Going on a wild camping trip… Ultimate freedom for some, but hell for others. If you would have told me ten years ago I would enjoy going hiking with my tent in my backpack and spending the night in nature, I would have thought you were crazy. But things change! Now I find (wild) camping one of the best things to do during a trip. Admittedly, it may be different than the type of holiday you are used to. That’s why I’ll give you ten tips for your first wild camping trip. Now we wait and see if you like it as much as I do!
If you like camping, you probably had this question thrown at you more than once: what is so fun about camping? If you’re a person asking questions like these, this is not the article for you. People who love to pitch their tent at a campsite and who want to take it to the next level, please read on 🙂 If you love camping, I don’t have to explain to you how amazing that feeling of freedom feels. Or how satisfying it can be to eat a meal you whipped up in a tiny little pan after a long day on the trail. And for sure I don’t need to remind you how awesome it is when you zip open your tent in the morning and enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning sun.
What is wild camping?
The word says it all: camping in the wild. When you’re camping at a campsite you’ll still have the ‘luxury’ of an appointed place, a shower and maybe even a small supermarket, you will be completely self-dependent when camping in wild nature. And this will require some preparation for some trips!
1. Remember the rules
You can’t pitch a tent anywhere you please in most parts of Europe. In some countries, it is even prohibited and the fines can be high. Are you planning to go camping during a holiday? Then first take a closer look at the rules of your holiday destination about wild camping. In the Alpine countries in Europe you can’t camp in the wild, but often you can bivouac there. This means that you stay a maximum of one night and have packed and cleaned up your belongings before let’s say 8 am (obviously, you will not leave any rubbish if you are going to camp in the wild). In most parts of Scandinavia, the right to roam applies. In Sweden or Norway, you can set up your tent in many places! You can also wild camp in Scotland. Make sure you do your research before you pitch a tent anywhere in nature.
2. Think about why you’re doing it
Wild camping isn’t always fun and games. You live in a small tent for a reasonable amount of time, you’ll probably eat the same food for a while (Juul still doesn’t like oatmeal as much, after our trip to Scandinavia) and you will have to find a way to entertain yourself. Moreover, it may be difficult to find a suitable place to set up your tent, so you sometimes you’ll have to walk or bike a bit longer than you would have liked. And I haven’t even mentioned the rain … I absolutely do not want to discourage you, but being realistic is really important in this case. Especially if you are going to make a longer trip. Are you still enthusiastic? Great 🙂 So before you pack your bag and get out there, think about why you want to camp in nature and consider the pros and cons.
Is wild camping and hiking still fun when it’s raining all day and you’re forced to dry your map with the camping stove? We think so 🙂
3. Think about who you’re traveling with
Equally as important as to why you go camping, is with whom you take this trip. If you have a partner who likes camping as much as you do, then that’ll probably be a great idea. But if you want to go on a trip with a friend, sister, brother or colleague, remember that you will be fully dependent on one another in nature. You’re leaving home fully intending to be friends after the trip, right? Chances are that during your trip there will be some minor irritations and annoyances and you have no one else to be annoyed to than your travel companion … You could also go by yourself, of course. But I wouldn’t recommend this for your first wild camping adventure.
4. Make sure you have the right gear
Are you an experienced camper? Then you undoubtedly have the gear you need to survive a night in the wild. Keep in mind that you have to take everything you need on your back. So that heavy, cotton tent maybe comfortable to sleep in, but a little less practical when you go camping in wild nature. So make sure you have a good tent, mat and sleeping bag. Check out your local outdoor store for some basic gear. If you plan to go camping in the wild, make sure that the items you purchase are not too heavy. A lot of products have lightweight options available. They often cost a little more, but if you plan on getting out there regularly, you do not want to suffer from the extra weight. When I am going on a longer trip (more than 3 days) I try to keep my backpack under 15 kg (especially in mountainous areas). Juul’s backpack is often a few pounds heavier, but try to keep it under 20 kg.
Your camping spot is your home for a night. Including a place to dry your clothes!
5. Try first!
Although you are not allowed to wild camp in some countries, there are often some options. For instance, in the Netherlands and in Belgium, there are some designated places where you can pitch a tent and spend the night, although camping in nature is officially prohibited. Try to figure out if there’re places where you can pitch a tent in your country. In this way, you can try if you like wild camping before you go abroad.
6. Find other options
When you’re planning your trip, you’re obviously very excited about wild camping. Maybe you’re planning to spend each and every night in your tent. But let me reassure you: there are times when you’re on the road and you just want to stay in a nice and comfortable bed. And a shower is like heaven after a few days in the wilderness. When planning your trip, keep in mind that sometimes you do not want to crawl into your tent. So give yourself the luxury of a bed every now and then. When planning your route, look for a place where you can have the option to stay in a hostel or a cabin for a night or two.
In Sweden, we were very happy to find this cabin to spend the night in after a long day of walking!
7. Sounds are part of the deal
When you’re living in a city, you’ll probably never experience real silence. There’s always sound, even in the middle of the night: cars driving by, an ambulance with roaring sirens or a neighbor who watches the TV at night. During your wild camping trip, you will experience how real silence sounds. Especially when you are walking around in Scandinavia, for example. When you crawl into your sleeping bag you hear nothing but the sounds of nature; the wind blowing through your tent (and making you wonder if you have pressed the pegs firmly enough), an owl that is sitting in a tree or a rabbit that is rustling past your tent (and you are certain it’s a bear which has his eyes set on you). And all those sounds take some time getting used to! Do try not to worry too much about those strange sounds, but especially enjoy the silence.
8. Embrace the unexpected
Going on a wild camping trip means you’ll have to be flexible. You can’t plan every single detail of your trip in advance. And that’s the thing most wild campers love: not knowing where you’re going to sleep that day. You could end up at an amazing place and wake up to a breathtaking view the following morning.
Our wild camping spots on the Lofoten are still the most beautiful places we’ve ever spend the night.
The sun, at last! Such a happy moment 🙂
9. Stick to the unwritten rules
If you are going to camp in the wild, always stick to certain ‘rules’. Leave no trace is the most important one. In this way, you ensure that nobody can see that you have spent the night in a place. Take all your waste, including food waste and cigarette butts, bury human waste and wash with a degradable soap. Check in advance if you can make fire at the place where you go camping. In some countries, it is not allowed at all (like the Netherlands), in other countries it is only possible in certain months or a campfire is no problem at all. Even if you are going to make a fire: make sure that nature does not suffer from it. Do not break branches of trees, but use the branches that are already on the ground. Do not make a fire on a rock, because rocks can split due to the high temperatures.
You can make a fire in some parts of Abisko National Park in Sweden
Get your water out of the river (if possible!) and do your dishes over there as well. We didn’t use any soap, but if you absolutely must use something, pick a biodegradable option.
10. Enjoy yourself!
To me, wild camping is a way to find real peace and quiet and leave ‘the real world’ behind. A way to fully enjoy the nature of the country that I’m visiting. The feeling that you get when you are in the middle of nowhere, there is virtually no one around and you are completely dependent on yourself: just awesome! And don’t even get me started on how amazing it is to relax by your self-made fire, the beautiful star-filled skies or the refreshing ‘shower’ that you take in the morning in the lake or the river near your tent. Strangely enough, that real ‘wow feeling’ often comes when I am back home again. When I am at home, I really realize what special places I’ve visited during my trip. And then, I can enjoy the experience even more!
Did you ever go wild camping? Or are you curious about it? Tell me in the comments down below!