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Is Wild-Camping with your motor home morally right?

In our last article we went over the general pros and cons of campsites vs. wild camping itself. Understandably for our personal situation, we have undertaken a vast amount of research into the topic of parking and camping in the UK and, as it's such a large topic, I felt we could go into it in much more detail. There is perhaps also a certain stigma associated with wild camping and so it clearly isn't the simple question of whether you like crowds and running water. So, is wild camping morally right?


From my investigations, it seems that all of the arguments against wild camping boil down to just three main points; the legality of your chosen parking spot, your behaviour and how other people are affected, and the matter of commercial campsites losing revenue because of it. 


In the UK it is legal to sleep in certain vehicles when parked in a public layby such as lorries, and camper vans or motor homes. It is not legal to sleep in a caravan in a layby. There are also specific legal requirements regarding overnight parking depending on the speed of the road adjoining the layby which we recommend you research for your personal situation and vehicle. There are also laws for private landowners that state if they give permission for someone to camp for the night, then they must adhere to commercial campsite laws which may also have insurance consequences. Of course if you do not have permission by the landowner or if there is a sign stating 'no overnight parking' then legally AND morally you have no rights to use of that land. 


Where you choose to park can obviously also affect other people that either own the land, live and work nearby, or who wish to also use the spot. Fly tipping, littering and property damage is a massive problem in general across the country from many motorists, and from some members of the travelling community that cause a frequent problem because of it. Let's face it, litter looks horrible, can be dangerous to other people and wildlife, and quite frankly it is not fair that private landowners and communities have to suffer for the pure laziness of others. There is also no reason why you could wilfully cause damage to anyone's property through littering or poor parking, and not realise that you are trespassing! In our Waki Way Code of Conduct we give three main ways to limit the effect of your camping on the environment and your neighbours.


In the matter of commercial camp sites business, if you choose to stay in a layby instead of a camp site then someone somewhere is surely losing out on the revenue, but I say it's more complicated than that. In our experience we've not always had the money to be able to go on holidays at a commercial camp site, and although camping holidays are generally the cheaper option there have been plenty of times when we just could not even afford one night in a tent at one! Some people may well find it hard to grasp that some people just don't have an extra £20 spare to spend on something just for fun and despite that, even at our poorest, we still considered ourselves luckier than many. I can see that for a lot of people the only option other than wild camping is staying at home so either way a commercial camp site would not have the revenue anyway. In hard times people still need and deserve a way of having a break to heal and enjoy themselves, and what is wrong with that as long as they are not a nuisance with their parking?

I'm not saying that everyone who wild camps is poor, sometimes the only camp site in the area we wish to visit is not in the least bit appealing to us! Imagine that you just want a quick and quiet bite to eat, a sandwich in your car would suit you much better that day, but the only place you are ALLOWED to eat is in a busy restaurant that only serves a whole 3-course meal regardless of the fact that you didn't want it!? My point is really that people shouldn't be forced into spending money with a business if they do not want to, whatever their reason! 


We do use commercial camp sites whilst travelling, we still need regular access to waste disposal points and laundry facilities and we have really enjoyed our stay at some, we just prefer to wild camp respectfully in between. 


So in all we believe that wild camping IS morally right, as long as you are respectful and do not cause harm or distress to anyone because of your behaviour or choice of spot. Given our way of life of course we'd say that though, right?! ;) Whatever you decide to do yourself, remember to also be aware of the legal requirements of you and your vehicle, and don't forget to enjoy the British countryside whilst you're out there!


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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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