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Beginners guide to family wild camping

If you already go camping as a family or even if you have never camped before, going wild camping doesn’t need to be a daunting challenge. Here are our top tips to make it an easier and fun first trip.

Start local: The more local you can be, the less you feel invested into wild camping, and the easier it is to deal with if it doesn’t work out first go. We chose a spot close to home in an area we knew well for our first family wild camp taking as many of the unknowns out and reducing things to stress about.

Have alternative plans to hand: So you get to your ideal spot and something goes wrong – maybe it rains, or it is windier than you expected, or you are just not enjoying it half way through. Having alternate plans already sorted beforehand can reduce stress and help you to avoid a non-ideal situation turning into a total mare.

Make sure everyone will be warm: Just like with any camping, being cold is miserable. Try to plan your first wild camp when the weather will be good and the night warm enough, but make sure you have an extra layer or so, and a hat for everyone incase you do get cold during the night.

Go lightweight if walking far: We would recommend trying to find a spot only a short walk from the car (say maybe 20 mins), but if you do decide to walk further, remember you have to carry everything. Taking a look at what you are packing and asking ‘do we really need this’ is well worth it!

No need for expensive gear to start: So long as you choose good weather, you can use very cheap gear to get you going. We started with a supermarket ‘festival’ tent. The equivalent sleeping bags would also work just fine in the right conditions, so don’t invest in expensive gear unless you know it is something you will enjoy as a family.

Ground mats are as important as sleeping bags: You actually loose more heat to the ground than the air when camping, and because you are lying on the bottom of your sleeping bag, the insulation does very little. Make sure you use a good ground mat, whether that is a low cost roll mat (least comfy but fine insulation), a self inflating foam mat (more comfy but more expensive), or a super light weight insulated airbed (comfy, light but costly).

Scout your spot on a previous trip: one of the great joys of wild camping is getting to chose your spot on the day, but it can be one of the scariest unknowns first time. We avoided this by going to somewhere we had already been to, and knew where a good looking spot was.

Think about fresh water: A great way to save weight is to not carry water, or only carry a little. Think about how much you need for the time you plan to be out, and think about where you might be able to collect water from rivers or streams. If you do collect water make sure you boil it or treat it before use to avoid any tummy bugs.

Think about what food to take: For single night trips it is often as easy to not take a cooker, but whatever you decide, put some thought into choosing lightweight, easy preparation food that you and your family will like. We often use dry pasta and sauce packets and noodles.

Lights, camera, action!: So you’ve planned the trip, gotten all the gear together and are about to start walking towards your ideal spot. Don’t forget to pack headtorches and a couple of glow sticks to dot about the tent so little ones don’t get too scared if they wake up in the middle of the night (they’re also great for looping around the tent zips as a way of keeping them ‘locked’. And remember your camera to capture all the great memories you’ll be making!

Share the adventure: Let your little one pick their favourite toy, or cuddly toy to share in the adventure with. Also, if you’ve space why not take along their favourite book to focus their energy for when they’re ‘not tired at all’ – usually what our son says just before he goes in to manic overdrive!

Have fun: This is the most important part! Planning is important, as is thinking through the ‘what ifs’, but most importantly try to let go, and enjoy the adventure of being out on a wild camp for the first time.

We hope that these tips have given you some ideas of how to give wild camping a go with your family. It doesn’t need to be a daunting idea, and with some simple steps it opens up a whole new world of possibilities for your family adventures.

Do you wild camp with your family? What tips would you offer? Share your experiences with it, we’d love to hear about them!

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