Camping, snow camping and campfires

Camping, or even sleeping out under the stars (or ‘bivvying’) is a fantastic way of enjoying the great outdoors. Whether you are with your young family in a forest, or on a high altitude expedition with friends, sleeping outside or under canvas, really immerses you in your environment. Whether you are camping on a recognised site, or wild camping in the hills, there are a few simple guidelines to ensure that your trip has minimal impact on the environment.

  • Protect the plants where you camp by not pitching your tent or lying your sleeping mat on delicate vegetation, and not digging trenches around your tent.
  • Protect water bodies and life within them by ensuring that you camp a least 100 paces away from water. Wash well away from any water courses to allow the grey water to filter through the soil.  Be mindful that detergents, toothpaste and soap all harm fish and other aquatic life, so do not allow them to enter watercourses.
  • Take your litter home with you. Remember that rubbish can be harmful to wildlife or habitats as it degrades.
  • Use a camping stove for cooking as it has far less impact than building a campfire. If you do have a campfire, follow all signs relating to restrictions on fire use.  It is always better to use an existing fire ring or a fire pan, or to build a mound fire. Take steps to ensure that the fire cannot spread and destroy local habitats, such as clearing the surrounding area of flammable objects.  Pour water (not soil) onto a fire once you have finished until the ashes and embers are wet and cold to touch.  Do not cut down standing, live trees for a fire, use only dead, fallen wood.  Remember that this wood too provides habitats for species so minimise your impact by collecting the smaller diameter wood. Use only what you need for cooking or warmth and be mindful of the ability of the surrounding area to regenerate the timber. Take only what the area can sustainably replace, and remember that trees regenerate much more slowly in alpine, higher elevation areas.  Remember to put hot pots onto solid surfaces such as rocks – vegetation can easily be damaged by hot temperatures.
  • When wild camping, use either a portable latrine or bury your waste in a hole 15cm deep and at least 100 paces from a water course or path. Cover over the hole once you have used it. Alternatively, be prepared to carry your waste home with you.
  • Washing your gear after a camping trip will help reduce the spread of invasive species.

For guidance on camping and fires, visit the BMC Guide to the Uplands HERE.

If you are camping on snow when snow mountaineering, there are a few guidelines for reducing your impact on the environment:

  • Choose a camp site well away from regular ski trails and outside alpine resorts. Ensure your site is well protected from prevailing winds and likely storms. Be especially careful of slopes that are prone to avalanches.
  • Camp within easy skiing distance of a toilet if possible so that you can properly dispose of waste.  If not, take your waste home with you.
  • When you have finished at your campsite, demolish any snow walls or shelters you have built, fill in areas when you have quarried snow blocks, remove rubbish and minimise other signs of your visit.
  • Always use a fuel stove when snow camping. Compared with fires, fuel stoves are faster, cleaner and a lot easier to use in winter. A fire built on the snow or a log raft will burn down and damage sensitive alpine vegetation.