What do you need for wild camping?
What to take on a wild camping trip depends on many factors, such as location and time of year. Your personal preferences will also come in to it.
As an experienced wild camper, I have listed below what I use and can recommend. It will be up to you to decide whether my choices are right for you.
If you were to choose everything the same as me, that would be a bit weird. But I will say, that if you did, it would work well in most circumstances. I use this kit year round in the UK, and I’ve proved it all to work well for wild camping.
Wid camping kit list
Here is a list of the kit that I take on a wild camp.
Some of the kit has links to where you can buy it, and some has links to in-depth reviews of my experience with the equipment. Some of the links will earn me a commission – at no cost to you. Most won’t, and this article truthfully tells you what I use and recommend. It’s not a spammy attempt to earn money at your expense. I hate that stuff.
- Bivvy bag for wild camping
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping bag liner
- Sleeping mat
- The best wild camping Stove
- Cooking kit for wild camping
- Head torch
- Wild camping Poo trowel
- Dry bags
- Backpack for wild camping
- Wild camping food
- Water & purification whilst wild camping
- Map and compass
- Phone in a dry bag – switched off
First up, as this is about wild camping, is a tent. Sure you can rough it in the clothes you are wearing, but I really don’t recommend that. It can even be dangerous. Let’s stick to camping, which includes the use of a good bivvy bag, in my opinion.
I started off with a Vango Banshee 200, and it was a brilliant choice. I wanted something cheap to give it a go, but didn’t want to break the bank. It is a good option, but there is a better one now.
The tent I now use is a Terra Nova, Wild country, Zephyros 1. It is smaller and lighter, but is not too expensive. If I was starting again, I would buy this tent. It’s perfect for solo wild camping in the UK. Not the lightest, but it’s not £500 either. It’s a bargain for what it is. I don’t anticipate ever changing it.
There is a 2 person version but I have not tried it. The one person version is big for a 1 person tent.
Bivvy bag for wild camping
A bivvy bag is my other shelter option, and I own 2:
An army Goretex bag which is really durable and totally waterproof. It’s heavy at 1KG and takes a lot of space in my bag. I use it when durability is important, typically in the woods on a camp that is near to the car. Weight and bulk are not an issue if you only have to walk a mile or so.
An Alpkit Hunka. This is my bag of choice and recommendation to you. It is very durable, light, and packs very small. I have the large version, but if I were to buy again, I would buy the regular.
Unless you are on a super-ultralight sporting event, I would classify a sleeping bag as essential. In an ideal world, this would be a down bag that packs up small and weighs little.
I suggest you use a 3 season bag which is suitable for all but the coldest months. I chose a Mountain Equipment Helium 400, which I can highly recommend.
My second choice is the Alpkit pipedream 400, which I also own.
In deep winter, I will take my Rab Ascent 700 and possibly the Helium 400 as well.
This works well as a modular setup. 2 bags that will cover all conditions in the UK.
An excellent alternative to a down bag is the Alpkit Cloudpeak. They are heavier and bigger but are a great budget option.
Sleeping bag liner
The Cocoon Egyptian cotton liner is something I can recommend. I have used many others over the years, but this one is comfortable and tough. I am still using the one that I motorcycled across Africa with 12 years ago.
Often overlooked, your mat is not just for comfort. In cooler weather, it will make the difference between a good night’s sleep and being awake and cold. It is an important part of your sleep system that insulates you from the ground. You squash all the insulation on the bottom of your sleeping bag, rendering it pretty useless. A mat is critical for insulation.
Make sure the mat has an R value, or tog rating, commensurate with the temperature you will sleep in.
I have several mats that I use in different situations. I use multiple mats in the winter, rather than splash out on an expensive Thermarest NeoAir XTherm.
If money was no object, I would have one, but I am too tight to buy one as there are other options.
These are what I use and can recommend:
- Summer lightweight – Alpkit Numo (R1 – ish)
- Summer comfort – Multimat Trekker 25 (R3.0)
- Winter – Multimat 25 + Army roll mat (R4.5)
- All year durable – Multimat 25 + Army roll mat (R4.5)
The army roll mats are durable, light, and protect the inflatable mats, as well as having a good R value of 1.6. They are also bulky.
Your choice on this one. I prefer to use an inflatable pillow, but you may be happy with a rolled up fleece. I’ve tried all sorts over the years and have settled on the Exped Air Pillow.
This is such a personal piece of kit that I hesitate to recommend one, other than to say the Exped one is tiny, very light, and very tough. If you want an inflatable, it is worth the price.
The best wild camping Stove
Another variable choice. Temperature and what’s on the menu are the biggest influence. My favourite is the Trangia Triangle, for its weight, size and silence. Liquid fuel means I can take exactly what I need. Add on a foil windshield, and it’s nearly as good as a full Trangia, but without the bulk and weight.
I combine this with a 750ml titanium mug for boiling water and it makes a perfect setup for dried food.
It works in the winter but is slow.
If it is freezing, I will take the Primus Omnifuel and petrol, as a quick way to boil water in sub-zero conditions. This will simmer, but not in windy conditions.
If I will be eating properly, it will be the Triangle for the controllability of the heat. It’s a dream to simmer on this stove.
Outside of freezing conditions, I will take the MSR Pocket Rocket for a fast boil (and a lot of noise). Not for simmering, just boiling water.
I’ll take both a plastic cigarette lighter and a Fire steel. I use the lighter mainly, as it’s easier to light the Trangia. In the wet, or if the lighter fails, I use the steel.
Cooking kit for wild camping
For actual cooking, I take a 1 or 1.5 litre saucepan depending on whether I am solo or with my wife Helen. Sometimes we get fancy and take both as we are sharing the weight. I use MSR ones, but it doesn’t really matter.
For cooking on a fire, I use Zebra billy cans, which are excellent. I have never come across anything as bullet proof and long lived as these for fire use.
I regard this as an essential piece of kit to make camp tasks easy, as well as for safety if I need to walk in the dark. I use the Petzl Actik Core for its ability to take batteries, as well as being rechargeable.
I have a review on this torch and can’t recommend it highly enough.
This is very much a personal thing, but for an overnighter, I just take a toothbrush and toothpaste in a bit of cling film.
Sun cream is important if you are outside all the time.
Don’t forget the toilet paper and a bag to carry it out in. Keep it dry!
Wild camping Poo trowel
An essential piece of kit if you don’t have a public toilet built in to your itinerary. I have written an entire article on this subject, but in short, I use the Deuce of spades for its weight, strength, and size. Expensive, but worth it.
Anything to keep your gear dry – rucksacks leak. I use Osprey dry bags, but pretty much any brand will do the job, as will plastic bags, if you are careful.
Backpack for wild camping
My backpack is an Osprey Atmos AG 50 and I wouldn’t want anything better or different. The 50 litres is the perfect sweet-spot for single-night trips in the winter, or multi-night trips in the summer.
I have reviewed it here.
How big a backpack do I need for wild camping?
I would say 35 litres is a minimum for a summer one-nighter in a bivvy, and 50 litres for the winter.
For a multi-night trip, 50 litres is a minimum.
Wild camping food
For a cheeky overnighter on a hill, I normally use freeze-dried food from Basecamp Foods as a main meal. It’s light and easy with the bonus of being fast if it’s cold out. It also means I can take minimal stove equipment. As well as just a spork.
For breakfasts and lunches, good old-fashioned sandwiches and cereal bars.
On some trips I go all culinary and then bacon and proper food get involved. That’s your call. Just remember you have to carry it and you don’t have a fridge.
If I’m in the woods, near to the car, then anything goes and it can get elaborate.
As ever, layering is the best method of keeping warm and being flexible. It can get cold sitting around in the evening, so to delay having to dive in to my sleeping bag, I take plenty of warm stuff.
I always take a spare set of Merino base layers to sleep in. They stay in a dry bag until the tent is up.
Water & purification whilst wild camping
Try to carry as little water as you can, but make sure you have enough, this stuff is heavy. The best thing to do is replenish water on the way if you can. I always carry a Sawyer mini filter if there will be water sources en route. Generally, I’ll plan to visit a stream at the end of the day to fill up for the night. I fill up my Camelbak with clean filtered water and the Sawyer bag with “dirty” water to filter later.
Map and compass
Don’t rely on a phone signal and batteries, always carry a map. And know how to use it, of course.
Phone in a dry bag – switched off
The title says it all. For me, the whole point is to get away from tech and stuff, so the phone stays in the bag and I navigate with a map and compass.
Enjoy your wild camping…
All the above is what I do – you’ll find out what works best for you over time. If you follow the guidelines and recommendations in this post, you will have the kit you need for an enjoyable, safe, and comfortable wild camp.
Let me know what you use, in the comments. I’m always keen to learn from others.