How to enjoy a fun Scottish wild camp

We’re lucky in Scotland to have incredible countryside and world-class access rights, giving us loads of options for nights out under the stars!

While we’ve all seen photos of perfect camping spots with stunning views, clear skies and not a midge in sight, it’s fair to say that Scotland can throw all sorts of surprises at unsuspecting camper - as TikTok star Jarad Rowan found out  while making this film in the Scottish Borders.

However, by planning ahead and following the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, almost anyone can plan a fun wild camp – and we’re here to help you with the simple top tips below.

Wherever you go wild camping, remember to always leave no trace and #RespectProtectEnjoy!

1. Pitch-up in the right spot: 

  • Stay well away from roads, houses, and historic buildings like monuments and castles - as per the Scottish Outdoor Access Code guidance. You’ll sleep better without a lorry roaring past your head at 4am. 
  • Ideally, you’ll want a few metres of flat ground near clean running water. Slightly raised ground is most likely to stay dry, so don’t go pitching in a ditch or hollow! 
  • Think about wind speed and direction. A gentle breeze is all you need to keep midges away so when it’s still, camping on raised areas is a good call. However, if it’s gusty you’ll want to be tucked away behind a boulder, ridge or trees.  Just take care to avoid any dead trees or trees with large broken limbs just waiting to fall on your head. 
  • Check the forecast on the Met Office and MWIS websites, keeping a close eye on the temperature, rain and wind. If it looks wild, try a Plan B location or a different day.  
  • Avoid causing problems for locals and landowners by not disturbing any hunting that might be going on, or camping in fields with crops or livestock.

2. Pack the right things:  

  • At the very least, you’ll need a tent, sleeping bag, camping mat. There is loads of quality advice online to help you choose – and don’t forget that some shops now hire equipment.
  • Some people like a dram or a beer as part of the camping experience. If that’s you, choose plastic containers or tins so they're easy to carry away - and don’t spoil things for other people or wildlife. Save loud music and your vocal chords for the other kind of ‘night out’! 
  • Tasty energy-rich foods help keep you warm and happy, so bring plenty. As well as lots of snacks, we like a warm evening meal – with simple dehydrated food like noodles and quick cooking stuffed pasta, and pre-prepared sauces being easy to cook on a stove.  
  • Carrying camping kit can be sweaty work, so stay hydrated and boil water from streams if needed.
  • Even for experienced campers, it can be surprising how cold it gets at night so pack extra layers including waterproofs, jumpers, socks and gloves. 

3. Nature’s call: 

  • (Nearly!) everyone prefers toilets rather than nature poos where possible – so call in to a public toilet or café during your journey. 
  • Inevitably we all feel the call of nature occasionally, so you should bring a small trowel and carry out used loo roll and sanitary items in a secure bag. They take ages to decompose. 
  • Go to the toilet at least 30 metres away from buildings, lochs and streams. 
  • Always dig a hole to bury poo. No need to go mining – the depth of your hand is fine! 
  • For more details, see this excellent blog from Cairngorms National Park ranger Vicky Inglis.

4. Choose stoves, not fires

  • An open fire is very rarely responsible. Lighting fires can be an easy way to annoy locals, disturb wildlife and damage the environment.  
  • Dead wood is home to wee beasties and even purpose-built barbecues can spark wildfires.
  • Never light a fire on peaty ground, as fire can burn downwards and smoulder for days after you assume it’s out.
  • It’s far better to use stoves not fires. It’s easier, quicker and safer to cook food and boil water using stoves rather than fires. Plus, you’ll avoid stinking of stale smoke in the morning! 
  • Whatever type you choose, make sure to test your stove in advance as they can be a bit fiddly at first.

5. Leave no trace 

  • There won’t be bins, so pack bin bags to bring everything home with you, possibly including other litter you come across.  
  • Keep your group small and move on after two or three nights, in the spirit of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.  
  • Note local seasonal restrictions on camping in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park. If your chosen spot looks busy or over-used, walk a bit further. Luckily, Scotland has so many brilliant options! 

6. Finally, stay safe out there! 

  • Ask yourself the three Adventure Smart questions: Do you have the right gear? Do you  know what the weather will be like? Are you confident you’ve got the knowledge and skills for the day?
  • Plan your route using a map –  WalkHighlands has a lot of great routes, OS Maps will give you a good idea of the landscape and Open Cycling Map will help you discover more paths. 
  • Let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll get back.  
  • If it’s your first time wild camping, take it easy. Maybe try camping somewhere that’s not too remote and just go for one night. 
  • Remember you might not have a signal, so don’t rely on phones – though it’s great to have one switched off in your bag for emergencies. Map and compass skills are vital in the hills. 
  • While we don’t have to worry about bears or wolves, we have a few smaller animals to avoid  – not least midges and ticks, which are both more common in hotter months. Consider full body clothing, midge nets and wear insect repellent.   
  • Know when and how to call Mountain Rescue. If you are injured, badly lost or cannot get to safety, try to call 999. In areas with poor reception, it can be easier to text 999 but you must register in advance by texting ‘register’ to 999 and following the instructions. 
  • Download the OS Locate app before you go, so you’ll always know exactly where you are.

Have fun everyone! We’d love to see photos from your responsible wild camping adventures tagged with the #RespectProtectEnjoy hashtag.