Wild camping is nothing new, when you think about humans have been camping like this for hundreds of years…this is camping.
In short, wild camping is about finding a remote spot, far off the beaten track and bedding down for the night and then setting off at the crack of dawn the following day, leaving no trace that you were ever there. To most people, that is the definition, but to me, it isn’t.
As far as I’m concerned, wild camping involves three things other than a remote location: fire, no tent and fine grub. Another myth is the definition of a ‘wild place’: you don’t have to trek up halfway up Scafell Pike to find one, they really are right on your doorstep. A quiet wood or corner of a field in the countryside is perfect, many can be found as little as an hour outside of any city.
Wild camping can offer so much more than a grand view before bed. Although wild camping is legal in certain areas of Britain such as Dartmoor and parts of the highlands, I find maximum enjoyment and the warmth of a fire can be had by seeking permission from the landowner first-just ask around, you will be surprised just how far a smile and a bit of politeness can go! You don’t want to wake up to a shotgun-toting gamekeeper on a quad bike at 2am…Trust me, its not much fun!
A home on your back
There are many aspects of wild camping that are often overlooked: Foraging, fishing, swimming and most certainly cooking. When out in the field, take advantage of the free food and fuel around you, knowledge weighs nothing and the less you have to carry the better- think of yourself as a snail with your home on your back.
Over the years my kit list has shrunk and evolved to contain only the things I really need to have a grand time in the wild.
Tools are very important and selection is key. A small hatchet, folding saw, decent knife (Helle Eggen- hands down), sharpening stone (DC4) and headtorch make easy work of any task, oh and take along proper metal cutlery, sporks and all that jazz are a waste of space!
There is no need for a tent unless you find yourself in a fairly extreme location, shelter comes in the form of a single tarp (but take two just in case!), hitched up at one end with a couple of sticks and kept upright with a couple of bungees and tent pegs.
A sleeping bag and bivi bag are essential, roll mats aren’t necessary: a few spruce boughs or bracken make quite a comfy, insulating nest.
Without a fire, camping just isn’t camping, whether it’s wild or not. Be careful about where you make one- upland areas could be at risk from the fire spreading underground by smoldering peat, keep fires to lowlands.
Gas stoves are not needed- Vango make a very handy Titanium fold-up wood stove which runs of twigs and small solid fuel, it will see to all your cooking needs and gets on well with billy cans- ultra lightweight!
For fire starting I always take a flint & steel, an old vitamin tube full of cotton wool (in case there are is no birch bark around) and a lighter.
I don’t bother with ration packs or energy bars: Rice, spice, stock cubes, herbs and a little help from the wild larder are so much better.
A compact culinary survival kit can be put together using old camera film cases and small tins, take a copy Richard Mabey’s Food for Free and a Pen-fishing Rod: the hunter-gatherer approach to supper is much more fulfilling and good for the soul.
One further thing, a hip flask of whisky may not be to everybody’s taste, but you will be glad you have it one day… a little goes a long way!
- Ask permission to camp where possible- then you don’t have to worry about setting up at sunset and leaving at sunrise.
- Make sure the spot was exactly as it was when you arrived. If you do have a fire, dig up the turf with hatchet and replace the next day
- Take a couple of books, one on foraging so you can make the most of the surrounding countryside and another for entertainment
- Number twos? These should be buried at least 6 inches in the ground and at least 30 feet from any running water. Hatchets make good trowels!