Following on from my earlier blog about Wild Camping Alone as promised, here are a few tips and some background information which I’ve picked up through my own experiences:
1. Check the weather forecast
The reason for that is probably because when I’ve been car camping at a designated campsite, the overnight forecast is not so important to me. I want to know what the weather will be doing during the day so I can plan my walk, climb or bike ride – but overnight I’m usually tucked up warm and dry in a tent with a porch.
Out on the moors, away from cars or home comforts, in a bivvy bag with a tarp, the weather forecast becomes more important. That’s not suggesting you stay at home when there’s a less than perfect weather forecast, just that you use it to ensure you are properly equipped, stay safe and camp somewhere appropriate for the conditions.
Each individual will have differing levels of experience, kit and personal limitations, so make sure you know what is right for you so that you can stay safe while still having tons of fun.
2. Build an opt out into your plans
My first wild camp was with my husband, within a few miles of our van and in an area we knew well. The whole idea was for us to test out our kit, see what worked and what didn’t, and give us a relatively easy escape if things went pear shaped.
When I went on my first solo wild camp, I chose an area I knew very well and made sure that my escape route off the moors back to my car was pretty easy to follow in the dark. I also knew that there were people I knew within fairly easy reach should I decide to retreat and go knocking on their door at 3am.
I was glad to have a mobile signal for any emergency situation and I also gave myself free reign to choose a retreat at any time.
Importantly, a couple of people knew where I was and what I was doing – and waited for my text the next morning to say all was ok!
3. Choose your location
Wild camping is legal in Scotland (Loch Lomond area has restrictions) and Dartmoor. For the rest of the UK, you are supposed to ask the landowners permission first, although it is often tolerated providing you are discreet. I like this article on wild camping etiquette from journalist, author and adventurer Phoebe Smith (check out her books).
The general unwritten rule for the Lake District is that high up above wall/fence lines you are likely to get away with it. This article from UK Hillwalking in 2011 has further information about legalities.
For a solo woman, I read this really great blog on the Adventure Journal (link here – thanks Clare for finding it for me again). The sentiment I took away is that the writer feels much safer camping alone out in the wilds than being on a campsite surrounded by other people. I totally agree – when out in the hills, I’m relying on myself, my choices, experience and actions – and I can do things to make me feel safer (like staying hidden from paths and roads).
4. Make sure you have the right kit
My spur of the moment decision to wild camp worked out because I’ve already spent my apprenticeship in the great outdoors. That means that I have good kit which works well for me, and I generally know what I need to take out with me to stay safe.
Of course, there are always unforeseen circumstances or forgotten items (like the gas converter for my stove which I left at home). If I’d been further in the wilds, on a freezing cold night, with no flask of hot water, I could have been putting myself in a life threatening situation – but bearing in mind all the factors, I took an educated decision to carry on with my plans and it worked out.
It’s also important to stay warm and dry overnight. Sure, I’ve never felt completely toasty when I’m sleeping wild (I’m the type of person who feels the cold) but I know that the only problem I’m going to experience is an uncomfortable night.
I’ll add a kit list to the bottom of this post, but bear in mind that your own kit list might need different things including (like essential medical supplies, warmer clothing, etc).
5. Have fun
I can add all sorts of practical tips, information and experience here – but honestly, none of that matters if you leave your sense of adventure and fun bottled up in front of your living room television.
Spending a night out under the stars is not always the most comfortable experience. I often feel cold and sleep very lightly, waking regularly through the night. The last time I bivvied out, I was attacked by midges (despite putting on Smidge which usually works a treat and sleeping with a mossie net over my head). I still have the scars on my ankles to remember the experience.
However, in spite of all the discomforts, I’ve always felt completely alive when I’ve been wild camping. If I’m there with my husband, we laugh longer and harder than normal, finding humour in the stupidest of circumstances. Then after a night of broken sleep, I wake to a sunrise which seems to have been put there just for me own personal viewing – and remember exactly why I love being in the hills.
My Personal Kit List
Below are the items I take along with me on a wild camp and which work for me. I’ve bought many of them over the years for generic car camping and, in some cases, there are now better or more lightweight products on the market specifically for backpacking. There are also plenty of other manufacturers out there, so please shop around when you put your own kit list together.
- Baselayer, midlayer and waterproof shell (jacket and trousers)
- Rucksack (mine is 50L)
- Alpkit Hunka Bivvy Bag
- Alpkit Tarp
- Walking poles (which double up as tent poles for your tarp)
- Mountain Equipment sleeping bag – I’ve had this for years and can’t remember the model (it’s ready for replacement)
- Therm-a-rest sleeping mat – again an old model I’ve used for years
- Silk sleeping bag liner
- Mountain Equipment Lightline jacket
- Stove (either Trangia kit or Alpkit BruKit), gas cannister and lighter
- Spork (to eat with) and plastic mug
- First Aid kit (and essential medicine)
- Map and compass
- Head torch with spare batteries
- Warm hat (I sleep in mine whatever time of year and found that one without a bobble on top works best)
- Spare underwear, socks, thermal top and thermal leggings
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Wet wipes, tissues and a small sachet of moisturiser
- Smidge repellent, midge net and sunscreen for summer months
- Dry bags to keep everything in
- Cold water
- Flask of hot water (and sachet of hot chocolate for a treat)
- Food and snacks
- Camping pillow – it’s my luxury item, now packed after going on my first wild camp without one
Disclaimer: this is not an exhaustive list and I’ve probably forgotten an essential item so please make sure you put together your own personal kit list!