What safety precautions are necessary for coastal camping in the UK?

As the lure of the great outdoors continues to entice hikers, nature enthusiasts, and travellers alike, it's essential to discuss safety precautions highlighting the essential elements of wild camping, specifically around the coastal areas of the UK. With the crashing waves of the sea as background music and the stunning coastal vistas as your view, it's easy to understand why many choose to camp near the water. However, to ensure the best experience, let's dive into the safety aspects you should consider before setting up your tent in these magnificent landscapes.

Choosing the Right Camping Gear

The first step towards a successful camping trip involves selecting the appropriate camping gear. From your sleeping bag to the tent and cooking equipment, what you pack can significantly influence your experience.

Sleeping Bag and Tent

When you're planning to sleep under the stars, your sleeping bag and tent will serve as your primary shelter. Choose a sleeping bag rated for the lowest temperature you might encounter, ensuring it has synthetic insulation which dries quickly if it gets wet.

Your tent should be sturdy, waterproof and designed to withstand strong winds. A dome-shaped tent is best for coastal camping as it's aerodynamic form can resist wind better than other styles. Make sure to pack a repair kit for any unexpected damage.

Cooking and Fire Equipment

The thrill of cooking meals over a fire is a highlight of any camping trip, but it's crucial to remember that coastal areas can be windy, making starting a fire challenging. Investing in a windproof camping stove can be a lifesaver.

Also, always check the local regulations about open fires in your chosen camping area. Some locations, particularly in Scotland and other national parks, have strict rules about where you can and cannot light a fire.

Selecting the Best Camping Location

Selecting the perfect camping spot is more than just finding a location with a great view. It's about understanding the lay of the land, considering the impact of the weather, and ensuring that you're not disturbing local wildlife or damaging the environment.

Understanding the Land

Look for a flat area to set up your tent, but don't choose a spot that's too close to cliffs or the water's edge. The land around cliffs can be unstable, and you don't want to find yourself unexpectedly sliding towards the sea during the night.

Weather Considerations

In coastal areas, the weather can change rapidly. Always check the forecast ahead of time and be prepared for wind, rain and even chilly night temperatures. If the forecast predicts bad weather, it might be best to delay your trip.

Leaving No Trace

One of the fundamental principles of wild camping is to leave no trace. Dispose of your waste properly, don't disturb local wildlife, and avoid damaging vegetation when you're setting up your camp.

Water Safety

Water safety is paramount when camping near the coast. Not only do you need to think about safe drinking water, but you also have to consider the risks associated with swimming or boating activities.

Drinking Water

It's essential always to have access to safe drinking water. Pack enough bottled water for your entire trip, or invest in a water purification system if you plan to source water from streams or lakes.

Swimming and Boating

It can be incredibly tempting to take a dip in the sea or go for a boat ride when you're camping near the coast. However, always consider the potential risks. The sea can change quickly, and currents can be strong. Never swim alone and always wear a life jacket when boating.

Timing Your Trip

Lastly, the time of year and the duration of your camping trip can also impact your safety.

Time of Year

In the UK, the best time for camping is typically between April and October. It's also worth considering that some areas may be busier during school holidays and public holidays.

Duration of Your Trip

Wild camping is generally considered acceptable for one or two nights in one place. Staying longer than this can increase your impact on the environment and may also lead to issues with landowners if you're on private property.

In conclusion, coastal camping can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, but it's essential to put safety first. With the right gear, a suitable location, careful consideration of water safety, and by timing your trip well, you're set for a memorable adventure in the great outdoors.

Act Responsibly and Respect the Environment

The beauty of the outdoors is a shared commodity, and as such, wild campers should act responsibly to sustain the natural environment for future generations. This involves adhering to outdoor access codes and being mindful of your actions and their possible impact on nature and the local community.

Outdoor Access Code

In the UK, particularly in Scotland and Northern Ireland, there are outdoor access codes that guide people on the responsible use of the outdoors. For instance, the Scottish Outdoor Access Code encourages respect for the interests of other people, care for the environment, and responsibility for your own actions. It's a good idea to familiarize yourself with these guidelines before embarking on your camping trip.

Respect for Nature and Local Community

When camping near the coast, be mindful of the local wildlife and plant life. Don't pitch your tent in areas where it may disrupt animals or damage plant life. Keep noise levels down to avoid disturbing wildlife and other campers.

Respecting the local community involves avoiding camping on private land without permission. Many coastal areas are part of national parks like the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park and have specific regulations for camping. Always check these rules and follow them diligently.

Essential Camping Equipment

Aside from the regular camping gear, there are a few additional items that are crucial when camping near the coast. These include a comfortable sleeping mat, a bivvy bag for additional warmth, and a tide timetable for safety.

Sleeping Mat and Bivvy Bag

A good quality sleeping mat not only provides comfort but also adds an extra layer of insulation between you and the ground. This can be particularly useful for coastal camping, where temperatures can drop significantly at night. A bivvy bag is a waterproof cover for a sleeping bag, an invaluable asset when camping in the UK where weather conditions can change quickly.

Tide Timetable

When camping near the coast, it's also important to have a tide timetable. This will help you avoid pitching your tent in an area that could potentially become submerged at high tide. To get a tide timetable, you can check online or contact the nearest coastal guard station.


The allure of wild camping in the UK, especially in the coastal areas, is undeniable. The breathtaking views of the coastline, the soothing sounds of the waves, and the unique experience of being one with nature are second to none. However, it's crucial to remember that safety and responsibility should always be at the forefront of any camping trip. From choosing the right gear, picking an appropriate and safe camping spot, understanding water safety, to respecting the nature and local community, every decision made contributes to not just a successful trip but also to the preservation of these beautiful landscapes for future generations. So, before you pack your tent and sleeping bag, remember to arm yourself with the necessary information and the right mindset. Happy camping!