One of the first stumbling blocks for any newbie is how safe is wild camping really?. That thing about sleeping in a remote area with only a tent for cover can be very unnerving at first and taking the first trip out will be a huge (and hopefully enjoyable) learning curve.
Some people new to wild camping may well be veterans who have racked up a huge amount of time under canvas, but these have been in the (relative) safety of organized (and usually paid for) campsites.
This does present problems when faced with a night miles from civilization without access to all the usual facilities and no easy ‘out’ if things go wrong. Some wild camping issues can be dealt with easily (or at least minimized) and others you just have to accept.
Getting right out of Dodge!
Barring an unfortunate accident, people are going to be your main problem when trying to sleep outdoors. Getting away from other humans not only amplifies the wild camping experience, but will cut down on the chance of anybody stumbling across your camp while your having a sleep.
If you’ve ever been in a busy city/town center late on the weekend, then you’ll understand that its one of the last areas for a peaceful camping experience 🙂
Most people in rural areas are generally not a problem as they understand the whole camping thing and will leave people in peace (provided your not on their land without permission).
This doesn’t mean trekking miles with a heavy pack (which in itself can be sort of fun), as you’d be surprised how accessible places can be with even a short ride on public transport.
Difficult is Good
Another side of a location adding to the safety of wild camping, is giving yourself a hard time getting to a camp spot. Choosing somewhere that’s a nightmare to get to when the sun is up, guarantees that very few are going to attempt it at night.
Over the years, I’ve built up a massive selection of regular wild camping spots all around the UK, with those awkward to get to places being some of the most comfortable nights ever spent outdoors because I sleep easier knowing there’s slim chance anybodies going to bother me.
Going to the trouble of scrambling up loose stones to a grassy ledge just big enough for your tent, pays dividends when you think of how impossible the same climb would be in the dark (even with a torch).
Similarity, a good vantage point with only one entrance means your going to spot anybody wandering around with a torch, long before they get anywhere near your tent. These places are numerous enough and you’ll have fun finding them, just don’t expect many other wild campers to point you in the direction of their best camp sites (some things are just too good to share!)
Urban Wild Camping
I don’t mind a bit of urban camping and have often bedded down in towns or cities while on one of my random directionals roams. Be warned though this amplifiers the ‘other people’ problem massively and frankly not for the inexperienced.
Avoid parks, church yards, car parks, bus/train stations and places where people are going to gather after dark. Taking the time and effort to trek a mile or so out of a city center will drastically reduce the amount of trouble you going to find yourself in, along with opening up more safe places to hide.
As with wild camping in general the same ‘find an not easily accessible place’ rule still applies.
Insects and the like
We in the UK are blessed with having very few native poisonous creatures to be concerned about, although there have been some more nasty and worrying imports trying to make a home for themselves in recent years.
Adders are probably the main one you’d want to avoid. A healthy adult human is unlikely to die from an adder bite, but it will put an end to your trip and make you ill in a way you’ve not going to like. Young children are most at risk, although adders will do what they can to stay out of your way and its not very often you’ll even come across them.
Unfortunately Adders are happy to live in a wide range of places, meaning there’s no clear cut way of avoiding their likely habitat. Keep it in mind while out hiking on hot summer days, but also remember that its certainly not a game ender and problems with these snakes are very few and far between.
Other countries around the world have their own range of poisonous problems to deal with along with more than a few predators thrown in for good measure. Wherever you are, making yourself aware of any potential problems is a top safety preparation.
Alone or with a Crowd?
Going it alone of heading out with a group of friends has both advantages and disadvantages. Solo wild camping is the ultimate if its solitude your after, and its much easier to tuck yourself away somewhere out of sight when going it alone.
The safety is numbers thing goes without saying when with a group, but can bring problems of it own. The noise of a few people talking and enjoying themselves can travel a long way on a quiet night, bringing the possibility of visitors (especially if your camping on someones land without permission).
Also people react in different ways when faced with a pitch black night in the unfamiliar surroundings. Where you might think its great, the person(s) with you may easily get themselves all wound up, leaving you to deal with them or facing the real risk of calling the whole thing off (the main reason I only like wild camping with experienced people)
Easy Does It!
I’m all for people getting out into the wild and having a great time, but everything comes easier with a little preparation. Good kit is worth its weight in gold (more so in winter weather) and doesn’t have to cost the earth.
Social media has some great groups where camping equipment is discussed at length. As with any hobby there are those who prefer a certain brand (not always a bad thing), but once you sort through all the ‘fan boys’, you’ll get a solid idea of what a decent piece of kit should look like.
Camping shops will have a regular clear out of old stock and if your on the ball, don’t mind last seasons model (still viable kit) and maybe prepared to haggle, then you’ll end up with a bargain.
Avoiding gear Overload
If your lucky enough to have a chunk of cash to spend on Camping Equipment, its very easy to buy every gadget under the sun. Collecting camping kit can be just another facet to the hobby, but if your trying to get things together for those first trips out, please remember your going to have to carry it all 🙂
Slipping the pack on for a few minutes in the house is no measure of how its going to drain you after a 5 mile walk in the sun. A overly heavy pack can cause lots of problems (especially if your not used to it) believe me and from personally having suffered Sciatica on multiple accessions, your better off keeping the weight down as much as possible.
Even a little bit of bush craft knowledge/training will save your life quicker than those heavy/expensive toys your lugging around!
And Finally, Always, Always have an ‘out’
An ‘out’, escape plan, tactical retreat, it doesn’t matter what you call it, there should always be a plan of action if things go belly up. Equipment failure, injury, unhappy landowners etc can happen, and there should be a basic idea of what to do next instead of just stumbling around in the dark.
A reliable method of communication is also important. As this is a usually a mobile phone, its good to check there’s a workable signal where your camping and not just assume the thing will function when needed 🙂 Huge chunks of the coastal regions in the UK have zero mobile phone coverage because the signal is lost as the land dips down to sea level.
As an example ‘outs’ for me usually consist of a second camping site within easy walking distance and something I can take shelter under (if only briefly) should everything else fails and I start to get soaking wet!
In the 30 plus years I’ve been wild camping just about anywhere I please and have had very few problems (like this one). The saying of ‘make camp late and leave early’ is a good one to remember as this method goes a long way to avoiding any bother about where you’ve decided to pitch up for the night.