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Considerate Wild Camping

My general advice about the legality and rules for sleeping wild are that if you are polite and friendly, spend only one night in a place, camp discreetly, and leave absolutely no trace when you depart, then you’ll be fine.

The next step of responsible wild camping would include the advice always offered in books and articles, yet in reality utterly impractical: ask permission from the landowner. Trespassing is naughty, of course. (Although, there was once a time, long ago, when rivers and woods and hills were not ‘owned’.) But annoying landowners really is a terrible thing to do if you care about wild camping being allowed / tolerated. So always bear that in mind.

Far more useful, in my opinion, is to take responsibility for your own actions. Pay attention to Natural EnglandNational Parks, AONB’s, SSSI’ms, Open Access and CROW land. This map is helpful for delving deeper into land use. Also bird nesting season and salmon spawning times will impact where and when you can bivvy.

Bear in mind that as we destroy nature, we destroy ourselves. Or, more simply, if you go sleep in the wild because you love it, but then leave rubbish and fire circles and wreck the place then I may be forced to momentarily shrug off my mild-mannered mask and punch you in the face.

As always I would welcome comments, below, from those of you who know more than me about matters like this!

Una validiores sumus.

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  1. I recently cycled in England, from London to Paris then Italy – my country. In my whole life as cycletourist I’ve been always a wild-camp-addict. England was gorgeous, but I never had as there so many-many-many difficulties to find a spot for my tent. Fences everywhere !!! Miles of fences and warnings: “Keep off”, “Stay away”, “Don’t let your dog shit near my property”, “You Are Being Watched” (The Big Brother paranoia). It’s like an obsession: “this is mine, piss off”. Maybe it depends by the density of population. It was really a challenge to find a camping spot at the end of every day. But neverthless I did enjoy UK, people were friendly.
    Selected photos at:

    There are photos of Etna and Sicily, also.

    • Alastair Posted

      It’s true, sadly.
      America is the only place I’ve been that is worse. And people have guns there too making taking a risk a bit scarier!

    • Hi Dario, great photos! I’ve been in Sicily for the summer and recently cycled around the island with a friend in 48 hours –
      I’ve had issues with wild dogs whilst on the bike so I’d be careful where I camped, but I agree that there are more secluded spots to pitch a tent. I’ve wild camped on Mount etna before but you have to be careful with your fire as you’ll get a hefty fine if caught!

  2. I recently went for a walk in lady clough forest in the peak district & left feeling depressed because there was so much rubbish left behind it ruined the experience that is not how it should be you should be walking in nature feeling refreshed im sure its just a minority but still saddened me

  3. And there is another problem we have in Canada and the USA. Camping out has its dangers for we have raccoons, skunks, porcupines, coyotes, and bears in most parts, plus cougars and wolves in some parts. When I hike in the company of my dog, these challenges get magnified that much.

  4. Education and ownership is key, first if we take our children into the wilds if we show them all the wonderful things they can do/ taste/ feel / smell / touch and see in the outdoors and teach them how to do it sustainabliy. Then just maybe these children will take ownership and want to care for it. Alastair you have helped inspire a whole bunch of folks into the outdoor via microadventures and other trips and talks of yours, you have helped ‘ John from Birmingham ‘ to take his son out for fish and chips and a bivvy. But you haven’t shown (to my knowledge) them a suitable leave no trace technique for having an open fire or picking a campsite, I think you have an opportunity, and have a great big audience, to teach how to use a fire blanket or a fire pan…. the meat of your movies is good how about adding the starter and dessert? Come to Scotland and I’d help you make such a film.
    Thanks Andy

  5. Fantastic article Alastair!
    Whenever we sleep under the stars for the night we always make sure afterwards there is no sign of wild camping. We take everything with us!

    Always sad to see rubbish around. How can people do that??? No respect for our beautiful world.
    Thanks for all your positive posts Al!

  6. I totally agree that it is crucial to be a responsible wildcamper. As it is becoming more popular we have to set a good and sustainable example if we hope to be at least tolerated and at best hopefully encourage the changing of legislation. It would be so great to see a more open policy in England, so lets show how responsible we can be and in turn encourage more people to #getoutdoors and start their own adventures. ( just bought my first bivvy bag)

  7. Jamie Posted

    How do those homeless people do it? They sleep wherever they want. If you set up late in the evening, and get up early in the morning, and leave no evidence, you should be fine.

  8. Nice article! What about the safety of free camping thought? Do you have any suggestion about that?

  9. Pennington Posted

    Any suggestions for the “magic map” for U.S.?

  10. Any experiences sleeping out around herds of red/fallow deer? Could this potentially be dangerous during mating season (sept-oct in the UK?)



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