To purists, this is the only kind of camping: pitching your tent in the wild - just you, nature and the stars.
What is wild camping?
Basically, it's camping outside commercial, organised campsites - pitching your tent in the countryside, in the place of your choosing.
Is it legal?
Yes and no. In England and Wales, all land is owned by someone, or some organisation. Strictly, you have to ask the owners' permission to camp on their land. However, in remote places, if you follow the wild campers' code of conduct (see below), you should be able to get away with it (but note that the Forestry Commission and National Trust do not permit any wild camping). In Scotland, things are different: under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, you are allowed to pitch a tent in the countryside, provided that your are camping in small numbers, in lightweight style, staying only 2-3 days in one place, away from buildings and roads, and not in enclosed fields of crops or livestock.
The wild campers' code of conduct
Wild campers should observe the following code:
- Do not camp within sight of dwellings, or near livestock.
- Pitch late (i.e. after 5pm), and leave early (i.e. before 9am).
- Ask permission from the owner, if you can.
- If the owner asks you to leave, do so, politely and quickly.
- Do not light a campfire without the owner's express permission.
- Never urinate or defecate near a water source.
- Do not wash with soap, shampoo or detergent in streams.
- Bury your poo with a trowel (but not tampons: animals dig them up).
- Take all rubbish with you (even other people's).
- Leave no trace.
Wild camping is all about walking and carrying everything you need. So you want the lightest tent you can afford, a lightweight sleeping bag, and a minimum of clothing. Part of the fun of wild camping is cooking meals, and there are some nifty specialist camping stoves, fuelled by methylated spirits, with pans that pack together like Russian dolls. You are also going to have to carry your food: take dried food rather than cans, and water. You should be able to find water along the way - which you can purify by tablets or prolonged boiling if needs be. You can always stock up with supplies from occasional shops.
If you don't fancy taking the risk of wild camping, you can always do the next best thing. Some farm campsites are pretty wild, primitive and rugged - and there you know you're legal, can stay several days, might be able to light a fire, will have access to a toilet, and maybe even a hot shower. You can have access to a directory of such sites if you join the Backpackers Club.