Wild camping appeals to the adventurous hearts of many of the UK population. Packing up your vehicle, whether it’s a family campervan or a bigger SUV like an Audi Q5, and hitting the road to find somewhere to sleep under the stars and escape the noise and busyness of city life can be liberating. Camping as a whole is gaining popularity, with data from Mintel finding that 42% of British adults went camping or caravanning between 2018 to November 2021. This comes with the figure that the volume of these domestic trips rose by 71% that year.
And while the thought of ditching a traditional campsite and just stopping in a secluded or quiet area to catch some sleep, there are still things you will need to know to keep yourself in the legal right. In this article, we’ll go through some of the rules and laws around wild camping you should know. We’ll also advise you on how to make the most of your time in the wild.
You can pick anywhere to camp
Choosing your location to set up camp depends on where you are in the UK. In England and Wales, laws vary, but it’s mostly illegal. This is especially true with private land, and while many landowners are comfortable allowing people to camp within their acreage, permission must be sought beforehand so as not to be in breach of trespassing laws.
Recent changes to laws around sleeping overnight in laybys are also affecting campers, as new punishments for trespassing individuals could include fines of up to £2,500, prison sentences, and giving police the option to seize vehicles. This is only if you’re asked and refused to move on from where you’re currently parked, but it’s still an important note if you’re posting up in a caravan or motorhome.
But if you live in Scotland, you’re protected legally when it comes to camping wild. This is thanks to the Land Reform (Scotland) Act introduced in 2003 that provides the ‘right to roam’, giving the public access to land and inland water throughout the country. National parks carry different rules and regulations, as if you wanted to camp within them between March and September, you must do so at designated campsites or apply for a camping permit. This is to protect the natural area and wildlife that inhabits it.
Etiquette for wild camping
You’ve been given permission to camp and got yourself parked up and ready for a night in the elements. Making the most of the experience is important, but staying respectful to the landowners, walkers, and adventurers is equally crucial.
Take note of how the site looks when you first arrive and ensure that when you’ve woken up and are ready to move on, you leave the area presentable and like you found it. Litter is not just unsightly and impolite, but it can be hazardous to local wildlife. Bringing bin bags with you and cleaning up after yourself prevents future accidents.
If you’re pitching a tent or setting up a campsite, keep the number of bodies and any noise to a minimum. And unless you have express permission from the landowner, you shouldn’t start or light any fires. If they get out of hand, they could result in a large amount of damage and put you and anyone you’re with in danger.
Take inspiration from microadventures
Wild camping is a great way of braving the elements and experiencing life in a different way, and one way you could emphasise the idea of breaking norms and perspectives is by incorporating elements of microadventures. This was conceptualised by Alastair Humphreys, who focuses on experiencing the feeling of adventure while relying on as little equipment as possible and the understanding that anywhere can be exciting.
He emphasises how taking as little as possible allows you to find the beauty of nature and the feeling of being wilder without the need for a tent. Alastair’s also put together lists of necessities for the burgeoning microadventurer that often include as little as a sleeping bag and mat, warm clothes to maintain your body temperature throughout the night, and preaches the usefulness of a bivvy bag.
Introducing these minimalist approaches to camping, from microadventures to wild camping, could make a world of difference. This would make roaming easier as you wouldn’t have to worry about packing up your motorhome or where to park it, as you could stop in a car park and walk for a while until you found a nice spot to simply rest for the evening.
Wild camping can be what you make of it and applying your knowledge of the rules and laws around it can help schedule a full weekend or longer away in Scotland or even just a night or two while exploring a familiar environment in a new, different way.