Wild camping is a means to an end, which is a greater and more prolonged immersion in the hills. It’s the hills – nature – which is really the point of it. Otherwise, you would do it in the city if it were possible, or your back garden which is pointless. Camp sites are an intermediary experience and I remember my first time there too, the joy and fun and glee of it, waking at Cae Ddu near Beddgelert in Wales. It was the freedom of the thing which was so wonderful, after years of 8.30 guest house breakfast in a room of strangers. It’s fun sitting and conversing with people about your walks over tea and toast, but many times I wanted to stay in bed longer and didn’t want a big breakfast. It was the freedom of camping I loved and also the economy of it: I’d found something which was better when it was cheaper, a camp site not a room. Wild camping is cheaper still; in fact it’s free.
When I started wild camping five years ago I felt apprehensive. Why, I don’t really know, except that it was unfamiliar and seemed a little scary. A friend used to refer to it as “scary camping” when I told her I was doing it. It’s the unknown: you don’t know what’s going to happen. In reality what could happen, any differently from being on a camp site? I later reasoned, there’s no technical difference at all except your exposure is increased which means concerns about protection and supplies are exacerbated. This, in turn, means it requires more planning. It’s not difficult; all you have to do is learn about it.
This shows my first wild camp. It’s eclipsed now with numerous trips to Scotland, the Lake District, Wales and the wonderful Pyrenees, but I still remember what it was like:
I’d laboured up Fleetwith Pike from the Lake District Buttermere Valley to arrive at Blackbeck Tarn, which was a quiet place I’d enjoyed on previous walks. The day started bright and sunny but deteriorated into gloom, which sadly in Britain is often the case. But on this occasion, the weather was secondary to having my first wild camp.
I hadn’t mastered the Tarptent Rainbow and as you may see my pitch is not entirely correct. The yellow tube should be on the curved apex. But, no matter. I felt self conscious pitching my tent, like I was wearing a bright and uncool article of clothing. I felt silly again, making a meal for the first time while others – or so I thought – were surely experts. Later in the evening, another small tent appeared across the tarn.
The unforgettable joy was waking in the morning with no interruption. I’d walked in the hills, slept in the hills, now woken and was soon to start walking again in the hills. Stuff everything in your rucksack, and away you go. I went across to Red Pike and back down to Buttermere, along one of the finest Lake District ridges.
This is what the tarn looks like at its best:
On a camp site you have a high degree of autonomy and self reliance. You eat what you want, when you want, come and go and sleep as you want, free to plan accordingly. Wild camping takes this to the next logical stage: complete immersion in nature and the hills with even more freedom. There are a few things to learn about it, mostly involving equipment, but there’s plenty of information on the internet to facilitate this process. Just Google ‘wild camp advice’ or ‘wild camping equipment’ and see what you find. I could refer to excellent resources but Google is so efficient you can find your own and which could well coincide with mine. Wild camping is legal in Scotland, not England or Wales, but I suspect no one bothers to change the law because a) people do it all the time and b) everyone knows it’s a harmless pursuit.