Camping in some of the natural and wild places can offer you the experience of a lifetime. But there are things you need to know if you are going to head out into the wilderness. From what gear to carry to let others know where you are going, wild camping needs to be approached with care to remain safe and to make the most of your time.
What is wild camping?
The term wild camping can cause the most intrepid outdoors enthusiast to pitch his year trying to understand what the term means.
Many still do not understand the concept behind wild camping and often it comes down to an individual’s interpretation of it. For some people, wild camping involves heading out into the backcountry, into the forest where there is no hint of civilization offering a chance to live wild and free.
For others, wild camping is all about heading out to a campsite and while there may be a shower, a loo and a place to keep your stove, you are surrounded by wide-open spaces or wild territory with no hint of human settlement for miles around.
However, for camping to be considered wild, the first interpretation is usually the correct one. It is all about spending nights and days away from organized campsites. Pitching a tent under the dark blue moon filled sky and enjoying the sounds of wild creatures all around you.
Many people often think that wild camping is only about hiking to wild and unfamiliar places and pitching your tent. However, this type of camping can leave you exposed making it highly dangerous and, in some places, illegal.
When planning your wild camping trip, there are a few things that you need to deal with.
While sitting around a campfire might be one of the fun things to look forward to when wild camping, you need to take care not to cause a wildfire. Check the surrounding vegetation and notice if there are plenty of dry bushes around. These can catch a flint and light up the surrounding vegetation.
Not only will it risk the lives of the wild animals and destroy their habitat but it will also put you in danger as well. Make sure to also check the weather forecasts as strong winds can easily blow the campfire into the surrounding vegetation.
When you light a fire pick a location that doesn’t make it easy for the fire to spread and get out of control. And when you finally retire to sleep, make sure to completely turn out the fire. You can even pour water on it to completely turn it out.
It is always a good idea to update yourself with the local forecasts. Weather can change drastically which can put you at a risk such as in cases of sudden heavy snow and strong winds.
Getting wet with no place to hide can be life-threatening. The kind of weather will also tell you what type of tent you will need. One made from tougher fabric and with strong sturdy poles are best suited for strong winds.
Humans have the potential of causing the most damage to the environment and are a danger to local wildlife. However, wild campers could also be at risk of encountering dangerous wild animals such as snakes, bears, wolves and mountain lions to mention a few.
An attack from any one of these predators could be life-threatening when you consider that calling for help will often not be the quickest option.
Take measures to ensure you do not attract these animals. Some of these measures will include not leaving food outside your tent that might attract bears and camping in open spaces where you can spot wolves and cougars from a distance.
Tips for Wild Camping
Check rules and regulations
The first thing that every wild camper needs to do before embarking into the wilderness is to check the local rules and regulations and ensure that you adhere to them. Some areas are off-limits to campers.
You can also talk to the property owner and ask for permission before camping on his or her land.
Let others know
Some of the most beautiful places are often remote and hard to access. Informing your family or friends where you will be going can help launch a successful rescue in case things go south.
Often campers make the mistake of simply heading out into the bush for some quiet and alone time and we all know of stories of people who went out into the wilderness never to be seen again. So, do the prudent things and remain safe.
Make sure you have the right gear
Sometimes you might want to keep things lightweight to be able to walk through the backcountry with ease. However, lacking essential gear might put your life at risk.
When packing your gear, do not hesitate to add that weatherproof material or choose a well-padded and insulated sleeping bag.
The weight might increase, but if the weather turns for the worse, you will be safe from the elements, dry and cozy even with the deluge outside your tent.
Camp close to a water source
As much as you need to carry the essentials, water can be heavy to carry. Your best bet when wild camping is to look for a water source. Even better is if it’s a source with running water. This is safer than still water.
Check to see if there are any dead animals upstream. Even if everything seems clean, use a good quality water filter bottle. If you don’t have access to a filter bottle, boil the water before drinking it to get rid of any harmful bacteria.
When you need to relieve yourself, make sure you do it at a distance away from the water body to prevent the bacteria from finding its way into the water. A good distance could be at least 200 feet.
Do not disturb
You may not be the only wild camper around. It’s important to make sure that you do not disturb others. If you are going to camp in a location where there are other campers around, leave late and set up your camp with minimal noise and to get up early and be on your journey before the others wake up.
Leaving no trace
The number one code to wild camping is to leave your camping site as natural as possible such that no one can tell that you were there.
If you light a fire, make sure you do it correctly so as not to burn any surrounding vegetation. As you prepare to leave camp, walk around your campsite and pick up any trash or unnatural stuff like plastics that you may have used.
As for the location where you choose to use the toilet, use it in a way that any waste will decompose naturally. Cover any waste.
While camping, keep your group numbers small if you are in the company of a family member or friend. This ensures you do not cause a racket and disturb all the local wildlife.
Do not stay in the same location longer than you have to so as not to leave anything different from how you found it. It is preferable to camp in a single wild location before packing up your gear in the morning and moving off.
The right gear
One of the most essential things to have when camping out in the wild is your gear. It should fulfill the task it was designed for effectively and efficiently. Before you go out into the backcountry, it is advisable to test the gear to ensure you know how to use it correctly. This also ensures that it is fully functioning. You can do this by setting up a makeshift camp in your back yard.
When choosing your tent for wild camping, you need to consider that you are going to spend a lot of time hiking and trekking. The tent thus needs to be lightweight to prevent you from being worn down by the extra load.
Also, consider your height. If you are a taller individual or are camping with a friend, a larger, roomier tent is ideal.
The sleeping pad will ensure you stay off the hard ground and can also keep you dry when it rains. A closed-cell foam pad is affordable and easy to set up. Not only will it help keep the sleeping bag off the ground but it is also lightweight.
A self-inflating sleeping pad will absorb air as soon as it is set on the ground providing a much more comfortable sleeping experience.
The sleeping bag needs to be the right size and should have enough plush to keep you warm on cold nights.
A sleeping bag with a good chest room will allow you to turn at night without straining. You might need one with a head opening that can easily be closed which will keep any crawling and biting insects out.
It is also important to ensure that your sleeping bag is breathable especially around the head area to prevent moisture from building up when you are asleep.
You might need to get out at night or do a bit of nocturnal wildlife watching. A light torch will help you see in the dark.
If you plan on watching wild animals in the dark, it is advisable to use a red-light torch that will not disturb the animals as they go about their lives.
Camping near a source of water will provide you with an unlimited supply. It will also ease your carrying as packing water can be heavy.
However, the downside is that you could get exposed to mosquitoes. These are annoying and can cause you to lack sleep. Applying insect repellent will keep you safe from the mosquitos and other crawling insects allowing you to sleep soundly ready for the next day.
Your cooking gear shouldn’t be too heavy to wear you down as you trek through the backcountry. A lightweight single burner stove may be all you need to cook your meals and prepare your coffee in the morning.
As for packing food, one great option is to carry dehydrated food such as flavored rice, pasta. These are simple to prepare as they only need you to add water.
The camping backpack will help you carry all of your camping gear. The bigger it is the more you can carry.
Choose one that has extra padding on the shoulder straps. Extra weight may cause discomfort in a poorly padded backpack.
How to Pick a Camping Spot When Wild Camping
When camping out in the wild one of the most essential skills that you will need is knowing how to pick a good camping site. You want to make the most of your stay. It needs to be comfortable and has a view.
Pick a flat ground that is free from bumps as these will make sleeping difficult and uncomfortable. Pick a place where you can enjoy the view directly ahead of you. Sometimes, if not most times, it is difficult to pick a perfectly flat ground.
If your ground is sloppy, pitch your tent and set your sleeping bag with your head facing uphill. Avoid sleeping flat on the side of the hill as this will likely cause you to roll down in your sleep.
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Wild camping can enable you access to some breath-taking locations and scenery and allow you to experience life raw and natural. However, it can also be dangerous and calling for help may not be the quickest option.
By making sure you follow the local rules and through taking measures to remain safe, you can turn that wild camping trip into the experience of a lifetime.