Wild camping in the Lake District - the best way to experience the great outdoors?

There's nothing quite like a wild camp - it's an experience I'd recommend to anyone who loves walking and the outdoors. When everyone else have left the mountains you have the place to yourself - and the chance to see spectacular sunsets, sunrises, mist filled valleys and the most amazing dark and stary night skies you'll ever see if you are lucky. If you'd like to experience a wild camp yourself - check out my tips and camping essentials below.

Wild camping - an experience everyone should try, and hopefully you will after seeing these photos :-)

Whilst I love my home comforts, it's a good tonic for the soul getting out into the great outdoors - and even better if there is a wild camp involved. There's nothing quite like the peace and quiet perched high up a mountain side, with no one else about, no mobile phone signal and the only sounds being the sound of the breeze and running water from distant waterfalls. As long as you've got the right kit (and the weather forecast is kind) then it's the perfect place to chill.

Below are a few photos of a recent wild camp to the Lake District one summers evening - to try and inspire you to try out a spot of wild camping and experience that unique solitude and most amazing views.

A perfect flat spot to set up my tent for the evening. The breeze is light on this particular warm summers evening  - so this exposed spot is not a problem.

blea tarn, lake district, best views
This is one of my favourite and most picturesque wild camping spots in the Lake District and somewhere I dream about when i want to get away from it all :-)

I climbed further up the fell side to watch the sun go down - and I thought there may have been a roaring sunset - but it wasn't to be on this night. You can just about see my tent in the bottom left corner.

wild camping, lake district, lakes, walks, best views, vango, tent, banshee 200
As the sun goes down - the moon comes up!

The light is fading now and it's nearly time for a kip!

If you manage to camp in the lakes when the sky is clear and dark - you'll be treated to the most amazing starry night skies - I once could see the mist of the milky way on another wild camp

wild camping, lake district, lakes, walks, best views, vango, tent, banshee 200
The time now must be about 11pm - and ta blanket of cloud rolls in. As it's mid summer - the skies are not dark for long

Morning time! When wild camping is natural to set your body clock to natures pattern - so go to sleep when it get's dark and wake up when it gets light! This is about 6am and it's a bit murky with the mist hanging around.

wild camping, lake district, lakes, walks, best views, vango, tent, banshee 200
I'm not a morning person by any means - so a bacon sarnie and a cup of tea helps to shape me up - those home comforts on a wild camp make all the difference :-)

Wild camping tips

Location - it's vital to get the spot for your wild camp right - and I would recommend your first wild camp being somewhere you are familiar with. Whenever I'm out on day walks on the fells - I'll make a mental note of somewhere that I think would be a good spot for a wild camp. I personally prefer somewhere with great views and a stream near by for water and a wash :) If it's overlooking a tarn or lake even better. You should note though that you can't just pitch up anywhere - legally you should have the permission of the land owner. However, in the English Lake District, which is my wild camping area of choice - wild camping is tolerated as long as you pitch up above the highest fell wall, stay for only one night and leave no trace that you where ever there.

Camping spot - like most tips on pitching a tent - whether on a campsite or out on the fells - pick a bit of flat ground so you don't end up rolling about in your tent. Also take into consideration the weather conditions and forecast - if its windy or likely to get windier in the night - then you don't want to be in too an exposed a position. Also if it's forecast to rain - then is your spot going to turn into a bog? A bit of raised ground that is flat is ideal.

The right gear - I'll expand in detail below on what gear I like to take on wild camps - but 2 of the most essential bits of kit to get right are your tent and sleeping bag - if you forget everything else - these 2 items should get you through a night :-) Your tent should be up to the weather conditions and big enough for you and anyone else - but also light and easy to carry. Currently I'm using the Vango Banshee 200 tent (A good value tent for my needs). In terms of sleeping bags - again it needs to be warm enough for the weather conditions and easy to pack away and carry. I have a review here of the tent & sleeping bag I'm currently using.

Weather - it's essential to plan any trip according to the weather forecast, especially so for wild camps, and especially more so in places like the Lake District fells where multiple seasons can be experienced in 1 day! I've read stories of people going on wild camps in nice weather - and waking up the next day surrounded by snow. So don't let things like that catch you out. There are some excellent resources online now that can give very accurate forecasts for particular locations - such as the Met Office and BBC weather and a key one for the outdoors is the Mountain Weather Information Service. Be sure to know as best as possible what the forecast is before any wild camping trips and plan accordingly.

Essential wild camping gear list

So here is a list of the essentials I take on a wild camp - and where possible the links take you to actual products you can buy and read further information or reviews. I'm someone who prefers the best value options for maximum technical quality so everything I take is good value.


(* Note I have linked to products I use where possible if you are interested)

• Tent - as mentioned it's got to be up to the job of the weather conditions and light enough to carry on your back - I use the Vango Banshee 200 which you can pick up for around £100

• Sleeping bag - at the moment I only really camp in the UK in spring, summer and autumn and the Vango Venom 300 is ideal for my needs which again packs light and costs around £120

• Travel mattress - I like a bit of comfort to sleep on and the thin inflatable options (which you can easily inflate with your mouth) that pack light are a must for me (note its essential to sleep on some form of mat to keep you warm at night) - The Therm-a-rest base camp mattress which costs £90 is a good value option

• Travel pillow - another essential - a nice little pillow makes all the difference for me - and is worth tracking = you can pick these up for about £10/20 in most outdoor stores. The thermarest pillow here is good option

• Rucksack - you need something to cary all this stuff in and a strong, robust and weather proof rucksack of an adequate size is essential. Im currently using the Vango Nango 60 + 10 Rucksack which gives me 70 Litres storage and plenty of compartments.

• Torch - another essential really - it gets pretty dark out on the fells at night - and you also need to think of the worst case option in that you need to travel quite a way in the dark on tricky terrain - so don't skimp and save on a poor option here. I use the Nebo iProtec Pro 280 Flash Light - which is 280 Lumens a pretty powerful brightness up to 200m with many other functions - it costs £25 but really is worth spending the extra money on this potentially life saving bit of kit

• Camera - well it's essential for me :-) I'm currently using the compact Canon G7 Mark II - it's pocket size (essential for me) - so great for hiking and the picture quality is superb. I won't go into detail but suffice to say I done a lot of research on getting the best compact camera I could afford and this is what I opted for

• Phone - your unlikely to get signal (and that can be a good thing if you truly want to get away from it all and digitally unplug!) but on many occasions I've actually got a signal on various peaks because they are high up - and you never know - you might need to try and get a signal in an emergency

• Travel stove - again the lighter the better to help you cook with. I use the MSR Pocket Rocket Stove which costs £27

• Kettle / Cup / Pan / Frying pan - all travel versions which are light weight and make all the difference in making eating and drinking that little bit easier

• Knife/fork/spoon - don't forget something to eat with!

Food & drink

• Water - Its vital to take enough drinking water with you on your trip - I always take a few bottles of mineral water but if you know you are going to be camping where there is fresh water - then there are quite a few good instant water filtration bottles out there - such as this water filtration bottle from Water to Go

• Snacks - it's not good to be hungry out on your trip - so take plenty of snacks that won't perish easily such as cereal bars, nuts, dried fruit, crips and even bananas

• Meals - For evening meals I like to keep things simple - so foods that just need water really - whether thats noodles that you can add water too or boil in the bag stuff like pasta/rice or even meals you can get from specialist outdoor stores (although they can be pricier than supermarket options)

For breakfast - I'll take a porridge pot which just requires hot water and for a treat some bacon and bread buns :-) If I take bacon I'll pack it in a cool box with an ice pack- which is usually good to last the night.

• Other Drinks - For drinks other than water - I'll take some tea bags, and a little bit of milk/sugar, and for a treat maybe a couple of bottles of beer or a little bottle of wine or a can of G&T


• Insect repellant - it's an absolute essential this - often you'll get midges hanging around your tent - even more so if you are pitched up next to some water - so you'll want a good repellant. The strongest has Deet in it such as Pyramid Trek 50 Insect/Mosquito Repellent Deet Spray  - another more skin friendly option which comes with great reviews in the walking community is Avon Skin so soft which you can pick up online for about £5

• Ear plugs - always a camping necessity for me - I'm a light sleeper!

• Toilet roll - you never know when you need to go!

• Baby wipes - good for a little clean in the morning

• Sun cream - if it's sunny then you'll need this or you could end up burnt to a crisp

• Tooth brush & paste(travel size)  - another little home comfort that makes me feel a little fresher


You'll no doubt be an experienced walker if your planning a wild camp and therefore travelling/walking in the right gear (walking boots, top/trousers/jacket etc) so here are a few little extras:

- Spare socks - it's nice to put fresh ones on in the morning
- Flip flops - it's nice to give the feet an airing around the tent, especially after having boots on all day and these don't take up much room!
- Insulated jacket and extra layers - it does tend to get chilly at night - even in summer - so best to have the option of extra layers to put on - it's not fun being cold
- Thermals - Depending on the weather - I take thermals too to sleep in - long-johns and a top,  again better to be too warm than too cold

So that's my list of essentials for a wild camp and I hope it help's you in planning yours :-)

Blog Post by Stuart Hodgson, 'The Hiking Photographer'

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