10/06/2019

Wild camping - beginners guide. Essential kit & useful tips

Wild camping lets you see the outdoors in ways and at times that few others do



Wild camping - a simple guide to what you need

I've wild camped for many years now and wild camping is a brilliant and unique way to experience the outdoors in a totally new light (literally!) It let's you see amazing sunsets and sunrises in remote locations and if your lucky the most star filled skies you'll ever see. I often get people who want to try wild camping ask me what equipment they need to get started and where to go and below are some essential equipment and some useful tips for beginners! (I’m not sponsored by anyone and link to amazon for ease, but please support your local independent outdoor shops where possible). 



Essential guide to the equipment you'll need on a wild camp to make it enjoyable



Wild camping equipment list:

The absolute essentials and what I recommend spending as much money as possible on are your tent, sleeping bag, sleeping matt & rucksack to carry everything in! These are the key investments, and will keep you warm & dry in all weather conditions. 

The Tent


Your tent has got to be up to the job of with standing a variety of weather conditions and importantly light enough to carry on your back. Around 2kg and under is the magic weight to aim for, and personally I prefer to use a 2 man tent so there is plenty of room for you and your rucksack (or your partner :-)

There are tents to suit all budgets and if money is no object and you wish to camp in all seasons in extreme conditions, then the tents from Hilleberg, such as the Hilleberg Soulo tend to be the connoisseur's choice, but it's pricey at £800 plus and I can't justify spending that personally. Another popular choice amongst wild campers is the MSR range of tents and the MSR Hubba NX Solo comes in at around £330. At the budget end you might want to take a look at the Vango Nevis 100 or 200 which are popular with those doing the Duke of Edinburgh outdoor experiences and they come in around the £100 mark. There are even cheaper options out there, which might seem a good idea to save some cash, but to be honest if you do more than one wild camp you'll soon see their short-comings and want to upgrade your tent pretty quickly to some of those mentioned.   

What do I recommend? Well I always go for a mix of value & quality (and recommend these kind of products as I think enjoyment of the outdoors should be as accessible to as many people as possible regardless of income) So I decided to part my hard earned cash on the Wild Country 'Helm 2 Compact' It's good value compared to more expensive options (about £200), it’s robust & free-standing, stands up to the elements well, it's spacious, light-weight and it's easy to put up. I've used it countless times and its never let me down - so I’ll happily recommend it.



Sleeping bag 


The choice of sleeping bag depends on where you are camping and the temperatures. All sleeping bags have a temperature rating and it's essential you get one warm enough for your needs - if your stuck up a mountain and cold, it’s no fun at all and there is nothing you can do about it (and it can even be dangerous). It's a key bit of kit so spend your money wisely, and invest as much as possible and the more you spend the warmer (and lighter/smaller to pack it will be). Always try and get a down-filled bag for maximum insulation to weight ratio. A great value one from Alpkit is the ultra-light 3 season Pipe Dream 400 which you can pick up for about £190 and will keep you warm down to the extreme of -4c (This is what I use). Also of note to the budget conscious is the new Vango range of Cobra Sleeping bags, such as the Cobra 400 or Cobra 600 which you can pick up from £180. The sleeping bags by Rab are also worth looking into if you have more of a budget. 

Sleeping matt


A sleeping matt is key to giving a comfortable nights sleep, and an important aspect of the sleeping matt is to keep you insulated from the cold ground. If you have the best sleeping bag, but no insulation from the ground, you'll still feel cold. Look for the 'R' rating with sleeping matts - the higher the better. A good budget option for warm summer camping is the Trekology UL inflatable matt which is 10cm thick, picks away small and I've used it a few times - but it’s R rating is poor. For cooler temperatures you'll want a matt with a higher 'R Rating'. Thermarest are the market leaders in this field and unless you are camping in winter try something like the Thermarest Trail Lite Trooper Regular Sleeping Mat. If you are camping in the winter then the Thermarest XTherm Neo Air is the ultimate choice. To go with your sleeping matt - you might also want to take a travel pillow and I like the inflatable ones as they pack down small.

 


Rucksack 


You need something to cary all your stuff in and a strong, robust, lightweight and weather proof rucksack of an adequate size is essential. The bigger the better I think so you have more space to fit all your stuff in - A 60 Litre to 70/80L is what I recommend. I've used the Vango Nango 60 + 10 Rucksack for a lot fo years which gives me 70 Litres storage and plenty of compartments and I've no need to change. Osprey are market leaders in this field so check them out.  

 
What a stunning location on this wild camping trip in the Lake District


Electrical equipment essentials:

• Torch & Headlight - another absolute essential - 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 take a headlamp and also a torch, currently I'm using the  Nebo iProtec Pro 280 Flash Light which is 280 lumens so has a pretty powerful brightness and is quite small to pack too. Double check before every trip that the batteries have plenty of juice in them too.

• Tent lantern - I also take a mini-camping lantern too to hang in the tent that can give me light in the full tent and it also light sup your tent nicely for those night time tent photos :) I'm currently using the small Black Diamond Zip Lantern


• 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 so don't forget it. A power pack will come in useful too if you are wild camping for more than 1 night and need to keep your phone charged.



Getting your cooking equipment right is a key part of an enjoyable wild camp.

Cooking equipment:


• Travel stove - again the lighter the better to help you cook with. I use the Msr PocketRocket 2 Mini Stove Kit 2020 Camping Stove - it's great value and the lightest around. There are other options that are up to harsher conditions. JetBoil is a premium product and is famed for how speedy it is to boil water.

• Cookware - at a basic level you'll want a large cooking mug to heat your water or food. Definitely go for a titanium version for lightness & durability and it will be a good investment and last you a much longer time than cheaper options. Something like the Alpkit MytiMug650 lets you cook enough water for a couple of cups of coffee. 

• Mug - don't forget to also take something to drink out of (I use the titanium cooking mug to drink out of) I find those insulated mugs with lids are a good shout to keep drinks warmer for longer

• Knife/fork/spoon - don't forget something to eat with! As I only eat rehydrated meals  (that you add water to - I find I only need a spoon with an extra long handle to get into the pouches or pots)



Wild camping is an experience I'd recommend to anyone who loves walking and the outdoors!

Food & drink


• Water - Its vital to take enough drinking water with you on your trip - I always carry with me 1 - 2 litres of water. If you know you are going to be camping where there is fresh water such as a stream from the fell tops - then you might want to use that to cook with after boiling it to be safe. Alternatively there are quite a few good instant water filtration options out there such as the Swayer filters, the Grawl Ultralight and the LifeStraw options. My personal favourite is the Katadyn BeFree as there's no pumping required like other water filters, you can drink straight from the bottle and for just my needs it's my favourite 'easy-to-use' water filter and a great little product investment which costs about £35 and saves me lumping a load of bottled water about on my camps - you can find out more and buy the Katadyn BeFree here


• Meals - For evening meals I like to keep things simple - so re-hydrated foods that just need water adding too (it also saves on the washing up) - whether thats noodles/rice that you can add water too or specialist outdoor food pouches that you can pick up in outdoor stores like those from Fire Pot (although they can be pricier than supermarket options). But any meal that you can just add boiling water too, and doesn't go off quick makes things easy & simple. 

• 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 


• For breakfast - Again I'll keep it simple - I'll take a porridge pot or breakfast pouch which just requires hot water and add a banana and cereal bar into the mix. 


• Drinks - For drinks other than water, I'll take some tea bags/coffee sachets which again are easy as it's just adding water! For me it's a nice treat to also have a few cans of beer or even a little bottle of wine too - whatever takes your fancy, while its important to pack light on a wild camp, you've got to have some treats too :)



Wild camping is an experience everyone should try once - just make sure you take everything you need to make it enjoyable!

Toileteries

• Insect repellant - it's an absolute essential this - often you'll get midges hanging around your tent (especially in July-August) - even more so if you are pitched up next to some water and in non-windy conditions - 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 (and is cheap) is Avon Skin so soft which you can pick up online for about £5

• Ear plugs - always a camping necessity for me - especially if the birds are up really early :-)

• 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

Plastic bags - it's always handy to have a spare carrier bag and even a couple of small zip seal bags to but any rubbish or bog roll in :-)


Clothes

You'll need to wear and take the right clothes to suit the conditions you'll be camping in, and remember it's better to be safe and take a few extra layers if your unsure, rather than be sorry and wish you had more layers! Here are a few of the essentials: 

  • Warm Coat / Down Jacket - it does tend to get chilly at night when wild camping, evening summer, and it's no fun being cold when all you want to do is sit around the tent and even star gaze. For colder conditions I like to take a lightweight Down jacket, which gives you excellent warm to weight ratio, such as the Rab Microlight Alpine 
  • Insulating mid-layers - again depending on the temperatures- you may want to wear, or pack in your rucksack, extra layers such as fleeces or soft shell jackets.


 

  • Waterproof Jacket - this is a must, especially in the UK when you never know when it will rain! I always take with me my fully waterproof Berghaus Men's Maitland Gore-TEX Hiking Jacket - it's good value for such a technical jacket and being made of Gore-TEX means it is completely waterproof. If looked after it will be a good investment. It comes in both men's and women sizes.
  • Waterproof Over trousers - I also keep in my rucksack my waterproof over-trousers and the Berghaus Paclite GORE-tex trousers that I use are fully waterproof to keep you completely dry and pack away in a handy little stuff sack no bigger than a can of pop!

                       


• Thermals - Depending on the weather - I take thermals too to sleep in - long-johns and a top, again better to be too warm and take them off than too cold 

• 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!



So that's my list of essential equipment for a wild camp and I hope it help's you in planning yours! And remember the one golden rule of Wild Camping - leave no trace! So please respect the land and keep it as you found it for others who will follow you - so don't leave any litter or scorched earth.  Read on to learn some more tips about planning your wild camping trip.




Wild camping top tips


Wild camping tips lake district gear checklist best where
Here's everything you need to know to plan the perfect wild camp



Get the Wild Camping location right


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 and have perhaps visited before on a walk. Also for your very first camp try and find somewhere close to the car parking spot just in case there are issues! You may even want to try out all your new equipment first on a campsite, just to make sure everything works fine and keeps your warm and comfortable. 

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 also search online for wild camping blog posts/videos/photos to get ideas. I personally prefer somewhere high-up with great views and ideally a stream near by for water. If it's overlooking a tarn or lake even better, and my favourite places are where you will get great views of sunsets & sunrises. You should note though that you can't just pitch up anywhere - legally you should have the permission of the land owner in England. 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. It’s good etiquette to pitch up late close to sundown after the day walkers have left the fells and depart just after daybreak, and I can’t emphasise enough about leaving no trace you where there - so no litter and no scorched earth from fires, leave it in a pristine condition for the rest of us to find it - otherwise these remote places will get spoilt. This site gives a good overview of the legalities of wild camping in the U.K. https://originaloutdoors.co.uk/articles/uk-wild-camping-laws-explained/


Wild camping Lake District lakes Helm 2 compact ullswater terra nova best spot
Enjoying the last of suns rays on at wild camping trip in the English Lake District  


Tent pitch spot

Like most tips on pitching a tent - whether on a campsite or out on the fells - pick a bit of dry, flat ground so you don't end up moving around in your tent. If your a beginner you may want to avoid ridges and summits as the conditions can change quickly in these exposed positions, so build your skills in more sheltered spots. To avoid midges in the summer months - stay away from water or boggy areas. You'll learn how to tell boggy areas by the plant life that grows on them, Also take into consideration the weather conditions and importantly the forecast - is it likely to get windier in the night into the next day (even though it's calm when pitching your tent)? Is the wind direction forecast to change direction over the night? Also if it's forecast to rain (or snow) - then is your spot going to turn into a bog or snowdrift? A bit of raised ground that is flat and sheltered on all sides, or certainly from the wind is ideal.


Wild camping Lake District best spot Angle Tarn
A bit of flat, dry ground next to a tarn - an ideal wild camping spot for the night


The 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. For your first wild camps it would be best to go in mild dry weather and take it from there.


Further reading:

This article from The Great Outdoors Magazine is a useful one for beginners and answers the most common questions such as, Is it legal? Is it safe? And what if I ned teh toilet for a number two? :-) View the article: Beginner Wild Camping questions answered 



Wild Camping spots ideas: 

If all of this has made you want to try out a spot of wild camping - then here is a popular lake district wild camping spot that is no secret really so I'm happy to share. However, you'll soon find that the best camping spots are the ones you discover for yourself :-) 





Happy camping & remember - Leave no trace!



Post by Stuart Hodgson 
'The Hiking Photographer'


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A useful blog post on recommended essential walking gear


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