Wild Camping In Scotland | 5 Minute Guide
Whether you're looking forward to longer days and better weather, or you like to get our in any conditions, if you want to break down the barriers between yourself and nature, then there's no better way to get outdoors this season than wild camping. We've got some top tips and incredible images from Edinburgh-based photographer, James Barlow to help you find your next adventure.
James'first solo wild camping expedition was a 350 mile trek from Milngavie to Cape Wrath, on the far north western tip of Scotland. James set out on this walk because he was looking for a challenge, and because being out walking in the wilds of Scotland is his absolute favourite thing to do. There are so many beautiful places to see in Scotland: the snow-topped mountains, the forests and the moorlands, the sea cliffs and white beaches. Wild camping offers such a great opportunity to access Scotland's natural beauty from a different perspective.
During James's warm up trip along the West Highland Way for his Cape Wrath Trail expedition, James deepened his understanding of wild camping; from the equipment he needed to finding the right spots to pick for a good night’s sleep. If you're planning your own wild campng trip, and you need a little bit of advcie, then keep reading to see our top tips on what you'll need and where you should go!
Wild campingWhat is it all about?
One of the best things about wild camping is the freedom it grants you over where you can spend the night. You will be carrying everything you need to survive in the wilderness in one bag and you can set up camp almost anywhere in Scotland. It really is a refreshing, liberating feeling. During James's trip, he camped by rivers and in pine forests, next to beaches and up at altitude on the snow-covered mountains. Searching out an ideal camping spot and setting up camp can be one of the best parts of the day, and you're nearly always able to find a place with a breathtaking view.
Night Under The Stars
If you like dark skies, wild camping provides the opportunity to get away from the light pollution of the towns and cities and see some truly stunning and expansive star-filled skies, if you're camping in the Autumn, then you have a good chance at catching the Auoura Borealis or Northern Lights, especially if your adventures take you to the highlands and islands.
Closer To Nature
Wild camping gives you the chance to get close to nature, and to immerse yourself in all of the wild and beautiful parts of Scotland. Spending time out in nature and away from the city gives us room to breathe and gives us a chance to take a step back and to reflect on the things that are most important to us. If you really love to get out and explore, then there's no better way! Just make sure that you're respectful to the environment and leave no trace by taking your rubbish with you when you leave.
Wild Camping KitThe basics
As well as our recommendatons of the usual hillwalking kit (such as a map, compass, rucksack, warm clothing and first aid kit) there are a few essential items you need for wild camping, and a few extras that can make life a bit more comfortable, making your tent your home from home.
For accommodation, you'll want a tent that can stand up to tough conditions, such as the MSR Elixir II Tent. The ideal wild camping tent will be lightweight, spacious and able to stand up to the elements. You don’t want to be left with a broken tent pole when you’re miles from the nearest town. Look for a tent that has a three or four season rating if your camping plans look further than just the summer.
To sleep comfortably, you will need a quality Sleeping Mat and sleeping bag. Don’t underestimate the importance of the sleeping mat, as this is what stops all of your body heat from sinking into the ground. A silk sleeping bag liner can provide some extra warmth and also help to keep your sleeping bag clean. We'd recommend a sleeping bag that can be packed small and provides insulation for three seasons, even in the summer, Scotland can feel pretty chilly at night!
Unless you are happy eating cold food, it’s nice to have a stove so that you can make a brew and cook up a tasty camp meal. Make sure you plan out your meals in advance so that you don’t end up going hungry during your adventure. We offer a huge range of pre-packaged food that just needs to be heated, or free dried food that simply needs boiling water. If you're trying to save on space, weight and litter, these can be the perfect option for your camping trip. We also offer great options for vegetarians, and gluten free diets.
As a hillwalker, you should already be carrying a head torch just in case you end up needing to do some night time navigation. As a wild camper, you will almost certainly need a head torch. This handy piece of kit doesn't need to cost the earth, but it will keep your hands free and provide an excellent source of light in a tent.
If you love your home comforts, then having the camping ‘luxuries’ can really add to your camp comfort and enjoyment when wild camping. Why not pick up a lightweight pillow, a lantern and phone charger, including a solar panel for longer trips, packable plates and flasks and even some packable furniture? When you’re walking a long distance, getting a good night’s sleep is important for recovery – taking a pillow will help to ensure that you get a decent snooze. The lantern gives the tent a warmer, more homely feel, even when the wind is howling outside. A hot meal and a brew – while considered essential to some – is also a luxury in a wild place.
How to choose the perfectWild camping spot
We are lucky to have endless beautiful wild camping spots in Scotland and I would very much encourage you to go out to your favourite area and explore for yourself. It is exciting to find somewhere new and unique to camp. Whether you want to stick to the summer months for this, or as we've found, late winter and early spring can be a good time for this kind of mincro-adventure. Although it can sometimes be very cold and rough, it can also mean there were fewer people and no dreaded midges!
An ideal camping spot will be relatively sheltered, have a clean water supply and a stunning view of the surrounding landscape. Here are a few additional points to consider.
When in the mountains, it's a good idea to camp at some altitude to watch the sun rise and set over the glens and lochs. This also helps to avoid the cold, moisture heavy air which sinks down to the bottom of the valley at night.
Depending on your experience level, you may prefer not to wander too far from a town, village, or road. The Cape Wrath Trail for example passes through some particularly wild areas, such as Knoydart, Letterewe, and Cape Wrath itself. The more remote the location, the more prepared you should be, for example, awareness of the prevailing weather conditions and carrying additional food supplies. You should also make sure that you've let someone know where you are, and regularly check in with them.
The terrain can be rough in Scotland and sometimes it can be hard to find a camping spot that is free of heather, bogs and large grassy tussocks. If you are walking and camping, make sure you leave enough time to find a good spot to pitch your tent before it starts to get dark.
If it is very windy, it would be ill-advised to camp in a high, exposed area, but you should also be weary of camping near trees that may be blown over, or have branches blown off. Be sure to have a backup plan in case the weather does turn for the worse, whether it be to head to an alternative shelter such as a mountain bothy or a hostel, or to call off the trip and return when the conditions are more favourable.
If you feel like you're ready to take to the hills to spend your next weekend wild camping, make sure you're geared up with us before you go! Keep sharing your adventures with us on social media using the hashtag #MyTiso