If we’re going to be totally honest (our mum always told us to tell the truth)… wild camping is ‘technically’ illegal in most of the the UK. It becomes legal when you ask the ‘land owners’ permission (whether the land owner is the government or it’s privately owned), you choose to wild camp in Scotland (totally legal and awesome), or in certain parts of Dartmoor in the south of the UK.
That said, if you’re using a bivvy bag and not setting up a tent, you are perfectly within your rights to ‘rest’ on your journey along a public footpath. This is a law that extends back to yester year. And we like it.
Either way, it’s not like we’re running around robbing banks (all whacked up on Scooby snacks) here. So there are ways to go about wild camping that will keep things on the down-low, and make you feel a little bit more comfortable about it all.
WHAT ABOUT THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT…?
We all know that our imaginations can get a little bit excited at times, thinking about what and who we might meet while sleeping in the great outdoors. So here’s a few pointers to help set you mind at ease for an evening al fresco.
- Animals and bugs
We’re pretty lucky in the UK. It’s not like we have to compete with bears or wolves for sleeping space. So it helps to remember that insects are likely going to be the only ‘wild’ thing that you’ll encounter of an evening.
If bugs are a bug-bear in your life, then you could arm yourself with some insect repellent, or invest in one of those buffs with it built in.
Of course there may be the odd badger, mole, fox and squirrel passing through from time to time. But mostly if they happened to be passing by you, they’ll likely be more scared of you than you are of them. Best keep things in perspective and not let the angry badgers of this world stop you from enjoying a night under the stars.
- Human beans
But what about humans, getting all up in your business while you’re trying to sleep?! Remember that we are a predictable race. 99.9% of the population are likely asleep in their own beds, or watching Love Island on the telly while you’re wild camping. In the nicest possible way – they really have no interest in what you’re up to.
- Imagination still running wild? Try this:
- Think about what is actually happening right now. Right the very second you are sleeping in the woods/on a hill/by the sea. You’re likely be… just relaxing/trying to sleep.
- Focus on what it is that is making you anxious, and run through what exactly it is that you think is going to happen next? i.e ‘A stranger will come over and disturb my sleep and I will be terrified’
- Then think through the ALL the other options of what could happen next: e.g ‘I could have a totally undisturbed night’s sleep’, ‘A squirrel could come and steal my picnic’, ‘I could have wild dreams about an inappropriate love affair’, ‘I could leap up and run a marathon’, ‘a meteor could land on earth in this very spot’ …
Hopefully you’ll realise there are an awful lot of things that could happen next – focusing on just one of them, and becoming anxious about it is very normal, but that doesn’t make it right.
HOW ABOUT EARLY MORNING WAKE-UP CALLS…?
If you’ve chosen to sleep near a trail or pathway, you may see the odd person in the morning after the camp. They will likely be an early morning dog walker, and the result will usually just be a wave and smile. Perhaps they’ll give you a curious look, they may even come over for a chat – and that might even lead to some new buddies to go wild camping with. Double score.
10 TIPS TO HELP YOU FEEL AT EASE
All of that considered, here’s 10 top-tips to help you feel at ease:
- Use a bivvy bag when wild camping, rather than a tent, as you’re less conspicuous with a bivvy.
- Find a spot that’s out of sight, away from fences, footpaths, roads and other thoroughfares.
- If you’re very worried about being seen, arrive late and leave early – you will likely not see a soul.
- Choose government owned land (like forests, wilderness areas) rather than privately owned land (like farms).
- If you’re super nervous – for the first few times, you can go and recce the spot in the daylight or on another day, and return to it later.
- Like any night out, let someone know where you’re going, when you’re going to be back and take a phone with you.
- If you’re sharing on social media through the evening – keep any location tagging vague and to a general area.
- If anyone in the pub you meet in beforehand asks you what you’re up to, keep it vague. It’s not like anyone will harm you, but it might help keep your imagination at bay!
- Take a friend! Everything is less scary with a friend. Go wild, take two!
- Lastly. The biggy… Remember that no one knows you are there except you. You have good intentions, the world is full of kind people and life is too short to let fear rule you and ruin your fun.