Apr 12 2016

How To Go Wild Camping In The UK

How To Go Wild Camping In The UK

Take nothing but pictures, Leave nothing but footprints, Kill nothing but time.

Aaahhh, the great outdoors. You can't beat it. Old or young, camping is both mentally and physically uplifting for all members of the family.

Pitching your family tent on a deluxe camp site with hot showers and all the amenities is a home from home with the benefits of the wild open spaces and fresh air. Or at least that's what it is for some people.

So why on earth would you want to go Wild Camping, where you have none of the campsite luxuries at all? No fresh running water, no toilets, no showers!

Well, I go wild camping to actually get away from those luxuries - to test my bushcraft skills and my prepping equipment, as well as just getting away from everything and everyone.

I find an incredible peacefulness when I'm out, in the back of beyond away from the madness.

If I could live in the wild I would, and wild camping is the nearest I get to doing exactly that - I suggest to everyone that you try WIld Camping at least once in your life. 

The Whys, The Where's and The Hows of:   How To Go Wild Camping In The UK 

See this photo: This is a very small part of the Lake District - imagine waking up to this stunning view.

Well, Wild Camping can offer you exactly that. Completely alone with nature and your surroundings.

No screaming kids waking you up and no parents going through their nightly ritual of BBQing and drinking 'loudly' right next door to you...

This type of camping is a very humbling experience and there's plenty of places around the UK where you can be part of it.

Photo courtesy of: Conversant Traveller

lawson blue ridge hammock

WIld Camping can be a little daunting at first - venturing out into the unknown, not knowing where you might be pitching your tent for that night.

Where to go and what equipment is best to take with you - a tent, a hammock, bottled water or filter?
Lots of first time questions.

All these things will run through a 'newbie' wild camper the first time you venture out on your own.

I have found that the more I go out the less I really need. You start to customise your pack and then start little experiments like, deliberately leaving gear out to see how you can improvise and cope.

I have even heard of preppers treating their wild camping as a training exercise and simulating injuries where they only use one hand for everything and see how they perform.

I would not suggest doing that sort of thing on your first wild camping trip though.!

You may see Wild Camping refereed to in various terms as:
Stealth Camping,Free Camping, Boondocking, Dry Camping, and even Guerilla Camping.!
But whatever you want to call it, I do suggest you getting out there and trying it - and once you've done it, I promise you, you'll love it.

Where To Go Wild Camping

The first thing to bear in mind when going out wild camping is just use some common sense
Consider the fact that you would not want someone to just turn up and pitch a tent in your back garden, unannounced and expect you to not have a problem with it.!

The same applies whether it's your own 10 square metres of back yard or 10,00 acres of a farmers land.

That being said you have a huge amount of scope when it comes to choosing your spot for the night if your in the middle of nowhere and there's no buildings or farm houses anywhere to be seen.

So be sensible and choose your spot wisely.

Wild Camping Law Is Different.

When it comes to the laws of the land, it's best to do your own research and make up your mind how comfortable you are with the legalities of wild camping. 

So is Wild Camping Legal?

There are two answers to that:
Not legal in England and Wales
Perfectly legal in Scotland

England/Wales, and Scotland have different laws regarding that right to wander free and camp on open land.

There are, of course, grey areas - for example: 
Wild Camping IS legal in the UK in areas where the landowner has given express permission for you to do so.

Click here to see the legalities of camping in Scotland and camping in the UK and Wales.

National Parks Showing England Only

National Parks Showing Scotland Only

Scotland is the place to go for unrivalled scenery and solitude - click here for some great Scottish wild camping 

More Scottish wild camping adventures here

Where Can You Go Wild Camping In The UK?

An awful lot of people still wild camp without permission - the reason is simple: you simply cannot find or track down the actual owner of the land.

However, by doing this you run a small risk of actually being discovered by the person who owns the land and asked to leave.
You would, of course, do this immediately and without causing a fuss. But if you do it right you should have very few problems

Set up a 'Stealth Camp'

  • Set up your camp late: just before dusk
  • Set up away from anyone or anything
  • Set up out of view and be stealthy
  • Do not build a great big open fire
  • Break camp and leave early - at dawn.
  • Leave not trace and take everything with you - and that means EVERYTHING......

Always set-up camp out of sight

These few simple methods will mean you can make your camp, sensibly and responsibly just about anywhere where there's a lot of open land, like our national forests and park lands.

Are There Any Legal Options?

In England and Wales your Wild Camping choices are very limited.

In fact Dartmoor National Park is one area in the country where you actually have a legal right to camp, albeit in certain areas only.

For more information click the Dartmoor logo.

You can also go to the Lake District. However, you can't actually Wild Camp there legally without the landowners permission.

Wild Camping IS tolerated there but you must follow certain rules and regulations - basic stuff really: leave no trace, camp in remote areas and no huge camp fires.

For more information, click the Lake District logo.

Without a doubt, Scotland is the place to be when it comes to trouble free Wild Camping.

The laws are far more sensible than that of England and Wales, making it THE place to go for hiking freedom.

And, don't forget, the scenery is absolutely fantastic.

Once you have chosen your destination and planned your preferred route - WRITE IT ALL DOWN and give it to a reliable friend or relative with the intended start and finish day.
Write down your contact mobile number and make sure they put in their own phone contacts as well.

Tell them you will contact them when you start and when you finish - if your going for more than a day or two, then tell them you will call on day two or three to 'check'in'.

Bad reception is to expected in a lot of wild areas and this cannot be avoided using the normal mobile networks.

But the expected finish day is very important and calling to say you have finished your hiking is an essential safety procedure.

The above is important and something a lot of people forget to do. There are check-in points at some national parks as well. But making your own arrangements with a trusted friend or relative makes thing even more safer for you.

 How To Go Wild Camping In The UK - Essential Equipment Required

Always choose your equipment depending on the time of year and the weather.

Next, think comfort and safety - by considering these two things you will naturally choose the correct gear to pack in your rucksack.

For comfort, your No:1 item is good footwear - this doesn't mean getting yourself a pair of big army boots for yomping miles and miles.

Sensible, lightweight, waterproof shoes or walking boots work fine.

Depending on the terrain I use either the Hi-Tec hiking shoe or boot shown here. Both are extremely comfortable and have worked really well for me - I own both the shoe and the boot and only use them specifically when hiking.

Buying waterproof footwear is a must and don't go for the cheaper shoe brands as these will not last you.
I have found the Hi-Tec hiking range to be very good quality and good value for money.

When you buy your new hiking footwear always try them on with proper hiking woollen socks. Using woollen socks is another item that will help your feet as wool 'wicks away' moisture from your skin, reducing chaffing and blisters.

Next is your safety - there are several important items you must have with you:

That is the start of you kit - comfort and safety first - now here's the rest of the basic gear you should be carrying with you:

  • Shelter - anything from a simple tarp to a expedition tent
  • Sleep bag + sleep mat. Must be suitable for the time of year
  • Cook kit - as simple and lightweight as possible: (see article: JetBoil review here. )
  • Water filter bottle: (see article: filter bottle  /  filter straw )
  • Water bottle and cooking pot and utensils
  • Torch:  (see article: Tactical Torch )
  • Wet wipes, Toilet Paper, Towel
  • Food and snacks, energy bars and any other treats you like.
  • Suitable clothing - spare socks and wet weather gear
  • Some plastic bags for your wrappers and rubbish.

If your new to hiking and especially carrying a rucksack, I would suggest being very conscious of the weight you are packing in.
It is a good idea to load you rucksack and do a short trial run, even just a mile or so to see how you cope.
It's very easy to over-pack and just have unnecessary weight on your back, so try to pack as little as possible if you can.

Do's & Don'ts of Wild Camping

Can I have an open fire ?

Assume that you are not allowed to light a fire unless you have researched the do's and don't s for the area you will be wild camping in.
It can be argued that there is no need for an open fire at all, especially as it can damage the ground and environment.

But if you are allowed, and you want one, then there's certain golden rules that apply:

  • Use only dead wood that you find lying around.
  • Do not light directly on vegetation.
  • Do not make a stone fire ring and leave it.
  • Do not make a huge bonfire - keep it nice and small and manageable.
  • Fully extinguish the fire when you leave.
  • Dowse the embers with water and mush into the soil.
  • Spread the mushed embers around the area
  • Remove ALL the charcoals from the fire area until just he soil remains.
  • Cover the fire area with vegetation
  • Above all:  Leave No Trace 

Photos by: Amanda Quaine

Where can I get drinking water from:

If you are only Wild Camping for one night, water should not be too much of a problem as you can carry that with you.
However, for longer trips it may be necessary to source your water from a stream, river or pond.

You now have a choice of simply boiling it to get rid of the bacteria and germs, or run it through a water filter.

I personally think a water filter cleans the old water far better and leaves clean, safe drinking water in an easier, quicker manner.

see article: Water Bottle Filter Review

Always choose your water source carefully: Fast running water from a stream and away from any signs of animals.

Going to the toilet...

If it's just a quick wee you want, then that's not normally a problem.
What is a problem is having a poop in the wild - if approached correctly, it's quite easy:

1/ Always ensure you are well away from your camp and at least 100 metres away from a water source.

2/ Take a stick (or pack a small trowel) and dig a small hole about 6" deep - keep the loose soil to one side.

3/ Do your business.

4/ Burn the toilet tissue in the hole.

5/ Refill the hole with the soil and cover over with leaves or vegetation.

6/ Do not put sanitary products in the hole - animals will dig these up.

7/ Finally: hygiene - use antibacterial gel or wipes on your hands.


1/ Every scrap of food you bring with you should be either eaten or taken back - do not leave any food lying around. 
Essentially, carry out everything you brought in..!

2/ When cleaning dishes, or doing any form of washing, including yourself, do so at least 100 metres away from any water source.

see article: MRE food rations

MRE food rations - perfect for wild camping


Move around - don't stay in one spot more than a night or two. If you have a planned route, then try to stick to it, that way you have a new camp each night.

More than one night can leave traces on the soil, so vacate as soon as you can as the vegetation needs time to recover.

Me, wild camping and getting away from it all..!

​I hope that the information here has helped you and given you an insight on How To Go Wild Camping In The UK.

As you progress, you will find that you can manage on less and less equipment, maybe substituting your cosy tent for a tarp and bivvy bag.

I try different things out each time I Wild Camp and I always learn something new.

Whether by yourself or with friends, and especially with children, it's always a very good experience. 

So go out and try it - you won't be disappointed...


Skip to comment form

    • Vee Jennings on March 10, 2018 at 9:31 pm
    • Reply

    Anywhere near east coast Boston way to go wild camping and nice good walks? Will be our 1st trip . Thank you

    • Jon3sy on June 25, 2017 at 4:41 pm
    • Reply

    Looking for like minded individuals that love wild camping. I’m planning my own website and would love another more qualified ‘wild camper’.
    Email me
    Jon3sy31 @ Gmail.com

    • Jon3sy on June 25, 2017 at 4:39 pm
    • Reply

    I recommend wast waters on the lake District. Awesome 3 nights with the nephews with plenty of trout to catch and eat!!

    • Bob Jones on January 24, 2017 at 1:30 pm
    • Reply

    For those who aren’t quite ready for true wild camping (or would like to practice) there is an organisation that connects campers with land owners for wilder camping experiences, where campfires are usually allowed: http://www.nearlywildcamping.org

    1. Hi Bob,
      Thanks for the reminder. I have used this site a few times and recommend it too.
      It has a lot of useful info.
      thanks again, Steve .

    • Brian Donnelly on October 2, 2016 at 6:43 pm
    • Reply

    great site loads of info thanks

    • Adrian Crutchley on September 5, 2016 at 8:41 pm
    • Reply

    Hi my name is Adrian,
    my wife and I are planning a camping trip the end of this month to the peak district near Mam Tor and we was wondering if there is any where near there we can wild camp, I used to be in the military years ago, and loved bivving up, with all the unrest we are hearing about on the news we want to practice bugging out. Can you give me some areas we can camp if possible

    Regards Adrian

      • Keith on January 21, 2017 at 11:38 pm
      • Reply

      Hi Adrian
      Sorry if this reply is to late but I’ve only just found this site.
      If you want to camp in the area of Mam tor then I would recomend the other side of the vally, Edale. As you drive over the top (ish) of mam tor and drop in to the edale valley (steep road with fantastic views), head to Barber Booth,. When you get to the bottom of the hill there are two left turns. The first leads to 2 campsites, running water, delivered breakfasts etc, the 2nd leads to another,……..No facilties, Camp at your own risk, and don’t go near the cows.!
      Seriously, dont go near the cows. it’s a very rare pedigree!!!. But, if you realy need to use the single campsite toilet, it is next to the calf barn…so take all the kids to the toilet, then explain that we were only goin g to the toilet….and let the farmer show you the calfs…….

      If camping around Mam tor fails, there’s always the macclesfield forest

    • Russ on August 21, 2016 at 1:19 am
    • Reply

    My daughter and I watch alot of bear grills. I have always loved the outdoors and although only 6 my daugter enjoys long walks and orienteering activities we do for fun. She keep bugging me about camping and I want to combine the orienteering with camping. I found your website very useful. Any extra advice for extra safety precautions when camping with children would be appreciated.

    Kind regards

    • Lee Godding on July 10, 2016 at 2:09 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks, that was really helpful. I have just started my prepper journey and this is a great place to start.

    • Geoffrey Norris on May 8, 2016 at 8:07 am
    • Reply

    Thanks most helpfull

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