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Wild Camping in Scotland: What NOT to do

Posted on May 05, 2015 by Alex Kendall

When camping, things do not always go as smoothly as they could.

Alex Kendall, one of our Wilderness Guides has (luckily for us) endured a variety of horrible wild camping Scotland experiences.

Thanks to these, he is now able to ensure we don’t do the same and so shares his Wild Camping in Scotland: What NOT to do tips.

Wild Camping in Scotland: What NOT to do

1. Do not get lured in by nice flat places right next to streams.

That gentle bubbling brook you thought looked so nice in the sunshine may well, after a bit of rain uphill, turn into a torrent.

It’s the law of the hills that this will happen at 2am, and you’ll wake to find the nice flat patch flooded and that you’re sharing your tent with several crayfish and a few hundred litres of water. This does happen. Look at the height of the stream – if it’s nearly overflowing anyway that’s a good sign to find somewhere a bit higher or further away.

Also watch out for reservoirs that form part of hydroelectric schemes. I once camped next to one only to wake and find the water had risen by five metres, silently, in the night. It was now very close to the tent.

VIDEO – Watch a truly inspiring immersion in the wilds of Assynt in Scotland’s far north west as a group explore by canoe.

Wild Camping in Scotland: What NOT to do

2. Do not camp on cols.

Cols are those flat-ish lower points between peaks.

They provide great relief from the rocky heights, but can also funnel wind. It may not seem so bad when you set up your tent, but after several hours of roaring gales keeps you awake it won’t seem so nice, as happened to me once near Ben Cruachan on the west coast of Scotland.

Cols can also be boggy so it may be worth descending on either side into the valleys, which can provide better protection from the wind.

If you’re a beginner to wild camping then this is where to start.

3. Do not assume all tents are created equal.

They’re not. I have seen a tent from a well-known supermarket literally get ripped to pieces and all the poles broken in what was only moderate wind.

The last thing you want if you’re away for a few days is nothing but a shredded once-waterproof sheet to wrap round yourself after this happens. You may look like a bad-ass but will probably just be cold and close to suffocation. Have a look around and ask for recommendations.

And no, the tent you have always used for car-camping may not survive gusts in the Cairngorms!

The Ultimate Wild Camping Articles

  1. A Beginner’s Guide to Wild Camping in Scotland
  2. FILM: Assynt – An Immersion in Wilderness
  3. How to Pack Like a Pro When Camping
  4. The Best Places to Camp in the Highlands
  5. How to Bike and Camp in the Wild


4. Do not forget that you have to carry everything.

Wild camping comes with a lot of extra kit to carry.

Your tent, sleeping bag, mat, cooking equipment, more food and sleeping bag liners can all add up. The one thing you really do have control over is the food; this sounds obvious but don’t take tins, cans, glass jars, or anything that doesn’t crumple down. Yes I do know people that have carried cans of soup on camping trips, and no that 500 gram block of cheese you thought was a great idea two days ago is not looking so great now. Remember you also have to carry your litter!

Also, trying to be ultra-light is fine but sort your priorities out; there’s little point cutting your toothbrush in half to save weight when you’ve crammed in that hardback of War and Peace you’re not going to touch other than on the train.

How to pack your camping kit like a pro.

Wild Camping in Scotland: What NOT to do

5. Do not plan everything!

Wild camping is about the experience of being self-sufficient, of taking the path as it comes and discovering new places.

You cannot and should not try to plan exact camp-sites beforehand. Give yourself a rough area, but it’s very hard to tell a good camp-site until you arrive. The above rules can sometimes be ignored. If you’re on a dry col and the weather forecast is great and you know there’s going to be a stunning view of the Western Isles when you wake up, then go for it.

People that stick to too many rules and try to pinpoint exactly where their ‘wild’ camp-sites will be in advance are probably terribly boring. See what happens. But don’t carry tins of soup.

Watch our epic video of canoeing and camping in Assynt.

Guided Wild Camping Trips in Scotland

If you’re still not sure you’re ready to brave the wilderness alone, why not try one of our canoeing or sea kayaking expedition trips that include wilderness camping, and let our expert guides show you the ropes. Our trips take wild camping to another level with freshly baked bread, great menus, cosy communal teepees and the most secluded of locations, to prove we do the best wild camping tours you can checkout reviews here.

On one of our guided wild camping adventure holidays you can explore the beauty of the River Spey by canoe, paddle in the crystal waters on our Summer Isles sea kayaking holiday, camp on isolated beaches on a canoeing adventure in the North West Highlands and so much more!

About the author

Alex Kendall

Mountain running fanatic, Alex has adventured all over the planet.

Read more articles by Alex | View Alex's Profile

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