7 golden rules for wild camping in the uk

When we venture out for a wild camp in the UK there are a few “golden rules” we like to follow. They help to keep us safe, protect our natural surroundings and lessen our impact on future visitors and land users

our 7 golden rules of wild camping

  • Pitch late and leave early
  • Keep groups small
  • Don’t light fires. Ever. Unless it’s a survival situation there’s no need.
  • Dig your “facilities” at least 60m from water and paths
  • Don’t be a nuisance or a noisy bugger. The sound of a bluetooth speaker travels a long way in the still of the night.
  • Hand Sanitiser is your friend. Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t take it wild camping. The last thing you want is bad guts and no facilities. Trust me.
  • Leave no trace.

Pitch late and leave early.

Unless you’re wild camping in Scotland or on Dartmoor, it’s probably best to pitch your shelter around sunset and be ready to get away at dawn. If you’ve put the work in and hiked to a particularly remote spot then you could stretch your definition of late and early a bit.

Obviously the nights are much shorter in the height of summer and winter wild camps will afford a nice long lie in, staying warm in your sleeping bag for as long as possible

If you pitch your wild camp late and break camp early you’ll avoid most other people and greatly reduce the likelihood of being asked to move on. Some areas are more prone to very early morning dog walkers so keep that in mind when choosing a spot to wild camp.

Wild Camp in Small Groups

Wild camping is very much a solitary pursuit but it nice from time to time to go out with friends. Indeed, if your new to wild camping then heading out as part of a small group can help boost your confidence for next time and you’ll have that friend for both company and as a safety net should anything go wrong.

I would suggest keeping groups fairly small, probably 4 at most, to ensure the quality of experience for yourselves and other campers and hikers in the area. Remember it’s “back to nature” experience we’re striving for, not a “party on a hill”.

Camp Fires

Although permitted in Scotland in some circumstances, I don’t see any need to light a fire when wild camping, except in a survival situation. We hear too many stories of small camp fires quickly getting out of control and destroying vast areas of our special places.

Lighting a campfire while wild camping

Gas and spirit stoves are a safe way to cook while in the outdoors and while fire box stoves have their place in a bushcraft type setting, I would probably avoid using them in most other instances.

Disposable barbecues should be banned.

Using the Facilities while wild camping

One of the joys of being miles from anywhere is the break from civilisation and all its trappings. However it does mean that we have to be pretty much self sufficient and that means making our own toilet facilities.

Please don’t think that covering your “arisings” with a stone is enough to deal with it. Learning how to properly poop while wild camping is somewhat of a skill in itself.

In some particularly sensitive areas you may be required to pack out everything. EVERYTHING! There are some products you can purchase for dealing with packing out your waste but most of the time you’ll need to dig a proper cathole.

  1. Walk 60 metres from trails and water sources
  2. Dig a hole 6 – 8 inches deep
  3. Do your business
  4. Bury any toilet paper or bag it and pack it
  5. Fill in your Hole

Be respectful

Have fun but don’t be silly. Wild camping is not the time for loads of beers and bluetooth speakers. Sound travels surprisingly long distances on a still night and remember, you’re sharing your spot with wildlife, livestock and probably other people who are out for a quiet time.

At the same time, if you’re on your own then listening to music or a podcast might help to keep some nerves at bay. Just keep the volume down or bring your earbuds.

While we’re talking wild camping ethics, don’t mess with livestock or damage vegetation. Leave gates as you find them, keep your dog under close control and just generally be respectful.

Use Hand Sanitiser

Use hand sanitiser, use hand sanitiser, use hand sanitiser. I can’t state this enough. Don’t trust anyone who doesn’t bring hand sanitiser with them wild camping.

It might be an idea to keep your trail mix bag to yourself. All those different, grubby fingers rooting around in your snacks are a recipe for bellyache and trust me, bad guts and wild camping are not a fun combination.

You’re more likely to get sick from poor hand hygiene while wild camping than anything else so please, please, please use hand sanitiser.

Learn Leave No Trace.

The 7 principles of Leave No Trace help us to minimise our impact on the land we are using and other people using the land, but it’s more than simply taking all your rubbish home. It’s pretty self explanatory but please head over to http://www.lnt.org for all the up to date practices and advice.

Staying safe, healthy and responsible while wild camping

Most of these “golden rules” are common sense and the first six fall under the umbrella of the seventh. Leave No Trace. LNT is the ethical code for being in the outdoors and it’s worth learning all seven principles in depth. It’s so much more than simply taking your rubbish away with you. They’ll give you the skills required for a safe and fulfilling camp while protecting the landscapes for the next set of wild campers.

But now it’s over to you. What have we missed, what should we add and what are we worrying about unnecessarily? Let us know in the comments below.

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