What are the rules when it comes to wild camping?
Everything comes down to “leave no trace”. Keep the site as you would want to find it: take all your rubbish home with you and don’t pick wildflowers or take shells or rocks. Wild camping is a beautiful privilege and campers need to do all they can to protect the fragile environment. Here are a few basic rules to follow:
Ditch the car
Although some people park their camper van by the side of a road and call it wild camping, we’re talking about really getting back to nature here. In Scandinavia and Scotland, leaving the car behind is a condition of the right to wild camp. Elsewhere, it’s far more likely that landowners will give hikers and cyclists permission to camp over drivers.
Take proper care of human waste
Dig a deep hole away from your site and any nearby water supply. Toilet tissue needs to be disposed of properly and shouldn’t be buried (it takes a long time to biodegrade and can be dug up by wild animals).
Keep out of sight
Keep your group small and camp far away from roads, towns and villages. Respect “No Overnight Camping” signs. Otherwise, set up at dusk and move on at first light.
Understand your environment
Be aware of the local wildlife and respect its right to roam. You don’t want to attract bears, foxes or rodents to your camp, so store your food securely (in the USA and Canada it’s advised to hang food from a tree branch or take bear-proof food canisters).
There’s nothing better than camping on a beach, but to avoid a rude – and wet – awakening in the middle of the night, be aware of the high-tide line. Choosing a site on a gentle slope is also a good idea if there’s a chance of rain.
Be aware of fire safety
Make yourself aware of any fire restrictions – this is particularly important in the summer months as forest fires have been started by careless campers in the past. If you are permitted to have an open fire, use only dead wood and existing fire rings where possible, and keep it small and supervised. Using a gas stove to cook instead of lighting a fire means you avoid scorching the earth and you can leave the site pristine.
What should I take wild camping?
Some camping checklists are pretty comprehensive. But wild camping means going out on foot and being able to carry everything in (and out). This means taking only the essentials:
• Tent (with pegs and a lightweight mallet) or bivvy bag
• A sleeping bag
• Torch or headtorch
• Trangia or single burner stove and pan
• Food and food storage containers (leave the packaging at home)
• A refillable water bottle, plus a water filter or treatment tablets
• Warm clothes
• Toothbrush and toothpaste
• Toilet paper (and plastic bags to take the used paper with you)
• Hand sanitizer
• Map and compass – don’t rely on your mobile phone!