Wild camping, or stealth camping as it is often known, is the act of pitching a tent outside of a traditional camping site. It involves secretly camping in public, and occasionally private, spaces and packing up in the morning, ideally, without ever being seen.
The benefits of wild camping are obvious; free accommodation and an unlimited selection of scenic places to pitch your tent. The downside however is that it’s not without risk and can be a little nerve wracking for those unfamiliar with it.
Should you find yourself heading off on your first ever wild camping adventure, here are ten tips for doing so safely and enjoyably.
Accept That It’s a Little Scary
First off, if you’ve never been wild camping before, it’s important to accept the fact that yes, it can be a little scary. Combine the dark, the strange noises and the complete lack of protection and you have something that would make just about anyone a little nervous. The good news however is that this sense of fear tends to fade fast. The more experience you gain with wild camping, the more comfortable you’ll become with the concept.
Pitch at Dusk
When it comes to setting up camp, don’t underestimate the importance of timing. Set up camp too early and the odds of you being discovered obviously sky rocket. Set up camp in the dark however and you run the risk of making any number of ridiculous mistakes. It follows that the best time to pitch your tent is immediately before dusk.
Rise at Dawn
Sadly if you want to sleep in, wild camping isn’t going to be for you. Ideally, you should be packing up your stuff at the very crack of dawn. Stay in your sleeping bag any longer than that and you’re just asking to be found.
Choose the Right Tent
When purchasing a tent for use in the wild, don’t forget about the importance of blending in. This might sound obvious but attempting to wild camp in a bright red tent is a surprisingly common mistake. Choose a tent that blends in as much as possible with your anticipated surroundings. Dark, earthy colours are generally best. The same logic applies to your choice of clothes.
Choose High Places
Whenever possible, try to pitch your tent above nearby roads and walking trails. Hills are recommended for three reasons.
- People tend to look down more often than they look up.
- Even if you are spotted, people are less likely to disturb you if they have to climb a hill in order to do so.
- The higher you are, the easier it will obviously be to see people coming.
Keep the Morning in Mind
When evaluating a potential camping spot, it’s important to remember that conditions change. Just because somewhere is quiet and dry now, that doesn’t mean that it’ll still be that way come morning. Here are a few things to look out for:
- Rivers or canals that might rise during the night.
- Gates and fences that somebody might close leaving you trapped.
- Trails that animals/farmers use.
Cover Your Tracks
When looking for the perfect camping spot, don’t forget to cover your tracks. It doesn’t matter how hidden you are if you’ve left an obvious trail behind you. This means walking slowly and undoing any changes that you make as you go. Needless to say, when walking towards a potential camping spot, you should also do your very best to avoid being seen
Don’t Light a Fire
Fires might be comforting but unfortunately, there’s literally no better way to draw attention to yourself. Unfortunately, if you want to keep warm, your only option is a well insulated tent and sleeping bag. The same logic applies to torches, if you want to go unseen, you’re going to have to get used to doing things in the dark.
Research Local Laws
Different countries have different attitudes towards wild camping. In some countries it’s both perfectly legal and surprisingly popular. In other countries however, it’s forbidden. While I personally think that you can get away with wild camping in most countries, researching the local laws before you go somewhere is just common sense.
Play Dumb, Move On
Finally, if you are unfortunate enough to be caught camping somewhere that you shouldn’t be, the best move is always to play dumb. Claim ignorance of the fact that you’re camping illegally, apologise and offer to move on. In most cases, provided you’re willing to leave fast, the matter will be left at that.
Rachel Jones is an employee at Outdoor Legacy, an outdoor gear and equipment store. As her father and brothers enjoyed trekking, she also grew fond of adventure sports. Whenever she isn’t busy, she enjoys writing about her experiences.