Top Tips for Wild Camping in the Lake District

Some friends and I joined up with a local guide to go wild camping in the Lake District. We knew it wasn’t technically legal (without permission from the land owner) but that hikers still did it, so we wanted to go with a guide to make sure we didn’t get into trouble. This is what I learnt…

Camping in the Lake District

You’re not allowed to go wild camping in the Lake District, unless you have specific permission from the landowner. Same rules for wild camping in the rest of England really (except for Dartmoor of course).

The Lake District National Park Authority says:

“As the National Park Authority we do not have the power to allow camping on private land and we do not permit camping on the small amount of land that we own. Camping in car parks or on roadside verges is not allowed at any time.”


So, err, it seems they don’t want you to do it. I’m not a Lake District local (living all the way down in Portsmouth) but, I have it on good authority, people do wild camp in the Lake District. In fact, if you search for terms on Instagram, you’ll find quite a few people at it.

Finding a good spot in the Lake District to camp

This ruling is a deterent to stop any old Tom, Dick or Harry turning up with their tent, fire and music, and ruining the vibe. Also, it is illegal, so you can get in trouble. But do it the right way, and with a guide, and of course, leave no trace, and you can enjoy a night or two in the wilderness of the Lakes.

I want to use everything I learned from the guides when we went, to help you be a more considerate wild camper in the Lake District.

Wild camping in the Lake District

Wild camping, simply put, is camping in a location not designated as an official campsite. In the Lake District National Park, certain regulations must be followed to ensure the preservation of the environment and respect for local communities.

making sure we have water

If you’re wild camping, you need to pack everything you could possibly need out there, and bring it all back again. There are no facilities!

Planning your wild camping trip

Before you set off for your trip to wild camp in the Lake District, you need plan your expedition. We were signed up for a wild camping trip with Dougie and Emma from Mammut Mountain School. Luckily for us, that meant they knew all the equipment we needed, and our plan, and we had to learn from them, and follow. It was great to know that at least one of us knew what we were doing.

Packing for wild camping in the Lake District

If you’re planning your trip, you need to think about the route, the terrain, the proximity to water sources, your equipment, comfy hiking shoes, any wildlife that could be around and appropriate clothing too.

Don’t forget to pack:

  • A sturdy tent
  • A sleeping bag
  • Self inflating mattress
  • Cooking utensils
  • Food and drink
  • A map and compass
  • Anything you need to minimise the environmental effect

Make sure to test all your equipment before you head out!

A lesson I should’ve learned when I went wild camping in the Outer Hebrides, but always need reminding of.

Our trip had been planned a good few weeks in advance, by people in the know. But still, you need to look at the weather before you set out, especially if you’re planning on wild camping for a few days. Sudden rain showers and cold nights are common in the Lake District. We just went for the night, and two full days.

That felt enough.

looking out over the views

Mostly, because, about a week before we set off (while I was on holiday in Cornwall), I found out I was pregnant. I had a lot to think about on that hike. Wild camping in the Lake District when I’d never done it before was not something I imagined doing at about six weeks into pregnancy, but, hey ho, let’s go!

Finding your perfect spot

You should definitely make a loose plan before you leave the house, or at least your car. It’s good to know how far you can expect to go in a day, so you can leave some energy in reserves to get you home again.

Views across the Lake District

There are an infinite amount of places to wild camp in the Lake District, from popular sites with stunning views to secluded spots off the beaten path. While it’s tempting to seek out the most picturesque locations, it’s essential to respect local communities and landowners’ rights. Always follow Leave No Trace principles and leave your campsite as you found it.

It’s best to camp high, so no one can see you, and so if it does rain, you don’t wake up in some sort of muddy quagmire. The National Trust has some great advice on wild camping rules for the Lake District.

Heart pool in the Lake District

We were headed to this beautiful spot, near the heart shaped pool on top of the mountain. It was the first week of June, a beautiful day, and we didn’t see another soul apart from our group.

The Lakes are amazing!

The wild camping experience

Once you’ve found your perfect spot and set up camp, immerse yourself in the beauty of the nature surrounding you. I was pretty pooped by the time we got there, given the 8 hours I think it was, of hiking. And everything running through my mind with the new life I was currently carrying!

Helen setting up our tent

We got our camping stoves out and cooked dinner. These packets of camping food which turned out to be pretty disgusting. Others seemed to enjoy them. I was glad I bought a Tesco wrap with me!

I showed willing for a few bites of the camp food, and gave up. It was fun cooking them though!

When it comes to meals, pack lightweight, nutritious food options that are easy to prepare in a wilderness setting. Whether cooking over a campfire or using a portable stove, practice proper safety precautions and adhere to Leave No Trace cooking principles. Remember to properly dispose of waste and clean up after yourself to minimise your environmental impact. Personally, I think for one night you’ll be fine with a packed lunch from home. This spaceman food was probably a little OTT, but always good to try new foods.

cooking while wild camping

Don’t bring a disposable BBQ – they’re banned for a reason. They’re actually trying to stop the sale of them across the Lake District. You do NOT want to be the person that sets fire to the hills of the Lakes!

After dinner darkness was coming pretty quickly so we all got ready for bed – us three women in one tent for warmth – and snuggled down in our sleeping bags.

Lake District camp out

I slept well!

Toilets at the wild camp

Well, there are no luxury facilities – that’s for sure!

If you need a wee, just go behind a rock, or wherever you feel comfortable. Just don’t do it near a water stream, other hikers and campers like to drink that.

If you need a poo, well, you have two choices. Either scoop it up in a compostable bag and carry it around with you like a doggy poo, or, bring a shit shovel and bury it deep on the mountain.

Thankfully I did not need to go for a poo, and saved it until the trip was over. The benefits of a one night wild camping trip hey?!

Packing up your wild camp

One of the main reasons wild camping in the Lake District is tolerated even though it’s illegal is because, no one should really know you’re doing it, or that you’ve done it. You don’t need to take music, or leave any sort of debris that would even show you were there.

packing up wild camping

Take care to leave your campsite as you found it.

Another rule of wild camping is to put your tent up late, and take it down early. Remember, you need to be as discreet as possible.

Wild camp in the Lake District

wild camping lakes

Wild camping in the Lake District offers a unique opportunity to connect with nature on a deeper level, immersing yourself in the incredible landscapes and serene wilderness. By following the guidelines outlined in this comprehensive guide and embracing the principles of responsible camping, you can enjoy sleeping in this beautiful area of the UK for years to come.

This wild camping trip in the Lake District is one of the best UK adventure weekends I’ve been on. It was so much fun to do it with friends, and so good to know we had the skill and knowledge of Dougie at Mammut Mountain School.

Would love to do it again one day – maybe with my son next time!

Wild swimming in the Lake District

And what better way to celebrate wild camping in the Lake District, than following up with some wild swimming?

My friend Sabina made this great video about our wild swim spot in the Lake District. I’m glad she left out the bit where we did it naked though!

And if you need a luxury place in the Lake District with a hot tub for after, check out my list!

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