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A Beginner’s Guide to Wild Camping Equipment

A Beginner’s Guide to Wild Camping Equipment

Before embarking on your first wild camping trip, you’ll no doubt have questions about the equipment you need. The information out there is overwhelming and when you start asking for advice from seasoned wild-campers or researching the information yourself, it can suddenly feel daunting and appear more expensive than it needs to be. 

Knowing which equipment to buy is often the hard part with so many products and brands out there to choose from but remember, what works for someone else, might not work for you and choosing ultralight equipment might not be what you actually need either. It’s a good idea to consider your own needs before diving headfirst into buying expensive equipment.

As part of my Beginner’s Journey into Wild Camping series, I’ve broken down information on choosing the most important camping equipment into easy bite size chunks for you as well as popping on some links for the equipment that I’ve bought myself after doing A LOT of research. There’s even a wild camping equipment checklist for you at the end to help you when packing.

What equipment do I need to go wild camping? A basic checklist of essential items.

  • Tent
  • Sleeping mat
  • Sleeping bag
  • Water (or a filtration system)
  • A stove, food, cutlery 
  • Headtorch
  • First aid kit (because you just never know)
  • Warm clothes (the temperature drops rapidly in the mountains at night)
  • A way of burying or removing human waste
  • Navigation techniques - map and compass, Ordnance Survey Map App or similar (Komoot, AllTrails)
  • A rucksack large enough to carry it all

And now some non-essentials but items that you should definitely consider and which might make your wild camp that bit more enjoyable and comfortable;

  • An inflatable pillow
  • Slip-on camp shoes (Crocs seem to be all the rage again lately!)
  • A lantern for your tent
  • Evening entertainment especially if solo - my choice is a Kindle so I can read
  • Ear plugs
  • Sunscreen/insect repellent (depending on the time of year)
  • Personal wash kit/toiletries

Ultimately, a good water tight tent, a warm sleeping bag and a comfortable sleeping mat, some food, water and a light are all you really need but naturally, taking additional items will probably make the experience more enjoyable overall.

How to choose a tent for wild camping

Ideally, you want to choose a lightweight tent (since you’re going to be carrying it around with you) that packs down quite small so that you have more space in your rucksack for everything else. It’s a good idea to find a tent that weighs no more than 2-2.5kg when packed down. 

Next, since wild camping should be a low key affair, try to stick to a 2-man or smaller so that the tent is harder to spot. 

The style of tent you want is up to you and personal preferences - there are different shapes and designs and it’s always worth going into a shop to look at them and talk to the experts. I like a 2 man tent so that I have more space and for mine, I put the outer shell up first so that if it’s raining I don’t have to worry about the inner section getting wet. 

Other aspects to look out for;

  • Waterproofing - check the HH (hydrostatic head) rating. A tent of around 2000 HH is ideal for our weather in the UK but if you think you’re going to be out in bad weather frequently then look for a rating of 3000 HH. 
  • Season - if you’re going to be a fair weather camper then a season 1 or 2 tent is fine. A 3 season tent is perfect for the UK and our mix of weather whereas 4 and 5 season tents are for more extreme conditions

I have a Vango Nova 200 2-man tent. It’s about 7 or 8 years old now but still does the job. It gets great reviews and is within the recommended kit list for the Duke of Edinburgh award too. It’s nice and affordable so it's perfect for beginners if you don’t want to spend a fortune on a tent. Check it out here;


Vango wild camping tent


How to choose a sleeping bag for wild camping

A warm, comfy sleeping bag when paired with a suitable sleeping mat can be make or break between having a good night's sleep and getting no sleep at all.Sleeping bags are rated by seasons and in the warmer summer months a 1-2 season sleeping bag will do the trick but in winter, a 3-4 season sleeping bag will keep you much warmer. 

What to look out for when choosing a sleeping bag;

  • Temperature ratings - a sleeping bag will have an upper and lower temperature limit clearly displayed. The upper limit is the maximum temperature where you’ll be comfortable, the comfort temp is the temperature where you’ll be comfortable sleeping in that temperature and the kinit and extreme temperatures are considered the lowest temperatures where you should use the sleeping bag (you’re unlikely to be comfortable or get much sleep however)
  • Season ratings - just like the tents, sleeping bags are rated by seasons too. A 2 or 3 season sleeping bag should be a minimum for spring and summer camps.
  • Sleeping bag filling - to keep it simple, you can choose either synthetic or down (feathers). Down filling is much warmer and they pack down much smaller but lose their capability when wet. Synthetic fill is cheaper but they don’t pack down as small. 
  • Sleeping bag shape - there are so many different shapes out there. I like the snug mummy shaped sleeping bags but they can be restrictive if you move around a lot. This is all down to personal preference. 

I have a Vango Ultralite Pro 300, a 3-4 season, synthetic fill sleeping bag with a comfort rating of -1 celcius. It packs down relatively small and it’s lightweight at 1.4kg as well as having an extra layer of insulation with an elasticated thread on the inner part to pull the bag in closer to you if it’s cold. Check it out here;


Wild camping sleeping bag


How to choose a sleeping pad for wild camping

Sleeping pads will provide extra cushioning and insulation and act as a protective layer between you and the cold ground to help you get a much better sleep in your tent. There’s plenty of choice out there so here’s some of the main factors to consider;

  • Air pads - these are inflatable and some have inflating bags attached to them so you don’t have to use your breath or you can buy mini pumps like this one. There is a huge variety of air pads out there from ultra lightweight to extra-thick ones. They are compact and comfortable but are often a bit more expensive. 
  • Self-inflating pads - these inflate by opening the valve so that air is brought into the pad automatically. They are comfortable and more durable than air pads however they aren’t quite as compact. 
  • Closed cell foam camping mats - these are basic foam filled mats which fold up, are lightweight, inexpensive and offer great insulation. The main drawbacks to this style of pad is that they aren’t as comfortable and are quite bulky. 

I have the OEX Flux 5.0 sleeping mat which inflates using a bag to trap air and then force it into the mat. It only takes a couple of minutes to inflate and has been designed to provide warmth in lower temperatures. It is lightweight, weighing only 500g, and packs down into a small case. It has an R-rating (find out more on the R-rating below) of 3 meaning it can be used most of the year but not in temperatures below freezing. Check it out here;


Wild camping sleeping pad


What is an R-Rating on sleeping pads? 

Since the main job of a sleeping pad is to protect you from the cold ground, their capability of doing this is shown in their R-rating. An R-rating shows you how well a sleeping pad resists the cold and depending on the thickness and insulation of the pad, the R-rating will differ between sleeping pads. In simple terms;

  • The higher an R-rating, the greater it will protect you from the cold ground
  • R-rating for sleeping pads vary between 1-7 for backpackers and wild camping
  • For summer wild camping look for an R-rating of 1-3
  • For most of the year, a 3-5 R-rating will see you through
  • For winter, an R-rating of 5+ is ideal
Wild camping stoves

A small stove that packs away is quick and convenient to boil water and cook food. As a minimum, you’ll need a gas burner stove, a gas canister, a pot, mug and obviously some food. Dehydrated meals are often the easiest but if you want to go full chef mode on the mountain then go for it. You’ll probably just need to adjust the cooking equipment you buy to suit your needs. 

There are a whole world of options out there for a cooking system; a separate stove, gas burner and cooking pots, one that packs away into itself with a pot that just attaches to the stove and gas, some are ultralight, some have lightning fast boiling speeds. What you buy will ultimately depend on your needs and budget. 

When I reached out to the good people of Instagram for some advice, I was hounded by people telling me to buy one of three stoves; the Jetboil Flash 2.0 with its fast boiling speed and packable capabilities (the gas even fits inside the cooking pot) the lightweight MSR Pocket Rocket 2 which can simmer your boiling water and a pressure regulator which means it can maintain a steady flame. 

In the end, I went to GoOutdoors to ask someone for advice. After deciding I wasn’t going to be camping in terrible weather and didn’t really need anything too fancy for now, I went with the OEX Herio stove set. It is perfect for one person with its 600ml pot as well as having an insulator sleeve so you don’t burn yourself holding the pot, it’s lightweight at only 370g, has a boil time of 2 mins and all packs down into the pot, including with the gas canister. In the end I decided it was very similar to the Jetboil Flash but much much cheaper. Check it out here;


OEX wild camping stove



Water filtration system for wild camping

You’re going to need water when you’re wild camping; be it for cooking, boiling or drinking. If you’re just wild camping for one night then you’ll most likely be able to carry what you need but water can get heavy to carry so if you’re doing long distance treks with wild camping, you’re more than likely going to need some kind of water filtration system to clean and purify the wild water you come across. 

Drinking water directly from the source can cause some issues (bugs, parasites etc) and water filters work by effectively pushing dirty water through a filter which cleans, sterilises it and gets rid of most of the bad stuff that might be lingering. 

Water filters can be expensive and there’s lots of great technology on the market. Some of them even pack down small enough to fit into your jacket pocket much like the Katadyn BeFree and the filters are often at the top of the bottle so it filters as you drink it. Other options such as the Sawyer Mini and the Lifestraw Peak get excellent reviews and make it really easy to access clean water. 

After extensive research, I finally decided on the Katadyn BeFree and so far I love it. It squashes down to a really small size when not full and you can either drink straight through the mouthpiece or squeeze it out into another bottle. It’s simple to clean the filter by swishing it in clean water and can be used 1000 times before it needs replacing. 

Check it out here;


Wild camping water filter Katadyn befree


Wild Camping rucksacks

You’re probably going to have a lot of stuff so you’ll need to make sure your rucksack is large enough to fit it all in. The size you’ll need will depend on the equipment you have and how much space it will take up as well as any extras you want to carry. I’ve seen some people say they multi-day wild camp successfully with a 40 litre rucksack or less, and other people saying they take a 70 litre one. 

I decided to buy an Osprey Renn 65 litre rucksack in the end simply because I know I’m someone who will definitely be taking more than I need on a wild camp and because I couldn’t afford to buy all the ultralight equipment that packs down tiny tiny. There’s a lot of space in it when everything is packed away and with my long term goals being to do some multi day, long distance treks, I decided that a larger one was right for me. 

Check out the backpack here;


Osprey Renn 65l rucksack for women


Osprey backpacks have ALWAYS been my favourite along with Mammut. They can be expensive but they have designs specifically for women that sit higher on the hips, have adjustable fits for different torso sizes and are so much more comfortable. This one also had multiple compartments, an emergency whistle built in and an easy to access waist pocket too. 

My best advice is to buy the rucksack after you’ve got the equipment you want. You’ll then have a better idea of the size you need and you could even take your equipment into a shop to check it all fits and try it on when it’s fully packed. I did that exact thing in GoOutdoors and it really helped me make a decision on which rucksack to buy in the end. 


I really hope this was helpful and gives you a better idea of the type of equipment you will need for wild camping. Next, I’ll be sharing how to prepare and plan your first wild camp by choosing a location then a run-down on how my first wild camp in almost 8 years went! 

Here's a bonus wild camping equipment checklist to help you pack!

For additional UK outdoor adventures, wild swimming, hiking routes and more, check my other blog posts here on MY URBAN TRAIL and follow me @Wild_0utdoors on Instagram.

Happy camping!

Izzy x