While RV and glamping sites are on the rise, 60 percent of campers still opt for the simplicity and adventure of traditional tent camping away from established campgrounds. Wild camping, popular among backpackers, birdwatchers, nature photographers, and families, offers a chance to disconnect and immerse in nature.
Though devoid of amenities like Wi-Fi or showers, it promises a genuine outdoor experience. For a successful wild camping trip, proper preparation is key—let this be your guide to a memorable venture into the wilderness.
Find Sites Where You Can Legally Camp
There are lots of remote places in the world where you can set up a tent and no one will complain about it. However, some areas are off-limits for wild campers, so you’ll need to be diligent and do your research before heading out. For instance, in the US, wild camping or dispersed camping is allowed in officially designated National Forests, but do make sure to call the local office to double-check.
Rangers and park admins can give you directions to places or sites to pitch your tent, and even give you info on the nearest water sources. You can also camp on Bureau of Land Management lands and Wildlife Management Areas. Make sure to be on the lookout for “no camping” signs, and don’t stay more than two weeks in one area.
If you’re in Canada, you may find that you have more luck finding camping sites since wild camping is legal in the country. You can pitch a tent along trails or in the backcountry, but check to see if a trail requires a permit to camp. Never camp on private property or owned land, and always follow the “leave no trace” rule.
Meanwhile, in Southeast Asia, some wild campers have found places to camp for free just by asking landowners for permission to camp for the night. If you’re in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, or Indonesia, you may find yourself camping in beautiful beaches or farming areas without running into trouble.
But if you’re about to camp on privately owned land or in a community in the countryside, make sure to ask first if the owners or locals will allow you to stay for the night on their property. Most SEA locals are very welcoming, and they will happily let you camp and offer you free use of their bathroom and even some food if you’re respectful and polite.
Make Meals the Right Way
If you’ve ever been to a public campsite, you know that there are certain rules to follow when cooking food to avoid accidents and catastrophes. You’ll also need to bring a variety of cooking equipment so you can prepare different meals for you and your loved ones to enjoy. However, things are a bit different when you’re wild camping.
If you’re camping in a national forest, for instance, there are several places where it’s illegal to start a campfire, so that hinders your ability to create meals. Bringing a survival food kit, which is a collection of pre-packed meals and snacks, can help you stay nourished as these meals require minimal preparation, and some of them can even be eaten straight out of the bag.
If you plan on going to places where you’re allowed to cook, make sure to bring the bare cooking essentials, such as a backpacking stove, fuel canisters, a cooking pot, a tin cup or mug, a spork, a bowl or plate, a knife, and a small cutting board. Remember to make nutrient-dense meals since you burn more calories while wild camping.
You can start your day with porridge enriched with dried fruit, nuts, and protein powder. For lunch, make soup and eat it with bread, then make some stew for dinner. Although it’s recommended to bring versatile ingredients that travel well, such as rice, canned meat, and dried pasta, don’t forget to bring some dried herbs and spices, as well as some hard cheese to add flavor and interest to your meals.
Thinking about foraging for food in the wilderness while wild camping? You may want to seriously consider it, especially if you’re miles away from the nearest town. However, you’ll have to know how to properly identify edible plants, since there are so many out there that are toxic to humans.
As a rule of thumb, you can safely eat berries packed in tight clusters, like raspberries and mulberries. Berries that are white, green or yellow should be avoided since they can be toxic. Be on the lookout for poisonous plant identifiers, such as fine hairs or spines, waxy leaves, and milky sap oozing out of stems or branches.
Hygiene and Cleanliness
Wild camping means that it’s likely that you’ll stay in a place that’s nowhere near a toilet facility, so you’ll need to find solutions to stay clean and attend to your personal needs. If you need to poop in the woods, you must choose a spot that’s at least 50 meters away from water sources, campsites, and paths, then dig a hole in the ground that’s about 7 inches wide and 8 inches deep.
Squat and poop into the hole, and remember to use biodegradable toilet paper to clean yourself up so you can put that in the ground. Make sure to cover the hole with dirt before you leave. As for urinating, you should do so at least 50 meters away from bodies of water, and try not to pee in the same area.
While taking care of your general hygiene, make sure that you don’t brush your teeth, shave, or bathe near a water source. Always use eco-friendly soap and shampoo while bathing, and make do with sponge baths if water is scarce. You may also clean up with body wipes, but make sure to place used wipes in a plastic bag and dispose of them properly after leaving your site.
Setting up a tent in a remote area allows you to enjoy the beauty of nature in all its glory. Remember to respect the locals and the environment whenever you’re wild camping, and be well prepared to have a hassle-free and enjoyable time while you’re in the wilderness.