How to choose the best wild camping tent for you
What type of wild camping tent should I buy?
Wild camping is all about being stealthy, so forget big family tents and choose something small, discrete and easily transportable. There’s a reason so many small tents are green, because they can blend in easily with your surroundings.
The general idea of wild camping is that you pitch your tent at sunset and rarely stay in the same spot for more than one night. So space inside your tent is not as important as the weight or size it packs down to. The bigger the tent, the heavier it will be, so snuggling up with your hiking partner in a two-person tent will minimise backpack weight – you just need to be sure there’s enough storage for two bags and boots. If you’re travelling solo, a one-person design, or even a bivvy bag, is ideal as it will have space for you, your kit and nothing else.
Low-profile tents are also ideal for wild camping as you’re often more exposed to the elements compared to on a campsite. Geodesic pole designs are best in strong winds, but well positioned guide ropes are essential too.
As with any tent, rain proofing is essential, and we suggest a minimum of 1,500mm HH (hydrostatic Head) rating. The greater the HH rating the more expensive, but also the longer a flysheet fabric will take before it becomes saturated.
How light should my wild camping tent be?
This depends greatly on how far you’re travelling and how many people are sleeping in it, but ultralight tents are generally seen to weigh between 1kg and 2.5kg for a one or two-person model. You can find much lighter designs, but lightweight often means basic, with features stripped back to shave every possible gram, and ultralight flysheet materials aren’t as resistant to tears as a traditional tent. You should also be able to pack the tent down and easily strap it or put it in your backpack.
What features are worth looking out for?
- Easy pitching: Forget about pop-up designs which are a pain to carry, but being able to pitch a tent quickly, and on your own, is essential. Obviously it’s worth practising in the garden before you go away, but most tiny tents have one or two pre-bent poles and a handful of pegs and that’s it. No wild camping tent should take more than five minutes to pitch.
- Trekking Pole Tents: These are becoming increasingly popular as more hikers and trail runners use poles to navigate uneven surfaces in the mountains. By swapping tent poles for trekking poles the tent can pack smaller and be lighter, while also often providing more headroom and internal space. Just don’t forget your poles!
- Bivvy tents: The classic bivvy bag is simply a waterproof sleeve that covers your sleeping bag, allowing you to sleep out under the stars. Many die-hard wild campers use a bivvy and, if needs be, hang a tarpaulin above for protection from the elements. If you’re not quite that brave, or hate feeling trapped in a cocoon, a poled bivvy – with a tent-like construction around the head, offers a much more enjoyable sleep with only a few grams added to the pack.
Is wild camping legal in the UK?
Technically, wild camping is illegal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, but there are exemptions and loopholes, and simple common sense. Wild camping is legal in Scotland, so book yourself on a sleeper and camp guilt free in the National Parks, although some areas require permits in peak season, so check before you travel.
Some English National Parks such as Dartmoor do have designated areas in which wild camping is okay, as long as you’re arriving on foot or by bike. Check out this interactive map for the best wild camping spots.
If, however, you don’t overstay your welcome, and leave no trace of your stay behind, most National Parks are tolerant of wild camping, especially in more remote areas. Not getting caught is another great way of wild camping – so choose a discrete coloured tent. One simple way to make a wild camping pitch legal is simply to ask the landowner – if you don’t know who this is, the local pub or shop is a good place to ask for help. Some farmers are only too happy to charge you a few pounds in return for a pitch on their land, so don’t be shy and ask.
What’s the difference between a wild camping and backpacking tent?
There isn’t a huge difference between the two options – both need to be as small and light as possible – but wild camping tents tend to be smaller, and lower profile, to help blend into the surrounding countryside. With some backpacking tents you can share the load between two bags, allowing you to carry a bigger tent for two or three people, and they tend to have taller head heights for added comfort. But essentially, if you can carry it, you can sleep in it.