In praise of wild camping, or why tents trump five star hotels every time

Top tips on camping out in the wild and reasons why you should ditch the dorm and give it a go

6 mins

I hate five star hotels. Actually, that’s not true at all. I love five star hotels. Actually, that’s not true at all.

I imagine that I would love five star hotels. As a professional vagabond you don’t get much experience of them.

But even when I become a millionaire I will still relish sleeping in my tent from time to time. Watching the sunset from a tent on a mountain top in Lesotho or waking in a meadow in Pakistan: the best views of my life have been ones that money cannot buy. Taking a tent on my travels has not only saved me many thousands of pounds in accommodation costs, it has also given me the freedom to reach more remote and wild places than I otherwise would have done.

For backpackers taking a tent is certainly a big decision: they are bulky and relatively heavy additions to your luggage. But the money it will save you and the spectacular places it will enable you to sleep ought to make a tent at least worthy of consideration. There are campsites with showers and other facilities across the world. But in this blog I am singing the praises of wild camping – sleeping out in the countryside far from the madding crowd (though naturally without breaking the law or trespassing!). No facilities, no people, no costs, no problem!

There are a range of very light tents available for one or two people, such as the MSR Carbon reflex or Terra Nova’s Laser Competition. There are also much cheaper, though less robust options such as the Decathlon Ferrino. This will pay for itself in hotel savings after just a few nights’ of use.

You could leave your tent at home, too

On short, summertime trips I leave the tent at home and pack a bivvy bag instead. A bivvy bag is like a waterproof outer layer for your sleeping bag. They’re not as homely as a tent, nor very nice in heavy rain. But they pack down to a small size and are great for stargazing as you doze off to sleep in a fragrant Tuscan olive grove or in a forest of giant redwood trees... In the morning you simply stand up, shove the bivvy bag and sleeping bag into your backpack, jump into a nearby river for a bracing wake-up wash, and then stroll into the nearest town to find a market stall selling breakfast and coffee. A sense of adventure, pristine nature, fabulous star-gazing, a five star view, and all for free.

But I have spent many nights wild camping without even a bivvy bag, snuggling down to sleep in just a sleeping bag on beaches, benches, hilltops and a host of memorable spots (including a swimming platform out in a bay, the terraces of a rugby stadium, a (clean) sewage pipe under a road, To really add to the adventure of your travels I urge you to give up the comfort of your five star hotel (or backpacker hostel!) for a few nights of your travels.

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