Wild camping basics (Part 1 Equipment and planning)

Wild camping is a fantastic experience, waking up in the great outdoors with the sound of the wind blowing through the trees or waterfalls pouring down hillsides is great for the mind and the soul, Maybe a spiritual experience for some. I love the whole experience of wild camping, from sorting my kit in the house to searching a suitable area to camp for the night. All this being said it takes some practice and a little research to get it right.

Wildcamp

My rules for wild camping

  • Bring out what you bring in!
  • Leave no trace!
  • Don’t disturb the natural environment!
  • Land owners Permission?
  • Keep it simple!

Equipment

My most important tip I can give you is keep all your gear dry. I use a number of waterproof bags for each piece of kit and treat my sleeping bag and spare clothing like they are the most important item in the world. With a wet sleeping bag and clothes you can be in a dangerous position and nobody wants to climb into a soggy sleeping bag! The main items I take are listed below, some people take more some take less but keep an open mind. Sometimes taking more comfort will help you enjoy the experience but don’t over cook it, you may regret taking out a 20 kg backpack!

Backpack – For a summer camp I will take a 45 L and winter I will take a 65 L. Getting a bag that fits is essential, take some time and try out a few packs before buying. If your short don’t go for a really tall pack as it will effect your balance.

Tent – A two person tent is normally fine as this allows one person and some kit. Try and keep the weight down to 2kg as this will help your legs on the hills. If your winter camping try and get a 4 season tent. 3 season tents wont keep spindrift out(Wind blown snow) and you will end up in a cold icy trench by the morning.

Sleeping bag – I use a down sleeping bag and find it fine for the conditions I sleep in. Synthetic is usually cheaper and is a much better insulator when wet. Ensure the comfort rating is correct for the conditions and remember that mountains get colder the higher you venture!

Sleeping mat – With so many options on the market go for something smaller and light. Thermarest do some very light options. I use the Mountain equipment Helium and find its larger than a few other designs but light and very warm on cold ground. Using a foam roll matt is a cheap option and very light, you can strap these to the outside of your pack to save space in your bag.

Cooking equipment – MSR Windboiler or Jetboil seem to be the favorites but don’t overlook other systems like Trangia. I only use my boiler for boiling water and never cook in it. If your cooking in the winter remember that you need a iso-butane/propane mixture as butane will just freeze.

Food and cooking gear – I always take a bowl with me. I use this for mixing all my food and can also be used for collecting extra water. Sporks are great and light but watch you don’t snap it in your bag. Titanium utensils are fine if you have £20-£30 per item. I also carry a 1L Nalgene bottle that is great for my drinking water and also fits my Steripen Water purifier.

Spare clothing – Keep this simple, One thin fleece, one pair of socks, one pair of tights, thermal long johns or light weight trousers. I also pack a PrimaLoft® jacket for use on very cold nights and a warm hat. my PrimaLoft® jacket also doubles up as a pillow.

Lighting – I use a Petzl Tika as its small simple and the batteries last forever. With so many lights on the market just choose a reliable system. Remember that brighter sometimes means less battery life. I always take spare batteries and keep them in a waterproof bag.

Waterproofs – Normal hill gear is required so Waterproof trousers and coat. make sure your coat is up to the job, two days on the hill can test the best of waterproofs so your £20 market job may let you down and leave you cold and damp for two days. Waterproof boots is also a must. Gortex boots can be purchased for less than £100 and are your most valuable piece of equipment when walking!

Water Purification – Not something I always bother with when I’m out on the hills, most mountain water is safe to drink but choose your water sources very carefully. I don’t use water out of pools or ponds and will only use flowing water that looks clear. if you do want to sterilize water try using SteriPEN or chlorine dioxide tablets or research many of the options available!

Pooh trowel – Burying your waste is essential when outdoors and part of the leave no trace principal. Taking a small plastic trowel will help you dig a deep enough hole to bury. (More details in part 2)

Planning

Planning is the key to a successful wild camp. If your venturing into a area that has no fresh water your not going to have a good time. If you camp on a ridge that is bleak and windy you can expect no sleep. If you camp in the wrong place you can expect a angry farmer telling you to leave. Their are a few things to keep in mind when planning your wild camp and I have listed them below.

  • Land permission
  • Location & water source

Land Permission.

It is against the law to camp on private land in England and Wales without the landowners approval. Snowdonia is Private land and so is most of the Lake district. This being said Snowdonia is a popular spot for wild camping and so is the Lakes. So why don’t people get arrested? Most of Snowdonia and the Lakes is De-facto access, its not wrote into law however it is allowed as its always been that case. You can still get asked to leave a persons land and if asked you must do so without argument. The land reform act in Scotland means that you can pretty much camp anywhere in open land

While bushcraft is a great skill for the outdoors don’t use it while out wild camping. Cutting down trees and lighting fires is a definite way to draw attention to yourself and upset the landowner. Landowners currently allow camping as it causes no harm to the local environment however, should the landowner see scorch marks on the ground or see trees being harmed they could attempt to prohibit camping!

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Location.

This is a subject that takes a little planning and flexibility. I always try to plan a few locations prior to leaving for my trip but often find I change my decisions based on ground conditions on arrival. If your looking for a good nights sleep pitching up on a ridge in 50mph winds wont be the way to do it. I have listed some key tips below for a good nights sleep

  • Pitch in a sheltered position – If the wind is blowing from the west, look for an east facing spot. camping out of the wind helps ensure you get a full nights sleep.
  • Pitch near a water source – I don’t like carrying huge amounts of water so I favor camps with a water source close bye. Don’t forget that water sources can dry up in the summer so be flexible and prepared to move location if required.
  • Rivers!!! – Make sure you have checked the forecast before camping close to a larger stream or river. Periods of heavy rain can cause a river to swell and become hazardous.
  • Shelter – Shelter from the weather but also the other folk on the hill. pitch away from main paths and places of interest (Summits, viewpoints etc) if you want to be left alone.
  • Flat terrain – Make sure your spot is not on a slope. Sounds simple but the slightest gradient will ensure your rolling off your sleeping mat all night and your Stove keeps falling over.
  • Farms – Stay away from farms unless you have permission. Whilst most farmers are fine with wild camping on the hills, most wont appreciate you camping outside their home!

Hope you found this article useful and inspired you to undertaking your first wild camp. Feel free to email me with any comments or questions info@mountainmatt.co.uk

Visit my facebook page to follow my adventures 

Part 2 will cover the basics of camp craft.

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