wild camping – top tips for safety and etiquette

10 top tips for wild camping

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Wild camping for many people can be an exciting and rewarding experience – a chance to break away from the more standard camping experience and potentially really immerse yourself in the environment.

The exhilaration when you find that perfect spot with views to die for is a really wonderful feeling and it’s amazing how liberating it can be doing something a little bit differently!

Whilst you don’t have the fear that the pitch next to you will be full of people who think playing drum and bass at 3am is a perfectly acceptable thing to do or who won’t, for the love of God, just turn their 100,000 lumen searchlight off, it can be an unnerving experience for other reasons.  At Wandavan, we’ve found that on the whole, we’ve had more peaceful nights sleep off grid than we have on traditional campsites.

what exactly is wild camping?

and how should I do it?

Wild camping in the UK encompasses both overnight parking and actual camping; outside of the UK the two activities can be viewed differently.  Either way, it’s basically parking up and bedding down somewhere that isn’t a commercial campsite, often in a more remote location.  Most people think that wild camping is OK in Scotland because of the freedom to roam formalised in the Land Reform Act, 2003 – but it actually excludes motorised vehicles.

Technically there isn’t any legislation in the rest of the UK that prevents roadside parking, but equally there is no right to do so so you should be aware that there is a definite risk of being moved on, particularly if someone thinks you are causing an obstruction or a nuisance!

Wild camping isn’t for everyone as a preferred option, it’s nice to have the security of knowing you’ve got a reserved pitch each night (although pitch thieves are not unheard of if you don’t take preventative measures!)

Some people want toilet and showering facilities on site and there are some that are just a little nervous about doing things a little differently!

Here are some top tips to help those who are new to wild camping but would like to give it a try:

1. foreward planning

Planning ahead using Google maps means you can use street view to suss out likely spots in advance of arriving and apps such as park4night allows you to search for spots other people have used and see if there are any restrictions to parking there.  As we’ve said, there are definitely no rights to wild camp in the UK so coming across signs letting you you’re not welcome to spend the night is, of course, completely understandable.  This sign in Cornwall though could be misconstrued……..


2. pick a parking spot

It sounds obvious, but make sure you park somewhere quiet and away from dwellings- you won’t annoy anyone if they can’t see/hear you but to be honest, it also means they can’t annoy you – after all the whole point of wild camping is to get away from it all, right?

3. safety first

Remote is all very well and good, but at Wandavan we think the same rules apply to wild camping as they do to mountain walking.  Let someone know where you’re going!

We’re not saying you need to give 6 point co0ordinates but something more specific than “a lay-by in The Highlands” is probably useful in case of emergency.

Safety of others is also a consideration.  OK, so not drinking and driving is a pretty obvious point, but did you know that in the UK you could be charged with being ‘drunk in charge of a vehicle’ if you’re not fit to drive so, don’t sit in a forward-facing driving seat, put the keys in the ignition or start the engine if you’ve had a nightcap or two!


4. leave no trace

Nothing blights the landscape more than rubbish left behind by thoughtless people.  If you arrive somewhere and you spot something that wasn’t your mess, clean it up and enjoy the sense of satisfaction that comes with a really good deed.

When wild camping, leave no trace that you have ever been there – leave every spot you stay in as you found it or ideally better.  Besides rubbish being an eyesore, if people abuse this rule then it will lead to stricter enforcements on people enjoying the freedom of wild camping.

5. that proverbial bear question

The answer is yes, yes it does.  And if you too hear nature calling you need to know how to answer her in a responsible manner!

The UK is considering banning single use wipes with plastic which is a great move.  If you haven’t got a tissue handy then make sure you take biodegradable wipes with you.  Natracare are a great shout and in fact they also make face wipes as well so you can ditch the plastic for good!

And the other call of nature?  Make sure it’s well buried and covered with turf so your waste can biodegrade naturally.

If you have a chemical toilet in your van, you can empty it in public toilets which will of course go into the foul drain – they should never be emptied into surface water drains or, wait until you do venture back to a campsite if at all possible.

6. dip your toe

If you’re not sure you’re ready to make the leap into full blown wild camping from the off, there are a couple of really great alternatives to get you started and for a feel of what it’s like without facilities to hand.

BritStops or Motorhome Stopover are a great alternative or even backup.  These companies offer cheap yearly subscriptions (approx £30 per year) and give you access to pub car parks and other farm shop type businesses throughout the UK for you to park up in.  Some have hook up and toilet facilities are a good intermediary between wild camping and using a campsite.

The great thing about these is that you know you have permission to be there and you can also enjoy good grub and a pint before bed!

Wandavan comes with a BritStops subscription so anyone who hires Wanda has has that option open to them for no additional charge – just let us know if you’d like the book of locations included when you take her out.

7. check your battery

If you’re going off grid for a while, are you sure you’ve got all the equipment you need to do it efficiently?

If you only have the one leisure battery it’s important not to run too many things that will run it down and leave you unable to start the van in the morning.

Solar power is a great addition to any van as it gives you a bit more peace of mind.  Thankfully, Wanda has 2 solar panels which charge the battery and we can even vouch for getting enough power from a weak winter sun not to need to use the main battery for anything else inside the van.  How can we tell?  There’s an app that tracks your usage so if you’re a bit of a geek, you can download it and watch away!

8. fires & bbq's

There are so many magical images on Instagram of fires glowing brightly whilst people are watching the stars, toasting marshmallows, sitting with the back doors open and generally looking like they’re in the most blissful place in the world.  Chances are, they’re in Norway or some other Scandinavian country where the laws around wild camping are way more relaxed.  Call us a killjoy but, tempting as a warming fire might be, our advice is don’t as a) it is of course a pretty big hazard and b) you stand a good chance of really damaging the land.

BBQ’s are a better bet if you have a good portable one that could be either put on bricks or is naturally raised off the ground.  And you can still toast marshmallows over them!


9. double check your equipment

If you’re going out of reach of people then, if something goes wrong, you’ve forgotten something (like refilling your water tank) it’s not going to be as easy to find help. And, good as phones are at doing a myriad of things besides making phone calls, signal can still be your downfall even if you can play CandyCrush in the mountains!

  1. Do a visual check around your van first to double check nothing seems awry.
  2. Check your oil, transmission, coolant, and washing fluid.
  3. Make sure your lights are all working, particularly both headlights!
  4. Do a double check on your tyre tread and pressure – if you’re going off-road you don’t want to get stuck with no-one to push you out!
  5. Take levelling chocks!  You might have checked out where you’re going to stay on Google Maps but until you actually arrive, you don’t know what the ground is like and nothing says bad night’s sleep more than bracing yourself against the side of van whilst your other half rolls gently into you all night!

10. Try Europe!

As we’ve mentioned, the laws about wild camping are more relaxed in other countries so you could consider staying by thermal springs in Spain, hanging by the Fjords in Norway, or chilling out in the Ardennes in France.

Wandavan provides our hirers with the option of taking our vans outside of the UK so if you really get a taste for sleeping where no-one else is or waking up to a view that is yours alone you can make that dream a reality.