What is Wild Camping and Why is it So Popular?

Last Updated August 31, 2023
rv4campers.com is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Are you tired of the crowds and noise that come with camping in established campgrounds? Or maybe you’re looking for a way to connect more deeply with nature and challenge yourself in the great outdoors. If so, you might want to try wild camping.

Wild camping, also known as backcountry camping or free camping, is the act of setting up a temporary campsite in a remote, undeveloped area outside of established campgrounds. It’s a way to get away from the crowds, enjoy the beauty of the wilderness, and experience the challenge and satisfaction of self-sufficient camping.

In this article, we’ll explore what wild camping is, the benefits it offers, and the risks and challenges you should be aware of. We’ll also provide tips and advice for planning and enjoying your own wild camping adventure.

What is Wild Camping

What is Wild Camping?

Wild camping is camping outside of designated or established campsites. It involves finding a suitable location in the wilderness and setting up camp for one or more nights. Wild camping is a popular activity in many parts of the world, particularly in areas with extensive national parks or wilderness areas.

While the term “wild camping” is commonly used to describe camping in the wilderness, there are other terms used to denote this activity in different parts of the world. In North America, “dispersed camping“, “dry camping“, “boondocking” or “primitive camping” are often used to describe camping in remote areas without amenities.

In the UK, “wild camping” specifically refers to camping in unenclosed areas, while “free camping” or “stealth camping” may be used to describe camping in areas where it is technically prohibited or frowned upon. Other terms used around the world include “bush camping” in Australia and “bivouacking” in Europe. Regardless of the terminology, the essence of wild camping remains the same: enjoying the beauty and solitude of nature while roughing it in the great outdoors.

Types of Wild Camping

Wild camping can take many forms, from minimalist backpacking trips to fully-equipped glamping experiences. The type of wild camping that’s right for you will depend on your personal preferences, level of experience, and the conditions of the area where you’ll be camping.

In this section, we’ll explore the different types of wild camping, from traditional backpacking and tent camping to more luxurious options like car camping and RVing. We’ll also discuss the pros and cons of each type of camping, as well as the gear and equipment you’ll need for each.

Whether you’re a seasoned outdoors enthusiast or a first-time camper, understanding the different types of wild camping can help you choose the right adventure for your needs.

Backpacking: Backpacking involves hiking with all your camping gear and supplies on your back. This type of camping is ideal for those who want to explore remote areas of wilderness and enjoy the physical challenge of carrying a heavy load over rugged terrain.

Car Camping: Car camping involves driving to a remote location and setting up camp from the comfort of your vehicle. This type of camping is ideal for those who want to experience the beauty of the wilderness without the physical demands of backpacking.

Bikepacking: Bikepacking is similar to backpacking, but instead of hiking, you travel by bike. This type of camping is ideal for those who want to combine the physical challenge of backpacking with the speed and flexibility of cycling.

Bike Camping in a Remote Location

Benefits of Wild Camping

One of the main reasons people choose to go wild camping is to experience the many benefits that come with being immersed in nature. Research has shown that spending time in nature can have a positive impact on both our physical and mental health. Wild camping, in particular, offers an opportunity to completely disconnect from the stresses of modern life and reconnect with the natural world.

In this section, we’ll explore the many benefits of wild camping, including improved mental and physical health, a greater connection with nature, and the opportunity to develop self-sufficiency skills. We’ll also discuss the cost savings associated with wild camping and how it can be a more sustainable and eco-friendly way to explore the wilderness.

Connection with nature: Wild camping allows you to fully immerse yourself in the natural world, away from the distractions of modern life. You’ll be able to experience the sights, sounds, and smells of the wilderness in a way that’s impossible in a crowded campground.

Mental health benefits: Spending time in nature has been shown to reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Wild camping provides an opportunity to disconnect from the stresses of everyday life and reconnect with your inner self.

Physical health benefits: Hiking, biking, and other physical activities associated with wild camping can improve cardiovascular health, strengthen muscles, and improve overall fitness.

Cost savings: Wild camping is often free or very inexpensive compared to staying in established campgrounds or hotels.

Self-sufficiency: Wild camping requires you to be self-sufficient and rely on your own skills and resources. This can be a great way to build confidence and develop new skills.

Risks of Wild Camping

While wild camping can be a thrilling and rewarding experience, it also comes with inherent risks and potential dangers. The lack of amenities and access to emergency services, coupled with exposure to the elements and wildlife, means that wild camping requires a higher level of preparedness and caution than traditional camping.

In this section, we’ll explore some of the potential risks and hazards associated with wild camping, including weather-related dangers, wildlife encounters, and injuries or illnesses. We’ll also provide some tips and advice on how to minimize these risks and stay safe during your trip.

Whether you’re planning your first wild camping adventure or are a seasoned outdoorsperson, this section will help you better understand the risks involved and how to prepare for them.

Environmental risks: Wild camping can put you in close proximity to wildlife, harsh weather, and other environmental hazards. It’s important to be prepared for these risks and take appropriate precautions.

Personal safety risks: Wild camping can also put you at risk of injury or assault. It’s important to be aware of your surroundings and take steps to protect yourself.

Legal risks: Wild camping may be illegal in some areas, or require permits or other permissions. It’s important to research the laws and regulations in your area before embarking on a wild camping trip.

Planning for a Wild Camping Trip

Packing a Car for a Camping Trip

Planning is a crucial part of any successful wild camping trip. From choosing the right location to packing the appropriate gear, taking the time to plan ahead can help ensure that your camping trip is safe, enjoyable, and memorable.

In this section, we’ll explore some of the key aspects of planning for a wild camping trip, including choosing a location, understanding local regulations and restrictions, determining the best time of year to go, and creating a packing list.

We’ll also discuss some tips for minimizing your impact on the environment and practicing Leave No Trace principles during your trip. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or new to the outdoors, this section will provide you with the knowledge and tools you need to plan a successful wild camping adventure.

Choosing the Right Location: Research potential camping areas to find the right spot for your needs. Consider factors like distance, accessibility, terrain, wildlife, and weather conditions.

Obtaining Permits and Permission: Depending on where you plan to camp, you may need to obtain permits or permission from landowners or authorities. Research local regulations and apply for any necessary permits well in advance of your trip.

Planning the Route: Determine the best route to your chosen camping spot, taking into account any physical limitations, potential hazards, and necessary supplies.

Gear and Equipment: Ensure that you have all the necessary gear and equipment for your trip, including a suitable tent, sleeping, cooking supplies (like a butane stove or portable grill), and navigation tools.

Leave No Trace Principles

Wild camping can have a significant impact on the environment, so it’s important to follow the principles of Leave No Trace. These principles help minimize your impact on the natural world and ensure that others can enjoy the wilderness in the future.

The seven principles of Leave No Trace are:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  3. Dispose of waste properly
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimize campfire impact
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Be considerate of other visitors

Safety Considerations

While wild camping can be a rewarding and exciting experience, it’s important to keep safety in mind at all times. The following are some important safety considerations to keep in mind when planning and embarking on a wild camping trip:

  • Research the area: Before setting out, make sure to research the area where you’ll be camping. This includes learning about potential hazards, such as wildlife, weather patterns, and terrain. It’s also a good idea to check for any closures or restrictions in the area.
  • Bring the right gear: Having the right gear is essential for staying safe while camping. This includes appropriate clothing and footwear, a first-aid kit, navigation tools, and emergency supplies such as a whistle, headlamp, and extra food and water.
  • Practice Leave No Trace: One of the most important safety considerations for wild camping is to practice Leave No Trace principles. This means leaving the campsite in the same condition it was in when you arrived, and minimizing your impact on the environment.
  • Be prepared for emergencies: In case of an emergency, make sure to have a plan in place. This could include knowing how to signal for help, carrying a satellite phone or other communication device, and knowing basic first aid.

By taking these safety considerations into account, you can enjoy a safe and enjoyable wild camping trip.

Finding the Best Gear

When it comes to wild camping, having the right gear can make all the difference in your camping experience. From shelter and sleeping gear to cooking equipment and clothing, choosing the best gear for your needs and budget can help ensure that you stay comfortable and safe in the great outdoors. However, with so many options available on the market, finding the right gear can be a daunting task, especially for beginners.

In this section, we’ll provide some tips and advice on how to find the best gear for your wild camping trip, including what to look for in each category of gear and some recommended brands and products to consider.

  1. Choose gear based on the trip: The type of gear you need will depend on the specific trip you’re planning. For example, a backpacking trip will require lightweight, compact gear, while car camping or glamping will allow for more comfortable, bulkier gear.
  2. Look for quality and durability: When selecting gear, look for high-quality, durable products that will last through multiple trips. This may mean investing in more expensive gear, but it can be worth it in the long run.
  3. Consider weight and packability: If you’re backpacking or carrying your gear for a long distance, consider the weight and packability of each item. Lightweight, compact gear can make a big difference in terms of comfort and ease of transport.
  4. Rent or borrow gear: If you’re new to wild camping or don’t want to invest in all-new gear, consider renting or borrowing equipment from friends or outdoor equipment rental companies.

By carefully selecting your gear and making sure it’s appropriate for your trip, you can ensure a comfortable and enjoyable camping experience.

Best Practices for Sustainable Camping

As more and more people take to the outdoors for camping and other recreational activities, it’s important to practice sustainable camping to minimize our impact on the environment. Here are some best practices for sustainable camping:

  • Camp in designated areas: When possible, camp in designated campsites to minimize your impact on the environment. These sites are often equipped with amenities like fire pits and bathrooms, which can make for a more comfortable camping experience.
  • Minimize waste: Bring only what you need, and pack out all of your trash. This includes food waste, toiletries, and other items. Pack reusable containers and utensils to minimize waste.
  • Respect wildlife and ecosystems: Keep a safe distance from wildlife and never feed them. Stay on designated trails and avoid damaging plants or disturbing the ecosystem.
  • Use sustainable fire-building practices: When building a fire, use existing fire rings if available, or create a new one in a bare, cleared area. Use only downed wood for fuel and never cut live trees or branches.

By practicing these sustainable camping practices, we can help protect the environment and ensure that future generations can enjoy the same natural beauty that we do today.

Building Skills for Self-Sufficiency

A Man Building a Campfire

Wild camping can be an opportunity to build skills for self-sufficiency and survival in the great outdoors. Here are some skills to consider building before embarking on a wild camping trip:

  1. Navigation: Knowing how to use a map and compass, as well as how to navigate using natural landmarks and the position of the sun, can help you find your way in unfamiliar territory.
  2. Shelter-building: In case of an emergency or unexpected weather, knowing how to build a shelter using natural materials can be a lifesaver. Practice building shelters using different materials and in different environments.
  3. Fire-building: Fire can provide warmth, light, and a means of cooking food. Practice building fires using different techniques and in different conditions.
  4. Water filtration and purification: In the wilderness, clean drinking water may not be readily available. Knowing how to filter and purify water using natural materials or a water filtration system can keep you hydrated and healthy.
  5. First aid: Injuries and illnesses can occur while wild camping, so it’s important to have basic first-aid skills. Consider taking a first-aid course or reading up on basic first-aid techniques.

By building these skills, you can feel more confident and self-sufficient in the outdoors. Remember to always prioritize safety and responsible camping practices, and to check local regulations and guidelines before embarking on a wild camping trip.

Final Thoughts

Wild camping can be a rewarding and enriching experience for those who enjoy being in nature and seeking adventure. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or new to the outdoors, there are many benefits to be gained from venturing out into the wilderness and immersing yourself in the natural world.

From the physical and mental health benefits of spending time in nature, to the opportunity to disconnect from technology and reconnect with ourselves and loved ones, wild camping can provide a much-needed break from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

Additionally, there are many different types of wild camping, from car camping to backpacking and everything in between. Depending on your preferences and level of experience, you can choose a camping style that suits your needs and allows you to fully enjoy the experience.

Furthermore, by practicing sustainable camping practices and building skills for self-sufficiency, we can minimize our impact on the environment and ensure that future generations can enjoy the same natural beauty that we do today.

Overall, wild camping is a wonderful way to explore the great outdoors, challenge ourselves, and connect with nature. So why not give it a try and see for yourself all that this amazing experience has to offer?