Wild Camping Reflections Tuesday July 23, 2013

First there was camping. Then there was wild camping. Then there was glamour camping experienced in large teepee tents with linen, beds, stoves, cupboards, and all domestic comforts. In Wales recently, a camp site owner told me his glamping teepee was fully booked until October.

Inevitably, for this is the way of it, wild camping is nothing new and I have no doubt people did it fifty years ago before it was any kind of trend or discussed on the internet or anywhere else. It would be interesting to know how it was done with the gear available; there are surprising accounts of efficient light weight walking before Goretex and trail shoes existed.

The term wild camping is quite sensible because it is simple and accurate unlike ‘micro adventure’, ‘ultralight’, or ‘extreme’ this or ‘extreme’ that the purpose of which is, partly, to name and capture a market. We wild camp because it is indeed wild as opposed to the controlled environment of a camp site. There’s no mystique to it and fashionable gear is not, contrary to what you may think, the means whereby you can do it. If you’ve walked the hills and camped in the valleys the next stage is to join the two together. You need a certain knowledge which mostly revolves around the need for lightweight gear relative to comfort, function, and, if you’re like me, price. But it’s not rocket science. Cuben fibre for example is the latest and lightest tent fabric but I find it absurdly expensive relative to the number of grams it saves.

Wild camping, or scary camping as a friend once called it when I told her I was off to the hills, is technically illegal outside Scotland. But it’s not scary. Regarding the law, my guess is governments know about wild camping and can’t be bothered to update legislation because it’s not worth the effort. Wild campers are not vandals. We love the places where we walk and camp. There’s an unspoken agreement whereby everyone knows it happens, everyone knows it’s a harmless pursuit – so keep calm and carry on wild camping.

In Scotland it’s a little easier because you are allowed to camp in wild valleys with the law on your side. In Torridon once I was initially surprised when a local gave me advice about camping a few miles from where she lived. But in England too it’s quite relaxed. One morning at Moasdale making my way to Upper Eskdale, a friendly chap waved at me in my tent at eight thirty in the morning. Once, camped beside Ullswater which was slightly naughty, the early morning National Trust ranger explained to me he had no problem with me camping there but had to ask me to move on before the tourists arrived. The problem, we agreed, is with the unpleasant oafs who litter and desecrate the environment which has happened beside Loch Lomond, for example, to the extent that it’s been made uniquely illegal in the country where it is usually not. The idiots spoilt it for everyone. I’ve seen it in the Lake District too. There are wild camping vandals, but down in the valleys and not in the hills.

The poignant aspect of wild camping is where you snuggle down in your little tent, immersed in the hills and fresh air, then wake in the morning and set off. On the internet recently, someone wrote the following in regard to so called anarchism and his dissatisfaction with society: “Anywhere we go someone wants either our money or blood and sometimes both. There is no escaping it.”

I agree with the sentiment, rather despise the conditions of modern society in which we live – the corruption, politics, greed, exploitation, ignorance, inequalities, lies, consumerism, celebrity culture – but disagree with his point regarding escape.

You can escape the nonsense for a week or two, a few days, or even for one night in the hills when you wild camp. This is in the spirit of anarchy by which I mean an affirmation of freedom and self contrary to the systems and confines of society. This is not a trivial point in regard to the essence, if you will, of who and what you are as a human being.


Lake District





Peak District


Chorlton Meadows