Top Tips for Wild Camping

wild camping on top of a mountain
Wild camping and bicycle touring (or bikepacking) go hand in hand. Camping in random fields, on beaches and in remote rural locations, means you can choose your camping spot; allowing you far more freedom in terms of route planning, and far more scope to account for adverse (or favourable) riding conditions.

Wild camping is also an incredible way to get closer to nature. It will let you experience sunsets and sunrises in secluded places, and let you truly escape from civilisation on your bicycle touring adventures. There is also the fact that wild camping is free… and it's quite often the only option for back-and-beyond touring!

In this blog post, I thought I would provide ten of my 'Top Tips for Wild Camping'; gathered from my experiences on hiking trips, bicycle touring adventures, and most recently my 'Coasts and Cols' tour.

Camping in the wild is an unforgettable activity, and one that should be enjoyed by all; hopefully this 'do's and don'ts of wild camping' guide will give you the confidence and encouragement to give it a go!


1. Don't camp nears towns or houses… 'Go Wild!' - This perhaps goes with the name, but 'Wild Camping' needs to be wild. Houses and towns mean people, and perhaps more concerning, dogs! Camp away from houses, and you're less likely to be disturbed or questioned.

2. Don't trespass - The best bet for a wild camping site is to find somewhere secluded, on public land. This could be a locally owned area of woodland, beach, or alongside a national trail. Needless to say, it's not acceptable to camp in someone's garden without their permission, and if a sign says "private property - no entry", then it's not a good option…
wild camping in spain
Camp a safe distance from houses, and don't enter fields that are private or contain livestock


3. Don't leave rubbish outside at night - Unlike in a paid campsite, where you might have to share the site with noisy children and drunk youths; in a wild campsite, you're far more likely to be sharing the immediate area with hedgehogs, badgers and rodents. Don't encourage wildlife to come sniffing around your tent by leaving your rubbish or dirty cookware outside at night - seal it up in a bag, and bring it inside your tent (or hang it in a tree).

4. Don't leave rubbish when you leave - In the morning, when you leave, take ALL your rubbish with you - deposit it in a public bin in the next village, not in the unspoilt woodland.
wild campsite in woodland in france
Don't leave your rubbish outside for woodland critters! and take it with you when you leave


5. Don't make fires - Fires are beacons, and beacons are made to be seen. Fires are also pretty dangerous; so if a landowner sees one, he's quite likely to investigate, or call the police. Don't make fires.

6. Camp late and leave early - Fortunately, people are not nocturnal - they tend to hide away inside watching television once the sun goes down. This means that you are far less likely to be bothered if you set up camp after most people have retired indoors for the evening. Dusk is the ideal time to be pitching your tent, and equally dawn is the best time to be taking it down. The less chance you have of being spotted, the less chance there is of being approached.
wild campsite at dawn
Set up your camp late, and leave early - you have less chance of being hassled


7. Camp at the bottom of mountains, not the top - The reason for this is two-fold: first, mountain-top campsites, although romantic, are mighty cold! Second, if you get cold on the top of the mountain, you've got little chance of warming up the following morning, when you've got to descend it! Valleys are a far warmer option.

8. Camp near flowing rivers and streams - A fast(ish) flowing river can be great to wash clothes, kit and body in, at the end of a hot day in the saddle. Rivers also help to keep things cooler, if you're touring in hot areas. My only cautionary note with rivers, would be to not camp too close to them, or in the riverbed itself… it might flood!
wild campsite
Camp in valleys rather than on the top of mountains - it is a lot warmer!


9. Use red lights at night - Buy a head torch with a red light mode on it. Red light is far harder for the human eye to pick up in the dark, and therefore your campsite is less likely to stand out as a blazing beacon on the hillside.

10. Get over the fear - When you first start wild camping, you'll always be a bit fearful of being spotted, getting approached, and being asked to move on. Don't worry! I've stayed on more wild campsites than I can possibly count; the only time I've been approached, was when the friendly French dog walker wanted to warn me that I was camped on an area that was irrigated by a night-time sprinkler system… it went off at 3am! Get over the fear, and enjoy the secluded beautiful moments that only camping in the wild can provide.
wild camping in france
Enjoy the beautiful secluded sunrises and sunset that only wild camping can provide


Comments

  1. Great stuff, I've got to get brave myself to do this!

    ReplyDelete
  2. As always Tim an interesting and informative post.....
    However after 50+ years of wild camping I think clarification is needed ref the advice to camp in valleys as a warmer option.
    In mid summer in a country with a warm climate a valley camp pitch can be warm enough...
    However best advice is to avoid valley floors as cold air sinks to the valley floor and in colder months can fill with damp and mist in the early hours.Damp and Mist can make for a very cold camp so are best avoided...
    When selecting a pitch... protection from the wind is important... a pitch positioned to get early morning sunshine is also important... always choose a pitch at least 50 feet above the valley floor and take into account the time of year.
    Bearing in mind that heat rises a valley will fill with cold air... I would always prefer to camp half way up a mountain in a pitch protected from the wind but open to the morning sun than in a cold and damp valley....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Trevor, you have a very valid point, and I can see that you don't want to be camping in mist and fog. My point here is more of a general warning to people camping in the mountains in particular - that it is not a good idea, although it can seem appealing, to camp near the summit. A campsite mid-way down the mountain would be perfect to avoid mist and fog - but often on steep sided or exposed mountain roads, they can be hard to find.

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