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Windermere Weekend

How to start wild camping

Updated: Apr 29, 2021

This 'camping for beginners' article is written for anyone that would like to start camping, particularly wild camping. Wild camping generally means packing smaller and lighter than you might do if you were camping next to your car, usually it will involve travelling (walking/cycling/paddling) and camping in a rural location. We've provide some tips for starting wild camping, addressed some frequently asked questions, and provided recommendations on what gear to buy for wild camping.

Did you know?

Recreational camping was first popularised in the UK. 'Camping out’ was a fashionable extension on the Victorian's enjoyment for boating, and by the 1880s, was popular on the River Thames between Oxford and London. Early camping equipment was very heavy, so it was convenient to transport it by boat or to use craft that converted into tents on the river Thames. Camping was further popularised by organisations such as the Association of Cycle Campers (founded in 1901) and the Boy Scout movement (founded in 1907). Thomas Hiram Holding, a British travelling tailor, is often seen as the father of modern camping in the UK. He 1908 he published 'The Campers Handbook' so that he could share his enthusiasm for the great outdoors with the world.

Tips: how to start wild camping

Here are a few tips for anyone that would like to begin wild camping:

  • Start close to home. And by this, I mean a garden - yours or a friends. That way you can test your gear and set up. If you're unhappy for any reason, or forget something, you can simply back head indoors. You can also learn how your tent pitches, as well as how to pack it away (tip, use the poles as a 'width guide' to roll up the fabric of your tent and it should pack away into the bag nicely).

  • Arrive in daylight. Whilst you shouldn't pitch too early, make sure you leave several hours to set up camp, cook and possibly for a quick swim (just don't get too cold!) if you've picked a good location.

  • Make sure you have the right gear. To help you with this, we've included a list of suggestions for essential camping items at the bottom of this article.

  • Go with a more experienced camper. They can help you with any teething problems (how do you light the stove, where to get water from, where's a good place to pitch etc) as well as hopefully being good company! These tips and subtleties can help you have a much better camping experience. Or join a camping for beginners event, where you can benefit from the experience of an experienced camper.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Why do people go wild camping? For many reasons. To share fun times with friends new and old. To engage with nature. To appreciate the simple things in life. For the freedom, the exercise and fresh air. To watch the star-lit sky at night. To de-stress and clear your head. To facilitate adventures. For the pub at the end. The list goes on!

  • Will I be cold or uncomfortable if I go camping? You shouldn't be cold when you're camping. Summer in the UK is a great time to start camping as it's not particularly cold, even overnight. Innovation in design of sleeping bags and, in particular, inflatable camping mats (they largely replaced foam mats around 15 years ago) mean that you should be comfortable, insulated from the ground and are light enough to carry in your rucksack. Read these 5 tips on sleeping warm when camping here.

  • Is wild camping legal? Wild camping in Scotland is permitted almost anywhere that's not private land, with few exceptions (the most notable exception being around the banks of Loch Lomond). In England and Wales, you should seek permission to camp on land in England and Wales unless you're camping in certain areas of Dartmoor National Park or the Lake District. The general rules of thumb are don't pitch too early in the day, only stay one night, leave no trace. In practice, if you're discrete (a green tent can help), respectful and don't overstay your welcome, wild camping is not generally an issue - I've wild camped many hundreds, probably thousands of nights, all over the UK and world, and I've never had a problem.

  • Can I have a campfire? Not usually. You should always observe the 'Leave no trace' rule. Don't have a fire in popular areas nor where there's grass or where it will be possible to tell you've had a fire after you've gone.

  • How heavy should my rucksack be? Lighter is better, but often costs more money (more technical gear is typically lighter). You should still aim for a backpack that weighs no more than around 15kgs including food and water. You can watch a short video on what to pack for wild camping here. There's also 6 free and easy ways to pack lighter here.

Did you know?

Adventure Breaks offer Camping for Beginners events; there's a choice of campsite camping or wild camping to choose from. We provide a brand new set of camping gear for you to keep, and show you how to use it. There's also an option to learn some map reading skills. The video below gives you an idea of what it's all about.

If you'd like to join one of these events, you can do so here.

What gear to buy for wild camping

If you prefer to try by yourself, here's a list of essential camping items you may wish to consider (with realistic entry budget in brackets):

  • tent (£100-£250) - avoid pop-up tents, go for a two-person tent, like this (or if you have the budget, one of these);

  • inflatable sleeping mat (£30-£75) - not a 'compact' one, make sure it's full length like this;

  • sleeping bag (£50-£80) - light yet warm (eg mummy shaped) is good, like this;

  • stove (£20-£30) - nothing too fancy, like this;

  • gas (£10) - try this;

  • pans/cookset (£25-£30) - like these;

  • headtorch (£25) - like this;

  • rucksack (£40-£100) - 60-70 litres, like this.

This totals around £300-£600. These items should last you for many years to come (although you may choose to start upgrading them, I'm a self-confessed gear geek myself!) and therefore prove to be extremely good value after a few uses.

I hope you find this information useful. If you have any questions or suggestions drop me an email, I'd love to hear from you.


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