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Keen but Clueless: A Beginner’s Guide to Wild Camping

Have you ever thought about going wild camping? In this guide, Georgie Duckworth from GoWildGoWest shares her experiences as a ‘beginner wild camper’.

This is a beginner’s guide to wild camping in a bivvy bag, from one beginner to another. I’ve always been keen to dip my toe in the bivvy-bagging water, but totally clueless about how to; a total beginner! Over Spring/Summer this year I’ve put in a fair amount of practice, and I would now say I’m ‘keen and a-little-less-clueless bivvyer!’

What is a bivvy bag?

A bivvy bag is like a waterproof jacket for your sleeping bag. It keeps you dry but is also breathable so you don’t wake up covered in condensation or dew! It saves the faff of carrying and putting up a tent and let’s you sleep that much closer to the wild.

As I expected, it’s great fun! Sleeping under the stars is better than I could have imagined. Snuggling up in your sleeping bag with the fresh breeze on your face, looking up at the clear, starry night is a brilliant feeling… whether you’re up a mountain, or in your garden.

Here I’ve tried to cover some of the questions that had stopped me from wild camping in a bivvy bag in the past… Is wild camping in the uk legal? What do I need to take? What if it rains? Where do I go to the loo?

So if you’re interested, have a read and then take the plunge into the wonderful world of bivvy bagging!

Is Wild Camping legal in the UK?

The short answer is no (except in Scotland and parts of Dartmoor). The better answer is get creative! You don’t need to break the law to wild camp, there are other ways… Check out ‘where to wild camp’ to find out more.

Where to wild camp?

As a wild camping beginner, you may not want to head straight into the wilderness for your first time sleeping out under the stars.

Practice closer to home first.

As a family we all wanted to sleep out together so rather than venture far, we spent our first few ‘wild’ camping nights sleeping in the garden. During lockdown, we did a fair amount of garden camping under canvas and ditching the tent was a sort of natural progression!

It was great. A) It’s totally legal B) if you need to ‘cheat’, you can nip into the house to get anything you’ve forgotten… and go for a wee whilst you’re at it!

If you’ve forgotten something, there’s not far to go to fetch it

If you’re too cold, pop in to get more layers

You can cook dinner on your camping stove or use the BBQ

And if it’s a total disaster – you can crawl into bed

The more we practiced in the garden, the more authentic/’wild’ we got until we didn’t need to go into the house at all.

Bivvy bagging

Venture out into your ‘local wild’

For our first family bivvy bag/wild camp out of the garden, we still stayed relatively close to home. We chose a spot that we knew well from local walks, by a stream just a 15 minute walk from home. Being close to home, it was easy to find the landowner to ask permission. With landowner permission, wild camping is completely legal.

We packed up all the kit (see below) and ventured out. The kids were beyond excited about their adventure. Although we were close to home, we felt like we could be anywhere in the world! Arriving at our spot, we did a bit of trampling around on the grass to clear any ticks, then set up camp before it got dark. There was a slight chance of rain (in fact, it rained really hard!) so the boys chose to sleep under their Den Kit tarpaulin.

We cooked dinner on the camping stove, cracked open a bottle of wine, and talked for hours. The kids adventured up the stream and found badger trails so, after dark we watched the trails with anticipation and were thrilled to see the badgers scuttling along. At the same time, a barn owl swooped overhead hunting for it’s dinner. After snuggling up in my bivvy bag that night, I heard the barn owl screeching (loudly) above our heads and watched shooting stars in the sky. It was genuinely amazing.

Into the wild

For a wilder experience, try taking your bivvy bag for a wild camp in Scotland or Dartmoor or, if you’re in need of bedding down elsewhere in the UK use your common sense. Stay well off a path, be respectful to landowners, and leave no trace.

Wake up

What to pack for wild camping?

I found this hardest to get my head round. We wanted to bivvy bag in the wild as a family, but young children seem to come with a lot of ‘stuff’ and they seem incapable of carrying that ‘stuff’ themselves. Actually, it wasn’t too bad. They managed to carry their own backpacks, albeit with a few of the lighter items that may not have been essential, like their teddies.

My husband and I both had a 60L lomo dry bag in which we could carry all the things we needed.

There are a few essentials:

Hardened wild campers may roll their eyes at my essentials list but this is for the wild camping beginners amongst us, those that prefer an element of comfort….

  • Sleeping Bag
  • Bivvy Bag
  • Food & Water
  • Wine
  • Coffee
  • Roll mat
  • Tarpaulin if ground is dewy.
  • Spare clothes
  • Dry bag to keep spare clothes dry
  • Hat if cold
  • Camping stove and kettle
  • Bowls/plates, cutlery, camping wine glass, mug
  • Lighter or matches
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste… I like a clean tooth before bed time.

Go Wild Go West

Grab your wellies, pack some hot chocolate, and get ready to adventure…. With easy, fun, everyday ideas on getting outdoors with the kids, Georgie & Becks, aka the sisters of GoWildGoWest, bring new meaning to family outdoor adventuring.

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