Seasoned wild camper Phoebe Smith gives us the lowdown
There are few experiences that can rival the excitement and the freedom of sleeping in a wild place. With fresh air filling your lungs, the grass as your mattress and the stars as your ceiling, the great outdoors can set the scene for one of the most memorable nights of your life. But the first time you do it can be a little scary, here’s how to remember your wild night out for all the right reasons.
Time required: an evening
1. Tent or bivvy bag
2. Sleeping mat
3. Sleeping bag
4. Camping stove (and fuel)
5. Food (and spare food i.e. chocolate and hot drink sachets)
6. Mug and spork
8. Small first aid kit
What to wear:
Opt for layers rather than big jumpers. Consider wearing a thinner wool top close to your skin, a fleece for warmth, and take a waterproof jacket and over-trousers in case it rains. An insulated jacket can be great for pulling on for stargazing.
Get all your kit (see kit list) ready a few days before you intend to wild camp that way when the weather is good and the timing is right you can head out quickly without having to scout around the house for your gear.
Tent or Bivvy?
The choice is really yours. Some people prefer the space of a tent and a zippable tent door, while others prefer to be out in the open with just a waterproof sack (bivvy bag) covering their sleeping bag. If the weather is good you can’t beat a bivvy, but if it looks like rain a tent is definitely advised. It’s a personal decision so go with what you feel the most comfortable in.
Am I allowed to do it?
Legally speaking, wild camping is permitted only in Scotland and Dartmoor National Park. Elsewhere you must get the landowners permission first. If you're unable to get the landowners permission, it is normally tolerated as long as you do it properly, it’s all a case of etiquette:
Phoebe’s Guide to Wild Camping Etiquette
• Arrive Late, Leave Early – don’t pitch up in the daytime wait till sunset and be packing everything away to leave at daybreak
• Sleep well above the wall line, away from people’s houses and properties
• Leave no trace of your camp – take all rubbish with you – no exceptions
• Do not light a fire without permission – you don’t want to damage fragile ecosystems
• Bury your toilet waste and pack out all your paper and sanitary products with you
• Be respectful at all times and if asked to move on, do so
• Always leave a wild place – whether camp spot, cave, beach or bothy, in a better condition then when you found it
So what’s the plan?
1. Get an OS map – whether of your local area or your favourite National Park. You want to look out for spots away from houses and built up areas. Look for flat ground and handy water sources – such as streams and tarns.
2. Recce it first in the daylight. Make sure the place you identified lives up to your expectation while it’s early enough to find somewhere else.
3. Have a plan b, c and d – in caseit’s not suitable or there’s someone already there
4. Keep your bag packed and ready to go
5. Watch the weather – once you get the window you want – just go!
6. Don’t stress, the first time you wild camp it’s completely normal to imagine the worst; that the rustling you hear outside is a murderer or a bear. Trust me it’s not, it’s a rabbit…or a sheep.
As you’re sensible, the chances of things going wrong are low. But do leave your plans with a responsible person just in case including a map showing your planned route and your expected time of arrival back. Dress appropriately for conditions. Also check the weather forecast before you go –www.mwis.com (for mountain areas) or Met Office for the rest of the UK – and don’t be scared to change you plans last minute if conditions are not ideal for your ability/planned route.
Phoebe Smith has been wild camping in Britain for 10 years and was the first woman to sleep at all the extreme points of mainland Britain. She is author of Extreme Sleeps: Adventures of a Wild Camper, Wild Nights: Camping Britain’s Extremes, Wilderness Weekends: Wild Adventures in Britain’s Rugged Corners and Book of the Bothy.
For more from Phoebe see www.phoebe-smith.com