Why do I wild camp??

For me, I can’t think of a better way to reconnect with not only nature but myself. Stress and complications fall away. It’s not an easy, or comfortable thing to do, but it is by its nature, simple. It gives you the time to refocus on what is important to you.

Wild camping is the experience of camping out in the wilderness, away from the comforts of a campsite. It is great for many reasons. I don’t go all the time but save it as a treat for the odd occasion. A chance to reset and refocus ya know.

Wild camping on the Isle of Portland (UK

I remember my first wild camp. I arrived in the Lake District and lugged myself and all my gear up a steep hill in search of that perfect spot. The reality is that I couldn’t find it and pitched up in a farmers field, I was tired, the sheep were angry but the view was decent so I couldn’t complain. It was a cold and breezy night but I had a great time and walked away early the next morning excited for the camps to come.

my first Wild Camp

A particularly special camp springs to mind, up high in the Swiss Alps, with perfect weather, a good mate and a superb location (which is what its all about!). Yes it was nearly 3 hours off trail, and yes the ground was very uneven and not wthe most comfortable. But who cares when this is what you get when you unzip that tent in the morning.

for sure one of the most special places I have ever woken up!

Is wild camping for you though?

Lots of people I talk to about wild camping have a whole bunch of questions. “Are you sure that’s safe?”, “isn’t it really scary?” “is it hard getting all the camping gear to great places?”, “are you even allowed to do that?” and my personal favorite “How do you go to the toilet?”.

Okay I’ll admit, wild camping is not easy! and its a bit of a daunting thought. But hang with me a bit and let me enlighten you on the wonders.

You don’t have to start big!

There is no requirement to book a trip to the alps for your first camp. I would say its much better to start on a nice summers day somewhere not too far from civilization. The Lake District, for example, has a lot of excellent spots that are not too challenging to get too and are very nearby towns and villages. What’s the worst that could happen?

Know the wild camping mantra!

Pitch late in the day and Leave early. But most importantly….

LEAVE NO TRACE

Try to pitch your tent not too close to established paths. Pitch up just as the light is beginning to fade. The sweet spot is when it’s feeling dark but you don’t need a torch yet. This is especially important if you are in heavily monitored or popular areas near tourist attractions like big waterfalls. Leave early, just after first light if possible. I usually pull myself out of bed when I feel the sun is starting to rise. Catch the beautiful colours as you pack away all your gear!

Leave no trace is perhaps the most important part! Leave no sign you ever were there, sometimes you will leave an impression of your tent on the ground, that is not the worst but if you can rub that out even all the better! You want to slink away into the shadows with no sign of the atrocity you have committed left for the cops to track you down. 😉

Leaving no trace in Snowdonia

Find your own spot!

Finding a spot that is your own is so much part of the appeal. Don’t copy others peoples camps or spots, go and get creative! Scope out spots using google maps and on satellite view. Look in hiking guides. I myself am always on the look-out for spots to return too that I have passed on the drive somewhere or hiking a peak. I look especially for spots near water sources like rivers and waterfalls, partly because I love the sound of the water, partly because it means I don’t have to bring as much water with me, and partly because waterfalls and big rivers are super cool and look great in the photos.

Other spots I love are in the mountains. I once said to a friend, “my goal for wild camping is to pitch as close to the edge of a deadly cliff as possible”

But a good spot will be personal to you! Some people hate the sound of running water, it makes them need to pee apparently? Some people think camping next to a cliff is dumb (I would agree but it makes your pictures look so badass it’s worth the dumbness!)

A memorable camp in the Lake District, all about that Cliff!

Equipment!

Don’t obsess over you equipment at first. I have a bunch of friends who have gone out and bought a ton of expensive kit and barely ever get out. Yes the kit is all very shiny and nice, and all those bits and bobs look really useful, but I can assure you they are a pain and get in the way!

If you have a little money and want to invest then go ahead and do so, But I really suggest you start by just getting the basics and you will learn what additions you would like overtime.

I would concentrate on the following:

  • A small backpacking tent (2 man at the most)
  • A decent sleeping bag (I suggest synthetic not down to start with)
  • An inflatable sleeping mat (they take up way less space than a roll mat)
  • A comfy pack (I suggest around the 50L size)
  • A small camping stove (I like an all in one system like the JetBoil, nice and easy)
  • A super warm layer (an insulated jacket just in case)
  • A thermal blanket (one of those cheap tinfoil ones, could be a life saver!)

These are the basics for sure! But with these thing’s you can get out very quickly and see what else you feel you need! That’s part of the fun! Your gear will grow with you.

I started with a borrowed 35L backpack, my old summer sleeping bag from back in the day, no stove (so cold food only) and this terrible and cheap self-inflating sleeping mat. I was uncomfy, I was cold, the gear didn’t fit in the bag so I had stuff strapped on the outside and I was in a way too big tent, but I was still enjoying the process and new exactly what changes I needed to make to my gear overtime.

After a few years of trial and error I have got a kit that still has room for improvement but is pretty lightweight and works for me down to around 2-3 degrees. I will do a better kit list in the future but below is a highres picture that hopefully can give you some clues.

All of my major gear (I strip it down a bit sometimes, like no laptop and camera)

Point is don’t worry about gear and grow overtime with it. The important thing is to get out there and find amazing spots!

AND FINALLY…

The wild camping experience is for you!

Don’t let anyone tell you what the experience should be. It is what you want it to be. If you think expensive gear is cheating and you should build a shelter from twigs then cool! Go for it! If you think you should leave the mobile phone off and be in the moment then hey! I can get behind that!

If you want to watch the sun go down, then cuddle up in a warm and comfy sleeping bag and watch Netflix then you are my type of person 🙂

I’ve even been guilty of wandering around an area looking for a spot with a good signal so I can message friends and watch youtube while in my tent. Don’t tell anyone.

What I am trying to say is enjoy it! Every camp is going to be different, some will be better than others, on a clear and warm night stargazing while listening to your favourite camping music (Crywolf in my case) can be an amazing experience. Sometimes it’s cold and windy and cloudy though, so get comfy and catchup on some TV and pray for the rain to stop while you are packing up! At least that’s what I would do.

waking up with an amazing view and the amazing Johanna

Go out and have an amazing time, your way. Stay safe and enjoy the process and Gods amazing creation. Catch up with your thoughts or on your TV. Be in the moment, be it by yourself, or with some mates. ENJOY!

This facebook group is an amazing community and resource. I highly recommend joining if you wanna get into wild camping. It’s full of nearly 50,000 people excited for wild camping! And they post some amazing pictures daily.

— Written by Alex, from Pen-Y-Pass Hostel, UK. —


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