Why I fell in love with wild camping
For Craig Taylor, wild camping is a lifelong passion that has created a special, personal connection to the great outdoors
In my opinion, wild camping is one of the simplest, most fulfilling ways to spend quality time outdoors. It allows you to access some of the most beautiful corners of the planet, and to get to know them in a way that’s not possible when you’re just passing through. That’s why I fell in love with it, and it’s why I get out as much as possible for a night under canvas – whether that’s after hours hiking some major distance with everything but the kitchen sink on my back or just a quiet night in a one-person tent pitched up a short walk from the car.
Carry on camping
Like many people who grew up in the UK, my first exposure to the concept of wild camping was thanks to the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award. As part of the expedition portion of the scheme, I spent a night semi-wild camping at the foot of Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons alongside a band of hapless school friends who were as new to the idea of “expeditions” as I was. And what an adventure it turned out to be – as well as a lesson in appropriate kit!
For the 2-day expedition, I was prepared for absolutely every eventuality. I had a 90L rucksack packed with every piece of outdoor gear you could find in the Argos catalog. I had mess tins strapped to the side of my pack, a rollup sleeping pad dangling off the bottom and an ungodly amount of food tucked into every spare pocket I could find. I had liters of water, multiple woolly hiking hats and hiking gloves (it was summer) and even a full change of clothes.
But, despite having to lug what must have been up to 20kg of kit through the Brecon Beacons National Park, I loved every minute of it – especially the wild camp at the end of the gruelling first day. As far as introductions to something go, it couldn’t have been better. It was a warm, clear night, and the site delivered everything from a stereotypical bubbling brook and a picture-perfect sunset to the crackle of an open fire (which was permitted in the field we were camping in).
Why I love wild camping
Thankfully, I’ve been able to upgrade my gear over the years from the Argos catalog hauls of old. Now, I have a handful of sleeping bags that I know will see me through a huge range of conditions; I have a comfy inflatable sleeping mattress; and I have several tents. I’ve a hiking backpack that’s more ergonomically in line with my movements when carrying weight over distance, and I’m lucky to have a host of fancy gadgets, camping stoves and water filters to ensure I’m safe when out in the outdoors.
All of this means I can now climb mountains and trek huge distances before setting up camp for the night. It means I can comfortably camp in almost any environment, which in turn allows me to spend vast amounts of time in spectacular places without having to worry about getting a good night’s sleep. Wild camping allows me to seamlessly stitch two ends of an adventure together without needing to overly plan anything, book a room or spend any money whatsoever. It empowers me to spend multiple days outside without being forced to work out every minute of my itinerary beforehand.
Getting away from it all
Truthfully, however, the pragmatic benefits of wild camping on longer trips isn’t the main reason I love the activity. In fact, I often head out for a local wild camp simply for the sheer joy of spending a night in a tent outdoors. And while I always prefer crawling into my sleeping bag at the end of a big mountain day, I still adore it even if I’ve only walked an hour from the car. I just love the simplicity of it, the peace and quiet and the unbeatable connection to nature that’s only possible when you’re literally touching it.
To me, wild camping is the most authentic experience you can have outdoors. Away from the people and away from the paths, all that’s left is you and maybe a small collection of friends. It allows you to see the landscape in its rawest form, unaffected by and totally uninterested in your presence. It gives you the chance to see a part of the world at its most authentic, while bringing you into a place void of distractions that we rarely get to enjoy in the modern world.
Over the years, the wild camp portion of my outdoor trips has grown to become the thing I look forward to most. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting a little older, but those moments of solitude under canvas somewhere far away from civilization trump the summits, the climbs and the smashing of physical challenges. There’s something endlessly rewarding about having a vista all to yourself, or being the only person on the planet allowed to witness a spectacular sunrise.
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Growing up just south of the glorious Brecon Beacons National Park, Craig spent his childhood walking uphill. As he got older, the hills got bigger, and his passion for spending quality time in the great outdoors only grew - falling in love with wild camping, long-distance hiking, bikepacking and fastpacking. Having recently returned to the UK after almost a decade in Germany, he now focuses on regular micro-adventures in nearby Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons, as well as frequent trips to the Alps and beyond. You can follow his adventures over on komoot, or visit www.craigtaylor.co for more info.