What is semi-wild camping?

Wild camping in scotland

Semi-wild camping is ideal for testing yourself to decide if wild camping suits you. It is also an excellent opportunity to experience wilderness and explore areas you may not usually visit.

I love semi-wild camping as it has prepared us for wild camping plus, I was not sure if Nicholas would fully enjoy being immersed in wild camping from day one. So it was important to me to test before we took the plunge.

Semi-wild or rough camping is partial self-sufficient legal camping booked in advance on organized campsites, often providing toilets and freshwater facilities. The is no EHU, and pitches are secluded, with vehicles parked nearby.  There is no hiking with a rucksack to remote locations for the ultimate camping experience.

Wild camping is illegal in parts of the UK, and semi-wild camping is becoming very popular, with campsite sites popping up all over the UK. Semi-wild camping is a great way to experience nature without the stress of not being 100% sure where you will pitch your tent in a secluded area. Instead, you feel secure knowing that other campers are nearby, giving you space to enjoy your back to basic camping.

Semi-wild camping: What is it, facilities, is it for you?

Semi-wild toilet facilities

The semi-wild campsite provides you with the opportunity to book in advance. You can choose a campsite with toilets, but they are either eco-toilets or, as I call them, festival toilets. The campsite will provide the facilities to dispose of your waste if toilets are unavailable, so all you will need is a tent, bucket, portable toilet bag liners and air freshener.

Not all campsites will have freshwater facilities, so you must take plenty. When booking your site, check for local shops, as you do not want a carload of bottled water. I buy the 5Ltr fresh water and clean 2 Lt coke bottles filling up from home as I don’t want to waste time shopping.

If there are no water facilities on site, you must consider how you will keep yourself clean and any items you use. If you are only staying overnight, you don’t need to worry as much, as you can pack everything and take it home with you, so don’t stress over cleaning cutlery or plates as you would at home. However, it is essential to consider how to solve this problem if you stay longer.

We use a portable gas cooker to heat water for cleaning and keep a separate bowl for personal hygiene. If you are unsure how to stay clean without a shower block and do not want to spend a fortune, read our article on staying hygienic whilst camping. This will give you ideas on what you can do quickly and easily.

The main part of semi-wild camping is coping with the fluctuating weather elements, as there is no EHU. All you need is a few extra layers of clothing and a blanket to add warmth if your sleeping bag is insufficient. Temperatures will drop a night even if it is warm during the day. We have fleece jumpers that can easily be slipped on but are not too bulky to pack.

A fire pit is ideal for sitting around during the cooler evenings, but it is a great time to create those fantastic family memories. Check with the campsite first to ensure you can use a fire pit and a BBQ. Usually, you will be required to provide a fireproofing base to avoid damage to the grass. Cooking is simple, use your fire pit or a BBQ, charcoal or gas, and because you are not limited to space and carrying food, you can eat food the same as if you were on a typical full-facility campsite.

Because the only restrictions with semi-wild campsites are hygiene facilities, you can use your regular family tent and set your pitch up as usual. You have your car beside you; you do not need to worry about what you take with you. If you want to use a large family tent, go ahead, but if you are testing semi-wild camping ready for full wild camping, try to reduce and only take the bare minimum of items.

Semi wild campsite is not just for tents; they are also available for caravans and motorhomes. Using either will make semi-wild camping a lot easier as you will have the shower facility and toilets available in your caravan or vehicle. Plus, the protection against the natural elements during the cooler nights.

It is essential to be aware of the weather forecasts and check before your camping trip. I do not mean to scare you but being aware of potential thunderstorms during your camping trip will help to prepare you and keep everybody safe.

Understanding the location, potential dangers of your tent and why you should seek safety in your car is essential. Our article explains the risks of remaining in your tent, various types of lightning strikes and how they affect your safety.

What gear do you need for semi-wild camping?

You will have full access to your vehicle when semi-wild camping, so the only restriction you will have is how much you can get into your car and potentially having to pack additional facilities for showers and toilets.

Here is a list of typical camping gear people will take with them, as there are no restrictions on how much you can carry. Try to take as little as possible to experience semi-wild camping. Taking all of the mod cons with you will make your life easier, but camping is about returning to nature and enjoying as much of your surrounding environment as possible.

The gear you will need for semi-wild camping is:

  • Tent
  • Inflatable mattresses or camp beds
  • Sleeping bags, pillows and additional throws
  • Camping Chairs and table
  • Cooking facilities: BBQ and essential cooking equipment
  • Cooking utensils and cutlery
  • Blackout pop-up toilet and shower tent
  • A solar shower or a means to keep hygienic
  • Toilet – Potentially a bucket and portable toilet bags
  • Personal toiletries and clothing
  • Food and drink
  • Water carrier
  • Fun and for the evening
  • Car chargers for mobile phones or Ipads
  • Solar charging facilities, if needed
  • Groundsheet

If you do not have the gear for wild camping, you can save money on insect repellants using everyday homemade remedies from items in your standard cupboard and garden. Not only are these safe to use, but they do not harm the environment.

We take a portable solar shower for our wild and car camping trips. I have tried gravity showers in the past, as they fold easily. However, we have been testing Dr Prepare portable camping shower over the last year. It is a 15 L, either foot or rechargeable pump. It’s bulky to carry, but I clip it onto the outside of my rucksack rather than inside. You can heat water over a stove and place it inside, plus it has perfect shower pressure. We use it for our trips, but I use it in our back garden to clean boots and water our plants.

Read our article, where we have tested several solar showers, including gravity and pressurized showers. We were shocked that well-known brands such as Colemans were not worth the money you paid for them.

Suppose you do not want to buy a gravity solar shower, as it is bulky and time-consuming to heat the water sufficiently via natural resources. Another way to keep clean is using an anti-bacterial gel diluted with water, a Muc-Off foam cleanser, and many other ways. read our 13 Tips on how to keep clean without fresh water.

Semi-wild camping is advertised as wild camping

Semi-wild camping – Scotland

Semi-wild campsites advertise as wild camping experiences, so it is important to understand the difference. It is not wild camping if you have facilities and are in a field with other campers. Wild camping is remote camping where there is nobody else around, leaving no trace that you have been there.

Campsites are popping up everywhere, are easy to book in advance and very misleading when advertised as wild camping. Often overpriced for the lack of facilities but remember, you are paying for the privilege of camping in a field with other campers.

If you want to test partial wild camping before you go ahead with fully wild camping as we did, then yes, these campsites are for you. But if you want to experience full wild camping, do not book a site. Instead, if you want a family holiday, research full-facility campsites with play areas for children on-site, as this will make your holiday more enjoyable. Compare prices of both types of camping experiences before you book.

Campsites exploit the increase of people wanting to camp due to the Staycation holidays between 2020 and 2021. Although I understand why many people have converted their land into semi-wild campsites, everybody wants to earn additional income, especially after the financial shortfall that has affected people over the last few years.

Research and understand semi-wild camping locations

Semi-wild campsites are on farmland, overgrown fields, near beaches or lakes, but organized sites away from other campers. These locations are overgrown, allowing wilderness and wildlife to take hold to improve the experience of semi-wild camping. The amazing views at sunset and sunrise as you look out from your tent are amazing, especially if there are no other campers in your viewpoint.

It is important to research the campsite and read all reviews to understand the site fully. Often pictures can be very misleading, and you do not want to find you are camping in a field amongst run-down barns that will spoil your experience. Or the toilets are very unhygienic and not cleaned or emptied. Even when semi-wild camping, there are still expectations for hygiene.

Is semi-wild camping suitable for families?

Semi-wild camping is ideal for families with older children who love the great outdoors and provide your family with the ultimate camping experience.

Camping is about making the most of your natural environment, and campsites will be located near rivers, streams, forests or great hiking trails. I have downloaded the ‘All Trails’ app, which is free, and you can search for some great areas to hike during the day.

For late afternoon or evening, entertainment and camping with younger children take traditional outdoor games such as football, rounders, frisbees, and the whole family can have fun together. We search the local area for wild edible food using our ‘Forage for Food’ book. Although we do not always pick what we find, it is fun to identify edible foods and pass the time.

Why will semi-wild camping not be for you?

Semi-wild camping is not for everyone, and if you like your luxury, you will find it hard. Although semi-wild camping allows you to pitch an amazing comfortable tent with all of your normal camping gear, going to the toilet in a portaloo or using an eco-toilet is not always a great experience—especially in warm weather.

Plus, being unable to use electricity to recharge your everyday mod cons and only relying on your car to charge them, plus the lack of mobile service is not always ideal for some people. I am happy because I can keep my phone charged for emergencies only and take photos to create memories.

Dealing with creepy crawlies does need some getting used to. There will be no issues if you shut everything away, especially closing your tent door nets. Wear an insect repellent band or regular spray to stop being bitten are easy ways to avoid discomfort. Keep a bottle of antibacterial gel handy, as these are ideal for stopping itching if insects bite you.

It is harder for younger children than adults, as kids want to be busy and cannot always understand why they cannot play games online or watch their favourite programmes. So we take a rechargeable DVD player for colder nights, snuggle in our tent at night and watch a movie. But this is only for emergencies as it is more important to explore the area, and we are often too tired to stay up late. We normally want to get as much sleep as possible to be ready for the adventures the following day.

Semi-wild camping is legal across the UK because you camp on an organized campsite. You are paying the landowner to stay on their property. But you must respect the surrounding environment and abide by their rules.

However, wild camping is more remote, having an idea of where you will spend the night but nothing confirmed as you explore when you arrive. Wild camping is illegal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland but legal in Scotland. However, you can camp if you have authorization from the landowner first. If you do not seek permission, you can be prosecuted for trespassing.

Semi-wild camping food

Food for camping does not always have to be burgers and sausages, which after a few days, can become very boring. Before your trip, you can pre-cook food that only needs heating over a hot flame. Pre-cooking food before your trip can help organize your meals, keep costs low, and reduce stress.

  • Chilli con Carnie
  • Corn on the cob
  • Chicken kebabs prepped and seasons before your trip
  • Backed potatoes
  • Pizza – turn your BBQ into a pizza oven by sealing the base and lid with foil
  • Fajitas
  • Chicken lasagna – chargrill chicken in a tomato sauce, pasta sheets and small diced vegetables.
  • Scramble egg on toast
  • Banana with chocolate inside wrapped in foil
  • S’mores

We love to take food pouches as well as typical BBQ food. This allows us to test different food pouches for our wild camping days.


I'm a single parent who loves pitching a tent and exploring the countryside at any opportunity. I am working with a glamping pod company and helping them to set up a family campsite in East Riding Yorkshire.

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