Wild camping is a fantastic experience and waking up with the hills and mountains in your view is the best way to wake up in the morning. It is worth remembering though that wild camping is not officially permitted in most mountainous areas in the UK and whilst many landowners turn a blind eye to it they will have expectations that you don’t abuse or damage our natural environment. Below I have listed some of my top tips for having an enjoyable wild camping experience that uphold the ethics that us outdoorsy folk strive to uphold!
A peaceful camp in the Rhinogau, Wales.
Leave no trace.
This is the single most important rule when your wild camping but is a rule you should follow at all times in the mountains. Wild camping should have no impact on the land and any waste or rubbish should always be carried out. Never light fires and ensure stoves are raised or wont scorch the grass when being used!
Last year a major wildfire caused substantial damage at the Roaches in the Peak District and caused an ecological disaster for the natural habitat. It took a number of weeks and huge cost to the taxpayer before the fire was under control. The source of the fire was a small family camp fire that had got out of control.
Looking across to Ogwen on an early summers morning!
Don’t pollute the water
We all need to use the toilet and the natural environment offers one of the best views you will ever find when sitting on the throne. This does however cause issues when human waste and drinking water meet. If you need to use the toilet ensure you do it a good distance away from any water sources (20+ meters) and burry it 6 inches or more under the ground. Carrying a pooh trowel is always a good idea and are only needed to dig out the soil and cover up any waste. If your going to use toilet paper make sure you get the biodegradable types or bring it out with you in a bag.
In the past people have burnt toilet paper instead of bringing it out. This can increase the chances of wildfire and also causes ash to contaminate the ground. Bringing it out should be the primary aim where possible!
Keep your gear dry.
Getting wet when your out walking is bad enough but trying to get warm in a wet sleeping bag can be pretty brutal and in cold conditions dangerous. I put all my important gear (Sleeping bag, cooking gear and spare clothes) into dry bags and on very wet walks will consider using two dry bags for my sleeping gear. Keep it all dry like your life depends on it!
A remote wild camp in the Lake District
Finding a good source for drinking water requires some experience and common sense. Is the stream large enough to provide fresh water? Where is the source? Is it a large lake or a stagnant pool? I personally like a faster flowing stream or river and the water must look clear before I will entertain the idea of drinking it! Don’t drink from still water like ponds or pools as this is where bacteria can establish itself. Using water filtration devices like Steripen or Lifestraw can help filter micro bacteria and reduce your chances of getting the dreaded Montezuma's revenge in the night!
Leave your Ray Mears book at home.
I have the utmost respect for survival experts who can whittle a fork and spoon out of a log but the mountains are not the place for cutting down trees and making cutlery . Most land in the UK is owned by somebody and while many of them turn a blind eye to wild camping you may cause conflict if you start chopping down branches and trees for your whittling pleasure. Save that for your own home or for areas where it is permitted.
If your looking for a Mountain Skills course that looks at wild camping why not book onto our Mountain Independence course. The five day course will give you all the skills you need to enjoy the mountains and also includes a night of wild camping and instruction in camp craft. For more information follow the link below.
About The Author
Matt Cooper is a Mountain Leader, Rock Climbing Instructor and the owner of The Mountaineering Company. Matt has spent years exploring the mountains of the UK and abroad and has a significant number of wild camps under his belt. Matt is also a Montane Ambassador and regular contributor to Summit Magazine the official magazine of the British Mountaineering Council.
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