If you like the idea of camping but don’t want to be pitched next to other people, or you fancy wandering off into the mountains with everything you need for a night of wild camping, you are in the right place.
This post will give you an overview of wild camping in the Lake District, where you can do it and things to pack and consider. By the end, I hope you will be inspired to give wild camping a go for yourself.
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Why wild camp?
Wild camping offers an escape from civilisation and if you are searching for solitude, you are likely to find it. Uninterrupted views, peaceful sunsets and unreal sunrises.
Popular wild camping spots, by design, are quiet and tranquil. If you wanted to be surrounded by other people, you would book a spot on a camp site. The back-to-basics approach to wild camping allows you to reconnect with nature.
What you need to know about wild camping in England
Generally speaking, wild camping is illegal in England; however, it is possible to get permission from a landowner. Many landowners will agree to this if they are confident you will exercise the rule of ‘Leave No Trace’ and act responsibly.
Expectations are that you arrive late and leave early. When wild camping you shouldn’t be setting up camp for the weekend. It’s generally expected that you stop over on your way somewhere and only stay for one
Places you can wild camp
Wild camping in the Lake District, Cumbria, is ideal because it holds a tradition which other places do not. Wild camping is generally accepted so long as you pitch well away from any settlements and are above the highest fell wall.
The Lake District provides an unforgettable wild camping experience due to its dramatic landscapes and abundance of space. You will be spoilt for choice when deciding where to bed down for the night.
There are many popular wild camping sites in the Lake District;
Choosing a good spot
Traffic (people, vehicles or animals) – check that you are well away from any roads or heavily used paths. The last thing you want is to be woken up by an angry farmer. If you’re camping high in the mountains, this shouldn’t be a problem.
A heavily used trail could still disturb your sleep nonetheless, especially if you are camped next to a popular route used for challenges such as the National Three Peaks. Expect hikers all through the night!
Ground – check the ground is flat and there are no sharp rocks or similar which will cause you added discomfort or damage your tent or bivy bag. It’s also a good idea to check how damp the ground; no-one wants to sleep on a waterlogged pitch.
What you should pack
This is not glamping but nor does it have to be rough camping. Preparation is key if you want to be comfortable.
Tent, hammock or bivy – In the Lake District, you will likely want to camp up in the mountains which means there won’t be trees to hang your hammock from. A tent or bivy bag will be best. If you’re hiking with your kit, do yourself a favour and take equipment which is compact and light. Choose something inconspicuous in colour too as you don’t want to stand out too much.
Food and cooking equipment – It is fair to assume you will wild camp up in the fells far away from the closest pub or shop. Therefore, you will need to take your food in with you, plus something to cook with and eat out of. A Crusader mug is a good bet here as you can cook in it and use it as a bowl or mug. Multi-use items will save you some packing weight and space.
There are lots of options for camping food and these range from expensive specialist boil-in-a-bag meals, to last night’s dinner in a Tupperware container and reheated. Equally, you could take cold food but you shouldn’t underestimate the morale boost you can get from a hot meal after a hard day of hiking.
Fuel – Always use a stove rather than a campfire. Don’t be tempted to light a fire even if there is evidence one was there before. This is general etiquette when wild camping and helps you to follow the ‘Leave No Trace’ principles. A pocket stove screwed onto a small gas cylinder will do the job. My recommendation is the Pocket Rocket Two
Water – It’s a good idea to carry two litres of water per person per day so that you can stay hydrated. Of course, you may need extra water for hot drinks or for cooking. A great way to reduce the amount of water you need to carry, and the weight of your pack, is to invest in a water purifier/filter or take chlorine tablets.
If you can confidently locate a stream or tarn to camp by, you will have an endless supply of drinking water. Just make sure you are confident in how to make it safe. A great lightweight water filter and purifier is the Sawyer Squeeze
Toilet arrangements – Unlike staying on campsites with smelly toilets, you will likely be using nature as your bathroom and therefore, this needs some thinking through. Some people suggest burying your poop, while others will insist on a true ‘Leave No Trace’ approach where you carry your poop back out with you. Don’t worry, there are special bags designed for this.
Sleeping bag and mat – Make sure you have plenty of warm clothes during the day and a decent sleeping bag for the night. The quality of the bag and the comfort rating are important in ensuring you are safe and warm once the temperature drops. A sleeping mat will further protect you from the cold and provide some much needed cushioning from the ground.
Head Torch – This item is crucial, particularly when you brave the cold in the middle of the night for a call of nature. Do not rely on a mobile phone which may run out of battery leaving you without light and without a means of communication. Also, forget carrying a hand-held torch, these will just get in the way. A hands-free head torch is the way to go, trust me.
Map and Compass – It would be irresponsible to hike in the mountains without a map and compass. Check out my post about navigation if you’re interested in a beginners course.
Communication – Wild camping is generally considered to be safe but you should exercise caution, especially if you intend to camp alone. Be sure to inform friends or family of where you are headed and check-in with someone when you reach your chosen camp. Making sure you have plenty of phone battery is also wise and I recommend a solar powered charger so you know you always have access to power in an emergency.
First aid – Ensure you have a basic first aid kit with you. Accidents are always a possibility and a little preparation can prevent a small problem becoming a catastrophe.
Weather – Mountainous areas are notorious for their unpredictability and the Lake District lives up to this reputation. Be sure to check the weather in advance but be prepared for any weather, even if it isn’t forecast. Waterproofs should form part of your basic kit.
Environmental – Be sure to understand where you are and what your impact may be on the environment. Camping on top of vegetation and trampling it, can be very damaging. Please also be sure to go to the toilet away from water – many suggest 30metres distance as a rule.
Kit competency – As you will be away from any modern facilities, it is important that you are confident and competent in the outdoors. It goes without saying that you should be familiar with your equipment before heading into the mountains. Check you can put your tent up without issues, and practice using any items such as water filters and stoves before you set off.
Wild camping is an excellent way to enjoy the outdoors. Firstly, it is free and the best things in life generally are!
Sleeping outdoors provides opportunities we would often miss in everyday life such as, waking up with the sun, sitting out in the dark looking up at twinkly stars, and the chance to be in the mountains at night.
It is important that each person partaking in wild camping does so with respect so that future generations can enjoy the outdoors as much as we do.
If you would like to know more about wild camping, feel free to check out Jo’s blog, www.backpackandbushcraft.com for more posts about wild camping, both in the UK and abroad.