Wild Camping – Top Spots and How to Make the Most of Them
Thought glamping was the coolest way to camp? Well, you’d be wrong. Wild camping is THE way to see the great outdoors, and it’s the polar opposite of its more bourgeois cousin. But this style of rough camping has so many benefits!
Wild-camping is roughing it par excellence and is incredibly popular with the ultralight set – intrepid explorers committed to carrying a kit with minimum weight and maximum performance. The concept is self-explanatory: find a camping spot, pitch your tent, and settle in for the night.
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Camping in the wild means no fences, no facilities, no noisy neighbors. Wild camping is as peaceful as it gets and allows you to achieve that real ‘wilderness’ feeling, as well as giving you the chance to experience some pretty special morning views.
However, some places are more set up for this style of off grid camping than others: Scandinavian countries such as Sweden and Finland have the ‘right to roam’ thoroughly embedded in their culture, meaning that you can ski, camp, and otherwise enjoy yourself on all land other than private gardens without fear of reprisals, you can basically camp anywhere!
In other countries, however, the situation is more difficult. For example, in Ireland and Greece, it is illegal to camp outside of a designated campsite. With that in mind, here are some of the world’s best destinations to wild camp:
Scotland is home to arguably the most dramatic scenery in the UK, and also some of the most relaxed rules regarding wild camping. Try the Outer Hebrides for real remoteness, or Galloway Forest Park for stargazing: the area is a designated area of natural darkness, and the lack of light pollution will give you an uninterrupted view of the heavens.
It is the perfect wild camping spot if you are into star-gazing. Free camping at its finest!
Iceland has one of the world’s lowest crime rates, and its friendly people make traveling there a pleasure. The country is also notoriously expensive, and wild camping is an attractive option for exploring on a budget.
Forget chic hotels with hot tubs and head to the plethora of natural springs that bedeck the countryside or camp near the cliffs and whale watch from your sleeping bag. Wild camping in national parks is, however, forbidden, and technically you must ask the permission of any farmer on whose land you wish to camp.
Lapland is one of the world’s most perfect untouched wildernesses. Home to the Northern Lights in winter and the midnight sun in summer, Lapland is a place of primordial, otherworldly beauty and absolute solitude.
Camping inside the arctic circle will also earn you serious bragging rights! Visit in Autumn for mild temperatures, ruska (Autumn colors), and the chance to kayak through clear waters.
Camping under the star-studded skies of Yosemite National Park is a must for any American road trip. Think of charging waterfalls, soaring mountains, and a near-infinity of breathtaking hiking trails.
You might think that this park has only developed campgrounds and camping sites, but the vast majority of the park is completely untamed, making it a wild camping goldmine. You will, however, need a wilderness permit and bear spray – black bears do roam this area.
If you’re an experienced camper and want to take your trips to the next level, why not head out to the tip of the world and camp under the vast night skies of Patagonia? This is the place to meet traditional gaucho cowboys, spot whales, hike glaciers, and take in some of the world’s most beautiful views.
Tips for wild campers:
Ensure your camping gear is up to the test
This is especially pertinent if heading out after the mercury has dropped. Make sure that you thoroughly research the maximum and minimum temperatures that you should expect. Check the comfort rating of your sleeping bag to ensure you won’t get too cold at night.
This is not an area to skimp on. Make sure that you have a repair kit for anything that may rip or break such as your sleeping mat or tent. In a pinch, simple duct tape can work wonders.
Having the right gear for your camping trip is essential for a successful and enjoyable stay in the wilderness. One item often overlooked is your generator. Generators are incredibly handy, as they allow you to keep certain amenities that can make all the difference when it comes to comfort, such as lights or charging electronic devices (if there are cell services).
Make sure the one you choose is appropriately sized and the quietest generator for camping and fuel it up before leaving home. Also, consider whether you want a generator powered by a solar panel.
While you may balk at the prices of ultralight gear, it is worth investing in quality pieces in order to save on weight, without sacrificing performance. There are numerous forums devoted to ultralight camping, and the talk gets pretty in-depth.
For those who are worried about weight, instead of a sleeping bag and tent, you may want to consider a bivvy bag (sometimes also spelled as bivy sack).
Don’t feel embarrassed about introducing yourself and asking questions: people are usually only too happy to share their expert advice. Alternatively, visit a good outdoor gear store and have a chat with your sales consultant.
Calls of Nature
Unlike stays at RV parks where you will likely find dump stations or bathroom facilities with toilet paper, human waste wild camping needs to be taken care of by you. Dispersed camping or dry camping comes with the responsibility of packing and packing out, and/or ensuring you dig a hole and use biodegradable toilet paper.
Even if you are sure that you know where you are going, don’t underestimate how disorientating the wilds can be. Mountain rescue organizations can attest to the number of people that get lost each year on the world’s peaks.
Additionally, if you do end up in trouble, being able to pinpoint your exact location will help you tremendously when radioing for help. High-end GPS devices such as Garmin will make planning and navigating easier than you can imagine.
No matter what you choose for your wild off-grid camping trip, it's important to leave no trace so that the next person can enjoy their wild camping as much as you did!
How about you? Have you been wild camping or do you prefer glamping?
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These are truly amazing spots. Kind of makes me wish I even remotely liked camping…
I could camp in Scotland, but I tell you what, camping in general just freaks me out. Too many slasher movies as a little kid, I guess. Totally ruined it for me. haha! I miss you, Andi!
@Jen, we did have an awful lot of slasher films in our teens and lots of the with camping!
Camping is really an exciting and fun recreation to do sometimes. Just letting the nature sync in and appreciate the beauty. Those places in the list are perfect for camping.
Great list. Wonderful photos. I love that you included Yosemite, however the bears in Yosemite are Black Bears, much less scary then Grizzlies. Their aggressiveness is ONLY for your food. It is also dangerous to come between a mother and her cub. Other then that they are seldom aggressive towards humans, and much safer to be around then Grizzlies.
@A.S. duh! Of course you are right, I have updated to black bears!
I enjoy camping, but these spots just look a little to wild for me!
Lapland intrigues me! It looks so peaceful… exactly what camping should be. I go camping in northern Pennsylvania, but I would love to explore outside of the country.
Wonderful article, I agree with what you are saying especially the part about making sure that your gear is well checked. You should make sure that you don’t forget something and that your gear is not worn out because it has to be reliable out there in the wilderness 🙂