So you’re thinking of heading out on your first wild camping adventure? Well, you’re in for a treat! In September, I returned from my first wild camping trip, where I spent nine nights road-tripping and wild camping around Scotland, covering everywhere from Glencoe and the Isle of Skye, to the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond. It was one of the best adventures of my life.
But no matter where you’re heading, you’re bound to have a great time, so long as you’re properly prepared and ready to face the elements! The last thing you want is to begin setting up camp to realise you’ve left something at the bottom of the mountain (or wherever else you’re pitching!). You don’t want to be that person. If you want your first wild camping trip to go as smoothly as possible, you cannot leave home without these 29 wild camping essentials.
So a good place to start your wild camping kit list is with a backpacking pack. 65l is about the right size you’ll want if you’re going on a longer multi-day wild camping adventure. However, if you’re just doing an overnight camp, a 45l pack will be fine. Always go as light as you can – your back will thank you later! Osprey is my favourite backpack brand and although cheaper options are available, I’d recommend investing in a good quality pack as it’s going to be carrying all your main wild camping essentials. Brownie points if you opt for a sustainable backpack!
So this one’s a bit of a given. You need something to sleep in, right? But it’s important to invest in a tent that isn’t going to take you ten years to put up and take down. It’s also vital to remain as anonymous as possible while wild camping, so keep your tent small and simple so it blends in with your surroundings. Like your pack, there’s no specific tent you need to buy, so long as it’s under 3kg and easy to carry! If you really want to take this wild camping business seriously, invest in one of the best backpacking tents.
3. Bivvy bag
This is definitely a just-in-case item on this list of wild camping essentials. You can go without this if you’re wild camping for just one night in summer in good conditions. But it may be worth considering one otherwise. In short, bivvy bags provide heat retention and thermal insulation when needed in emergency situations for survival. Additionally, they are pretty multi-functional and can also be used as a sleeping bag, picnic mat or poncho against the winter cold.
4. Sleeping bag
A sleeping bag is another item you don’t want to skimp on. The last thing you want is to not be able to sleep because of the cold. When choosing your sleeping bag, look at the temperature ratings. I have the Berghaus Intrepid 1000, a super lightweight 3-season sleeping bag with high-powered insulation.
This is one of these wild camping essentials you can skimp on or invest a lot of money in, depending on how good a sleeper you are and how cold it’s going to be. I use (and love!) Antur’s camping mat but treat yourself to a Therm-a-Rest if your budget allows it or if you’re wild camping in winter. It delivers unrivalled comfort and warmth for minimal weight!
You’ll also want an inflatable pillow. My favourite is this cheap and cheerful pillow that inflates in just a matter of seconds. It packs super small so you’ll barely even notice it in your backpack. Ergonomically designed for superior neck and back support, this is one essential you don’t want to leave off your wild camping packing list.
If you want a hot brew or to cook up a feast once you’ve pitched your tent (if you’ve climbed a mountain, I can guarantee you’ll be desperate for some hot food!), you’ll want a Jetboil carbon portable stove. Although a little pricey, these will be one of your wild camping essentials for years. This revolutionary new cooking system allows top-notch cooking on the hilltop with a really fast boil. Plus, my friend Kate and I were surprised by just how long one gas cartridge lasted.
If you’re wild camping in relatively mild or warm temperatures, a lightweight down jacket is all you’ll need to keep you warm. Mine is the Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket and it was absolutely perfect for our wild camping trip. I even slept in it! And the best part is that it packs into a compact stuff sack, making it great for travel. If you’re going wild camping in winter, this is a completely different territory and you’ll need to bring warmer clothes. But always remember to layer up so you can strip off easily, rather than wearing one thick jacket!
Next, you’ll need a waterproof to protect you from the elements. And if you’re going wild camping in Scotland like me, the elements will sure give you an experience not to forget! Of course, the best waterproof jacket you can buy will be made from Gore-Tex with fabric technology that provides full waterproof protection. It’s also incredibly lightweight and packable too. I bring mine with me even if I know it’s not going to rain – it makes for a great windbreaker!
No matter what time of year you’re wild camping, you’ll always want some good quality baselayers. You’ll be surprised by just how cold it can get during the night while wild camping – even in the summer months! Add a thermal top and thermal leggings to your wild camping checklist and you’ll be gravy. They provide lightweight insulation and comfort all-year-round and are even great just as a single layer during the warmer months.
There’s not much to say for a beanie and gloves other than the fact that your wild camping packing list is incomplete without them! Again, no matter what time of year you go wild camping, your ears and hands will inevitably get cold so you best do all you can to keep them toasty.
12. Flip flops
Anyone who has gone on a multi-day trek will know that after a good couple of days your feet cry out for some fresh air. Hiking boots are great but if you bring some flip flops with you to air out your feet, I can promise you’ll be the envy of everyone else. You’re going to inevitably be doing a ton of exercise on your wild camping trip so look after your feet. They’ve gotta get you back down to your car, after all.
Next up, one of my favourite wild camping essentials is a trusty headtorch. Perfect for night hikes, seeing in your tent at night, or popping out for a midnight wee, a headtorch will inevitably get you out of many sticky situations. Just make sure you bring some spare batteries along with you too. You really don’t need your headtorch dying on you!
14. Power bank
Please don’t leave home without including a power bank in your wild camping kit list. If you’re anything like me, you’re pretty reliant on your phone, and if anything goes wrong on your wild camping trip, you’ll want to be able to contact the emergency services ASAP. Your phone dying is the last thing you need. You can also use the power bank to charge any other electrical items that charge using a USB too. Even better, buy a solar-charger so you know that it will never die on you!
15. Food supplies
Now onto the good stuff: the food! And I assure you, you’ll thank me later when you’ve packed a good feast in your backpack. My go-to while wild camping is dehydrated food which I think is surprisingly good. They’re packed full of energy to keep you going even when you think you can’t go anymore. Just add hot water, seal the bag and wait to rehydrate – it’s as easy as that! And of course, be sure to pack plenty of snacks too.
If you’re just cooking dehydrated food you won’t need to bring pots and pans as you just need to add boiling water. But if you want to cook a larger feast, you’ll need some pots and pans. However, I’d steer clear of these wherever possible, because they take up a lot of space. You’ll always need cutlery though so don’t forget that!
17. Foldable cups
I’m personally not a hot drink drinker so I don’t need these (yes, I’m the worst Brit ever). But if you drink tea and/or coffee, some foldable cups will come in handy. Their collapsible design helps save space in your backpack so you don’t need to worry about these being heavy or taking up too much space.
18. Cleaning sponge
Any old cleaning sponge will do so you can probably just find one in your house! But if you haven’t already got a cleaning sponge to hand, you’ll want to add one to your wild camping checklist. You can use these to clean your pans and cutlery. While you can’t do a proper clean (because you need to avoid introducing any cleaning products into the land/water source), some water will do the trick until you can wash them properly.
19. Microfibre towel
It’s no surprise that camping can be wet and muddy, especially when the weather isn’t on your side. Microfibre towels pack small, weigh practically nothing and come in handy in a whole host of situations. They come in a small case and dry up to 10 times faster than traditional cotton towels so you don’t have to worry about lugging around wet, stinking towels.
20. Dry bag
A dry bag needs to be added to your list of wild camping essentials! These handy bags keep your valuables and tech protected from rain, snow, dirt, dust, and any other sources of moisture that you may encounter on your hike or while camping. They are lightweight, durable and come in a range of different sizes, depending on what you need.
While you may feel like you’re roughing it while wild camping, you’re likely to want to bring some toiletries along with you. A small washbag is perfect for bringing along a toothbrush, toothpaste, hand sanitiser and anything else.
22. First aid kit
Better safe than sorry, right? This one’s self-explanatory but bringing a full first aid kit along with you on your adventure may just save yours or a loved one’s life. Ideally, buy one that packs small so it doesn’t take up too much space.
23. Water bottle
One of my favourite eco-friendly travel products is my trusty S’well bottle that’s been with me through thick and thin over the years. These reusable vacuum insulated bottles are designed to keep beverages cold for 24 hours or hot for 12. You may even need to bring a couple along with you. Water is one of the most important wild camping essentials to take – please don’t leave home without a healthy supply with you!
While a water bottle is important, there’s only so much water you can carry on your back. So a water filter is a great backup. This all-in-one device doubles up as both a reusable water bottle and a really powerful water filtration device. The ridiculously clever system reduces chlorine, bad taste and odour, and also removes bacteria and parasites (including Salmonella, E-coli, Giardia) and chemicals. No clean water? No problem! Just head down to the nearest river or water source.
25. Wet wipes
Wet wipes will become your go-to for a quick camping ‘shower’ to freshen up. For an eco-friendly camping trip, make sure your wet wipes are biodegradable and made from bamboo fibre.
Regardless of whether you’re wild camping in summer or winter, suncream is a must-have all year round. You always need to protect your skin from the sun (yes, even on cloudy days!) so lather up to protect yourself from the sun’s harsh rays. To save space in your pack, buy a travel-sized suncream.
If like me, you plan on wild camping anywhere near the Scottish Highlands, you are bound to make an enemy in these little midges. Don’t let these annoying little things ruin your trip. I’ve heard many a story of midges ruining a wild camping trip so don’t let that happen to you too. The best way to ward off midges is with midge repellant. I also found a best friend in midge repellant bracelets too – the ultimate wild camping fashion accessory! Both are great for warding off mosquitos too if they are the bug you are more likely to encounter.
28. Map and compass
Now a map and compass aren’t always necessary, depending on where you’re wild camping, but if you’re doing a particularly challenging hike, you won’t want to leave home without these in your wild camping kit list. This compass comes complete with full instructions so if you don’t already know how to use one, why not use this as a good opportunity to learn?
29. Walking poles
Quite like my last recommendation, walking poles aren’t always essential. But if you’re doing a particularly challenging hike, anti-shock, absorbing walking poles will strongly reduce damage from the impact force.
So there you have it: the ultimate wild camping checklist! If you want your first wild camping experience to be a breeze, please don’t forget to pack these 29 items. However, the more you wild camp in different conditions, you’ll quickly learn what it is you personally need and don’t need. These recommendations are just a guideline!
Investing in the right equipment will majorly help you in the long run so don’t underestimate what you need. Better safe than sorry, right? Just make sure everything you pack is super light, where possible. Is there anything I’ve missed off this wild camping kit list? Please let me know in the comments below!