UK Wild Camping Essentials + Tips (A BEGINNERS Guide to Camping in the Wild!)

Tent next to tarn

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Wild camping is becoming ever popular in the UK, with our love for mini adventures and exploring the outdoors increasing.

If you follow avid hikers and adventurers on Instagram you’ll see them wild camping in the Peak District, Lake District or even Snowdonia. But if you haven’t ‘wild camped’ before then you might have a few questions.

Firstly, this isn’t going to tell you about all the best wild camping locations in the UK.

Why? Because if I did everyone who reads this would go and make a beautiful remote wild camping spot into a campsite. No-one who wild camps would want that. The best thing is finding your own secret spots and enjoying them to yourself.

If you are looking for a social camping experience then simply book yourself in at a campsite.

But are you still wondering if wild camping in the UK is for you?

Here is my beginner’s guide to all you need to know on the ‘wild camping essentials’ in the UK. From top tips to finding the best wild camping spot when you hike to what essential wild camping equipment, you need and even going for a wild wee!

tent camping trip with person in thermals
Wild camping spot in the UK

*Becky the Traveller participates in the Amazon Services Associates Programme, as well as other affiliate programmes. If you make a purchase through these, I earn from the qualifying links. This is at no extra cost to you. Read more here.

Where can you wild camp in the UK + tips?

Lake Earn - wild camping in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs
Wild camping spot by Lake Earn in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs

In Scotland, it is legal to wild camp, with a few exceptions in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. I’ve camped by a lake in Loch Lomond, it’s wild camping but in an official permit area where you have to register and pay for the spot. You’re wild camping but this helps to protect the popular spots in the National Park.

In England and Wales, except for some areas on Dartmoor, most of the land is privately owned so you’ll need to ask permission from the landowner. Saying that it’s not always that easy to find out who owns the land but if you spot a local farmer whilst out you can ask them.

In National Parks, there is an accepted tolerance for wild camping, but it’s only accepted if you meet the guidelines which I’ll detail later.

The key is that you are respectful of the land and the people that own it. Whether you’re camping or hiking through it remember to leave no trace.

Remember you could be asked to be moved on at any time.

Camping essentials – Finding a wild camping spot

Here are a few dos and don’ts for finding a wild camping spot:

  • Don’t pitch your tent next to the path or even worse next to a car park (again think ‘wild’ camping).
  • Do try to find a spot that’s relatively flat (sleeping on a slope is not fun)
  • Do move any big rocks or thorns from under your tent (so you don’t tear the material)
  • Don’t trample or cut down any plants or trees to make a good spot. Respect nature.

When to pitch your wild camping spot?

Wild camping spot in Snowdonia
Setting up camp as the sun sets in Snowdonia

The best advice here is to arrive late and leave early.

Imagine going for a peaceful hike and being met with tents and bivvy bags along the way. In order to reduce the impact on wildlife and fellow hikers be considerate and plan your wild camping arrival and departure when it will least impact them all.

Top wild camping tip

  • Ideally, you want to arrive within an hour of the sun going down, so you can see to put your tent up.
  • Depending on the time of year in winter (if you’re brave enough) this could be arriving at 5 pm
  • Or in summer months much later around 8.30 pm.

 

How safe is wild camping in the UK?

As a solo hiker and wild camper, I get asked this question a lot. Aren’t you scared when you wild camp on your own? Are you worried something might happen?

Firstly, if you’re worried about wild camping solo then asked a friend to join your first time. There’s a definite comfort in numbers. My first wild camping trip was with my sister.

I feel totally safe when I wild camp, mostly because I try to find a well-hidden camping spot so no-one would ever spot me in the first place. For me, it feels safer than a night out in my local city Nottingham with hundreds of people about!

Top wild camping tips

  • Remember if you are solo wild camping, let someone roughly know where you are.
  • Don’t broadcast it on social media (until the next day and you’ve moved on!)

Camping essentials – What to take wild camping?

MSR Hubba NX Tent
My tent and sleeping set up

Whatever you’re planning on taking, firstly remember you’re going to be carrying it all, up and down to your camping spot. Ideally, the less weight you can take the better, essentials only.

  • You’ll need camping and sleeping equipment, either a tent or bivvy bag, sleeping bag/quilt and sleeping map (I use my MSR Hubba NX for most trips)
  • Extra warm clothes, including a hat and gloves, it can get cool at night.
  • Food and water, depending on what you’re eating you might need cooking equipment, plus gas. Consider whether there is a water supply on the route, an essential item and factor in how much water you might need for the evening and morning hike as well. (I use a water filter so this saves on the water I carry)

Top wild camping tip

  • Pack your warm clothes and important gear in dry bags so they don’t get wet if it rains!

Camping essentials – What food do you take wild camping?

Camping can get a bad reputation for awful food but you can get some great camping food. Summit to Eat freeze-dried meals have some great meal options.

Although the breakfast and dessert options weren’t to my taste the main meals were great. You can read more about which flavours I tried here – Summit to Eat review.

Other dinner options, a tin of tuna (buy the easy pull option), couscous and salad is a great summer meal. On cooler evenings, pasta and pesto or chunky soup with a big hunk of bread is a great option.

For breakfast, I take mini porridge pots or sachets, plus a banana and/or breakfast bar. Plus tea or coffee (or both!)

Then, of course, plenty of snacks and a few treats for the hike the next day. 

 
 

How to cook in the wild?

Sat next to tent lighting stove
Cooking set up on my long-distance hike

Firstly, decide whether you need to cook, in summer you can get away with cold food. Although I do love a mug of peppermint tea before bed when I’m wild camping.

Plus coffee is essential to get me going in the morning.

I have a small but simple gas cooking attachment which you can simply attach to any size gas canister (smaller are better as they are lighter of course!) Make sure you find a flat space, away from any grass or plants. Use a flat (ish) rock if necessary to raise from the ground.

What about lighting a fire whilst wild camping?

The short answer is NO. Please don’t light fires when wild camping.

Many National Parks have now banned BBQs and have strict guidelines on not having fires in them. And there is a reason for this, they are extremely hazardous and a small ember can cause a massive fire and years of damage to the surrounding area. 

The damage caused by wild fires in the Peak District, Lake District and other parts of the UK is heartbreaking to see. You can see the damage done in the Peak District on Saddleworth Moor from fires, which is terribly sad.

In addition, the ‘Leave No Trace’ principles would also apply in this situation, a fire means damage to the ground and therefore, it’s not ‘Leave No Trace’.

In summary, please do NOT light a fire.

 

Wild Camping tips – What do you do with your rubbish?

Maybe pop it in a bag, leave it on a tree for the hiking refuse collector?

Nope, wrong answer!

There’s only one right answer here, pack everything up, yes those mouldy bananas (2 years to decompose), empty packets of crisps, toilet paper and take it ALL home.

Even if the local car parks have bins I recommend taking your rubbish home with you. In busy periods, small car parks might not be able to cope with the amount of rubbish and result in pieces escaping from the bin.

Read more tips for being a responsible hiker here.

Wild Camping tips – Where to go to the toilet?

Digging a hole for pooing outdoors
Digging a hole for pooing outdoors

Wild camping comes with it’s less glamorous factors, including going to the toilet. Where do you go to the toilet when you are wild camping?

No. 1s (aka a wee) 

  • If you need a little wee, then the key thing to remember is to go at least 30 m from any water source.
  • Ideally, behind a tree, big rock or wall to hide from anyone else walking by, it’s trickier for us ladies!

No. 2s (aka a poo) 

  • This is a more complicated. I feel my body knows when I’m wild camping and generally waits but I have had a couple of occasions when I’ve really need to go. So what do you do?
  • Firstly, try and find a discreet spot (if you can) hopefully there aren’t too many people about.
  • Then with a stick, walking pole or trowel dig a hole.
  • This is known as nature’s toilet, be respectful and dig at least 6 inches down.
  • Do your business and bury. Simple!

What about the toilet paper? 

I favour the shake method when I go for a wee, this means no need to carry tissues that you’ve used. If you’d rather use a tissue and you probably will if you go for a poo, make sure you pack a small bag to carry them away (Dog poo bags are a perfect size!).

Do NOT leave them behind, this is truly disgusting and no-one wants to see your used tissues!

Read my full guide on going to the toilet outdoors here.

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Wild camping essentials – Leaving your wild camping spot

Jacob's Ladder start of the Pennine Way
Leave no trace – pack everything in your backpack

In the morning, the sun is a great wake up call and the reason you’re probably out camping in the first place. The light shining through the thin canvas or simply directly on you if you’re in a bivvy bag.

Top Tip – Try to get up early, before fellow hikers are on the trail. Enjoy a peaceful and relaxing start to the day, with a cup of coffee and breakfast to wake up.

Remember you’re not on a campsite, you can’t simply leave your tent set up for the following night!

Do a final scan of the area to make sure you’ve not left anything, small pieces of rubbish, tent pegs or food.

Of course, when wild camping, the simple way to remember is – Leave No Trace.

Tips for camping in winter?

Views from tent with sleeping bag camping
Winter wild camping trip in the Lake District

If you are new to wild camping then you can start at any time of year. Of course, the picture-perfect moment is a lovely summer’s day but if you’re not a fan of hot weather then maybe winter camping is for you.

Check out my review below of the 4-season MSR tent.

The most important thing is making sure you’re warm enough for your first camping trip. 

You can read my guide here with top tips for keeping warm when camping in winter and other suggestions for how to have a successful winter camping adventure.

MSR Access 2 review (4-season tent)

Do you have any more questions about wild camping essentials or tips?

Would you like to try wild camping in the UK? Feel free to ask me any questions in the comments below.

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Wild camping essentials and guide UK

Wild camping essentials and guide UK

Wild camping essentials and guide UK

*Becky the Traveller participates in the Amazon Services Associates Programme, as well as other affiliate programmes. If you make a purchase through these, I earn from the qualifying links. This is at no extra cost to you. Read more here.

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10 thoughts on “UK Wild Camping Essentials + Tips (A BEGINNERS Guide to Camping in the Wild!)

  1. Daniel says:

    Hi Becky, how do you get to your wild camping areas? Do you drive and leave your car in a car park or get public transport to the nearest town and walk or taxi from there?

  2. Adrian says:

    Great to see that I am not the only one camping in peak district. If you ever see guy with big backpack and wearing military stuff. It will be me. 😀 Great website. Wish you best!

      • Osiris says:

        Amazing to read fellow souls who are drawn to mothernatures healing wonders.
        Stumbled upon this page as want to doa pilgrim hike on peakdistrict ley lines ner arbow hill.
        This will be my first solo wild camping hopeing todo several days of continuous days.
        Thinking might as well dive right in .
        Any pointers much appreciated.
        And thanks for sharing all your experiences.

        • Becky the Traveller says:

          Hi Osiris, that sounds fantastic, lovely to hear about your adventure. Did you have any specific questions that I’ve not answered in the post? I’ve got a new post with my kit list if that would help :). I’ve done a few multi-day hikes so happy to help where I can. But certainly the top tip is go as minimal as you can to keep the weight of your backpack down 🙂

  3. Laura says:

    Great advice here! Worth noting in the advice on lighting a fire when wild camping that many areas of countryside now have Public Space Protection Orders which prohibit lighting fires. So no matter whether it has rained recently or you think it’s fine actually best not to! In fact please do not light a fire because the impact is devastating.

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