Wild camping (not camping on an official campsite) is a great experience, and can be the basis of a fantastic family adventure. Not sure? Here are some tips to make your first trip an enjoyable adventure.
Top 3 reasons for family wildcamping:
New experiences – Walking in to somewhere and finding your ideal pitch, exploring your new home for the night, watching the stars come out, listening to the wildlife, waking on a hilltop to see the sunrise are all great experiences. Adventuring as a family is a great way to make memories that will last a lifetime.
Space – They don’t call it the great outdoors for nothing! You’ll have a large area to yourselves – it could be an entire hill, mountain, valley or beach with no-one else to be seen and with views for miles. Plenty of opportunity to burn off some energy and play freely!
Peace & quiet – You can have total silence except from the wind and wildlife. Or, as there is no one else nearby, you and your kids can go wild and not worry about annoying neighbours. It’s just you and your favourite people, with a tent, sleeping bags and a few little luxuries. Getting away from phones, tablets and other technology is also much easier to do when wild camping.
Top 3 tips:
Start local: Choose a spot close to home in an area you know well for your first family wild camp, taking as many of the unknowns out and reducing things to stress about. Just make sure the spot looks relatively flat, relatively sheltered and relatively dry. Remember that you’ll be carrying everything so take a look at what you’ve packed and ask yourself “do we really need this?”
Make sure everyone will be warm: Try to plan your first wild camp when the weather will be good and the nights warm. Make sure everyone has an extra layer of clothing, hats/gloves incase it does get cold. Pack your waterproofs too as they act as windproofs.
Share the adventure: Let your kids pick their favourite toy to share the adventure with and if there’s space take along their favourite book or magazine (many of which come with a few toys and stickers) so they can (hopefully!) sit still for a few minutes. They’ll feel much better after a little rest!
No need for expensive gear: So long as you choose good weather, you can use cheap gear to get you going. We started with a supermarket ‘festival’ tent. The equivalent sleeping bags would also work in the right conditions. Don’t invest in expensive gear unless you know it is something you will enjoy as a family. You lose more heat to the ground than the air when camping so make sure you use a good groundmat to keep warm whether that’s a basic roll mat, a self inflating foam mat, or a super light weight insulated airbed.
Food and drink: For single night trips it is just as easy to not take a cooker (cold pizza anyone?). Put some thought into choosing easy preparation food that your family will like. It’s never any fun when you’re hungry! Think about how much food/water you will need for the time you plan to be out for and which rivers or streams you might be able to collect water from. Make sure you boil or treat any water you collect before use to avoid any tummy bugs.
Lights, camera, action!: Don’t forget to pack headtorches and a couple of glow sticks to dot about the tent so little ones don’t get too scared if they wake up in the middle of the night (they’re also great for looping around the tent zips as a way of keeping them ‘locked’). And remember your camera to capture all the great memories you’ll be making!
Other essentials: Basic first aid kit (including tick remover tweezers), a map and a compass (and know how to use them), a fully charged mobile phone, toiletries and a shovel (be sure to follow the Leave No Trace principles)
Wild camping is a great way to have fun family adventures. Remember if you are just starting out then going somewhere you know or scouting a spot first is a good idea. Also remember that wildcamping is not strictly allowed in much of the UK, with the exceptions being most of Scotland and Dartmoor. It is, however, widely tolerated in many upland areas above the fence lines. Sticking to the ‘Leave no trace’ principles is essential. There are many Facebook pages which can be helpful and offer further advice but you may find people are normally vague about exact camp spots. After all, part of the fun of wild camping is finding your own little corner of the world, which maybe no one else has camped on before…
We’re Stacey and Keith, writing to you from An Outdoors Family, and we love spending time with our 5 year old son outdoors, especially mountain walking, wild camping and canoeing. We hope to inspire other families to head outside and adventure by sharing our stories from the trails, any tips on what has worked (and what hasn’t!), as well as including helpful route information and gear reviews on our website.