What is Wild Camping?
Wild camping (or free camping) is camping that is not on a designated campsite. A lot of people prefer this type of camping as it get's you away from the campsite scenario of row upon row of vans on a busy campsite, blaring TV's, radio's, smokey barbecues, children on bikes etc., wild campers often like to get away from the madding crowd and find a pitch on a quiet lakeside, beside a peaceful beach or on a layby on a quiet road somewhere, enjoying the sights and sounds of nature. By a careful process of research you can find lovely isolated spots all over the UK and Europe that can be used to wildcamp and when you find one you won't want to tell anyone your special place.
Wild camping can also be handy if you are travelling and want to park up for the night before moving on, campsites very often have cut off times when they allow people to book in, this might not be convenient so why not find a nice quiet layby or some other convenient place and park up for the night? I was recently told of someone who was looking for a place to stop and camped in the local crematorium car park! It was quiet, no business was being conducted overnight and they were away early next morning not leaving a clue that they had been there.
Where can you wild camp?
This is where you have to be sensible. Look for notices that forbid overnight parking, be aware of local by laws that forbid camping, if you want to camp on private land ask the owner first, the last thing you want is to settle down for the night only to be woken by an irate land owner who insists on you leaving their land. Very often villages mght have a quiet car park where overnight parking is allowed, don't forget to use the local businesses. Buy some food from the local shop etc. Don't park outside someone's house choose your spot carefully so as not to upset or offend anyone, if you are asked to move on be polite, smile, say sorry and find another spot.
A good tool to use is google street map, you can have a dummy drive down the road on the computer before you go and check out any likely wild camping places.
Wild Camping Rules
Here are some common sense rules for wildcamping written by forum member Karenw.
First and foremost - choose your spot carefully and do not upset, offend or inconvenience local residents or businesses. It goes without saying that you must not park immediately outside someone's house!
Choose 2-3 possible locations (Google Streetview is an excellent resource), reccie them on arrival then return later. I normally return after dark then leave by daylight. If one location isn't suitable, then try the next.
If you are ever asked to move on then do so without any argument. Be polite and friendly at all times. If asked to move and you respond in a friendly manner, you may be offered an alternative location. Local knowledge is generally good and reliable.
If you feel uncomfortable or uneasy about any location - trust your instincts and move on.
Some public car parks allow overnight parking and sleeping in motorhomes - it's always worth checking.
Safety and Security
Always keep your keys handy incase of emergency.
Never use external silver screens. You have to get out of your van to remove them - internal screens are much more suitable. If you have curtains behind your cab, just use these instead as they draw even less attention to your van.
If any local thugs bang on your van door - don't get out. Ignore them until they grow bored or switch on lights to show your van is occupied. If they continue - give in and move away (ensuring you're not followed).
Note down your exact location - just incase of an emergency so you can let others know exactly where you are.
Take two mobile phones - each using a different network if you are in an especially remote area.
Always ensure you can drive away easily if required (and are fit to drive - so no alcohol).
Ideally choose a location with 2 exits - ie avoid picnic sites at the foot of a single-track lane so you can't become blocked in.
Some wilders place a large dog's water bowl outside their door as a deterrent. (When tent-camping, I used to carry a pair of size 12 builder's boots left outside my tent!)
Most of all enjoy your camping. If you want advice or just to chat to other wild campers we have a special section on our forum: Wild Camping Forum it's free to join and you will get a friendly welcome.