can explore the park’s varied terrain, from the rugged Dark Peak with its gritstone edges to the gentler White Peak with its limestone plateaus.

“Just as with Exmoor, to wild camp in the Peak District all you must do is ask the landowner’s permission first,” says Andy, making it accessible for those looking to experience its natural beauty up close.

Mourne Mountains, Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the Mourne Mountains offer a remote wilderness experience with sweeping vistas and serene lakes. The granite peaks and rolling hills create a dramatic and rugged landscape perfect for wild camping. The area is rich in mythology and history, adding a sense of adventure and discovery to your camping trip.

Know the basics

As you prepare to embark on your wild camping escapades, it’s essential to equip yourself with the knowledge and skills needed to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

Here are Andy’s top  tips to keep in mind:

  • Leave No Trace: Always practice Leave No Trace principles to minimise your environmental impact.
  • Plan ahead: Research your chosen destination thoroughly, including weather forecasts and local regulations.
  • Pack wisely: Carry lightweight and essential gear, including a reliable tent, sleeping bag, and cooking supplies.
  • Respect wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance and avoid disturbing their habitats.
  • Safety first: Inform someone of your plans, carry a first aid kit, and be prepared for unexpected emergencies.

He says: “Wild camping offers a unique opportunity to forge a deeper connection with nature and create unforgettable memories. By respecting the land and adhering to responsible camping practices, we can ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors.”

Arrive late and leave early

Writing for BBC Countryfile, Carys Matthews says:

“The golden rule of wild camping: arrive late and leave early – remembering to leave no trace! Plan arriving at your chosen location late in the day to avoid disturbing others and leave early before other walkers are out and about.”

She adds: “It is important to do your research before you set off on a wild camping trip (which is where this guide comes in). Plan your walking routes carefully, check the weather conditions, terrain and ensure you’ve got all the gear you need to hike and camp safely.

“You’ll be carrying everything on your back, so the weight can soon add up. Carrying too much can turn an enjoyable hike into a slog, so you may want to consider shopping around to find the best quality and lightest equipment you can afford.”

Why we love wild camping

Isla Moon, social media influencer, from Canada says:

I’ve been a camper at heart since I was a child, but I only truly got into wild camping when I was in my early teens. It’s something that requires an extra degree of maturity and knowledge to enjoy safely.I started wild camping with family and friends as an extension of regular camping, sometimes close to our cars in big groups. As time went on, I wanted to enjoy those spots that are farther off the beaten path and require a little more effort to get to.

So far, I would consider around 10 to 15 of my trips to be truly wild camping.

My longest time wild camping was a nine-day canoe camping trip in a group, during which my fellow campers and I were dropped off far upstream and paddled all the way down. Canoe camping is really enjoyable because you can carry a bit more gear with you.

A typical trip could last from a couple of days to a week, depending on the trip, the objective, and how I’m getting to the destination. At a certain point, it becomes difficult to carry enough gear.

I’ve done wild camping trips in Alberta and British Columbia mostly, but also in Quebec a few times and upstate New York.

I’ve done a lot of wild camping — both winter and summer — on the East Coast, but I would love to really get out there on the West Coast. I’ve always wanted to hike at least a section of the Pacific Crest Trail, which goes from the Mexican border to the Canadian border through California, Oregon, and Washington.

I love to explore new places, but there are always those favorites that I love to return to.

For me, wild camping is a chance to see and experience beautiful places that are harder to get to and that most people will never lay eyes on. I find the quiet, isolated spaces also really peaceful.

The most challenging part about wild camping is usually how far some spots can be! If the weather turns nasty or you really just want to pack up and leave, it’s often quite a trek to get back to your vehicle or a pickup spot.

My advice for those thinking of giving it a go would be take time to camp in more well-travelled areas first. Take a wilderness first-aid course and make sure you plan things well. Having a safety device like a satellite phone, such as the Garmin InReach, is a good idea as well.

Anyone interested in trying out wild camping should focus on why they’re going out there and have fun!

Lou Carter, a civil servant, West Midlands:

Wild camping has helped me massively the past few years with my mental health and anxiety. We really do live in a lovely country.

I started because I wanted solitude, to be at one with nature and incorporate my hobby of hill walking. It was also for mental health reasons.

I’ve been on several trips to the Lake District, Peak District searching for solitude, sometimes solo and  sometimes with my wife Sarah and our three dogs.

I would like to do more wild camping in Scotland. The best thing about wild camping is the freedom, space and no clock watching. Time is no issue.

A  lack of showering facilities restricts my time wild camping. I can manage a couple of days without a shower and it is worth it.

For anyone wanting to take the plunge, I’d say prepare your kit and only take what is necessary, be respectful of the countryside, explore new places and don’t leave litter.

Lastly – enjoy!

Medical writer Claire Gwynne, Cheshire:

My first wild camp was in 2019 on a kayaking trip around the Helsinki archipelago. We island-hopped in kayaks and camped on the islands. Absolutely fabulous!

I wanted to kayak around the islands and wild camping was the only option. I’d fancied trying it for a while as I liked the idea of being ‘off grid’ and, although I loved camping and had camped since childhood, I increasingly found people on campsites noisy and annoying.

There are areas of Cumbria I’d like to camp and I would love to wild camp in almost any European mountain range – Pyrenees especially.

I love the peace, being close to nature, having everything I need in my back…and the surprise of how little I actually ’need’.

Rain is the worst thing — packing away a wet tent in the rain and having to carry a heavy rucksack back down in the rain.

My advice for newbies is try it in your garden first! Test out your kit, figure out where your stuff will go overnight – it’s far better to just know where things are when you wake in complete darkness. Also, pack your rucksack, weigh it then unpack it and get rid of some stuff! You actually need surprisingly little.

Leave no trace. Nobody should be able to tell you’ve even been there. Pitch at dusk and pack away just after dawn. Revel in the solitude and peace – it’s a rarity these days!

 A quick word about…poop!

So when I told my friends I was writing about wild camping, they just wanted to quiz me on, well, where do you go to the toilet?

For anyone mulling this over, here’s a useful video from AdventureSolos:

These days though, it’s also important to note that current advice is that removing all human waste using a packable toilet kit is the best solution. In other words burying your business is a last resort.

Claire adds:

“Being a seasoned hiker, I am very accustomed to weeing outdoors and I’ve used some pretty awful toilets at events. So the idea of number twoing outside didn’t especially trouble me – at least there wouldn’t be anyone else’s business there first .

I’ve followed the ‘rules’ and dug a deep hole to bury the ‘produce’ then took the paper in a dog poo bag to dispose of once we were down.

I usually dig the hole in advance the night before in case of urgency.”

So now you know!

Useful information:

Loads of great product recommendations and sound advice from Countryfile.

Excellent insights from the BMC.

Expert site from camping-mad Andy and family.

 

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