Wild Camping is an excellent way to experience the beauty of the Scottish countryside. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 allows hikers and campers the freedom to explore the wilderness, pitching their tent as they go. That doesn’t mean there are no rules to follow and for a beginner, it can seem daunting or confusing. With a few simple guidelines and tips, everybody can enjoy the freedom that responsible wild camping offers.
What You Need
Before you can march off for the night, there are some extra items needed on top of your regular hiking gear. It might sound obvious, but a tent is the most essential piece of equipment. If you’re planning on camping as part of a longer hike, then look for something light, durable and easy to set up. An essential piece of advice is to practice putting the tent up at home before you try your wild camp for real.
Inside the tent you will need both a sleeping bag and ideally an inflatable sleeping mat to save space. They take less than five minutes with the built-in pump and you have a comfortable, insulated bed for the night. To rest your head, blow up pillows weigh next to nothing and take seconds to inflate.
A simple, screw-on burner and tiny gas canister are very easy to use although some people are happy with cold food. On balance, stoves don’t weigh a lot and a hot meal after a long hike is a blissful feeling.
If you get up in the middle of the night, then a headtorch will come in handy as well as some light footwear. It might seem odd but a pair of flip-flops on a damp night is a much better option than bare feet or lacing up hiking boots.
Where You Can’t Wild Camp
Loch Lomond has its own rules during peak season but apart from this, you can set your tent up in almost any other unenclosed ground. Avoid historic monuments, farmed fields or directly in front of living room windows, staying as inconspicuous as possible.
Responsible Wild Camping should be exactly that – Wild. If you’re out hiking in the hills, then there aren’t many places off limits. If you’re looking to stay close to the car then just make a little bit of effort to camp somewhere out of sight.
Where You Should Wild Camp
Flat, dry ground probably goes without saying although that’s often easier said than done. The weather can change fast so look for a sheltered spot to keep from blowing away. Flat ground doesn’t necessarily mean low ground. If you plan it well, then experiencing sunrise high up on a Munro is an unforgettable experience.
It’s always useful to be near running water so you can drink natures finest but be careful by the banks of a river. If the heavens open overnight, then you might find that small stream you camped beside has become a raging torrent. It’s not ideal to wake up and find your tent has become a dinghy.
Leave No Trace
The most important rule to remember is to leave no trace. That doesn’t just mean packing up your tent and rubbish, it should appear as if you had never been there. Campfires are incredibly dangerous and even if they don’t cause a wildfire, the remains are a black stain on the landscape. If you want to toast marshmallows, then the camp stove does the job. There are even foldable, metal trays that give you the campfire experience without leaving a mess.
The unavoidable issue when wild camping is human waste. Sometimes, you just have to go but make sure that nobody would know that you’ve been. Bring a trowel to safely bury what you leave behind and a sealed bag for anything that isn’t biodegradable. Whatever it is you need to do, it should be at least 30 metres away from a water source. You never know when a friendly kayak is going to float on past anyway.
The morning after your relaxing night in the wild, take a good look at your campsite. Would somebody know that you were here or have you been a responsible wild camper?
Written by Graeme Johncock
Graeme is the writer and storyteller behind Scotland’s Stories, sharing the traditional folklore and legends that make Scotland truly incredible.