7 Tips for Wild Camping on Bikepacking and Cycle Tours

Wild Camping Scotland | Tim Wiggins
Wild camping and bicycle touring or bikepacking go hand in hand. Camping in fields, on beaches, and in remote rural locations means you can choose your camping spot; allowing 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 lets you experience sunsets and sunrises in secluded places, and lets you truly escape from civilisation on your bikepacking adventures. There is also the fact that wild camping is free, and it is often the only choice for back-of-beyond bicycle touring.

This blog post details my personal lucky 7 Tips for wild camping. The advice comes from experiences on hiking trips, and bicycle touring or bikepacking adventures such as the #RoadsFromRome, #7Countries7Passes, #CelticCrossTrail, and #CoastsandCols tours.

Camping in the wild is an unforgettable experience—one that should be enjoyed by all. Hopefully, this wild camping guide will give you the confidence and encouragement to give it a go.



1 – Go Wild. Do Not Camp Near Civilisation

It goes with the name, but wild camping needs to be wild. Houses and towns mean people, and more concerningly… dogs. Camp away from houses, farms, and vineyards, and you are less likely to be disturbed or questioned.

Wild Camping Wales | Tim Wiggins



2 – Do Not Trespass

Some countries such as Norway and Scotland have a 'right to roam', which means you have the right to access all areas of land unless explicitly excluded; provided you respect the interests of other people, care for the environment, and take responsibility for your own actions.

Access rights extend to wild camping—defined as "lightweight, done in small numbers, and only for two or three nights in any one place". You can camp in this way wherever access rights apply, but care should be taken to 'leave no trace'.

In countries where the freedom to roam does not exist, then wild camping becomes more sensitive. From my experience, as long as you do not camp in marked off or cordoned off areas (such as nature reserves or no-camping carparks) then you will be fine. I have had farmers approach me and have a cheery chat, but they have never moved me on. I believe that when you are on a bicycle you clearly show that you are only there for a temporary stop and causing no damage; this tends to reassure landowners that you mean no harm.

Wild Camping Ireland | Tim Wiggins



3 – Leave No Trace

This should be obvious, but the most important advice for wild camping is to leave nothing behind—no fires, no rubbish, no damaged crops or landscape. Do this, and you will avoid detection and the risk that an angry farmer might chase you down the road.

Less obvious, are the reasons for keeping your campsite tidy from the moment you pitch up. First, a tidy camp gives the right impression if a landowner does approach. Second, you are likely to be sharing the immediate area with hedgehogs, badgers and rodents—keeping a litter free camp, washing up dirty pans, and storing your food in sealed bags will avoid encouraging inquisitive critters.

Wild Camping Bicycle Touring | Tim Wiggins



4 – 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 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.

Tim Wiggins Wild Camping Advice




5 — Valleys vs. Mountains

My personal recommendation is to camp at the bottom of mountains, not the top. The reasoning is two-fold:

First, mountain-top altitude campsites might seem romantic and the stuff of great Instagram posts… but they are cold. You will be susceptible to a huge temperature drop in the night, and you have little chance of warming up the following morning when you must descend straight out from camp.

Valleys are also likely to present more accessible and slower flowing rivers and streams. A flowing valley stream can be heavenly to wash kit and body in at the end of a sweltering day in the saddle. Rivers also help to keep things cooler if you are touring in hot areas. My only cautionary note is do not camp too close to water sources… they might flood.

Wild camping France - Tim Wiggins



6 – Red Light at Night

Not the red light district… but it is worth getting a head torch with a red light mode on it. Red light is 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.

Wild Camping Austria Tim Wiggins



7 – Get Over the Fear

When you first start wild camping, you will always be a bit fearful of being spotted, getting approached, and being asked to move on. Try not to worry. I have pitched more wild campsites than I can count; the worst time was when a 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. I felt like an idiot but was completely unharmed.

Get over the fear and enjoy the secluded beautiful moments that only camping in the wild can provide.

Wild Camping Wales Tips Tim Wiggins

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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  3. Good read, thanks for sharing. I want to try this out once I get my sleeping system sorted out.

    ReplyDelete

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