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An Introduction to Wild Camping in the UK

An introduction to wild camping in the UK

Ever felt that irresistible pull towards the wild, uncharted corners of the UK? That yearning for a night under the stars, far removed from the glaring lights and the constant hum of the urban sprawl?


At 3RD ROCK we see wild camping as our personal gateway to just that—an adventure that plants you smack in the middle of nature's raw beauty. It's not just about escaping the city; it's about reconnecting with the wilderness in a way that few other experiences can match.

An image showing a beautiful view from inside a tent whilst wild camping. Taken by 3RD ROCK's creative director Grace.

How can you not love this kind of view? Photo taken by Grace, our brand design guru

We've written this guide to not only talk about how to wild camp; but how to do it with a conscience. Whether you're a seasoned explorer of the backcountry or you're gearing up for your first wild night out, there's something in here for you.


But here's the thing—venturing into the wild is as much about respect as it is exploration.


It's about ensuring that the only trace we leave behind is footprints in the dirt, not scars on the landscape.


We're diving deep into the essentials of responsible wild camping, from navigating the legal maze to packing the right gear and everything in between - 3RD ROCK full guide for wild camping in the UK.


The wild calls for those who listen, and it’s about time we answered that call, and we're here to make sure you're ready for it.


Stay tuned, as up next, we'll dissect the legality of wild camping across the UK and discuss why embracing responsible camping practices isn't just good manners—it's essential for the preservation of our cherished landscapes.

Venturing into the wild is as much about respect as it is exploration

Understanding The Legal Aspect of Wild Camping in the UK

So before we start packing and looking for a perfect spot for our next trip, let’s checkmark the legal aspect of wild camping.


First, it's important to mention that wild camping is embraced differently across the regions. Let’s dig in, shall we?


Here, wild camping isn’t broadly legal without the landowner's permission.


Yet, the rugged beauty of national parks like Dartmoor entices with certain areas where wild camping is welcomed, provided campers adhere to a respectful code of conduct..


In Scotland, the right to roam is celebrated under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, granting adventurers the freedom to wild camp on most unenclosed land.


But with great freedom comes great responsibility—campers are urged to follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, ensuring their adventures don’t leave a mark on the pristine landscapes..

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland presents a more challenging quest for legal wild spots, pushing campers towards more traditional campsites or seeking the rare landowner generous enough to grant permission for a night under the stars.

An image showing an artist's painting of an ideallic wild camping site in England

Why can't we just do this in the UK anywhere we want? Well, there's kind of a good reason for it...

Why such fuss over legality?

It's simple. Wild camping, when done right, is an intimate experience with nature, a chance to see the world as it was before we stamped our concrete footprint all over it.


But this delicate balance relies on our collective respect and responsibility. Ignorance, intentional or not, can disrupt wildlife, damage habitats, and leave a blemish on the very beauty we seek to enjoy.


This is why understanding and respecting the legal tapestry of wild camping is paramount.


It’s not just about finding that perfect spot to pitch your tent; it’s about ensuring that spot remains perfect for those who follow.


By sticking to areas where wild camping is allowed or seeking permission where required, we uphold the spirit of adventure without compromising the integrity of the natural world

3RD ROCK's creative director grace showing off her wild camping setup - approved with a big thumbs up!

Grace showing off her setup from her latest wild camping trip

Choosing the right spot

Finding that idyllic spot to unroll your sleeping bag under the vast, starry sky might feel like a quest for the Holy Grail.


Yet, with a bit of know-how of the great outdoors, it’s entirely within reach. Let’s take a look at the considerations that can lead you to your perfect wild camping spot

Start With The Basics

The right spot isn’t just about the view (although that’s a significant bonus); it’s about harmony with the environment, and leaving with memories, not marks.

By thoughtfully selecting your wild camping spot, you not only ensure a memorable experience but also safeguard the beauty and accessibility of these wild places for future adventurers.

Respect for Nature

Regardless of where you’ve chosen to lay your head, always seek to minimise your environmental impact.


This means camping away from protected areas, avoiding wildlife habitats, and ensuring you're not visible from nearby trails or homes.

Access to Water

While it might be tempting to camp right beside a picturesque stream or lake, it’s essential to maintain a safe distance.


Not only does this protect water sources from contamination, but it also respects the delicate ecosystem.


A rule of thumb is to camp at least 30-50 metres away, ensuring you have access to water for cooking and cleaning without impacting the natural habitat.

Always make sure your water source is clean & safe. Avoid using any chemicals or synthetic liquids in the stream/river - no washing up liquid!.

Shelter from the elements

The UK’s weather can be unpredictable, swinging from serene to stormy without much warning.


Look for natural shelters like tree cover or a gently sloping hill to protect against the wind. However, avoid camping directly under trees to minimise the risk of falling branches during rough weather.

Leave No Trace

Choosing a spot also means considering how you’ll leave it once you depart.


Flat areas without vegetation, using existing fire pits (where fires are permitted), and camping on durable surfaces all contribute to a minimal impact approach.


Your goal should be to leave the site so that no one could tell you were ever there.

Safety Considerations

Finally, safety is paramount. Avoid areas prone to flooding, steep slopes that could become hazardous in wet conditions, and always let someone know your planned location.


Safety also means preparing for the unexpected—whether that’s changing weather or the need to pack up and move.

Grace taking in the morning sun after a beauitful and successful wild camp

Essential Gear and Clothing

Rushing into a wild camping adventure in the UK without the right gear and clothing is probably one of the worst ideas you could come up with!

The unpredictable British weather and diverse terrains demand thoughtful preparation. Here’s your checklist to ensure you're well-equipped for whatever the wild throws your way.

1. Tent and Sleeping Gear

Your tent is your sanctuary. Opt for a lightweight, waterproof, and wind-resistant tent that's easy to set up.


A good sleeping bag rated for the lowest temperatures you might face is crucial, along with an insulated sleeping pad to protect you from the cold ground.

2. Your backpack

A durable, waterproof backpack with enough capacity for your trip (usually 40-60 litres for overnight trips) will carry your essentials.


Comfort is key, so look for one with good support and adjustable straps.

3. Clothing

Here’s where smart choices make a significant difference.


Layering is the mantra. Start with a moisture-wicking base layer to keep you dry, add an insulating layer for warmth, and top it off with a waterproof and breathable outer layer.


You’ll need a suitable pair of trousers for the time of year and environment you’re in…these could be waterproof, shower resistant, or lightweight and breathable.


Don’t forget your footwear with good grip for the unpredictable terrain.

Grace wrapped up in all the right kit to enjoy the landscape

Grace showing why having the right kit is so important...even on a cold day she's smiling and throwing peace signs

5. Navigation tools

Even if you’re an experienced navigator, never venture without a map and compass.


A GPS device or smartphone with a GPS app can be a helpful backup, but they should never replace traditional navigation tools.

6. Safety and First Aid

A well-stocked first aid kit, a whistle for attracting attention, a headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries, and a fire starter (even if you don’t plan on making a fire, it’s essential for emergency situations).

7. Leave No Trace Kit

Pack a small trowel for digging a cat hole to bury human waste, biodegradable soap, and bags to pack out trash, including toilet paper.

7. Miscellaneous bits & bobs

The things that aren't need...until they're needed!


Sunglasses, sunscreen, a hat, insect repellent, and any personal medications.

8. Clothing Specifics

When it comes to clothing, the emphasis on hiking trousers and outdoor gear cannot be overstated.


The right pair of trousers can shield you from the elements, prevent chafing during long treks, and offer comfort without compromising on mobility.


Quality outdoor clothing is designed to withstand the rigours of the wild while ensuring you remain protected, whether from UV rays, rain, or wind.

"Proper clothing doesn't sound like a big deal but trust me, you'll regret it when your legs are rubbed raw or all sticky & sweaty from wearing the wrong trousers...see my face above for evidence" ~ Ed, the writer of this blog (not wearing 3RD ROCK).

Preparing for a wild camping trip is about striking a balance between being prepared and packing light.


Every item in your pack should serve a purpose, contributing to your comfort, safety, and enjoyment of the adventure.


With the right gear and clothing, you’re not just ready to face the wild; you’re ready to get stuck right in.

Practising Responsible Wild Camping

Now you’re ready to head out and get your wild camping on, don’t forget to follow the key principles.

Follow the Leave No Trace Seven Principles.

These are the bedrock of responsible wild camping. These principles guide our interactions with the natural world, ensuring our adventures are sustainable


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

Other Important Principles to Keep in Mind

Campfire rules

Be Mindful of Your Campfire. Campfires can be a source of impact on the natural environment.


Whenever possible, use a lightweight stove for cooking and enjoy the stars instead of a fire.


If a fire is necessary (and permitted) use established fire rings, keep fires small, and ensure they are completely extinguished before leaving

Bring back what you take out

This includes all trash, leftover food, and litter.


Even biodegradable items, such as fruit peels, can take years to decompose, so carry everything out with you.

Sanitation (💩)

The main point on a lot of people's minds is what to do with human waste when wild camping.


We recommend you use a small trowel to dig a cat hole at least 6-8 inches deep and 200 feet away from water sources, trails, and camp to bury human waste.


Pack toilet paper and hygiene products in a zip-lock bag for disposal after your trip. Nobody wants to see a bog roll on their hike!


Just think WWDAD (What would David Attenborough do)?


To remain respectful of wildlife, try to observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them, and never feed animals.


Feeding wildlife can damage their health, alter natural behaviours, and expose them to predators and other dangers

Minimise campsite alterations

What does that mean? Avoid altering a site more than necessary.


Do not dig trenches or build structures. If you clear an area of debris, return it to its natural state before leaving.

Noise pollution

Respect the natural quiet of the wilderness.


Keep noise to a minimum to allow wildlife and other campers to enjoy the tranquillity of the outdoors.

When in doubt, just think WWDAD (What would David Attenorough do?)

By adopting these practices, each of us can become a steward of the outdoors, ensuring that the wild spaces of the UK remain pristine and accessible.


Wild camping is a privilege that comes with the responsibility to leave no trace, allowing the wild to remain truly wild.

Connect to nature and go wild camping!

As we wrap up this guide to wild camping in the UK, remember that the adventure is as much about the journey as it is about the destination.


Even after reading our article (thank you by the way 🥰) we still suggest doing more research and if you're planning on heading out for your first wild camping trip - go with someone who's preferrably experienced.


If you are heading out, make sure you tag us in your Instagram posts with @3rdrockclothing - we want to see your adventure!

Windy walks collection

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