Wild camping can be one of the most exciting ways of exploring the great outdoors; it’s you and what you can carry on your back against the elements. But for this reason, it’s also one of the most potentially dangerous forms of camping, and we should be mindful of how to minimise risk and keep ourselves safe. In this guide, we will look at various bits of kit you will need alongside skills and knowledge to use them.
Map & compass (including navigation skills)
It’s become the norm to use and rely on modern technology; one such example is GPS navigation systems, even on a simple smartphone. These devices can be fantastic, as you can plot routes and see where you are and where you need to go at the touch of a button.
One significant downside of relying solely on technology is that failures can happen; batteries run out, and software glitches. Even some examples of mapping systems taking walkers the wrong way, or worse, along potentially deadly routes. The best advice is to use these systems but always carry a physical map and compass. Do not neglect to keep your navigation skills up to scratch; various outdoor training centres and professional instructors can offer coaching in navigation in the wild.
When spending extended periods outdoors, we need to be able to protect ourselves from the elements. With such a variety of outdoor clothing, from budget brands to high-end mountaineering, all of which claim to be able to do the job. How do we decide what is right for us? We need to start with what activates we are looking to do. If it is gentle walking on decent ground not too far from civilization, simply having warm and waterproof clothing will suffice.
Alternatively, when looking at more extreme activities, such as mountaineering, mountain biking, or ultra-running, we need to push the boat out to more high-end options. But what do we get when we spend more? Assuming you are buying the correct gear, there are several advantages; expert-level clothing will not only be waterproof but also will be breathable, look for items with Gore-Tex (preferably the Pro version) for maximum breathability. For footwear, you need to ensure features such as quality soles, using a material like Vibram, or in the case of mountaineering, be suitable for crampons for use on winter ridges.
As with clothing, a suitable tent is a must. For wild camping, the first consideration should be the tent’s weight, as you will be carrying it on your back. Ideally, you should be aiming for something less than 2kg, but the lighter, the better. Secondly, you should be aware that tents tend to be rated by how many seasons they are suitable for; a single-season tent will only provide adequate protection for summer camping, whereas a four-season tent will be ideal for most conditions. Once you have your tent be sure to practice pitching it before you go to be sure you know how and there are no deficiencies before finding out otherwise in a survival situation.
Protection against wild animals
This tip doesn’t really apply when wild camping in the UK. However, if you take a trip across the pond to US or Canada, then it‘s something that needs to be considered. When wild camping in North America, we cannot be lax about the possibility of encountering wild animals on our travels. What we must do is ensure we are as clued up as possible to deal with any potential issues. This fantastic guide by undercovercolorado.com gives great advice, for the most part staying calm, avoiding contact where possible, and not acting erratically or aggressively. When actually attacked, we must use what we can to defend ourselves; if we have the necessary tools to do so, many ask does bear spray works. The answer is essentially yes if used properly.
Emergency GPS beacon
Sometimes we can find ourselves in trouble, no matter how well prepared we thought we were. Even experienced individuals can find themselves stuck in a storm, caught in a blizzard; even a simple trip can render a walker or climber invalid with a broken or sprained limb. In these situations, it might prove necessary to call for assistance. The use of a radio or cell phone can be good, but you are not always in range for these devices. If you are planning on venturing out far into the wild, then you may want to consider an emergency GPS beacon; these can be life-saving devices. They are expensive, but what price can you put on your life.
Suitable sleeping bag & mat
Choosing the correct sleeping bag and carry mat is more than a case of comfort; survival means choosing an item suitable for the conditions. Sleeping bags are temperature rated; there are two ratings on each bag, a comfort rating and a survival rating. These are self-explanatory, you should feel comfortable at the first temperature, and the latter rating will be one where you won’t die, but it will be uncomfortable, even potentially liable for injuries such as frostbite. Good advice is to avoid getting anywhere near the survival rating if possible.
Water purification system
We need to carry what we need in and out when travelling through uninhabited areas of the country, and for the most part, we bring what we need with us. For most of our supplies, this is possible; we can find in all outdoor stores plenty of dry-packed, light-weight camping food, all we need to do is add water. This is where the tricky part comes in; we can’t really bring all the water we need with us. So we must source water from streams and small rivers, but we cannot be sure of its purity. Therefore we must use a purification device or purification tablets.
Knowing when to turn back
We all love an adventure, but the key thing is to be there for the next one. If we feel we may run into trouble, there is always the possibility of turning back. The trail or mountain will always be there next time; make sure you are too.
Featured image: ivankmit/Envato Elements