Our Beginners Guide to Wild Camping covers everything you need to know – how to prepare for your wild camping trip, what to do and what not to do in the great outdoors, and all the essentials you need to bring.
Campsites are convenient. They provide almost everything you need. Almost. While running water and actual toilets are an advantage, there is something that you often can’t have on an official campground: A quiet, star-filled night sky all for yourself.
Usually, you fall asleep to the noise of the loudly chatting neighbors to the left and wake up to the earth-shattering snoring of the neighbor to the right. And there’s light pollution.
The ultimate solution if you just want to reconnect with nature and leave everything else behind: wild camping. Nothing is more refreshing than setting up camp among the wilds of nature and enjoying this feeling of emotional, mental and physical freedom.
While there are lots of similarities between a stay on the good old campsite and a night far away from civilisation hidden in the bushes, there are also a couple of things to do differently.
But don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here’s everything to know before you go, what to bring, what NOT to do and a country guide to check the legal situation in places all over the world.
If you are just getting into camping, visit this page.
Before You Go
Do your research before you go. If you don’t, you might get soaked to the bones, or lost, or arrested, or attacked by wild animals. Or a combination of everything. It makes for a cool story, but trust me – it’s not that fun.
Choosing The Right Gear
The beauty of wild camping lies in the possibility to trek further into the wild every day. You pitch your tent for not more than a night or two, and then you continue to explore untouched nature off the beaten path. That means that you want to pack lightly.
If you aren’t expecting lots of rain and are only going to wild camp for a few days, you can bring a bivy bag. A bivy bag is basically a waterproof cover for your sleeping bag. It’s much lighter (and cheaper) than a tent, quicker to pitch and allows you to watch the night sky until you fall asleep. On longer trips you are on the safe side with a tent, though. In nights with heavy rain you are going to need the space to protect yourself and your equipment.
The third alternative and my personal favorite for short trips free from downfall: a hammock. There is nothing more beautiful than spending the night that little bit closer to the stars. The obvious tip: Make sure that there are enough trees (or other objects to attach the floating bed to) in the area that you want to wild camp in.
What exactly you bring always depends on the region you will be camping in and the length of your excursion. The following checklist is supposed to give you a general overview items that are necessary and stuff that can be useful. Keep in mind: Every gram adds up.
Wild Camping Gear Checklist
- A tent/ bivy bag/ hammock
- A sleeping bag
- A sleeping pad (Unless you’re going to spend the night in a hammock – another reason why they are great.)
- An outdoor stove and a pot/ pan
- A firelighter/ matches
- Camping cutlery (a bowl and a spork)
- Sealable containers for prepared food. (Less disposable waste means less harm to the environment and more space in your backpack. A classic win-win-situation.)
- Food (Prepared or canned food are easy to heat up. Don’t carry anything that takes forever to cook or takes up a lot of space in your backpack. Bring a few herbs to spice things up a little!)
- Tea bags, instant coffee, hot chocolate (Whatever your favorite hot drink is – bring it! It will make chilly evenings and early mornings SO much better.)
- A headtorch (or torch)
- A multi-tool/ Swiss Army-knife
- A map and a compass
- A (solar-powered) powerbank to recharge your phone etc.
- Toiletries (toothbrush and toothpaste, toilet paper and whatever else you need)
- A travel towel
- A water bottle with filter (more info below)
- Sealable plastic bags for any kind of waste you produce
- Hand sanitizer (the eco-friendly, vegan version)
- Warm clothes (dress in layered clothing to be prepared for every temperature)
Wild Camping Code
Keep the following rules and tips in mind when you wild camp. They not only ensure a smooth experience for yourself but also a respectful and sustainable behaviour towards your environment.
Wild Camping Country Guide
Check the laws for countries worldwide below.
Wild Camping in Europe
A quick foreword: Just because wild camping is illegal in some countries, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t do it. We are obviously not recommending to break the law. Nooo. But theoretically, just theoretically, there are places where it is very unlikely that you will get caught. If a wild camping spot is chosen well and you stick to the rules, you could get away with it. Just saying.
Wild Camping in North America & Canada
In general, wild camping is quite easy in the US and Canada. You are allowed to camp in US national forests and grasslands, on Bureau of Land Management grounds and on Canadian Crown Land. With a permit, it is also possible to camp in the ‘backcounty’ of national parks.
For more information about (free) campsites in your area, you can also check out Ultimatecampgrounds.com.
Wild Camping in Central America & Mexico
Wild camping in Central America and Mexico can be an unforgettable, wonderful experience. However, you need to be extra cautious when it comes to safety. And: Speaking Spanish will make life much easier!
Wild Camping in South America
From thick jungles over pristine beaches to some of the biggest glaciers worldwide – South America is full of contrasts. If done right, wild camping is an exciting way to explore its beauty.
Wild Camping in Australia & New Zealand
Australia and New Zealand are a backpacker’s paradise. Wild camping (or rather ‘free camping’) is possible and encouraged. However, there are a few things to know before you start the adventure.
Wild Camping in Asia
The Earth’s largest and most populous continent has a lot to offer. Whether you would like to camp in Siberia’s icy landscape or in Thailand’s humid forests – you’ll find the details below.
Wild camping in Africa
Africa covers 20 % of the Earth’s land area. I promise, you can find a few amazing wild camping spots on the world’s oldest populated land.
Wild Camping in the Middle East
Is it possible to wild camp in countries like Iran, Iraq and Lebanon? YES, it is. Been there, done that, and loved it! However, communication (with other travellers and locals before and on your trip) is key. Always inform yourself about the current political climate and never take unnecessary risks.
We have created these lists based on our best knowledge from own experience and research. They will be updated regularly. Please note that laws and political climates can change anytime. We have excluded warzones and a few areas that we don’t have sufficient information about from this post. If you can add value to this list or have any questions, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or contact us here.
Read more: 10 Essential tips for campers.