How to start wild camping: Mentality
In my experience you have wild camping, which I define as camping in the wilderness, such as in the mountains or off the beaten track in woodland. As a subset of wild camping there is ‘free (wild) camping’ which is camping where ever you feel like, from public parks to farmers fields. Enough experience wild camping naturally leads overcoming the fear completely and being comfortable free camping in places you would never have considered before.
I have three main points on how to wild camp, this post covers the first:
- Equipment – to be explored in a later post.
Both wild camping and free camping come down to mentality. Have you ever noticed in films when a main character dons a high-vis jacket, grabs a clipboard, puts on a confident face and fools everyone into thinking they are checking the electrics whilst actually robbing the bank? Free camping is essentially the same, if you are confident in your environment then you are over half way there. But to become confident you need to overcome the fear.
The fear stems from these type of questions: “aren’t you afraid of wolves/moose/being alone in the dark miles from anyone and anything?”. The main thing to remember when first starting to wild camp is that the noises you hear are just the locals – mice, nocturnal birds, the wind, etc. Instead of trying to block the sounds out, try embracing them and focus in on a particular sound to guess what it is. Hearing your first owl hoot above your shelter is quite a special moment.
It also helps to start out wild camping somewhere more familiar to you, such as the local woods or a nearby national park that allows wild camping (such as Dartmoor), once you’re familiar with it then move onto areas you don’t know. The best thing you can do is get up and go, each camping trip gets progressively easier.
The main points to remember when wild camping are:
- Judge whether you should stealth camp.
- Be friendly if approached.
- Prepare for the worst.
- And so always be happy to move on.
Stealth camping is when you pitch late at night and leave early in the morning. By minimising your time camping you are making it a lot less likely that someone will spot you and come to investigate. If you plan to stealth camp make sure you are familiar with your tent and can pitch and take it down in the dark, it defeats the purpose of stealth camping to brightly light everything with a torch!
If you do get discovered camping somewhere where you should not be then friendliness will go a long way. I’ve found being open and forthcoming takes people off the offensive and more intrigued as to what you are doing. Reassure them you are only staying the night and will not leave anything behind. If that fails then remember that yes, moving on is quite the inconvenience but that you are in the wrong and so tell them you will leave immediately and then proceed to do so!