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Be a considerate camper and do the right thing

By John Davidson

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More and more of us are taking to the outdoors to enjoy the beauty of nature and the chance to escape to wonderful and wild places. However, after widely reported problems of 'dirty camping' across the north, Neil Reid of Mountaineering Scotland looks at how you can be a 'considerate camper'

Considerate camping means leaving no trace – whether that's by the roadside or high up in the mountains. Picture: Neil Reid/Mountaineering Scotland
Considerate camping means leaving no trace – whether that's by the roadside or high up in the mountains. Picture: Neil Reid/Mountaineering Scotland

Other than a temporary flattening of the grass, there should never be any sign when you pack up your tent that you’ve ever camped somewhere.

Leaving no trace is a mantra of pride for some campers – and should be for everyone.

And while everyone was aghast at the amount of ‘dirty camping’ last summer, the new buzz term is ‘considerate camping’.

It means what it says. Whether we’re camping while climbing mountains or just heading to the countryside to chill, we should aim to leave the site as clean as – or cleaner than – we found it, and also to make sure we’ve caused no disturbance while we were there.

Whether you’re wild camping in a remote glen or mountain top, or set up camp near the roadside, the same cardinal rules apply – and they start with picking a spot for your tent.

You’re looking for a piece of dry, flat ground without too many hard lumps to disturb your sleep – and near a supply of fresh water, unless you’ve brought your own.

But especially if you’re camping beside the road, be aware that while one tent might have a very low impact, the more tents – and cars – the greater the effect on the environment around you, no matter how careful you are as an individual. So if someone is already camped there when you arrive, move on to a quieter spot, where in any case you’ll see more nature and fewer tents.

Once you have your tent up you might want to brew up a cuppa or cook a meal. Traditionally, that might mean campfire time, but the truth of the matter is that you’ll get your cuppa or meal a lot quicker, more safely and with a lot less fuss with a modern camping stove.

Apart from being smoky, fiddly and slow, fires can often be against the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (SOAC) depending on where you are and what the fire risk is. They tend to leave unsightly scars too, spoiling the pitch for others – or for yourself if you go back there.

Toileting is something else which comes with a reality check. On a campsite you just wander over to the toilet block, but when wild or roadside camping you don’t have that luxury.

Considerate camping. Picture: Neil Reid/Mountaineering Scotland
Considerate camping. Picture: Neil Reid/Mountaineering Scotland

Apart from finding somewhere out of sight and well away from streams or rivers (you’re seeing the wisdom of avoiding crowded areas now!), you should carry a trowel to properly bury your poo, or a bag to take it home with you for proper disposal.

And, of course, the biggie, when it’s time to head for home, is to take EVERYTHING with you.

Unless you’re a seasoned camper it’s likely you’ll have produced more rubbish than you’d ever have guessed: food wrappers, uneaten food, bottles, paper, plastic and even broken pieces of equipment that didn’t stand up to the rigours of camping. It all has to go home, and you can make life easier for yourself by planning for that in advance.

Make sure you have a bag or a bin to collect and carry rubbish. It’s a good idea, too, to prepare in case you have to take your tent down in the rain – take a poly bag or something you can bundle wet stuff in until you can get it home and dry it all out.

Considerate camping isn’t complicated, it’s just a case of doing everything right. And as well as making sure you’ll always be welcome back, it means you have the best time too. So let’s do it.

For further information on considerate camping go to www.mountaineering.scot/camping

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