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What's what in camping?

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 establishes a statutory right of access to land for recreational purposes, with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code including wild camping as an activity coming under these access rights.  SOAC also describes the responsibilities and best practice guidance that should be followed when exercising your right to camp wild, for example not camping in enclosed fields of crops or farm animals.

Camping can be an adventure and is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, but newcomers to camping may be confused by different names for styles of camping, with the term 'wild camping' often used to refer to any form of camping outside an organised campsite. For clarity, we have split camping outwith a campsite into two categories: 'wild camping' and 'roadside camping'.

Wild camping is usually done well away from roads and buildings, is lightweight, done in small numbers and only for a few nights at most in any one place.

Wild camping has a more adventurous ring to it than roadside camping or staying on a campsite, and for many it is the only true form of camping. 

More about wild camping


Roadside camping is not usually considered wild camping, although it does take place and is lawful.  Following our considerate camping guide below to reduce the impact from informal roadside camping.

More about roadside camping

Wild camping photo by Alistair Young.

How to be a considerate camper

With a bit of planning and thought, camping responsibly should leave your camping place so the next person would not even know you have been there!

Be a considerate camper and think about the following:

  • Litter - bag it and take it home
  • Going to the loo - how to deal with human waste
  • Drinking water - how to locate a suitable source
  • Fires - whether a fire is appropriate

You can share your photos of considerate camping with us using the hashtags #ConsiderateCamping and #TakItHame

  • Keep our environment clean and safe by taking all rubbish home. Check the camp site before you go and leave it as if you had never been there Ė how you would like it to be as you arrive.
  • Consider using reusable containers rather than disposable, single-use packaging for food and drink, where possible.
  • If tents and kit are wet as you break camp, bundle them up in a large bag and take them home to dry them out. Never leave your camping kit behind.
  • If picking up litter left by other people, do it safely and be COVID aware. Please bear in mind health and hygiene and only pick up rubbish that you feel safe and comfortable collecting.

#TakItHame is our anti-littering campaign. Our message is simple - if we donít pick up our litter, who will?

Find out more about #TakItHame

Considerate camping: before and after. Photo by Debbie Parker.

  • Donít be casual about going to the loo outdoors Ė do it well away (50m) from water sources, buildings and camping areas.  
  • Be prepared for it - bring a trowel so waste and used toilet paper can be buried, and a bag for used paper and sanitary items. 
  • Wet wipes donít break down easily and need to be bagged and taken out, not buried or left behind.
  • It may not be possible to dig a hole for waste, especially high in the hills, so be prepared to double bag it and take it away for disposal later.
  • If caught short, use common sense and scrape a shallow pit to use, well away from water paths and shelter. You can use moss instead of tissue. Cover it over with soil, leaves, sticks and place a stone on top, if possible.
  • Personal hygiene is important so wash or sanitise your hands thoroughly afterwards. 
  • Consider a portable camping toilet if camping close to your car.

More about outdoor toileting

  • It is advisable to take a few litres of drinking water with you as clean water may not easily be found in places, particularly when roadside camping.
  • Take water from a flowing stream rather than still water and avoid water sources which are obviously muddied or where there is a lot of livestock.
  • Don't draw water from below where someone has been washing themselves or their cooking pans. Do your cleaning downstream of the camping sites.
  • If in doubt, boil the water before drinking or use sterilising tablets, solutions or filters.
  • Be aware of water-borne infections and their symptoms. Seek treatment if you observe them. 

Camping stoves cook food quickly, efficiently and cleanly and are to be preferred to campfires.  A stove is light, easy to pack away and carry.  Make sure you have spare fuel with you.

Camping stoves donít cause environmental damage whereas camp fires can easily scorch the ground and damage grass, heather and trees, sometimes leading to wildfires that burn woods and hillsides, especially in dry weather.

  • Never light an open fire during prolonged dry periods or in areas such as forests, woods, farmland or on peaty ground. Peaty soils can retain the heat undetected and flare up again later.
  • If a camp fire is appropriate then keep it small and under control and pick a spot on a hard ground like rocks or sand that wonít leave scorch marks.  Lighting and managing a campfire responsibly is a skill and takes some expertise.
  • Bring your own fuel if intending to have a campfire Ė deadwood may be in short supply if camping away from woodlands.  Avoid using up all the deadwood as it is important for woodland wildlife.
  • Make sure a campfire is properly extinguished and remove all traces of an open fire before you leave.

More about campfires

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