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Wild Camping Etiquett - Goarmy

Wild Camping Etiquett


What is wild camping?

If you love the idea of camping, but want to get away from busy campsites and shared toilet blocks, then wild camping is for you. It’s back-to-basics adventure; the perfect opportunity to escape the everyday and reconnect with nature. Discover your own private spot and revel in an uninterrupted view of the landscape in front of you. 

Traditionally, wild camping means staying in a tent or bivvy, so you can walk into and out of your camping spot with just a rucksack. But if you like a few more creature comforts, you can still get off-grid to some beautiful locations in a campervan or motorhome. Just pack a map, plenty of food and some warm clothes, and head out into the wild for a night under the stars.


Camping laws in the UK

Wild camping is illegal in most of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but the Land Reform Act 2003 means that wild camping with a tent is legal across much of Scotland. Dartmoor in Devon is the exception in England, with a recent high-profile court case protecting the right to wild camp in a tent on its moorland. 

If you are sleeping in a campervan or motorhome, the rules are slightly different. It’s not legal to wild camp anywhere in the UK in a vehicle, without permission from the landowner. Campervan and motorhome owners will need to stay on designated campsites, or in spaces that explicitly allow overnight stays. This often means staying in local carparks by the side of the road, which isn’t exactly the wild escape into nature that many envision. If you want to get away from the crowds legally, it might be better to book a designated spot on a farm where you can get away from the road and into the countryside.


How to wild camp responsibly

When you are out walking, you should always follow the Countryside Code and be sensitive to the landscape around you. Here are a few more tips to make your wild camping adventure safe and fun.

  • Choose a safe spot. Plan your route and earmark several possible spots on the map before you start out. Stay on high ground that is out of sight of houses to keep it discreet, and remember never to stay on land that is being cultivated for crops or fields containing livestock.
  • Arrive late and leave early. Plan to arrive at dusk and be packed up ready to leave early in the morning to ensure you have minimal impact on the local ecosystem.
  • Never light an open fire. There is often a high risk of fire in suitable wild camping spots, so don’t light a campfire on the ground. Bring a small camping stove for cooking up your dinner and brewing a cup of tea.
  • Leave no trace. Make sure nobody will be able to tell you were there last night – take away all your rubbish and leave the ground undisturbed.
  • Choose your toilet carefully. If you need to do a number two, either bring a portable camping toilet (easier in a campervan!) or dig a hole and bury it. If you opt for the burial method, find a spot at least 30m away from paths, water or buildings, and dig a hole at least 6 inches deep. Replace the earth once you’ve finished. Always carry out any used toilet roll with the rest of your rubbish.
  • Be considerate. Pay attention to “no camping” signs, don’t camp in large groups, and if the landowner asks you to move on, respect their wishes and find another spot to stay. 


Getting landowner permission to camp off-grid

If you want to head to an area where wild camping isn’t legal, you’ll need to stay on a registered campsite or get permission from the landowner. 

There are some websites that offer campsites with a wilder experience, and some that offer private, off-grid camping pitches that feel just like wild camping, but with the knowledge that you’ve got full landowner permission to be there once you’ve booked. Staying at these sites gives you peace of mind so you can sleep soundly at night. These are a particularly good option if you are a wild camping newbie and less confident that you’ll be able to find a safe spot.

If you opt to stay at a paid pitch, you’ll have the additional benefit of being able to stay for a bit longer. Enjoy a relaxing breakfast taking in the view and spotting the resident wildlife, rather than having to break camp first thing in the morning. 

Wherever you decide to head on your next camping adventure, just remember to take a moment to look up, look around and soak up the beauty of nature that surrounds you.

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