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Wild Camping in the UK - Tips & Advice

Wild camping, the romantic notion behind #vanlife but not always as simple as Instagram would have you believe!

Of course it could be accidental - even if you plan to always stay at certified campsites, there can be times that circumstances out of your control put you so far behind on your journey's schedule that you may need to spend the night 'in the wilds' so to speak. The beauty of motor homes (over tents or caravans) is that you can do just that, and it's most definitely safer to stop and rest for the night rather than try to push on when you're too tired.


Wild camping needn't be scary or break any laws if you follow our simple tips below:


  1. Power:  Have a way of monitoring your battery levels easily, and use your power wisely. You may be used to always having power available and it's easy to forget what you rely on electricity for, or to leave chargers and switches on unnecessarily! We recommend doing a trial run to find out what sort of run-time you can reasonably expect from your appliances. Spend an evening in your vehicle sometime and take notes of the length of time you use various things and what the battery levels are - you could be still on your driveway if you like! 
  2. Water: Always have an adequate supply of water on board before you leave so you don't have to drive out of your way to search for an elusive water point. Water is a heavy commodity to lug around and so many campers wait until arriving at a site before they fill the tank, but if you have to stop the night somewhere it means that you can still cook, wash up and have a cup of tea! We tend to travel with our tank at around 1/4 - 1/2 full which keeps the weight down but ensures we have some to use, and we often have a couple of 2l bottles of spare drinking water in the cupboard. If you really are limited on your water supply we recommend packing some wet wipes for personal hygiene and cleaning, they can always come in handy!                                                                                           
  3. Location: Assess your choice of parking spot carefully for legality and safety. The laws regarding sleeping in your vehicle in public layby's vary depending on the country and the type of vehicle, and there are also some extra requirements depending on the speed of the road it's on so make sure to research the laws for your own situation. If there are signs stating 'no overnight parking' and you park there anyway then expect a knock and some angry words from the Police or land owner. Be considerate and do not block access to private land. Dangers can come in the form of flooding, falling trees or branches, or also from 'undesirables' targeting your vehicle. Check a map for clues to the dangers in the area and even ask around in local shops etc if you pay one a visit, are you near a renowned high-crime area or in a rivers' flood plain during a night of heavy rain which could leave you marooned? Try to park somewhere that is well lit (if you have good blinds the light shouldn't bother you) to discourage thieves. If something doesn't feel right about the area don't stay even if it seems like the most logical place to camp, I always trust my instincts to keep us out of trouble and it's worked very well so far!
  4. Security: Don't leave anything outside, it's just asking to be stolen and also can be dangerous, looks untidy, and may come across as seeming too 'settled in' which can make locals nervous. If you have bikes and roof boxes invest in some high quality locks, and be sure to lock all of your doors at night. People have reported waking to find a thief inside with them which must be an incredibly frightening experience but one that needn't happen! See our article Theft: How to avoid it & what to do if it happens for more tips and links to purchase some great security gadgets for peace of mind. If you do run into trouble, just leave! We don't mean run away from the scene of a traffic accident of course, but if you are being targeted by vandals or a fight is brewing outside get away from there and call the police once you're somewhere safe - the good thing about a motor home is it's very simple to move camp! The likelihood is that you won't get back to sleep anyway once you start worrying about your security and, if someone is in the process of trying to steal your bikes for instance, then driving away might be the best defence to hold on to your stuff over going outside to confront them! Be suspicious of people who knock to warn you about something broken or missing on the rear of your vehicle, thank them and close the door - tell them you'll check it out later or in the morning. Truckers have been attacked in similar lures to gain access to their cargo and the chance of expensive gadgets from a frightened family is certainly worth the effort for some criminals. Report anything suspicious to the Police, you may protect yourself and other potential victims that night. I don't wish to cause alarm, nor criminalise good samaritans, as these instances are extremely low but it's worth being aware in order to prevent the figures from growing. For the purpose of fast mobility in general I do not like the idea of the exterior thermal insulation blinds, we have the internal blinds by Milenco and it's great to be able to get ready for the night without going back into the rain, never mind having to face a potentially violent situation in order to drive away or to even see what's happening!                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               
  5. Signal: Try to find a parking spot with good telephone signal. Network coverage is a distant dream in many countryside areas but it can save lives by being able to make that one emergency call when it really matters! You will likely also need to make a call to friends or family, or even to the campsite you were booked in to that night before your delay, to explain what happened and make further arrangements.

See also The Waki Way Code of Conduct for wild camping and exploring the countryside respectfully .


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Sarah is a UK artist and writer with a lifetime interest in camping and survival techniques.

Living the #vanlife since before it was a hashtag and touring on two wheels with her husband Ryan, they have a wealth of camping and motorcycling knowledge to share, and know a thing or two about packing light! read more

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