Phil Geng

Researcher, Climber, Mountaineer


Call of the wild

"I don't get it - Isn't wild camping just camping?"

Admittedly I was a bit stumped when someone recently brought forward this argument. How do we explain to somebody what wild camping actually is? Is it merely camping without fixed facilities? Is it camping as far away from civilisation as we can get? Is it camping in solitude? Is it a survival exercise? Or is it an attempt at defying campsite owners and merely not paying fees for a place to sleep?

Arguably "glamping" has revived the camping market a fair bit. Where previously a tent in the back of the car could easily put up a family at the final destination I now see tent palaces being erected which are far more spacious and luxurious than my flat at home. Let's face it, if you can park a Porsche Cayenne in the porch you have effectively built a house out of canvas and not put up a tent. Earlier this year I spent two weeks working on a research project in the Peak District and decided that two weeks in a crammed tent and the back of my car was just not good enough considering what I was doing. I invested in a power hookup - essential for the research electronics - and picked up a cheap, bigger tent. Admittedly I felt dirty putting the tent up, blowing up a double mattress and hooking up the mini fridge to the power supply. I had become everything I loathe and dislike about camping - a common "glamper".

In a strange way it was this "anti-wild-camping" experience that showed me exactly what wild camping is to me and why I love it. Wild camping is simplicity, having to think about every last gram needed for a night out in the wild. Picking the right spot by weighing up practicality with freedom to choose and the views I would like to have in the evening and morning. Thinking back to my very first wild camping experience my pack size has halved and my pack weight is considerably lighter while my levels of comfort have steadily increased. Boil in the bag meals have given way to actual cooking and there are only a few meals I look forward to more than those I make myself when out in the wild.

Most importantly though I enjoy the freedom wild camping gives me. Heading out with no real target destination, dumping the car in a layby knowing I will return to it when I return and heading out into the beautiful British countryside with everything I need on my back. Be it alone or with friends, wild camping allows us to explore, find and make our own adventures. Wild camping has taught me how little I need to be happy and feel complete. It has shown me that I can happily survive without almost all technology and fend for myself if I really had to. Does this mean I could survive years on an isolated island or in the jungle? No - of course it doesn't. But it does mean I can stay happy with my own company or that of select others for extended periods of time. I can retrace my adventures and experiences in darker times and relive those moments of joy and fulfilment. Listening back to the slight gurgling from the stream below, the wind rustling through the heather and the steady munching of a sheep somewhere outside my tent.

Wild camping is by no means an extreme sport or inherently dangerous activity. It is an activity anybody can tailor to their particular needs, ambitions and desires. While I have set my eyes on a few camping spots that defy logic and sense in the not too distant future, you can simply venture out into your local hills and make your own mini adventure whenever and wherever you feel like it. Just make sure you understand the access codes around wild camping and that it is generally not legal in England and Wales, albeit a lot of areas tolerate it within reason. If you want to stay on the "right" side of the law head to Scotland or Dartmoor - do check the specific access legislation here though, as wild camping is still not a legal right wherever you wish in those areas. Generally speaking though if somebody sees you wild camping you have not done it right to start with - mostly.

If the idea of spending a night under the stars with your house on your back appeals to you or intrigues you get in touch. While I enjoy wild camping and trips into the wild on my own I equally enjoy introducing others to this skill and way of life. Similarly if you have pitched up in crazy, remote, isolated, silly or simply gorgeous places let me know - I'm always on the hunt for more adventures to sink my pegs in.

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Categories: Outdoors

Tags: Wild Camping, Camping, Adventure, Outdoors, Mountaineering, Skills

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