The three main guidelines to follow if wild camping are;
Leave no trace (this is the most important)
Wild camping is illegal in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and R.O.I; t is however tolerated in certain areas. Avoid private land unless you have previous permission granted from the landowners. Camp fires are also not permitted unless on private land with permission from the land owners. Wild Camping is legal in Scotland but please do your research where you are going as in some places it is not allowed. Campfires are also permitted in certain areas but please leave no trace… use a firepit that is off the ground that does not burn the ground, please dispose of any fire residue appropriately (collect the cooled cinders in a rubbish bag and put in the correct bin) and if using stones as a fireguard then spread these out after. The idea is to leave with no trace that you were ever there.
The best places to camp are up high, on a mountain. Most Tarns/bodies of water on a mountain are very popular for wild campers but can become extremely busy in the summer.
Winter Camping is a whole different level of wild camping than in the summer. The weather is a killer. Kit and knowledge is extremely important. If going winter wild camping you are putting yourself and the Mountain Rescue services in danger. I can only advise on the winter conditions that I have camped in. Two of the winter wild camps I have done when I started winter wild camping taught me valuable lessons, especially as I was camping solo. Helvellyn in the Lake District one winter there was 45mph winds and a sleet storm and Blencathra on New year’s eve, although perfect weather, it was -12degrees and the clouds came in so there was zero visibility. I knew both these mountains well and I felt ‘happy’ (a term I use lightly due to the change in weather that we can experience) that I could pack up my kit and get off the mountain if needed. I received a lot of advice from a mountaineering instructor on kit (that was within my budget) and actions to take if needed. A kit list and advice on winter camping is below, but please, if winter camping, be very careful and seek advice and understanding of the dangers.
- Ideally, do not go alone and do not go if both of you are inexperienced.
- Invest in kit. Do your research, ask about, your kit will save your life so it is worth spending the time and money on having winter kit that you know you will be safe in. For example, a winter tent will withstand strong winds and snowfall without blowing away, the poles breaking or the tent caving in. Also, a tent with a porch area will mean you can still heat up food, hot drinks and water fro a hot water bottle. A decent 4 season sleeping bag will keep you warm and stop you suffering from extreme cold temperatures.
- Snow can be heated to save water to go in your hot water bottle.. (an absolute worth it extra weight.. mini ones are available and better to carry)
- In extreme cases… use your urine in plastic water bottles inside your sleeping bag to keep you warm… (if you have the right kit then this won’t be needed but it’s always good advice).
- Chose a mountain/area that you will feel comfortable leaving in the middle of the night with zero visibility in extreme weather to get back to your car. A map and compass (know how to use one and research the area first) are always a life saver as signal can be lost in bad weather and phone batteries die very quickly in the cold. (Sleep with your phone and charger in your sleeping bag or coat pocket to keep it warm).. a phone charger that is wireless is very handy in case moisture from the weather gets in your phone and the cable port does not work.
- Sweat freezes as it dries so a change of kit is a must, specially a sports bra as the rim underneath gets wet.
- Take a book or download something to watch on your phone (bear in mind battery usage) because if the weather is really bad and the tent is flapping it is a great distraction.
- Always tell someone where you are going and what time you intend to be back at your car.
- Use apps like what 3 words, OS maps and maps.me (download area prior to going so it works with no signal).
- Don’t go to sleep if you are shivering or feeling hypothermic… your body stops shaking when you are sleeping which can be fateful.
Kit.. I can only repeat the advice I was given and advise on the kit I have used.
- Tent. Terra Nova Wild Country Trisar 2 man tent. A 2 man tent in the winter allows you space for your bag and a bit more space. If the weather is extremely bad you are often confined to your tent when it gets dark at 4pm until daylight at 8am so I like to be able to have a bit of space.
- Winter sleeping bag. Terra Nova Elite 550. I pack it in a waterproof dry sack as it compresses smaller than the one it came in.
- Thermal Liner. Sea to summit extreme. This is one of my best purchases and makes a massive difference for warmth and comfort.
- Backpack. Osprey 65l Ariel women’s backpack. This was a really good investment as my older bags were heavy and uncomfortable. This one is antigravity so a 20kg backpack feels like I have very little weight on. The only down fall is that it is quite high so when hiking an incline I knock my head on the top, to combat this I do pack some of my kit on the outside to reduce the height from packing it all inside. There are plenty of pockets and space for all winter kit and it is really comfortable.
- Cooking equipment. I just have a cheap screw on camping stove that attaches to a gas canister. It has a built in ignition but I always carry a lighter or waterproof matches just in case. It came with pots to cook in. I have a light camping cutlery set too which is a small spoon, knife and fork.
- Food… ration packs are great in the winter as they only need water to heat them up and they are no fuss cooking, no mess and little rubbish. High energy snacks such as protein bars or flapjacks.
- Down Jacket. These are great for warmth once you have stopped hiking and pack down small in a waterproof dry sack.
- Waterproof dry sacks in various sizes to compress everything down and keep it all dry.
- Waterproof coat.. Mountain equipment goretex pro women’s waterproof. This was a good investment as when I’m hiking in bad weather it does its’ job. Keeps me dry, warm and is comfortable. I often just need a sports T-shirt underneath even in minus temperatures.
- Running sleeves.. Northface. These are much handier than an extra layer as they just roll down and up as and when you need them.
- Water… I used to always use bladder bags but now I prefer a water bottle as I find them easier to drink from.
- Tea/hot chocolate.. great once the tent is pitched for something to warm you up.
- Change of clothes for the morning, sports bra, knickers, socks and a T-shirt.
- Thermal pyjamas. I just have cheap fleece lined leggings, a long sleeved fleece, a t-shirt and heat holder thermal socks (amazing things).
- Ice axe. DMM Cirque. This is needed if hiking up mountains in snow (I also used it to stop myself when I decided to sledge down the mountain on my emergency foil shelter.
- Crampons. Black diamond. Invest in a good pair so they don’t break on the first use. Also, make sure that they are the right ones to match your boots.
- Spikes. If the snow isn’t too bad but it’s slippy then the spikes are better than the crampons.
- Walking poles. Leki. I’ve only jut started using walking poles and they do make a difference when you have a heavy backpack on.
- Walking boots. I have a pair of Saloman walking boots which have lasted me years and for extreme weather hikes I use Scarpa B3 mountain boots.
- Bivvy bag. Alpkit. This provides an extra layer and will keep your sleeping bag dry in case any moisture does get in.
- First aid kit. Paracetamol, ibuprofen, plasters (normal and blister), zinc oxide tape, 2 different bandages (you don’t need these as clothing can double up as a bandage), scissors, antiseptic wipes, a small tub of sudocrem, vaseline and energy gels or electrolytes.
- Toilet wipes and food bags. Dig a hole for a number 2 and put wipes in the food bags (leave no trace).
- Rubbish bag. A carrier bag is fine.
- Selfie stick (got to record it!)
- Battery pack (I use one that is wireless in case any moisture gets in my charging port from the weather but also you can use it with wires)
- Head torch. Don’t use t on full setting as this will drain the battery.
- Anemometer to test wind speed and temperature.. just because I like to know.
- A book for those long nights in the tent.
- I prefer leggings to walking trousers so I use goretex running leggings which are water resistant and very comfortable.
- Waterproof trousers.. get the ones with the poppers and zips all the way up so you don’t have to take your shoes off to get them on.
- Toiletries.. toothbrush and paste and a hairbrush. Keep it to a minimal.
- Thermal hat, a couple of buffs and waterproof gloves. I use sealskinz as these are the best I’ve tried so far.
- Winter camping mat. This will make a massive difference if you invest in a good one. I use mountain Equipment helium women’s winter mat. It’s self inflating but I do blow it up which is not recommended as moisture can get inside but I find I get the right comfort by doing this..
- Emergency foil blanket. I often take 2.
- If I’m going for a winter wild swim then I’ll take a towel and a costume but this can be dangerous if not experienced and if the water is freezing.
- Water filter. I use an MSR water filter which means I can drink direct from the source using the straw or I fill my bottle up. Do not get water from still water sources and do not drink water if it is not filtered.
- Paper map and compass. Use a waterproof map cover or print off a map and laminate it. It’s important you know the route before you go but these are essential if the weather comes in and you can’t see where you are going and there’s no signal or your phone battery dies.
- Emergency shelter. In case you need to cover yourself from the weather for a few hours mid hike.
Summer camping kit
In the summer I prefer to sleep without a tent so depending where I am camping I will use a hammock (with a midgie net), a hooped bivvy or just sleep on a mat and sometimes put a tarp over. I will just use my thermal liner with no sleeping bag and a cheap blow up camping mat.
Summer essentials… midgie spray and the midgie coils you can burn, factor 50 sunlotion, a cap, lots of water, firstaid kit, wipes and food bags, cook stuff and food, snacks, change of clothes, wild swimming gear (towel or microfibre changing robe and costume).
Camping kit tick list