10 Things about Wild Camping that Social Media doesn’t tell you
Imagine you are driving on a picturesque country trail and discover a breathtakingly beautiful beach along the roadside. No one else is to be seen far and wide. You set up camp and start a fire. After a perfectly nourishing dinner, you fall asleep to the lullaby of the waves and wake up to an unrivaled sunrise in absolute serenity.
Isn’t that exactly how you imagine a perfect camping trip after seeing all these incredible photos and videos on Social Media?
Sure, such a scenario may happen occasionally but I guarantee you that not every camping trip is as romantically perfect as you may imagine.
That is why I have put together a list of ten points about camping that are rarely talked about on Social Media.
1. Not every campsite is easily accessible.
The road to that perfect beach will not always be tarred. If it is, you won’t be alone. There are plenty of photos on Social Media showing you an old Volkswagen Bulli that is standing next to a perfect beach and no other car or person is nowhere near. But don’t be fooled by such photos. Of course, you’ll find one or two lonely beaches in Australia that look like this but those are the exception.
Be prepared to drive bumpy rugged roads to find serene campsites in nature. However, saying that, it is extremely important to know your vehicle and its limitations. An adorable Volkswagen Bulli looks amazing on photos but will it make it all the way? Most likely not. Getting stuck in mud or sand just because you overestimate your abilities or those of your car is anything but fun. Digging your car out while it gets increasingly dark is stressful and tiring.
2. It’s not always easy to find a camping spot
No matter if you sleep in a tent, in a camper van, or a rooftop tent, you will need to find a suitable camping spot. However, all three options have inherent challenges when it comes to finding a spot in the evening. With a camper van, you won’t be able to drive on soft sand or muddy trails to arrive at those perfectly secluded places with no one else in sight. Tent camping asks for a more or less even surface, with grass or soft sand usually being easier to sleep on than rocks. It’s anything but easy to find these conditions, especially when time is running out as night is approaching. With a rooftop tent atop a four-wheel-drive you usually have the best chances to sleep on a thick mattress without pebbles painfully making their way between your ribs. But you will also need to find an even area in order to sleep comfortably.
Aside from all of that, beautiful campsites often tend to be crowded. In Estonia, we sometimes checked out four different spots and searched for more than one hour before settling down for the night. In Costa Rica, we had trouble finding a place to camp as a lot of land is private and fenced (which is why we put together this Costa Rica Camping Guide). In Australia, wilderness camping is not always welcome. In New Zealand, it is completely forbidden.
If you are planning to wilderness camp, try to start searching in the early afternoon as it will get increasingly stressful to find something after dark.
3. Campsites can be crowded.
Despite it being called wilderness camping, lack of privacy is not completely uncommon when camping. Depending on the area you are in, there might only be a number of suitable spots in all that wilderness. Expect to be close to other campers on the most popular campsites. Some spots are so tightly packed, you will hear other campers snoring. Also, a single group of celebrating campers can quickly turn an otherwise tranquil surrounding into a loud party.
4. Expect groups of loud and drunk people with music until 3 am
We have experienced ignorant and unthoughtful people all over the world, even in the most remote places. Of course, these people want to have a good time, but so do you. Try to make the best of it. These groups are something you need to expect at all times - our tip: bring earplugs and noise-canceling headphones, and set up your camp as far away as you can.
5. Wild camping isn’t always safe.
Lonely places have a strong appeal but always be mindful of potential hazards. Lonely also means that no one will be able to help you if something goes wrong. Imagine you get stuck with your car and can’t dig yourself out, somebody from your party encounters sudden health problems, a wild animal attacks you, crazy, drunk or drugged people harass you, you are mugged - you name it. These things can happen, if you’re unlucky, even in the safest country on earth.
Just keep them in mind and prepare yourself as best as you can. For example, always carry an emergency beacon when you venture into remote areas. Do first-aid training and carry a first-aid kit at all times. Accumulate as much knowledge about car recovery as possible. Be familiar with the local emergency numbers, and light a campfire to warn wild animals that you’re around.
6. You and all of your things will get dirty
Camping isn’t for everybody. A lot of people aren’t aware of the fact that your clothes and things won’t stay nice and shiny when camping as you won’t be able to wash them most of the time. Be prepared for your cute dress to get soiled and for your tent to be sandy. That’s the fun of it! You can wear your expensive shoes when you’re home again, just enjoy nature while having sand in your hair.
7. Hygiene won’t be your number one priority.
Remember that perfectly styled Instagram model waking up with flowing hair in her tent? Yeah, that's not happening. Wilderness camping means embracing the hygiene standards of a caveman. No running water, a bucket to shower, and lack of toilets are standard in the bush.
Digging a cathole of 20cm as a preparation for doing your business isn’t something everybody is capable of, as well as using ice-cold lake or river water to do your catlick in the morning. Not being able to shower for a long time is part of the journey. You’ll have to embrace it. Prepare yourself to not be able to retain your hygiene standards from home while wild camping.
8. Mosquitos, bugs, and horse flies are super annoying.
Almost nothing is more annoying than the buzzing sound of biting insects when you simply want to enjoy time in nature. We had countless flies harassing us in Australia, aggressive mosquitoes attacking us in the Okavango Delta, and obnoxious horse flies biting through jeans in Estonia. Oh, and we shouldn’t forget those nasty sandflies in New Zealand.
Of course, insects are an important part of nature just as mammals and birds. They are still an almost universally disliked part. Wearing long clothes usually helps a lot, although it can be unpleasant in hot climates. Using the local insect repellent is another way to handle the nuisance.
9. Rain 24/7? Expect leaky tents and wet bedding.
A rainy day can always happen, especially if you’re traveling for longer periods. But what about days over days of heavy rain and storm? Your bedding gets damp, your clothes are damp and nothing ever seems to dry.
This happened to us while traveling in Costa Rica and Australia. However, there is always a way to enjoy your vacation! It’s a well-kept secret of ours: Just roll with it! One morning, we had such crazy rain, that our cooking pots filled with water within minutes. But instead of feeling miserable and getting soaked putting down the tent (without a possibility to get our clothes dry again), we just stripped naked, packed it up, and showered in the rain - and honestly - this is one of my favorite memories! We laughed so much, our bellies started to hurt!
Sometimes, everything seems to go wrong, so it can be a relief to just let go.
10. You simply don’t like camping.
It’s quite clear - wild camping isn’t for everybody. Dirty clothes, limited hygiene, bad sleep due to humid heat or relentless cold, loud animals, being exposed to everything and everybody, no make-up, no iced soy lattes, no toilet. You just have to be the type of person for such a kind of vacation. If it’s not your thing, don’t worry - there are plenty of other options!
What is left to say is
- don’t overly romanticize wild camping. Social Media shows you just one side of the coin. But there’s a mundane and much more uncomfortable side too! So if you are new to camping, be sure to try it on a short trip first. If you come to like it, great! You just found a new way to spend your holidays close to nature.
We greatly enjoy wild camping, and despite the occasional suffering, for us, it’s more than worth it.