Wild camping

Yesterday was a twittery day, after a blogpost from @blondestwo concerning some poor practice in ‘wild camping’ that they encountered whilst out on Dartmoor last weekend. Sadly not an uncommon occurrence these days. General consensus has been that many of the young people we take out on the moor are, due to good training, well versed in how to camp wild, leaving no trace and causing as little disturbance as possible – this is generally true across the UK. On the flip side, it seems that some adults (clearly a minority, but sadly very obvious) have no idea about good practice.

@BlondesTwo posed the Question: When we big up wild camping, do we also have a responsibility to teach people how to do it with minimum impact?

A good one. With a clear yes as an answer. And although there seem to be plenty of folk out there at the moment ready to ‘big up’ wild camping, as well as lots of other uses of the outdoors, it is not always clear how they might fulfil their responsibility. ‘We’ in DofE and other organisations have our captive audience to train, but the lines of communication are less obvious in the adult world…

Wild camping seems (tenuous I know) a bit like having kids – most people do it very well, but there will always be some people who do not do it responsibly. We are lucky enough to live in a country where much of the outdoors is there for everyone, and everyone has a right to be out there. But it is also there for everyone to look after, a bit like children. It is up to those of us who know how it should be done to show and advise those that don’t know, through any means possible. The more we encourage people to get outdoors, the more education is needed, in particular to relieve pressure on popular areas.

If your aim is to inspire a new generation or group of people (adults or youth) to get out and use the outdoors then you have a role to play in the education about all our respective responsibilities in that environment, whether it’s an urban fringe or the wilds of a national park. Aspects that need blatant instruction include litter, human waste, noise, visual impact, and disturbance of wildlife. It cannot be expected that everyone understands the basic unwritten rules of camping wild just because they are beyond their teenage years. With high profile advertising by Blacks on their ‘Life Outdoors’, cheap camping equipment at every turn, and increasing social media promotion of the concept of microadventure, access to the outdoors has never been so well advertised. But how well are the responsibilities put across in the same media, and who is best placed to get the right ideas and advice across to the general public?

Outdoorsy magazines are readily available but often expensive. National Park websites and visitor centres have written material, which will only be read by those who think they need to know, when they think they need to know it. Phoebe Smith, author of Extreme Sleeps:Adventures of a Wild Camper, has this month written two articles for the Telegraph, both of which conclude with a few of the basic rules of wild camping (links below). However there are other increasingly public figures keen on promoting sleeping outdoors, whilst seemingly glossing over the fundamentals. I’d like to see all the companies and individuals riding on the back of the cheap/accessible outdoor activities trend being equally forthright about the need to be discreet visually, audibally, ecologically and hygienically.

Two handy mantras…
Leave only footprints, take only photos – cliched, but true.
Pack it in, pack it out – take as little potential rubbish as you can in the first place (in USA national parks this also refers to poo – there are plenty of websites on how to make a handy poo tube, and other poo based protocols!).

One handy map…covering the only place in England that wild camping is actually properly allowed

Phoebe Smith articles…
The joy of camping in the wild
Britain’s best remote campsites


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