Wild camping can be a scary prospect for those who are not used to the great outdoors. But as someone who has always chased adventures – I'm here to tell you the truth about wild camping and why you should try it. I've created this first-timers' guide to getting out under the stars and into the heart of nature. Everything you need to know – from where to go and what to pack, to personal hygiene and those infamous bush poos. Throughout my 5+ years of travelling solo, I've wild camped across the world, from the UK and Europe, right over to Australia.
The truth is I've always loved a bit of luxury as much as the next girl. But when it comes down to it, I would always much rather be walking barefoot around a national park and bathing in waterfalls. Although I had tried wild camping before I ever went travelling – it was only when I tried it in Asia and Australia that it really stole my heart. There's nothing quite like the simple life, of sleeping under the stars in the outback, of cooking dinner on the beach and waking up to the ocean. It's a freedom you just can't beat.
How I fell in love with wild camping:
People are often shocked by how much I love camping and getting outside. But it's got to be the Norfolk lass in me – I'm just made for that outdoor life. Before I ever tried going wild, I had been camping a lot through volunteering programmes, challenges and of course, lots of festivals. I was a pro at putting up a tent and things like cooking dinner outside or the chilly run to the toilets never fazed me. But over the last few years, my whole perspective of camping really changed thanks to my travels.
For me it was the moments when I was road tripping across Western Australia that really sealed the deal. I spent over a month driving, sleeping in a car and camping wild in beautiful spots without ever seeing a soul. It was everything I had ever dreamed of in Australia and showed me how much is possible, and how happy you can be with so little. My squad spent our nights watching the stars above cattle ranches, smoke spiralling into the sky from our camp fire. Each day we woke up to the sounds of the ocean lapping against the shore and the excitement of exploring a new place.
Top tips for personal hygiene and bush poos
The questions I get asked the most when it comes to camping – so let's answer these ones first. My best tip for first-timers who aren't sure about camping whether wild or not. Get over the grime. The quicker you do this, the more you will enjoy your experience. Yes the toilets are not always that nice, and sometimes there won't be any at all. You might have to have a few bush wees and maybe even a bush poo if you're in the middle of nowhere. But if you just accept the wet wipe baths and stop thinking about it, you'll soon adjust to a simpler life.
I spent six weeks living off wet wipe baths, shaving my legs with baby oil and pooing on the side of the road in the dustiest place on earth. Trust me, if I can do that and still have an epic time – you can certainly handle a weekend. If it's your first time trying out wild camping – the main thing is be prepared. Ladies, I would recommend not planning a trip for when you are on your period. It's definitely doable but just not very nice to not be able to have a shower. If you do decide to go anyway, I recommend a moon cup instead of tampons – then you don't have to worry about disposing of products.
Key things to pack:
- Wet wipes – your new best friend!
- Hand sanitiser
- Toilet rolls
- Fresh underwear and socks
- Baby oil for longer trips – great for shaving when you don't have a shower & moisturising
- Moon Cup
- Dry shampoo
Essential kit to pack for your camping trip
The main thing to remember if you're camping wild is that you need to be entirely self-reliant. That means planning ahead, having everything you need and emergency kit in case anything goes wrong. The more you plan and have ready, the more you will enjoy your trip.
- Wet wipes – loads as you use them for personal hygiene, cleaning, wounds etc
- A good mattress – makes a huge difference to the trip (foam/air or sleeping mats and sleeping bag)
- A solid tent that can withstand weather and won't leak in the rain
- Waterproof clothing/boots
- Flip flops – important for those late night toilet dashes
- Cooking gear – a good stove with extra gas and all the cutlery, knives, pans, plates etc
- Camping chairs and a waterproof tarp for the ground
- Extra layers of clothing or thermals to sleep in
- Torch and also a larger lamp for cooking
- Lighter & matches as a back-up
- First Aid Kit – I always take band-aids and painkillers, but add whatever you think necessary
- All the water you will need for drinking, cooking & washing
My top 3 wild camping experiences:
I've been a very lucky girl to have experiences camping wild all over the globe – but my favourite stand-out experiences have to be in these top 3 locations:
- Khao Sok, Thailand – Camping under the stars on a raft floating on a reservoir in the middle of an 80 million year old rainforest. Wild elephants crashing around the jungle and waking up to the sun rising over the mountains.
- Western Australia – Living out of cars for 6 weeks and waking up next to the ocean. Sunsets over lakes, no phone signal and endless kangaroos and wombats plus awesome national parks and 30-40 degree dusty heat.
- Tasmania – Camping in the shadow of mountains, overlooking lakes, at the ocean, in misty marshland and forests. Such a huge range of places to explore in just a two week trip – including Friendly Beaches where kangaroos and wombats come right up to the tents!
My worst camping experiences
While it's nice to tell you about how amazing wild camping can be, I also want to be honest about the less fun experiences. Camping is super weather dependent and a trip can quickly go downhill if you're not prepared for bad weather. My worst camping experiences have always been due to extreme rain. In the Yorkshire Dales, UK, on my Duke of Edinburgh final expedition, we were hit by severe storms and flooded out of any potential campsites before our van broke down. Over in Melbourne, Australia, a trip to Wilson's Prom was cut short by heavy rain that flooded the campsite and all the tents.
How to prepare and avoid bad weather camping experiences
The key to enjoying your trip no matter what the weather is preparation. Do your research before each trip and check the temperatures for day and night, predicted weather, and anything else that could affect you. If you're going to a very exposed place or somewhere at higher altitudes, you'll need to prepare for wind and cooler temperatures. Remember to take into account warmer temps in the day and cooler temps at night, and to be prepared for all extremes.
- Hot weather – sunscreen, flip flops, lots of water, cool box for food, shelter, appropriate clothing.
- Windy weather – sturdy tent & pegs, thick warm layers of clothing and a good coat to block the cold wind.
- Cold weather – thermals, extra socks, extra warm sleeping bag, hot water bottle, spare blankets, kettle.
- Changeable weather – make sure to take a mix of items and to be prepared for all weathers.
And most importantly, you should wild camp because…
I love the freedom that comes with it. It's a simple life, where all you need is a shelter, food, a campfire and the stars. You can disappear into the outback, or to some deserted beach and not a soul will know where you are. You can turn your phone off and really switch off. Something that is so important when you work a lot and desperately need some downtime. There's something really romantic about the idea of traveling the world by van and being entirely self-reliant. You have everything you need and can escape into the world for a little while.
What kind of camper are you - luxury, festival or wild? What advice would you give to first-time wild campers?