On todays hit list – the legalities of wild camping, and tips on feeling safe and at ease when you’re having a slumber party with nature.
Today’s post is co-written by Chief Adventure Queen, Emma Frampton, otherwise known as ‘Framps’.
WHOOP WHOOP (IS THAT THE SOUND OF THE PO-LICE?)
If we’re going to be totally honest (my mum always told me to tell the truth)… wild camping is ‘technically’ illegal in most of the the UK. It becomes legal when you ask the ‘land owners’ permission (whether the land owner is the government or it’s privately owned), you choose to wild camp in Scotland (totally legal and awesome), or in certain parts of Dartmoor.
That said, it’s not like we’re running around robbing banks (all whacked up on Scooby snacks) here. So there are ways to go about wild camping that will keeps things on the down-low, and make you feel a little bit more comfortable about it all.
The number of people sleeping Wild in the UK has grown massively over the past few years. The way I see it, so long as we operate on a ‘leave no trace’ policy – we’re doing no harm out there.
WHAT ABOUT THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT…?
We all know that our imaginations can get a little bit excited at times, thinking about what and who we might meet while sleeping in the great outdoors. So here’s a few pointers to help set you mind at ease for an evening al fresco.
1. Animals and bugs
We’re pretty lucky in the UK. It’s not like we have to compete with bears or wolves for sleeping space. So it helps to remember that insects are likely going to be the only ‘wild’ thing that you’ll encounter of an evening.
If bugs are a bug-bear in your life, then you could arm yourself with some insect repellent, or invest inone of those buffs with it built in.
Of course there may be the odd badger, mole, fox and squirrel passing through from time to time. But mostly if they happened to be passing by you, they’ll likely be more scared of you than you are of them. Best keep things in perspective and not let the angry badgers of this world stop you from enjoying a night under the stars.
2. Human Beans
But what about humans, getting all up in your business while you’re trying to sleep?! Remember that we are a predictable race. 99.9% of the population are likely asleep in their own beds, or watching Love Island on the telly while you’re wild camping. In the nicest possible way – they really have no interest in what you’re up to.
3. Imagination still running wild? Try this:
- Think about what is actually happening right now. Right the very second you are sleeping in the woods/on a hill/by the sea. You’re likely be… just relaxing/trying to sleep.
- Focus on what it is that is making you anxious, and run through what exactly it is that you think is going to happen next? i.e ‘A stranger will come over and disturb my sleep and I will be terrified’
- Then think through the ALL the other options of what could happen next: e.g ‘I could have a totally undisturbed night’s sleep’, ‘A squirrel could come and steal my picnic’, ‘I could have wild dreams about an inappropriate love affair’, ‘I could leap up and run a marathon’, ‘a meteor could land on earth in this very spot’ …
HOW ABOUT EARLY MORNING WAKE-UP CALLS…?
If you’ve chosen to sleep near a trail or pathway, you may see the odd person in the morning after the camp. They will likely be an early morning dog walker, and the result will usually just be a wave and smile. Perhaps they’ll give you a curious look, they may even come over for a chat – and that might even lead to some new buddies to go wild camping with. Double score.
HAVE YOU EVER HAD A CLOSE-CALL…?
A ‘close-call’ always begins with a raging fear about being caught and told off (like being back at school), but it usually turns into a funny story…
Emma’s Close Call:
“My close call was in Chile earlier this year, when my fellow cycle tourist and I had to wild camp unexpectedly – after a nasty fall off my bike meant I couldn’t cycle any further for the day. The camp spot was behind a fence and we weren’t sure if we were allowed to be there. But with no one around to ask and my hand now starting to turn every shade of black and blue, we decided to quickly duck behind the fence, and pitch up out of sight.
We didn’t see anyone all night, but just as we were having breakfast, we heard a car door slam and footsteps coming towards us. We started making up our excuses (and I readied my hand to gain some sympathy). Then I clocked that the man was carrying a machete in his hand, and our heartbeats quickened that much more!
We needn’t have worried. He turned out to be an early morning dog walker who didn’t bat an eyelid at seeing us, and shouted out heartily in Spanish “Good morning!”. I waved my black n’ blue hand back, and off he went on his merry way.”
My close call:
You’ve got to remember that the fear of the fear is always ten times worse than the reality of getting happened upon, and it did actually happen to me once on a wild camp in the wilds of Essex. Some people disturbed us, and the treacherous situation, the thing I’d been fearing all along time went like this:
I heard two guys, and the one who had the torch, spotted us.
Man 1: “Wassat over there?”
Man 2: “People sleeping.”
Man 1: “Oh.”
And they walked off. That was it, the pinnacle and ultimate moment of my fears! Terrifying, I know.
10 TIPS TO HELP YOU FEEL AT EASE
All of that considered, here’s 10 top-tips to help you feel at ease:
- Use a bivvy bag when wild camping, rather than a tent, as you’re less conspicuous with a bivvy.
- Find a spot that’s out of sight, away from fences, footpaths, roads and other thoroughfares.
- If you’re very worried about being seen, arrive late and leave early – you will likely not see a soul.
- Choose government owned land (like forests, wilderness areas) rather than privately owned land (like farms).
- If you’re super nervous – for the first few times, you can go and recce the spot in the daylight or on another day, and return to it later.
- Like any night out, let someone know where you’re going, when you’re going to be back and take a phone with you.
- If you’re sharing on social media through the evening – keep any location tagging vague and to a general area.
- If anyone in the pub you meet in beforehand asks you what you’re up to, keep it vague. It’s not like anyone will harm you, but it might help keep your imagination at bay!
- Take a friend! Everything is less scary with a friend. Go wild, take two!
Until next time,
McNuff out xx
This is a series of ‘how to’ posts on wild camping. You can find last week’s post on 5 tips for finding a wild camping spot here.
If you’re a woman keen to get out into the wilds with other like minded souls – you can join the Adventure Queen Mailing list here, or the Adventure Queen Facebook group here.