Some Wild Camping Tips

Me being an experienced wild campist, I just thought I'd pass on some tips for all of those readers who might be considering experiencing this . . . er . . . experience this summer.

But first, a definition. For camping to be wild, you really should be a long way from wherever it was you started and not next to your car. You have to walk there for quite a while. It has to be, well, wild, if you know what I mean. Far away. On a hill or something.

On with the tips anyway . . .

Tip 1. Location.

Locations can be defined by four interchangeable parameters. These are:

There is a further sub-category of Damp which is "Wet" and another division of "Wet", which is "Underwater".

Try to avoid "Wet" if at all possible but the choice between "Sheltered" and "Windy" is less clear-cut.

If your site is sheltered, you might get a lot of condensation. On cold nights, this will be white and will form a small but short blizzard when you nip out for a pee.

If your site is windy, there will be little condensation, but your tent will collapse at 3;00 am. It will not blow away because you are in it and holding it down. As soon as you get out, though, it will blow away.

A dry site may well become wet during the night. See the various categories of wet above. A wet site never becomes dry, however.

Tip 2. Putting up the tent.

  1. Remove tent from tent bag bag. Assemble pole(s). Remove pegs from little peg bag.
  2. Lay out tent.
  3. Chase tent bag across the moor, catch it, put it in your pocket and return to site.
  4. Chase tent across the moor and catch it. Have a bit of a fight with it, sustaining a slight eye injury caused by a flailing guy rope with one of those metal things on the end. Return to site.
  5. Stand on tent (lie on it if very windy) whilst inserting a couple of pegs to stop it blowing away.
  6. Insert pole.
  7. Pull out all guy ropes and peg them down.
  8. Take tent down and start again because the door is facing into the wind and the tent is filling up like a balloon and you're in some danger of unplanned flight Go to (2) above

Tip 3. Settling in

  1. Once your tent is up, locate your sleeping mat and, if it is an inflatable one, inflate it. Listen to sound of escaping air but fail to find the source. Watch mat slowly deflate.
  2. Locate your sleeping bag and lay it out. Fluff it up a bit.
  3. Find your stove and pot, stuff for a brew (e.g. tea), spoon or spork and water bottle.
  4. Exit the tent and find the nearest stream of purest cold mountain spring water (a.k.a. raging torrent of brown stuff). Fill the water bottle without falling in, or letting go of the bottle. Examine the bottle for life swimming about in it, bits of vegetable material, lumps, scum, insects or detergent foam. Shrug if any of these are found since emptying and refilling the bottle will only increase the quantities of whatever it is you've found.
  5. Start to boil up "water" for a brew
  6. Doze off whilst waiting for pot to boil.
  7. Wake up suddenly covered in scalding water.
  8. Extinguish fire in tent porch.
  9. Go to (4) above.

Tip 4. In-tent entertainment.

  1. Snuggle cosily into your sleeping bag and plug your Ipod into your ears
  2. Listen to Abba's Greatest Hits whilst imagining you hear strange noises outside. Notice inner tent is dancing around unusually.
  3. Listen to the wind thundering towards your tent and watch the pole(s) bend violently at each vicious gust. Imagine strange noises outside/wonder if the tent will stand up to the oncoming onslaught. Decide it will. Then not be so sure. Repeat cycle whilst pretending to be unconcerned.
  4. Doze off.
  5. Wake up suddenly thinking that you've heard strange noises outside and/or wondering whether not you left the grill on this morning and/or that your bladder is full and one side of the tent has collapsed in the wind and water is pooling by your head.
  6. Exit tent dressed only in thermal undies. Replace all the pegs, and arrange a small cairn of rocks on each guyline to hold them down.
  7. Chase sleeping bag across moor.
  8. Plan escape to nearest Bed & Breakfast, using GPS to plot the route.
  9. Phone nearest B&B and go there immediately or go to (3) above. (You lost the ipod chasing the tent across the moor)

Hope this helps. Happy camping.

Dry/windy wild camping location (nice though eh?)
Dry/windy wild camping location (nice though eh?). Photo by Mike Knipe.

© Mike Knipe. Mike Knipe is an experienced outdoor enthusiast, walk leader and writer who has worked with Durham County Council and English Nature (aka Natural England).

Other articles by Mike Knipe on include:

The Mike Knipe Column

The Art of Getting Lost . . .

How to start Peak Bagging . . .

How to sound like a walking expert . . . (writing as Gnasher the Dog) and

Is that a Mitt in your pocket - or are you just pleased to see me?

“Ah, oh so true. I found this very entertaining as it reminds me so much of my expeditions. To actually visualise the problems, having experienced all of them myself at some point, brought back some fond memories. Bad experiences, yes, but fond memories all the same. On my last escapade in the shadow of Whernside, I decided, quite by chance, to put my foot squarely into a deep bog less than 20 yards from my regular camping spot. Up until that point, I was perfectly dry. I have similarly experienced the airborne tent. I tipped it on it's side whilst pegged in two corners with a view to drying the underside prior to the mornings packing routine. Shortly thereafter, I was pulling it out of the river. Great article!”

Tim Walters, Ripponden, Wyk

“I'm about to do my first ever night. I'm a bit anxious and nervous that I will feel and look a total fool fumbling about etc. This tips section has just made my day. I feel as though I can do this! Thank you so much Mike u have no idea how much I have laughed at this”

Iain Yassin, Middlesbrough

“have wild camped in the french and spanish mountains and think the best tip for wild camp is to try and have an organisation in your pack with essential pieces eg waterproofs headtorch etc in top or side pockets so in a rush or dark your not fumbling around wet and or blind lol, and if your near streams and rivers remember to keep your tent zipper closed unless the idea of sharing with crawlers and biters excites you.mostly have fun and enjoy not being on the dreaded campsite.”

Daffyd Hensham, Sutton

“Have any of you ever tried sleeping with a bivvy bag over your sleepin bag? The Goretex ones on Ebay cost £20-£30 and keep you dry. It saves the bother of carrying a tent and helps you blend into the surroundings better. They are waterproof. Some even have enough material to form a hood in wet weather. I use a waterproof hat as well.”

Stephen Pearce, Leeds

“Hi, the 'wild camping tips', how realistic them tips are. I love the outside/ hill walking, although not as experienced hill walker as would like to be, i fancy having a trek around the Peak District soon and also the North Yorkshire Moors sometime in July to August with determined enthusiasm. Due to saftey, Rules and Regs, Farmers views to walkers, travelling light (as poss), do you have any additional tips/advice please”

Joe Whatmough, Littleborough

“Though living in Australia, I was born and bred a Lancashire Lad and I have done a fair bit of walking in the UK since retiring 15 years ago. Most of it carrying my tent and wild camping. Have read the tips on wild camping, so here is my two pennyworth. My first walks were canal walks. London Bridge to Manchester then back down on the eastern side canals. I very soon leaned the best place to camp was in a churchyard or in the church porch which was the best, just unroll your inflatable out on the slab and thats it. Always very quiet too, never got disturbed sleeping amongst the gravestones, except once by an inquisitive dog that I sprayed with insect repellent when he poked his head in the tent. Churchyards always have a tap for watering the flowers so drinking water always available, sometimes even the luxury of toilets!

Must mention my method of having a morning bath, simple, just roll around naked in the Dew soaked grass rub all over with a soaped facecloth then dry off.

Really wakes you up especially on a cold morning.

Happy Camping”

Terry Hales, Kiama, New South Wales, Australia

“excellent discussion, I have retired recently, and want to get back to hiking and camping, done most of the pennine way, all of coast to coast, dales way cleavland way, 3 peaks and 3 mountains,etc, this spring want to do the wolds way, I have a small one man tent, which is excellent, but I want to wild camp, did some on the pennine way, I have heard that the land owners on the wolds way are very strict on wild camping,and can be very unpleasant. I do not erect my tent till late, well away from buildings etc and as discreet as possible, and have gone early morning, no open fires, and all rubbish removed, you would never know I have been there, has anyone else done this on the wolds way, I am fairly assertive, lol, but would prefer my walk to be non confrontational. Any tips or advice would be very appreciated.”

John Lancaster, Scarborough

“Really entertaining stuff from Mike this month but oh so true! Hopefully not all the things happen in one expedition but they all will at some time - guaranteed!”

Mike Plowman, Stratford On Avon

“Absolutely hilarious and so true!! I've also had the group camping experience. The requisite gear braggart with the superlightweight mountain tent, extolling it's virtues all the way up the mountain; not only loses his tent to the wind but suffered the added humiliation of watching the wind tear it to pieces. We drew straws for whose tent this refugee would sleep in. Let me tell you despite the wind, we had a quiet night!!! There's always a sheltered spot and you find it hiking out and about 100 yards from where you chose to camp the night before!!”

Guy Kilgallen, Liverpool

“Went wild camping up on Whiteside to photograph the sunset over Derwent Water and then the sunrise over St Sunday Crags. Missed the sunset because there wasn't one and missed the sunrise because the stack for Manchester airport was droning above my head for ages (or so it seemed) so finally went to sleep and slept through the sunrise. But it was a good weekend out and it stayed dry.”

Dave Harris, Frosterley

“I've always wanted to have a go at wild camping, it would be incredible. But I've always wondered about the legalities of it - are you allowed to pitch your tent anywhere you like and sleep for the night?”

Daniel Harding, Milton Keynes

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