Camping - there's

not a lot to it really is there? A tent, a sleeping bag and something

to cook on, how hard can it get? Well if you base your idea of camping

on what you see on an average camp site you'll be forgiven for thinking

it rquires a couple of metric tons of added extras to make life under

canvas (does anyone actually use canvas any more?) manageable. Away

from the multitude of regulated campsites, if you look carefully,

you'll find a growing band of people for who the wilderness experience

offers more by camping beyond the sight of roads and habitation.

Wild camping - What is it?

To put it simply wild camping is simply camping without the facilities

of an organised site. To the majority of wild campers it's more than

this - it's a way of getting closer to the wilderness and nature,

surviving with just what you can carry in (and out again). You won't

have showers, shops or an on-site pub, but in return for carrying your

shelter with you there's the bonus of  peace and solitude and

the chance to take in sunrise or sunset like never before.

Of course you're not going to be able to carry folding kitchens and

multi-room family tents, even if you could find a piece of land big

enough to pitch one on, so there's a few compromises you'll need to

make on kit. Depending on which side of the Anglo-Scottish border

you're on you couldalso find a raft of regulations limiting where and

when you can camp freely.

Glen Nevis by Richard Sun

Start your walk half way up - Wild camping in Glen Nevis by Richard Sun

OK, I like the sound of this

but how do I get started?

The first rule about wild camping is you have to carry everything in,

and back out again, so you'll need to take a careful look at your kit.

When you're carrying everything on your back every Kilo counts, and if

you get bitten by the wild camping bug you'll soon be counting

individual grams. This doesn't mean you have to join the "Lightweight

Brigade" and invest hundreds of pounds though - you can start off slow

and trim your kit bit by bit over time.


Most people start out camping by car, where it doesn't really matter

much what everything weighs as long as there's room in the boot - but

with a little compromise you can use the majority of this kit in your

early forays into the world of wild camping. Start off by cutting out

the things you won't need - chairs, tables and electrical appliances,

then move onto your essential items and look at where you can shed bulk

and weight. It may sound obvious, but you're not really going to want

to carry bags of spuds and cans of food around the hills all day, and

you really don't want to be lugging a multiburner stove and grill

strapped to your pack - but cutting down doesn't have to break the

bank. The chances are you first few trips are going to be one nighters,

and fairly close to civilisation, so you don't need to go overboard

with buying the lightest of everything - cans can be decanted into

ziplock bags and a small camping stove and gas canister needn't set you

back more than £15.


If you're camping out of your car then you can quite happily blow

caution to the wind when it comes to weight. But it's obviously a

different story if you're backpacking: weight matters. If you take a

look at the latest catalogues it won't take long to

notice that less is definitely more when it comes to paying for weight.

The latest ultralight tents and rucsacks come with a hefty price tag

for the privilige of carrying less - a top end solo tent can easily set

you back in excess of £250. When you're looking around for

lightweight tents, bear in mind that that the manufacturer's quoted

useable weight is often much less than the actual weight of the tent as

they'll only use the minimum number of poles and will discard bags and

guys etc. Around 2.5 to 3 kilos should be your ballpark figure for a

two-man tent, and 1 to 1.5 kilos for a solo. Unless you're planning on

starting out with a winter in Scotland you'll find the majority of

three season tents are more than up to the job - and your average tent

can even bring advantages with extra room and a more substantial

groundsheet the trade off for the extra weight.

Vango at Great Moss

You don't need the latest megabucks ultralight to get away from the


At the high end of the market you'll find a whole catalogue of options

designed for the lightweight traveller that are ideal for the wild

camper. The classic Hilleberg

Akto still holds a special place

in the wild camper's hearts with it's combination of high stability,

simplicity and a 1.5k trail weight. Over the last few years, more and

more manufacturers have jumped on the lightweight bandwagon, with new

claims for the "World's lightest tent" coming year after year. The

leading contenders in the lightweight race are Terra Nova's Laser

family, with the a choice of one and two man tents from less than a

kilo per person. The Laser

Competition, designed for the

mountain marathon devotee weighs in at a stunning 0.94k - that's less

than a litre of water, while for the wild camping couple there's the

new Laser

Space 2 which combines

lightweight fabrics and poles to create a 2.77k option that offers room

to cook in the porch with enough height to sit up in comfort.

For the real enthusiast the solo bivvy offers an option of "sleep

anywhere" with tiny footprints you can fit on a ledge or behind a wall.

Surprisingly the bivvy option isn't going to save you much in terms of

weight, with favourites like the Terra

Nova Jupiter coming in at around

the 1 kilo mark.Where the bivvy scores over the lightweight tent is in

the choice of site for the night - if there's room to lie down there's

room for a bivvy, and even a hooped bivi will go up in less than 2

minutes. Non hooped bivvys, like the Rab

Survival Zone, have their place

in the wild camping scene too though these are often combined with a

tarp as a bad weather option. Tarps are popular in the warmer, more

settled, climates of the USA and have been making an impression on the

UK market over the last few years and combined with a Survival Zone or Alpkit

Hunka can bring the total wight

down to around half a kilo.

Terra Nova Jupiter

With a bivvy you can pitch anywhere

Sleeping bags and mats

Even pitching late and striking early you're going to be spending a

third of your time in your sleeping bag, so selection is important.

Down sleeping bags usually have a better warmth to weight ratio than

their synthetic counterparts - so long as you don't get them damp.

Performance varies according to the quality and fill power of the down

- the higher the fill power, the warmer it is. An average synthetic bag

is going to weigh in at around 1.5 to 2 kilos and an average down bag 1

to 1.5 kilos. Sleeping bags, especially the higher end, are expensive

investments so when starting out you're probably better off

sticking with what you've already got till you're sure what

you want. Synthetic bags don't usually give as much warmth per gram as

a down bag but they do the job in a range of conditions, including damp

ones. Buying a bag is a play-off between weight, temperature rating,

and the contents of your wallet. For a good entry level synthetic bag

suitable for 2 or 3 season use the Snugpak range offer value for money

while keeping the weight as low as possible - the Snugpak

Softie 3 weighs in at 750gm with

a 5C rating and the Snugpak

Softie 9 offers protection to

-5C though at double the weight.

The down bag market has traditionally been dominated by a few big

names, Mountain Equipment and Rab leading the way, but increasingly

smaller, independent manufacturers are making an impact. At the entry

level point Alpkit have created a range of high insulation, low cost

bags, with the Pipedream

400 offering good 3 season

useability down to -3C and only weighing 0.77 kilo. At the top end of

the market you'll be pay more, with the OMM

Q700 offering similar levels of

insulation at around twice the price of an Alpkit. PhD Designs also

offer specialist bags, either from stock or custom designed, and are

famous for their low weight - high quality down bags like the Minim

400 at a miserly 670gm.

No matter how good your sleeping bag is you'll need someform of

insulation underneath it. Mountain marathoners and adventure racers may

use bubble wrap or similar as a lightweight soloution but the reality

is they're not really going to do the job on a regular basis the way a

purpose designed product will. Starting out a standard roll mat,

available pretty much anywhere at low cost, will do the job but as with

tents and sleeping bags there's options to lose grams while adding

pounds to your kit cost. Self inflating mats are a popular option and

come in a range from heavy, down insulated, models to lightweight

torso-only options. The Therm-a- rest mats from Sierra Designs are well

respected, with options like the Prolite

4 Short giving a good compromise

bewteen weight (482gm) and 4 season insulation.  For the real

gram saver you can always cut down a Therm-a-rest Z Lite to cover just

the torso and only carry 219gm.

Food and cooking

While a big multi-burner stove and canned food may offer a full ramge

of cooking options when you can transport everything by car you really

wouldn't want to carry it all up into the hills. The solution to

cooking in the wild  is quite simple, single burner stoves and

lightweight food. An entry level stove is only going to set you back

£10 -£15if you shop around for a simple

solution using standard resealable gas canisters, with the Coleman

F1 Lite a good example. The MSR

Pocket Rocket has a well

respected reputation, offering high output and reliability for just a

few grams more than the Coleman.

F1 Lite Stove

F1 Lite - an entry level stove that still counts the grams

There are alternatives to the canister top stove, either with gas or

using alternative fuels like meths and gels. The Jetboil

PCS made a massive impact when

it hit the market back in 2005, giving fast boil times combined with

groundbreaking fuel effeciency, and this has been followed up with the

latest Primus

EtapackLite which takes fuel

efficiency of 80% - the less fuel a stove uses the less you have to

carry. Real wild camp enthusiasts take this gas saving to new limits by

only bringing food and liquids to the boil then covering the cooking

pot with an insulating cover made from thermal reflective materials to

complete the cooking process. Over the last few years, fuelled by a

healthy USA based cottage industry, there's been an increasing move

towards using meths burners in home made "Coke Can" style stoves -

these offer cheap (or free), ultralight options that take up minimal

pack space and flexibility of fuels with a choice of meths or alcohol

based gels.

In terms of food most people have seen the dehydrated packs widely

available in outdoor stores, and these are more than adequate for the

average wild camper - but by no means essential. Using ziplock bags,

boil in the bag bags and nalgene bottles it's an easy enough job to

take real food with you, and although they may weigh a few grams extra

it's a one way carry as you won't be carrying them out full. In the

long term you can dehydrate your own food if the bug really takes hold,

and benefit from eating your own favourite home cooked meals in the


Wild camping and the Law

It would be great if you could just put up a tent wherever you like for

the night, but not surprisingly there's a raft of restrcitions on when

and where you can set up camp for the night at will. The most important

factor is which side of the border you're on, with the law in Scotland

radically different to those covering England and Wales. In short wild

camping in Scotland is a right, whereas in the rest of the UK there is

no automatic right without express permission from the relevant



Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003,

which came into force in February 2005  sets out the rights of

access and the right to camp throughout the whole of Scotland. The Act

established a legal right to camp (when done by a person in the

exercise of the access rights created by the Land Reform Act) and

details the responsibilities and guidelines to be followed. The

Code provides specific advice on wild camping and recommends that in

order to avoid causing problems you should not camp in enclosed fields

of crops or farm animals. Access rights extend to wild camping. This

type of camping is 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 help to avoid causing problems for local people

and land managers by not camping in enclosed fields of crops or farm

animals and by keeping well away from buildings, roads or historic

structures. Take extra care to avoid disturbing deer stalking or grouse

shooting. If you wish to camp close to a house or building, seek the

owner’s permission.

In England and Wales the position is entirely different, with no such

right to camp - even on on land opened up by the CRoW legislation. In

short you need the express permission of the landowner to camp anywhere

in England and Wales, though there are certain areas where wild camping

is accepted providing reasonable precautions are taken. In the Lake

District and Snowdonia there are wide areas where the practice is

accepted providing you're out of sight of all roads and human

habitation, but it's always worth bearing in mind it's not a right, but

a privilige granted by the landowners. Camp high up, pitch late and

strike camp early are the general rules, along with leaving no trace of

having been there.

Wild camping on Rannoch Moor by PTC

Terra Nova Laser on Rannoch Moor by PTC

Dos and Don'ts of wild camping

Although designed for Scotland the MCoS

have published a very useful and easy to follow guide of best practice,

and one which should be followed whether in Scotland, England or Wales.

The essentials are:

  • Keep group sizes small
  • Camp as unobtrusively as

    possible and away from popular spots which become overused

  • Leave no trace of your

    having been there

  • Remember noise travels

    fromtents and may disturb wildlife

  • vegetation becomes more

    sensitive as you gain altitude

  • Lighting fires on peaty

    soils and dry grass pose a major fire risk

  • Take extra care when camping

    near water courses not to pollute the water

  • Remove all food and waste

    scraps - they can attract scavengers and put other species at risk

  • Never go to the toilet

    within 30 metres of frsh or running water, and always carry out waste

    where possible.

  • If carrying out waste is

    impossible ensure it is buried at least 15 cm below ground and covered

    - do not bury used toilet paper.

  • Carry out all rubbish, even

    other people's.

And Finally.......

Wild camping is fun, and a great way of experiencing nature first hand.

Don't be worried about starting out, start off with a short trip in a

familiar area where if it all gets a bit too much you can quickly pack

up and retreat. Despite the advice in the code above there's a few

popular and well used spots that make good starting points. Angle Tarn

and Sprinkling Tarn in the lake District provide all the essentials of

a good location - unobtrusive, readily available water (remember to

take a water filter and/or boil all water), well protected from the

elements and a short walk in.

Borrowdale wild camp by Peewiglet

Wild camp in Borrowdale by Peewiglet