How to Wild Camp Properly

How to Wild Camp Properly

At the end of July, I took a friend out for his first multi-day hike and wild camp.  We hiked 60 km consisting of tricky terrain, careful navigation, hail, sunshine, strong winds, 2 wild camps and numerous beautiful peaks in the Brecon Beacons. 

Before we set off, I was asked several questions which to me seem obvious but to someone who has not been wild camping, can be a cause for concern.  This short post is to provide 5 things to consider when Wild Camping.

1.            Leave no trace

This is the cardinal rule of wild camping.  Leave no Trace.  It should not even need to be said but unfortunately, as many of us have seen in various newspapers, the minority are wrecking natural areas by leaving their trash behind.

Sad scenes of irresponsible and selfish campers taken from an online article
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/19/it-was-like-a-bomb-had-hit-an-off-licence-rise-in-wild-camping-hits-beauty-spots

It is not hard, pick up your trash and take it with you.  Better yet, leave your camp better than how you found it and take any rubbish you find with you.  One of the beauties of wild camping is the adventurous feel, being remote and connecting with nature.  This is all lost when you arrive to a secluded spot and find it full of the last persons rubbish.

If you are intending to wild camp, consider what you are taking with you.  For example, dried meals have less packaging and therefore less waste than carrying multiple cans of food. 

Sun setting in the Brecon Beacons. From this camp I picked up various rubbish including a pair of socks and a mask.

2.            Arrive late, leave early

Most of the land in the UK is privately owned except for Dartmoor and Scotland where there are different rules.  This means that you should get permission from the landowner to camp on their property.  Wild camping, in small groups is generally accepted in national parks but you should arrive late and leave early.  This will minimise your impact on other walkers and the landowners.  If you are asked to leave, politely pack up and move on, even if the person asking is not being polite.  

A subtle wild camp along the Yorkshire 3 Peaks route. I was hidden from the main path as to avoid farmers and walkers

3.            Toilet

This is very important.  As stated in the first point, Leave No Trace, and this includes human waste.  It is best to avoid going to the loo altogether so go before you start your hike and plan a route around public amenities.  If this is not possible, make sure you are at least 50 metres/160 feet or more away from any water source and dig a hole at least 15 cm/6 inches deep.  Using a tent peg is a good tool for digging a hole.  Once finished, bury your waste.  Do not use soft wipes as often they are not biodegradable and even if they are, they could take years to degrade completely which can damage the area.

A remote wild camp in the West Beacons, I only had horses to keep me company

4.            Water?

If you are doing a short hike (i.e. an afternoon or a day) you should be able to carry enough with you but as you venture into the world of long-distance hiking, sourcing water is essential.  When planning your route, it is good to have an idea of roughly where you will intend to camp so identify potential sources on the map you are using and plan around them. 

When water from a stream or river, do not take water from a stagnant area, the water is cleanest where it is flowing.  Check-up stream to make sure there is nothing obviously contaminating the water, such as dead livestock.  

I often use a buff or similar thin fabric to cover the top of my bottles like a gauze to remove any small particles in the water.  Check the water, is it clear?  If you are at your wild camp, boil the water on a hob/burner for a few minutes to sterilise it or alternatively buy some purification tablets.  These will take about half an hour to sterilise your water and it will give it a slight swimming pool taste, but at least you will not get sick. 

See the link to the Life Systems Chlorine Dioxide Tablets here.

A wild camp in Snowdonia next to a large lake (the lake was behind me when taking the photo)

5.            What to do in an emergency

Wild camping does mean that you will not have a site manager to contact if things go wrong.  Be prepared.  Tell someone, your partner, parent or friend, where you are going and roughly where you intend to camp.  If you need to contact the rescue services, be ready with your location.  There are plenty of GPS apps which can give you a grid reference but the best to use is What Three Words.  When contacting the emergency services, give them the What Three Words reference and this will inform the rescue team exactly where you are.

I have linked the What Three Words website here.

These are the 5 of the things you should consider before wild camping.  The British Mountaineering Council (BMC) has loads of information on wild camping, I have linked the BMC Respect the Wild page here.

If you have any questions or want recommendations, get in touch. Get out there, be safe and have fun.

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