Wild Camping Essentials: How to Get Started

two tents sit on mountain with wild camping essentials
When planning a wild camping excursion, it may be tempting to throw caution to the wind and not prepare - don’t do this! When you’re wild camping, you’re a guest in Mother Nature’s house, and her rules need to be abided by. It's equally important to take wild camping essentials with you to ensure you’re safe, comfortable, and that you have a great time. Read this blog and you will know what wild camping equipment you should bring.

What is Wild Camping?

Wild camping is exactly what it says on the tin: camping in the wild. This could be in a tent, hammock, or - if you’re really hardcore - in a bivvy under the stars.

It is important to be aware of where you are planning on wild camping, as many countries have restrictions around this activity.

In Scotland, however, is generally allowed. Laws aside, it is important when wild camping to respect the local area - wildlife and the local population alike.

It’s also essential to be aware of any potential threats - this could be dangerous weather conditions, native animals, etc. This is where your wild camping essentials come in.

Wild Camping Essentials - What I Need

So, you’ve picked your location where you want to be at one with nature again, you’ve checked with the local authorities, and you’re good to go. Now comes the part of collating your list of wild camping essentials to ensure you’re safe and comfortable on your trip.

Sleeping Essentials

If weight is a concern when wild camping, the good news is, you don’t have to be laden down with heavy items.

First things first, you need to decide what you want to opt in for, shelter-wise. Your options are:

  • A tent (always opt for lightweight options)
  • A bivvy
  • A hammock
  • Breathable shelter
  • Tarp

Once you’ve decided on this, here are your other sleep-focused wild camping essentials:

  • A sleeping bag (this one’s pretty non-negotiable!)
  • Sleep mat (this can be an inflatable or rolled-up jobbie)
  • Torch (a head torch is recommended for practicality purposes)
  • Batteries for your torch

Cooking Essentials

The good news is, the bohemian way of cooking doesn’t require being bogged down with the entire contents of your kitchen - or even half of it.

When it comes to cooking-related wild camping essentials, you will find less is often more - if nothing else, to keep the weight of your pack down. But you will need a couple of items that if you forsake to bring, will make your trip a very stomach-rumbling affair! These include:

  • Your camping stove of choice. Always opt in for the most reliable, compact, and eco-friendly option. Double points if it comes with its own cooking pot.
  • If not, a separate cooking pot. Always go for lightweight, easy-to-clean options.
  • Knife, fork, and spoon.
  • Plate/bowl and mug.
  • Water bottle/hydration bag/dromedary bag.
  • Water filter or purification tablets. This is HIGH-KEY ESSENTIAL if you are relying on natural water sources out in the wild.

Disclaimer: some of these items may seem insultingly obvious, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to miss one super-obvious wild camping essential!

man sits at fire cooking with wild camping essentials

Pack

Naturally, your pack (specifically, the size) depends on how long your camping trip is. But regardless of this, it is important to put practicality, weight, and comfort into consideration when selecting a pack.

While receiving recommendations from store advisors and/or experienced wild campers/ hikers can be useful, ultimately you’re the one who will be wearing the pack, so you need to be comfortable with it.

Buying a pack that comes with a protective rain cover may also be a godsend!

Clothing

So, we’re sure it doesn’t need saying, but we’ll say it anyway: when planning your clothing-related wild camping essentials - opt for practicality over fashion!

Forget those people you see on social media who make camping and hiking look glamorous! Social media is an illusion! You need clothing that keeps you warm, dry, and comfortable - not garb that makes you look like a Pinterest model!

And to keep that pack as light as possible - here are the bare essentials:

  • Waterproof outerwear (jacket, trousers, etc.)
  • Insulated, quick-dry mid-layer garments
  • Wicked base-layer items
  • Hiking socks (opt-in for ones that minimise blister damage)
  • Wool/thermal hat
  • Sun hat (if applicable)
  • Gloves (while it may be warm in the day, you might need these babies at night!)

Footwear

If you’re navigating challenging terrain - which is often part and parcel with wild camping - you’ll need appropriate footwear. Your choice of shoes/boots will need to be designed for hiking (AKA, they will be waterproof and resistant to difficult terrain). Padding, insulation, and ankle support should all be taken into consideration.

It can be worth opting for a size one up from your shoe size. This can make it more comfortable when wearing thick hiking socks, and will minimise the amount of blisters/nail damage that can come with hiking.

Always visit your local hiking/camping store for expert advice to be as well-prepared as possible. Nothing will ruin your experience more than ill-fitting attire.

And that’s it! Those are your absolute bare wild camping essentials!

Wild Camping: Other Things to Consider

As well as making sure you create a wild camping essentials list - and don’t embark on your trip until you’re happy with your purchases - there are other things to consider when wild camping - particularly for the first time camping.

  • If you’re camping with others, keep your gathering small to be considerate to wildlife and locals.
  • Familiarise yourself with local laws around camping - particularly if you wish to make a campfire.
  • Leave ZERO trace. Don’t leave behind litter, unwanted camping items, and other mess.
  • Don’t feed the local wildlife.
  • Don’t outstay your welcome in one camping spot; unless local authorities permit it.
  • Pitch your tent/camp at least 100 metres away from trails, roads, houses, etc.
  • Camp out of sight of buildings/houses.
  • Don’t disturb wildlife, rocks, vegetation, etc. Remember you’re a guest.
  • Beware of trespassing laws.
  • Camp on flat, dry terrain.
  • When you hike away to leave, turn around and give the camp a once-over to make sure you’ve left nothing behind.

The Wild Camping Golden Rule

The golden rule that any experienced and respectful hiker/wild camper will tell you is this: when you leave your campsite, make it look like no one was there; leave it as the pristine, untouched nature spot it should be.

two people hike mountains after wild camping

Wild Camping Non-Essential Essentials

So, now that we’ve covered the bare necessities; there are a few other not-so-essential wild camping essentials to take with you.

  • Trowel/poop bags for “rest-room” activities. Yes, poop is technically biodegradable, but it actually takes a lot longer to break down than one might imagine. And if nothing else, it’s not very nice for other hikers to pitch their tents in amongst a poop-speckled terrain!
  • First aid kit. Particularly items for blister repair, such as second skin dermal tape or “party feet” products.
  • A paper map (in case your smartphone loses power/signal) and a compass.
  • Tick remover.
  • Small hot water bottle.
  • Biodegradable baby wipes for cleanliness.
  • Inflatable pillow.
  • Flip-flops/slip-on shoes to wear in the evenings when you can’t wait to pull off those hiking boots.
  • Cleaning sponge for your utensils.
  • Microfibre towel.
  • Suncream and sunglasses.
  • Insect repellent.
  • Hiking poles. This is particularly useful for mountain campers.

What NOT To Do When Wild Camping

To have an enjoyable, safe, and hassle-free wild camping experience, here are the DON'TS that need to be adhered to:

DON’T

  • Leave food lying around; unless you enjoy camping with certain scavengers.
  • Start a fire - particularly with gas or petrol.
  • Rely solely on your phone/GPS.
  • Leave home without letting your loved ones know of your whereabouts.
  • Blast music. This is seriously disrespectful to wildlife and other campers/nearby residents.
  • Disrespect nature. Nature will kick your butt, no matter how many times you watched The Revenant.
  • Ignore weather alerts. Being mindful of weather - particularly in unpredictable areas - could quite literally save your life.

Wild Camping: FAQs

Where in the UK is wild camping prohibited?

In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, wild camping is generally considered illegal, unless the landowner says otherwise.

Scotland, however, has much more relaxed laws about wild camping, meaning you can pitch up almost anywhere (within reason, of course!) - including the numerous national parks that the country boasts.

What are the benefits of wild camping?

Wild camping is a must for those who adore the outdoors. It can be a cheap, enjoyable way of getting away from the rat race of life to reset and have a break.

Oh, and if you wild camp in certain places in Scotland, you may even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights!

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