29/07/2020

Wild camping in the Lake District - the best way to experience the great outdoors: Top tips


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 has 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. Whilst technically speaking wild camping is not allowed anywhere in England without the land owners prior consent, in the Lake District it is tolerated if you pitch high in the fells above the highest fence line or wall. Just pitch late and depart early morning and leave no trace of you ever being there. 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

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. At the end of this page you will see some of my Wild Camping Top Tips.


On this wild camp I found a perfect flat spot to set up my tent for the evening perched right on an edge. The breeze is light on this particular warm summers evening and it was forecast to be that way for the night - so this exposed spot is not a problem. When pitching a tent on a wild camp, you should be very aware of the weather conditions, the wind, temperature and forecast for the coming night & morning. It may be lovely on the day you walk & pitch up - buy will it change in the night o next day? Don't get caught out - preparation is everything.   



As my camp is now setup for the night - it gave me a chance to I climb further up the fell side to watch the sun go down. You can just about see my tent in the bottom left corner. Wild camping gives you a great chance of seeing sunsets form up high - just remember where you pitched your tent and take that torch with you in case you stay out when the night draws in :-)


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As the sun goes down - the moon comes up on this perfect warm summers evening.


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


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The time now must be about 11pm - and a blanket of cloud rolls in. Even though all there is in a tent is a sleeping bag and sleeping mat, you seem to appreciate the cosiness of your tent so much more than your bed at home!

wild camping stars night dark skies views Perseid Meteor Shower
This is a view from another Wild Camp I did in the Lake District, when the skies where perfectly clear and it was the time of the Perseid Metor Shower in early August. Got really lucky here with combining a wild camp with a yearly meteor shower and clear skies in the lakes!  You could actually see with the naked eye the Milky Way galaxy across the centre of the sky in a sort of faint white mist - it was absolutely awe-some in the truest sense of the word. There must have been shooting stars every 5 minutes too! These are the sort of sights that you can only get when wild camping! Check this link to see that particular Wild camping trip report www.hikingphotographer.uk/2012/08/wild-camp-at-hard-tarn-below-nethermost.html



Morning time! When wild camping it's 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.


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I'm not a morning person by any means - so a bacon sarnie and a cup of tea helps to shape me up and those home comforts on a wild camp are appreciated much more in these remote locations.





Wild camping tips lake district gear checklist best where
If this blog post has inspired you to want to try out wild camping for yourself then here are my Wild Camping top tips: 


Wild camping top tips


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. 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 greta 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/


Camping 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. Also take into consideration the weather conditions and forecast - if it's windy or likely to get windier in the night (even though it's calm when pitching your tent) - then you don't want to be in too an exposed a position. 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 is ideal.


The right camping equipment

I'll expand in detail below on what gear I like to take on wild camps - but 3 of the most essential bits of kit to get right are your tent, sleeping bag and matt - if you forget everything else - these 3 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. In terms of sleeping bags - again it needs to be warm enough for the weather conditions and easy to pack away and carry. The sleeping mattress will help keep you insulated from the cold ground and help with a comfortable nights sleep.

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.





Wild camping is an experience everyone should try once - even if just to make you appreciate home comforts :-)




Essential wild camping gear list

Here is a list of the essentials I currently take on a wild camp - and where possible the links take you to actual products online you can buy and read further information or reviews (but support your local independent outdoor shops where possible!). I'm someone who prefers the best value options for maximum technical quality so everything I take is good value. 


Equipment


(* Note I have linked to products I use where possible if you are interested and I'm not sponsored by anyone)

• Tent - as mentioned it's got to be up to the job of the weather conditions and light enough to carry on your back. Under 2kg is the magic weight to aim for - and there are tents to suit all budgets. If money is no object and you wish to camp in all seasons in extreme conditions, then the Hilleberg Soulo tends to be the connoisseur's choice (£800ish). The Wild Country Helm 1 is an excellent value sturdy alternative weighing in at 1.97kg and priced about £180. At the budget end and under £100 you might want to take a look at the Vango Nevis 100

• Sleeping bag - again it depends on where you are camping and the temperatures. Always try and get a down-filled bag for maximum insulation. 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 teh extreme of -4c.  Vango Treklite Lightweight Sleeping Bag, Imperial Blue, Ultra 900 which you can pick up for £90

• Sleeping matt - these are key to giving a comfortable nights sleep, and more so to keep you insulated from the cold ground. Unless you are camping in winter try something like the Thermarest Trail Lite Trooper Regular Sleeping Mat

• 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.

• 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 I'll also take a mini-camping lantern too that can give me light without having to hold it.

• Travel stove - again the lighter the better to help you cook with. I use the Msr PocketRocket 2 Mini Stove Kit 2020 Camping Stove -great value and the lightest around. There are other options that are up to harsher conditions.

• Cookware - at a basic level you'll want a decent sized cooking mug to heat your water or food. Try and go for a titanium version for lightness & durability and it will be a good investment. Something like the MytiMug650.  You might even want to push the boat out and take a frying pan :-)

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


• 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 


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 o 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, Katadyn BeFree, the Grawl Ultralight and the LifeStraw options.


• 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 - Again I'll keep it simple - I'll take a porridge pot which just requires hot water and for a treat sometimes maybe some bacon and bread buns :-) 


• Other Drinks - For drinks other than water - I'll take some tea bags/coffee sachets, and a little bit of milk/sugar. It's nice treat to also have a can of beer or three or a little bottle of wine too :-) 


Toileteries

• 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 (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



Clothes

You'll no doubt be an experienced walker if your planning a wild camp and therefore travelling/walking in the right gear so here are a few little extras: 


• 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 so better to to take some extra layers than not enough! I'm a big fan of Rap insulated jackets such as the Rab Cirrus Flex Hoody Steel


• 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 

• 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 essentials 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.



Blog Post by Stuart Hodgson, 'The Hiking Photographer'


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