Wild Camping Guide for Motorhomes

We’ve all been there. You’ve purchased your first motorhome and now you’re daydreaming about future excursions. You’re dreaming up routes into the wilderness, imagining pitching up and relaxing amidst nature as the sun sets behind sprawling hillsides. You might even spend time looking up the best campsites around. However, for many people, the dream of owning a motorhome is to venture out and try your hand at wild camping.

We love campsites. The convenience of an electric hook-up, the added bonus of on-site facilities like hot showers and site shops. However, we also love striking out into the countryside with nothing more than our motorhome and our gear, looking for a place to pitch up amidst the peace and tranquillity of nature.

In this guide we’re discussing all things wild camping in your motorhome. By the end of this guide you’ll know where it is legal to wild camp, how to find the best spots as well as the etiquette you should follow to keep spots pleasant for other wild campers. So if you’re interested in wild camping in your motorhome, then read our guide today.

What is wild camping in a motorhome?

Wild camping for motorhomes is essentially the act of taking your motorhome out into the wilderness and pitching up in a location that is not a designated campsite. That means you’re staying somewhere without access to facilities, like waste disposal, running water, or electrical hook-ups.

Wild camping is a great option for anyone after the adventure of being out in the middle of nature, without the comforts that a campsite will bring. Wild campers love the peace, quiet, and solitude that you get from finding a place to stay that is away from other campers. You can find a location that best suits your needs, allowing you to perfectly curate your trip, moving from one secluded spot to the next.

But, wild camping also comes with a number of difficulties, from finding a good location to making sure you’re nicely equipped for the trip.

Is wild camping with a motorhome legal in the UK?

First up, let’s address the elephant in the room. Technically, wild camping in a motorhome is not legal. However, it is also not illegal. Wild camping is a civil, as opposed to a criminal, offence, so if you do go wild camping it is very unlikely that you will be arrested or get a criminal record.

In most cases, as long as you are camping discreetly, you will be left alone to camp in peace.

However, it’s worth bearing in mind that most of the land in the UK is owned by someone. And you do not have the right of access onto their land without permission. This means that if a landowner asks you to move on, you should do so right away.

The best way to wild camp with a motorhome is to head somewhere nice and remote, like spots in the Lake District, Peak District, Yorkshire, Wales, and Scotland. In areas such as these, landowners are more used to wild campers, so may tolerate it more.

In summary, wild camping is not technically legal, however, most landowners won’t mind you doing it, as long as you don’t block their view, make lots of noise, or cause damage to the land. It’s also worth avoiding camping anywhere where you spot a ‘no camping overnight’ sign!

This moves us nicely onto the next part of our guide…

Wild camping etiquette

If you are going to head out and do some wild camping, it’s worth understanding the unwritten rules that may help you along the way. Here are some useful tips on wild camping etiquette that you should know before you venture out:

  1. Leave no trace: Make sure that you take good care to be as respectful to the environment and wildlife as possible. That means leaving no litter, avoiding lighting fires, and leaving the land as you found it.
  2. Be respectful: Remember, if you’re wild camping in the UK, you’re most likely staying on someone’s property. That means you should be respectful to the landowner. If they ask you to move on, you should do so without hesitation. You should also avoid outstaying your welcome - a few nights in one spot is usually enough.
  3. Dispose of waste water properly: Wastewater needs to be carefully disposed of. Do not simply pour it down someone’s drain. This means that before you set off, you should make sure your toilet is empty, so you don’t arrive somewhere and realise you have waste water to dispose of! You should always find nearby campsites with official waste-disposal spots where you can get rid of your black and grey waste.
  4. Respect people’s privacy: It is always wise, when finding a spot to wild camp, to stay away from people’s homes. It’s often a good idea to camp up on high ground, away from settlements to avoid intruding on others.

Wild camping essentials

If you’re heading off to try your hand at wild camping, then you’ll want to make sure you have all the wild camping essentials. That’s why we’ve put together this list of things that you should take with you on every wild camping trip!

  • Motorhome safety kit: You should always have one of these in your motorhome, regardless of whether you’re going wild camping or heading to an official campsite. These kits should contain a fire blanket, fire extinguisher, smoke alarm, and a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Roadside emergency kit: Up next is another essential that you should have on board at all times. This kit will contain a number of items for use in an emergency on the road. This includes a first aid kit, warning triangle, a basic toolkit with automobile tools, and a bulb kit.
  • Tyre repair kit: If you’re heading out into the wilderness then you want to ensure that you’re prepared for all eventualities. Regardless of whether your motorhome has a spare tyre or not, you should always have a tyre repair kit with you and fully understand how to use it, just in case!
  • Mud mats: If you’re camping in a nice official campsite, then the pitches are likely to be nice and flat and secure. However, if you’re off wild camping, you’ll want to bring mud mats with you, so you don’t get stuck in the mud in the middle of nowhere.
  • Head torch: Head torches are a must for wild camping. It can get pretty dark at night out in the middle of nowhere, so you’ll need to make sure you can see if you’re popping outside.
  • Sat nav and maps: If you are making your way out into the deepest reaches of the British countryside, then you’ll want to be able to navigate your way around. That’s why a good quality sat nav is extremely helpful. Preferably one that works well when you’re in places of poor signal. And, it’s always a good idea to have a decent set of maps as a possible back up, should you need them!
  • Solar panels: These are a great option for your off-grid power needs. They allow you to charge your leisure battery during daylight hours for unlimited power. You should consider adding multiple panels for increased power capacity.
  • Full gas bottles: If you’re heading out into the sticks then you want to be sure that your gas bottles are nice and full. If your motorhome relies on gas for cooking and heating then you’ll want to ensure you’ve got enough gas on board to last the whole trip. It’s always worth carrying a spare bottle.
  • Cleaning supplies: When wild camping, it’s vital that you leave no trace. That’s why it’s always a good idea to have bin bags and other relevant cleaning supplies on board to help you clean up after yourselves before you set off.

How long does a leisure battery last off-grid?

Most motorhomes come equipped with two batteries. They will have a standard battery, which is responsible for powering the engine, and a leisure battery, which runs all of the appliances in the motorhome.

Leisure batteries provide these appliances with a steady flow of power over a long period of time. If you go to an official campsite, you’ll usually be able to make use of an eclectic hook-up to power your appliances, thus saving the power in your leisure battery.

However, when off-grid and wild camping, you’ll need to rely on your leisure battery for power. Therefore it’s vital that your leisure battery is in good condition and is fully charged before you set off.

It is also a good idea to ensure that any chargeable items are fully charged before you go, so you don’t needlessly waste your leisure battery’s power charging them up. This includes any laptops, phones, and WiFi dongles.

When out on your adventures, if you know you’re not going to be able to charge your leisure battery, you should be more cautious when using appliances and lighting. Choose to use minimal lights and only use appliances when you need them, switching them off when not in use, to save power!

Different brands of leisure battery will last different lengths of time without charging. So it is also well worth finding out exactly how long your battery will last during your trip before it requires a charge!

If you’re considering going off-grid regularly you could consider paying to install solar panels to your motorhome to keep your appliances powered up whilst you’re wild camping.

Checks to carry out before setting off

When venturing out into the wilderness, you’ll want to ensure that your motorhome is in tip top condition. Prior to driving, you should conduct a thorough inspection of your motorhome for any signs of visible damage and be sure that all equipment and belongings are securely locked, strapped, and fastened in place.

It’s also a good idea to inspect the tyre pressure to ensure optimal performance. If tyres are worn, it's advisable to stick to paved roads and avoid muddy terrain to maintain traction and safety. However, when wild camping, this may not be an option. Therefore, if your tyres are worn, it’s time to replace them!

Make sure you check your fluid levels before setting off too as replacements may be in short supply when camping in the middle of nowhere. This includes the oil, coolant, transmission fluid, and windshield washer fluid.

Best places to go wild camping in the UK

You’ve read all about wild camping and you’re ready to hit the road! But where are you going to go? There are lots of great wild camping opportunities across the UK, so be sure to do your research and see which areas appeal to you. We thought we’d recommend a few places that might be worth a visit…

The Lake District

Lake District is England’s largest National Park, spanning over 2,300 square kilometres and boasts breathtaking views of expansive lakes, rugged mountains, and lush valleys.

The sheer size and scope of the Lake District means that wild campers can find hidden nooks and crannies tucked away from prying eyes where they can pitch up for the night. The vast array of hidden, remote locations make it a wild camper’s dream, offering lovely spots for peaceful relaxation.

Good spots for wild camping in the Lake District include the lakes of Windermere and Ullswater, which are both breathtaking areas of natural beauty.

Yorkshire

Yorkshire is awash with marvellous countryside, and is home to both the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the North York Moors National Park. That means you really are spoiled for choice when it comes to wild camping spots.

Load up the motorhome and explore this gorgeous county at your own pace, taking in the scenery along the way. We particularly like Lake Semerwater, Runswick Bay, and Whernside - one of the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks!

The Scottish Highlands

The Scottish Highlands really is the pinnacle for dramatic landscapes in the UK. Rugged mountains and eerie glens combine with windswept beaches and picturesque bays to create a perfect spot for your next adventure.

When wild camping in the Highlands you can really feel as if you have left civilization behind. With miles and miles of twisting roads winding through the mountains, there are numerous spots to stop and pitch up and if you fancy heading to sea, the Orkney Islands and the Isle of Skye are both outstanding for wild camping.

Northumberland National Park

No list of wild camping spots in the UK is complete without the striking beauty of Northumberland National Park. The National Park offers a lot of variety and is home to the spectacular Cheviot Hills, the historic Hadrian’s Wall, North Tyne and Coquetsdale.

Northumberland National Park is also home to England’s darkest skies, making it an ideal destination for wild campers who are looking to enjoy some stargazing at night.

Smartphone apps for wild camping in the UK

There are some really handy smartphone apps that you may wish to download to help you when planning your trip. Some of our favourite apps are below.

Park4Night

The perfect wild camping smartphone app, Park4Night allows you to discover over 140,000 free camper stay options, spanning from basic car parks to picturesque landscapes.

Benefit from community reviews and photos for many locations, helping you identify quality spots, whilst steering clear of less desirable locations.

The app allows you to view all potential stopovers on a live map for effortless navigation and decision-making. You can even upgrade for offline functionality, ensuring usability in remote areas beyond the reach of phone signals.

iPhone app.
Android app.

Uncover Britain Road Trips

This fantastic mobile-optimised website (not an actual app) offers two subscription tiers, granting members access to a wealth of road trip routes across the UK.

The basic tier grants free access to numerous routes, complete with a mix of experience and activity suggestions for you to try out.

If you opt for the full membership, you will unlock a load more road trip options, accompanied by comprehensive destination guides, route maps, and supplementary maps.

The overnight stay maps meticulously chart a diverse array of lodging options along each route, streamlining the search process and saving valuable time. From traditional campsites to pub stops and designated overnight spots, the selections cater to various preferences, including 'almost' wild spots on private land with proper permissions.

WikiCamps UK

Not so much for wild camping, but ideal for travelling to campsites, WikiCamps UK allows you to easily locate camping spots either on the go or in advance, thanks to its comprehensive map of sites. Boasting the largest database of campsites, day stops, and hostels in the UK, it ensures you have access to extensive options before setting off!

Each listing includes detailed information on facilities, accompanied by photos (including customer uploads), reviews, and pricing details for informed decision-making.

With customisable filters, you can refine your search based on specific preferences like pet-friendliness, availability of amenities like toilets and showers, electricity, and more.

Save your favourite spots to a "Favourites" list for quick access and plan your journey by marking desired stops along your route, easily shareable with friends. This versatile tool functions offline, ensuring accessibility even in remote locations.

iPhone app.
Android app.

Outdooractive

Once you’ve decided where you’re going to stay, this app can help you plan some hiking and walking routes that allow you to see the surrounding scenery.

Effortlessly explore, plan, and monitor your hiking routes during your camping adventures with Outdooractive (formerly ViewRanger) and access route guides from leading outdoor brands, official tourism organisations, national parks, seasoned travel writers, and a global community of millions of adventurers.

The app also allows you to gain valuable insights and details about tracks to enhance your expedition planning. You can even enjoy offline functionality, eliminating reliance on mobile signal for uninterrupted usage even in remote areas.

iPhone app.
Android app.

Contact Us