Posted 24 January 2021

Tundra’s Eight Great Wild Camping Tips

With overseas travel options looking limited at best, we turn our eye to the UK’s often overlooked and always beautiful wild environments.

As the only way to genuinely get ‘off grid’ in the UK, and the best way to travel though any hospitable wilderness, wild camping can be a real joy. However, it can also be a nightmare if you’re not well prepared. Whether you’re heading to the Scottish Highland, Snowdonia, Lake District or Dartmoor, we’ve complied eight tips that will help to keep your packs light, bellies full and spirits high.

1. Check your right to camp before you go. The laws differ from Scotland to the rest of the UK, but all wild-camping should be lightweight, away from roads or habitation and involve very small groups. “Camp late and strike early” is widely accepted as best practice.

2. Get the skills. You should not head in to the mountainous areas of the UK without the skills required to look after yourself. You should be able to navigate, recognise natural hazards and purify water, as well as possess kit that will keep you warm and dry. For your own safety, always let someone know where you are going and roughly what time you plan to return.

3. Leave no trace. Carry out all your waste, including human waste (if it can’t be buried safely and at least 50m from any natural body of water) and food waste. Very few places are genuinely safe to have a campfire (dry grassland and peat areas are particularly dangerous) and even non-dangerous fire damage can ruin popular wild-camping sites. Fires are best avoided.

Wild Camping Tundra Enjoying the best of Knoydart.
Wild Camping Tundra Bright tents can be blots on the landscape..

If possible, try to use green or brown tents. A group of four green tents would be almost invisible to the naked eye from a distance, whereas a group of orange or red tents would be easily visible, lessening the wilderness experience for you and other trekkers.

4. Be cool. As someone who camps year-round, I have come to favour the cooler months. Full winter conditions might bring a new set of hazards, but spring and autumn mean far fewer people and midges, more hours of darkness, less sweating and that very special joy of being cocooned in a down sleeping bag on a cold night.

5. Go light(ish). As much as the outdoor industry seems to obsess about the weight of kit, it’s also worth bearing in mind the old instructors’ adage, “Go superlight: freeze all night”. Low pack weight is obviously a key aim if you’re going to enjoy a wild-camping experience, so be ruthless when it comes to disregarding non-essentials (hair-straighteners, perhaps) and then make sure the items that are genuinely needed are fit for purpose.

A 2.5cm non-insulated mat and a two-season sleeping bag on a UK winter trip will lighten your pack and increase the risk of hypothermia in equal measures. Being warm and dry trumps low weight.

Co-ordinate what you carry with your companions - e.g. two small, differing personal ‘ouch pouches’ could replace a heavy ‘group’ first aid kit and stove sets could be one-between-two.

Spend money where the biggest weight savings can be made. An expensive titanium pot might shave 50g off your pack weight (at £1 per gram saved), whereas a lightweight tent might cut over 2kgs for the same outlay. Most genuine -10C synthetic sleeping bags weight around 2kg, while the Tundra Pure -10C weighs under 1kg. Sleeping mats have also halved in weight over recent years, so it might be time to consider an upgrade.

6. Au natural, my darlings. Wear baselayers made from natural fibres; ideally wool or bamboo. Cotton’s inability to dry quickly makes it miserable to use in just about all conditions and it can contribute to hypothermia. Synthetic baselayers quickly fail the sniff test, whereas merino wool and bamboo can be worn for multiple days without you smelling like a wet labradoodle.

7. Stay dry. Freeze-dried meals are the only real option, as you’ll need at least one proper meal per day and wet foods (boil-in-the-bag or otherwise) weigh too much. Supplement these with high-energy, dry-mass foods and snacks (nuts, dried fruit, oat bars, etc.). Freeze-dried breakfasts and desserts can become expensive (up to £4 each) – for breakfast, pre-mix instant oats with dried milk powder and brown sugar and use supermarket instant custard as a high energy dessert (around 20p each).

Rice or pasta might seem like cheap alternatives, but 10-15 minutes cook time per meal will require a lot of gas and effort. Pizzas ovens are simply not an option.

8. Layer up. As you can rarely rely on weather forecasts for trips that last more than a couple of days, using a clothing system based on multiple layers will allow you the flexibility to cope with all conditions. Anyone turning up in jeans or carrying an umbrella should expect them to form the basis of any emergency camp fire.

Wild Camping Tundra Enjoying the best of Knoydart.
Wild Camping Tundra Enjoying the best of Knoydart.

Wild Camping Tundra Enjoying the private beach.
Wild Camping Tundra Enjoying the private beach.