With hazy summer days stretching endlessly ahead of us, many of us are itching to pack a bag and disappear into the wild. To get off-grid and reconnect with ourselves and the natural world. Settling under the night sky and trace constellations of stars and wake under sunrise and birdsong. Resetting our circadian rhythm and plunging into rivers and waterfalls. To sit on a rock and drink tea from an enamel mug, or feel our legs ache from a day spent rambling.
Silence. Solitude. Wilderness. A tonic for modern living.
With staycations on the cards for yet another year and accommodation booking up fast, it’s time to dig out our hammocks, dust off the old OS map, and head off for a wild camp.
Without going into the legalities of wild camping (but you can read the legal guidance here), here are the three golden rules that will make for a safe, positive, and unforgettable experience.
1. Always ask the landowner’s permission
It’s good outdoor etiquette to seek permission from the landowner before you pitch up. Do your homework before you set off. It could be as simple as knocking on a farmhouse door or buying a meal from a pub in exchange for a night’s stay on their land.
There are some areas, such as the majority of Scotland and Dartmoor, where wild camping is freely allowed, so you don’t need to seek prior permission. But as a rule, it is always good to ask in advance, as well as have a good idea of what and where you’re planning to go anyway Park4Night is beloved by many wildcampers, taking the stress out of finding places to pitch up – it’s a good idea to have a couple of back up options too!
Pay attention to signs that prohibit camping and move on elsewhere if challenged. Without permission, it’s trespass – a civil matter – but refusing to move on is a criminal one.
2. Be discreet
Out of sight, out of mind – the mantra of wild campers everywhere.
Make sure to pitch up far away from houses, pedestrian paths, main roads and areas where livestock are grazing. It’s also important to take into account how many other campers are around. Areas in Dartmoor have seen a surge in wild campers and the devastation that they can leave behind. If you arrive in a popular spot and find it busy, move on to somewhere quieter.
Pick a tent that blends in with the scenery, or better still, sleep out in a bivvy or hammock. It’s not advisable to light a fire as it will draw attention to you and potentially harm the environment. If you need fire for food, use a stove.
Aim to arrive at your destination late and depart early the next morning. Stay no longer than two nights in any one spot.
3. Leave No Trace
The joy of wild camping is living in harmony with nature. Leave no trace of your stay on the land.
Respect the wildlife, landscape, local communities, and other campers. Do not remove anything you find – unless it’s litter, of course!
Take all your rubbish away with you and dispose of it properly and responsibly. The key is to pack light, taking only what you need to minimise your waste.
Only camp on durable ground. Give the earth a chance to recover, and don’t pitch up where there’s a visible tent mark. Take care that your portable stove doesn’t scorch the grass.
Of course, part of the charm of wild camping is doing your business under a grand vista. Dig a hole between 7-8 inches deep and never within 50 metres of water.
Where will you go next?
I highly recommend reading Wild Camping by Stephen Neale. It details the laws (and loopholes) around wild camping, the kit you need, and the best locations to wild camp in the UK.
Read the 7 principles of Leave No Trace – the outdoor ethical code every wild camper and nature lover should know by heart.
If you aren’t up for roughing it, there are plenty of nearly wild campsites you can visit.