The desire to run wild and enjoy the freedom of the great outdoors has never been greater than it has this year when families have been forced to stay cooped up at home throughout lockdown. All kids love the freedom of camping, but wild camping adds another level of excitement to the adventure, enabling the kids to really get back to nature and be ‘wild!’
Wild camping is a blanket term that basically means camping anywhere outside of the boundaries of a traditional campsite. It means sleeping outside, somewhere remote, often without a tent and with just a bivvy bag for shelter. No busy campsites, no other people and no noises apart from the calming sounds of nature.
There are few experiences that can rival the excitement and the freedom of sleeping in a wild place. With fresh air filling your lungs, the grass as your mattress and the stars as your ceiling, the great outdoors can set the scene for some of the most memorable nights of your life and create childhood memories that your kids will treasure for a lifetime.
To get the most out of your wild camping experience, preparation is key. First and foremost, it is important to check that the weather is going to be dry before you set off, as you will be sleeping outside. Wet kids and wet stuff do not make for a very relaxing night!
What to take with you for wild camping
You only need to take some very basic essentials with you and travelling light is crucial, especially as there is usually a fair distance to hike away from civilization before you reach your ideal wild camping spot.
Here are the must-have wild camping essentials that we recommend:-
- Sleeping bag
- Bivvy bag
- Camping mat
- Stove & food
- Trowel or poo bags for burying/removing toilet waste
In addition to the above, it is advisable to set off with the usual hikers’ kit list; base layers, a windproof jacket, a few pairs of socks, comfortable walking shoes and a hat. A map, a compass, phone and portable charger are also useful items to have with you, particularly if you are really going off the beaten track and there is any likelihood at all of you getting lost.
As is always the way with any kind of outdoor activity, having the right kit makes the difference between having a brilliant experience or a bad one. When you wild camp, the quality and functionality of your bivvy bag is crucial, as this is what protects you from the elements and determines whether you get a good night’s sleep or not.
We particularly like the LACD bivvy bag from the outdoor experts at addnature because it is light and compact, as well as being both wind and waterproof. The aluminium-vapourised interior reflects a high proportion of body heat to keep you warm and cosy all night, too.
Cooking for Wild Camping
As with any outdoor activity involving kids, plentiful food and snacks are essential. To cut down on the weight you need carry, take a lightweight single burner stove, gas canister and lighter, a pot, a spork (all-in-one fork and spoon) and mugs for a hot drink.
Sitting on a hillside, sharing a one-pot meal from the pot, gazing at the stars, will make the kids feel like intrepid explorers, far away from technology and their usual home comforts.
Lightweight foodstuffs such as couscous, pasta or flavoured rice, which only require water for cooking, and perhaps a ready-made tomato-based sauce, are a good option for one-pot evening meals or try some of these no-cook meals if you don’t want to be weighed down by stoves.
For breakfasts and lunches, choose long-lasting food products such as oatcakes, cereal bars and porridge, rather than bread. Energy snacks to keep the kids going are also a good idea, and a few sweets never hurt!
Water is, of course, an essential and it’s a real bonus if you can camp near running water because then you will need to carry less bottled water with you. You can boil collected water or bring a water filter bottle, or take a water purification device with you. Stay hydrated and drink water in whatever form you like, even making your ice when camping is possible these days.
Chocolate or crisps for those evening time hunger pangs are a real treat if you can fit them in your backpack, perhaps even a hip flask of whisky for the adults! The only real limit on what you carry is how much your body can cope with.
Benefits of wild camping with kids
One of the real benefits of wild camping is that you can be truly spontaneous in where you choose to go as there is no need to book a space on a campsite well in advance of your trip. Instead of spending a few days in the same location, you can spend a night in one place and then pack up after breakfast and continue walking until you find another perfect spot to reconnect with nature and your family as you spend the evening gazing at the stars.
You may also like to read:
- Our bumper list of gift ideas for kids that love camping and outdoor adventures.
- Camping with toddlers – essential gear and practical tips
- Where to go camping in the fall in the US
- 10 essentials we always pack for camping with a baby
- A guide to hiking with toddlers & young kids (how to make it fun!)
- The best hiking shoes for toddlers on outdoor adventures
- All the best outdoor destinations for adventurous families