What is wild camping?
You will likely have heard about this kind of camping if you enjoy spending time outdoors. So what is wild camping? Wild camping is about getting away from the busy campsites and caravan parks, and taking yourself out into the silent, empty and vast wilderness to spend time truly alone with the world. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it?
There are specific rules that govern access for wild camping in the UK. The rules are generally split between Scotland and the rest of the country, with Scotland benefiting from open right-to-roam rules. Scotland is indeed the only area of the UK which effectively allows wild camping anywhere, thanks to the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, which permits the public to camp on most unenclosed land. This includes many of Scotland’s national parks, making them the perfect destination for wild campers. If you’re located in England or Wales, there are still places that you can go wild camping – such as the Lake District and parts of Dartmoor.
You may be wondering, can you camp anywhere? The general rule for wild camping is that you have to have express permission from the landowner before you pitch up for the night. We always recommend that if you aren’t sure you’re in a permissible zone, you should check first, as you could be disturbing farmland or private property.
Is Wild Camping Legal in the UK?
Wild Camping in England and Wales
The wild camping UK laws somewhat vary, as it is generally illegal in England and Wales. However, in saying this, it is possible with permission from the landowner. Many landowners will be open to this idea as long as you respect the land and behave yourself.
Don’t camp too close to people’s homes or roads. Many spaces of land are generally accepted as fine to camp on due to unspoken understandings (read: we trust each other!) but if you are planning on it then it’s best to verify before doing so.
It’s always better to be safe than sorry, folks.
Wild Camping in Scotland
In Scotland, wild camping is allowed almost anywhere, thanks to the right-to-roam laws. Of course, this has its limits and you cannot simply camp in someone’s garden, on farmed land, schools, golf courses, etc.
Wild camping is allowed so long as you follow general guidelines. All land is owned by someone so while you can use it, be sure to be courteous and respectful. In other words, keep your groups small, keep your fires small and take your rubbish home with you.
These laws are lenient thanks to the respect shown so far, so let’s not spoil the fun for anyone else.
Rules for Wild Camping
If you have decided that wild camping is for you, it follows that you obey some basic rules to ensure that you leave an as little trace behind as possible. After all, nature is exactly that – natural. Your wild camping trip should leave no impact on the landscape and shouldn’t disturb the environment or wildlife around you. Here are a few rules and wild camping tips and tricks to remember:
- Follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code if you are wild camping in Scotland. This code covers three basic principles for sharing the countryside with others: respecting the interests of other people, caring for the environment and taking responsibility for your own actions.
- Leave no trace of your stay. This is especially important if you are wild camping in national parks and on protected landscapes, as the area should be kept pristine for everyone to enjoy. Don’t leave any rubbish behind, always clear up any mess you have made and ensure that you don’t disturb wildlife.
- Don’t light any fires, even if there are signs that fires have previously been lit in the same area. Lighting fires can not only be dangerous but will also spoil the landscape and leave a trace of your visit. Use camping stoves and portable barbecues carefully, ensuring that you don’t scorch any grass.
- Be respectful with your ‘personal’ waste. If you are camping out in the wilderness, you will inevitably need to go to the toilet. But that doesn’t mean that you can just go anywhere! Make sure that you go to the toilet well away from any natural streams or rivers and bury anything you might leave behind with a shovel. Feminine hygiene products should be treated like rubbish and taken away with you – animals can dig them up if buried, which won’t be pleasant for people to come across later.
- Don’t be an eyesore. When other people are out walking and hiking, they want to enjoy the landscape as much as you do. You should, therefore, make sure that you don’t take over the view with a large campsite, which crowds the land. Spread out and blend in with your surroundings as much as possible.
Looking for seasonal camping advice? Check out our Winter Camping Survival Guide.
What to Pack for a Wild Camping Trip
If you’re wild camping in the UK, you will probably be branching out far from the roads and walking trails, so you’ll need to be smart about your packing and make sure that your load is as light as possible. Apart from the obligatory tent (or pop up tent) and sleeping bag, here is a handy rundown of your extra wild camping essentials:
- A camping mat or blow-up mattress. Most people forget that the cold ground will seep into your inflatable mattress and lower the temperature during the night. Make sure there’s an insulating layer between your sleeping bag and the ground. We suggest placing newspaper between the ground and your mat, which will stop the cold from penetrating your sleeping bag
- Camping cooking equipment, including a pot, cutlery, thermal flask and a stove if you want to have hot food. You will also need to bring along nutritious camping foods which will keep you going throughout the day
- A small, lightweight shovel or trowel for dealing with the aforementioned ‘personal’ waste. Don’t forget the toilet paper!
- Women’s and men’s waterproofs – sturdy walking boots and warm fleece for layering up in the evening.
- A small folding camping stool or moon chair, if you want to enjoy a seat when you have your morning cup of tea
- A handheld GPS tracker and a paper map of the area (as batteries do run out)
- A microfibre towel for freshening up in the morning
- Spare walking socks