Wild camping can be a great way to enhance the adventure, solitude and self-sustainability of a multi-day hike. Yet, for many, it inflicts a bout of apprehension difficult to rid; an understandable sentiment, but one most certainly worth overcoming.
Here is a little guidance on how to feel the rewards of camping wild:
- Permission to camp: Of course, if you can ask the land owner (if indeed there is one), then do so; it will make you feel better and is, in the eye of the law, the right thing to do. More often than not, the landowner will comply. In fact, in my experience they are often excited that you chose their land over their neighbours! Whilst in France, the owner of a vineyard was so delighted to have my brother and I stay, that he let us wash in the horses drinking trough, free of charge. How lovely.
- Pitching: Soft, flat ground is favourable. However, if hard to come by, use spare clothes and gear to fill in holes and to counteract angled slopes.
- Food: Without a nearby shop, be sure to have enough food to get you through the night and on to the next town. If foraging for berries, mushrooms and leaves, be sure to know your stuff. I once ate Lily of the Valley by accident and the repercussions were, by all means, disagreeable.
- Water: Again, ensure that you have enough liquid for the night. If using river water, be sure that the flow is running with vigour and is above the livestock line. Consider using purification tablets.
- Toileting: Dig and bury.
- Fires: Only have fires if necessary (for cooking and for warmth). Yes, they may be paramount for the quintessential wild camping photo shoot, but they leave a mark. Extinguish thoroughly. Tip: campfire smoke can be a great way to add fragrance to a particularly odorous pair of socks!
- Sleeping: The sounds of the forest can be blissful, but they can also have you thinking that a foraging mouse is an angry hunter with a gun. I often wear earplugs to get me to sleep and shed them at some point in the night, allowing me to wake with the dawn chorus.
- Leaving camp: Aside from a flattening of leaves, twigs and shoots, you should leave a camping area as you found it.
But, most importantly, do not forget the essence of wild camping – your connection with the land, your freedom and your solitude – that makes the experience so special.