Eco-Friendly Wild Camping Tips
If you’re keen on wild camping you’ll have to adopt an eco-friendly attitude and approach. The following tips will help you to ensure your experience is both enjoyable and respects the environment.
Is wild camping legal?
In Scotland, wild camping is legal with certain restrictions. For other countries it’s advised to seek the landowner’s permission – although wild camping is typically tolerated so long as you remain discreet and abide by etiquette.
Scotland’s access legislation does not apply to motorised vehicles such as camper vans and motorhomes, so you shouldn't assume that Scotland’s land access legislation allows the right of responsible access for camper vans or motorhomes. Put simply wild camping is not allowed in motorised vehicles. Wild camping under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 is allowed when camping on foot, bike or some other non-motorised form of transport.
The Land Reform (Scotland) Act states:
Access rights extend to wild camping. This type of camping is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for two or three nights in any one place. You can camp in this way wherever access rights apply but help to avoid causing problems for local people and land managers by not camping in enclosed fields of crops or farms animals and by keeping well away from buildings, roads or historic structures. Take extra care to avoid disturbing deer stalking or grouse shooting. If you wish to camp close to a house or building, seek the owner’s permission.
Leave no trace by:
- taking away all your litter
- removing all traces of your tent pitch and any open fire (follow the guidance for lighting fires)
- not causing any pollution
Similar rules apply to Dartmoor.
Wild camping etiquette
There are several points to observe to ensure your trip has minimal impact on the surroundings and those around you:
Don’t hang around: It’s good wild camping etiquette to arrive at your camping spot late and leave early. By doing so you’ll avoid passers-by and can be packed away before encountering others.
Never light an open fire: One of the most important rules is to never light an open fire. Anywhere you want to camp can present a high risk of the fire escalating and as such, it’s strongly advised to avoid this at all costs.
Leave no trace: Ensure you don’t disturb the environment more than necessary and take everything with you when leaving. The general rule is – leave the area in exactly the same condition as it was discovered.
Be considerate and camp high: Whenever wild camping it’s important to stay away from settlements and respect the privacy of others. Camping on high ground helps to prevent causing a problem.
Choose the right toilet: We’re all human and the chances are you’ll need to relieve yourself at some point in the night. Whenever toileting, keep 50 metres away from water and dig a six inch hole, covering over with earth when finished. Don’t bury toilet roll or wipes – these will need to be kept with your other rubbish.
How to choose the ideal camping spot
Before embarking on your camping trip, it’s solid advice to first take a look at your chosen destination on a map. This will at least give you a spot to head towards and ensure you’re not trooping around aimlessly.
When reading a map, there are some signs to take notice of:
Green slashes: On a map these will indicate a bog. Midges are likely to be in the area so pack DEET and a net if you plan on travelling to this location.
Blue lines: As you will probably know, these are rivers. Larger blue areas will signify a lake. It makes sense to camp nearby to natural water so you don’t have to carry drinking and cooking water with you. Just remember to boil first before consuming.
Broken lines: If a broken line is present on a map it often shows paths and tracks. Wild campers should avoid pitching up near these, so stay out of sight.
Wobbly black clusters: On a map these will indicate corries or crags. If you locate a pattern in the shape of a C, aim for these and you’ll be shielded from high wind.
How To Leave No Trace
The motto of green wild camping says all there is to know about its premise; “Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints.” Essentially, it’s all about leaving as little trace as possible that you’ve been at the site and as such, have no lasting impact on the environment.
Wild camping started as just an eco-friendly trend, but has recently become increasingly popular. As more campers find themselves in the wilderness, the ‘leave no trace’ motto has become ever important to preserve and protect these vital areas.
There are seven key principles to familiarise yourself with and adopt on your next wild camping experience.
1. Plan Ahead and Prepare: Preparation should be a key component of any trip, but particularly when camping. Use a map and familiarise yourself with the area, find out if there are any specific rules for hikers and campers, and only travel in small groups.
2. Avoid disrupting the land: It’s advised to camp only on durable lands, which would mean trails and campsites. Try to avoid creating a new path or campsite, which would disrupt the purity of the land.
3. Properly dispose of waste: Take home everything you bring away with you, including all rubbish. You should also bury human waste properly, in a hole between 6 and 8 inches deep and 50 metres from water.
4. Leave what you find: You should leave everything you find onsite, including rocks and plants. No matter how attractive you find it or how well it’d go in your living room, leave it behind!
5. No campfires: You should never light an exposed fire when camping in the wild. Instead, use specialist stoves to cook your food.
6. Respect the wildlife: Leave all wildlife alone. This not only protects the environment but also ensures your safety. Don’t leave food around for animals and never feed them.
7. Consider others: Respect fellow campers and hikers by not creating too much noise, and by yielding to them on a trail. Let everyone else enjoy the environment as you are.