Wild Camping vs campsite camping: Pros and cons

I love wild camping and family camping. Both offer memorable experiences. However, before embarking on wild camping, I compared the pros and cons of both wild and family camping, including budgets.

Both types of camping have different requirements. Wild camping is for shorter periods and requires limited lightweight gear, location planning, food, weather conditions and local laws. Where are family campsites required to book a pitch on an established site for longer holidays. You take more gear for comfort, larger bulkier tents and often create a home away from home.

Choosing your camping style: Decoding wild camping vs campsite camping

Wild and campsite camping are two different approaches to enjoying the great outdoors. Both approaches offer unique opportunities to explore the outdoors and connect with nature, catering to different preferences and comfort levels.

Wild camping is becoming more popular. So don’t be surprised if you find an ideal location and find other wild campers there. If you find a remote spot, keep it to yourself.

What is wild Camping?

Wild camping offers a unique experience of immersing yourself in remote and untouched locations, far away from other campers and the hustle and bustle of daily life. Ideal spots are often found in woodlands, mountains, or along coastlines  Providing a sense of isolation and a deep connection with nature. It’s a chance to disconnect from technology and enjoy the privacy, peace, and tranquillity that wild camping offers.

When embarking on a wild camping adventure, it’s typically done individually, with just a backpack carrying the essentials for a couple of days or a single night. Every item you bring must be carefully chosen for its functionality and weight, as you’ll need to trek off the beaten track to find your perfect camping spot.

Being a responsible wild camper means being aware of your surroundings and adhering to the rules of wild camping. One of the most crucial principles is to leave no trace, ensuring that you leave the natural environment exactly as you found it. Additionally, setting up your camp at least 60 meters away from main public routes is recommended, ensuring minimal disruption to others.

While wild camping is generally prohibited in many areas of the UK, there are specific regions where it is allowed. For example, in Scotland, you can go wild camping if you avoid camping on private property. Dartmoor and Snowdonia also have designated areas where wild camping is permitted, but it’s important to research and understand the regulations of each location beforehand.

There are restrictions on wild camping in Scotland, although there is more freedom. Byelaws have been introduced to restrict not just wild campers but campervans and caravans from March to September within national parks. You can be fined up to £500 if you do not obey the rules. For more information, read our article for a full breakdown of areas, the number of days you can park and how to get a permit to wil camp during these months.

What are family campsites?

Campsite camping provides a structured camping experience where you are assigned a designated pitch area. There are different types of campsites available to suit various preferences. You can choose from small popup campsites, larger commercialised campsites with additional amenities like swimming pools and games areas, or cosy family-run campsites.

These campsites offer convenient onsite facilities such as toilets, shower blocks, washing-up areas, and designated waste disposal areas for campervans or caravans. They aim to provide all the necessary amenities to make your camping experience comfortable and convenient.

Campsite camping is suitable for families and often offers a safe environment for children to play and explore. These campsites strike a balance between enjoying nature and utilising the available amenities.

Located in scenic areas, however, you are close to other campers. They are often near shops for any necessary supplies. 

The main camping season at these campsites typically runs from April to late October, and they may not allow tent camping during colder seasons.

Choosing a campsite allows you to have a planned and structured camping experience with access to necessary facilities and the opportunity to connect with other campers in a family-friendly environment.

Freedom and Solitude: Pros of wild camping

Pros of wild camping

Many people see wild camping as fun and a great adventure, which can be if you understand that you need preparation and be responsible.  However, it is important to understand the pros and cons. Consider both sides, and it will help you to make an informed decision and plan your trip. 

Wild camping is a great experience and allows you to connect with nature. But it is not always a bed of roses; it can often take some time to find the ideal spot, and the weather can change just like that, especially if you plan wild camping on a mountain.

  • Immersive nature experience – Wild camping allows you to connect with nature, immersing yourself in remote and untouched locations, offering peace, solitude, and breathtaking natural beauty.
  • Freedom and privacy – Unlike campsite camping, wild camping allows you to choose your camping spot and enjoy complete privacy. You can escape the crowds and enjoy a sense of isolation in the wilderness. Nothing is better than waking up in the morning to an amazing view. Knowing nobody is there, whether from the top of a mountain to the side of a lake.
  • Adventure and exploration – Wild camping opens up opportunities for adventure and exploration. You can discover hidden gems, remote trails, and unspoiled landscapes that are off the beaten track—often finding areas that seem untouched by others.
  • Cost-effective – Wild camping is a budget-friendly option requiring no camping fees. You can save money on campsite fees and spend more on equipment or exploring other attractions.
  • Flexibility – With wild camping, you can camp wherever and whenever you choose, allowing you to adapt your plans based on weather conditions or personal preferences. You can pack up and go on a whim if the weather looks great. Or you can cancel without worrying about losing money on campsite fees.

Cons of wild camping

  • Legal restrictions – Wild camping has restrictions. It is generally not legal in many areas of the UK, except in specific regions like Scotland, Dartmoor, or Snowdonia You can only wild camp under certain conditions. Researching and understanding the regulations before embarking on a wild camping trip is crucial. Otherwise, you will have an early wake-up call from a park ranger if you are pitched in a national forestry area. If this happens, pack up and leave; don’t argue.
  • Lack of facilities – Wild camping does not have any facilities. You are totally on your own. It is not like campsites. You need to be self-sufficient and carry your own water, food, and other essentials. Your foldable shovel will become your best friend. However, it is much easier for men than for women. This is the part I do not enjoy at all. If you are wild camping for one day, it is easy to keep clean. However, if you are intending to wild camp for several days, you will want some easy ways to keep clean. Read our article, we have 13 simple tips on how to keep clean if you are camping without any washing facilities. Simple tricks like using “Dry Shower in a Can” and biodegradable wet wipes.
  • No amenities – Wild camping .means giving up certain amenities and comforts offered by campsites, such as playgrounds, swimming pools, or organized activities. You rely on nature for your entertainment.
  • Weather and safety challenges – Wild camping exposes you to the elements and unpredictable weather conditions. You must be prepared for adverse weather, insects, and potential hazards. Safety precautions and proper equipment are essential. Always check the weather forecast before you leave. If you find you are in a dangerous situation, such as a thunderstorm, or high winds, leave and find a safe place to go. If you are unsure what to do in a thunderstorm, read our article for safety tips and how to protect yourself.
  • Environmental impact – Improper practices during wild camping can harm the environment. It’s crucial to follow leave-no-trace principles, respect wildlife, and minimize your footprint to preserve these pristine locations. If you use a stream for a wash, use biodegradable soap, not your everyday toiletries from home.
  • Accessibility – If you have mobility restrictions, finding locations to wild camp can be hard. You may need to ensure that the area you want to camp in has footpaths to ease at least part of the journey.

Comfort and facilities: Pros and cons of campsites

Families must consider the pros and cons when deciding whether a family campsite suits their needs and preferences vs wild camping. Campsite camping can be an enjoyable experience, and you can experience the great outdoors with facilities; however, there are drawbacks.

Pros of family campsites

  • Get back to nature – Family campsites are typically located in picturesque natural environments, such as forests, mountains, or near lakes or rivers. Providing an opportunity for families to connect with nature, breathe in fresh air, and enjoy the beauty of the outdoors.
  • Enjoying outdoor activities – Campsites often offer various outdoor activities suitable for families, such as hiking, fishing, swimming, canoeing, and biking. These activities encourage physical exercise, adventure, and exploration, which can be exciting and enriching for parents and children.
  • Quality family time – Family campsites allow families to bond and spend quality time together, away from the distractions of technology and busy schedules. By embracing your surroundings, you can create and enjoy many activities, share meals, tell stories around the campfire, and create lasting memories.
  • Socialising with other families – Family campsites often attract other families with children, creating opportunities for social interaction and the potential for kids to make new friends. As a single parent, having the opportunity to socialise with other families removes the feeling of being alone.
  • On-site security – There is always an out-of-hours emergency contact number or on-site security for larger campsites. Offering additional assurance and protection for your family.

Cons of family campsites

  • Little privacy – One main drawback of campsites is the need for more privacy, especially during the peak season. I have been on overcrowded campsites, and you can stretch your arms out and touch another person’s tent. You also share all facilities and rely on other campers to clear up after themselves in the shower blocks and toilets. 
  • Increasing costs – Due to the popularity of camping, costs have increased, and you can pay over £1000 for a week’s holiday. Especially if you want to camp with EHU, costs have increased due to the running costs of a campsite. 
  • Noise control – Often, during late evenings, you will hear people talking, or they will have their music blaring out. Although campsites have a quiet period, this is only sometimes adhered to. You need a bit of give and take, as children will wake up at night and cry. It is only sometimes possible to keep children quiet, no matter how hard parents try.
  • Weather conditions – Weather is unpredictable, and it can be very stressful camping in high winds and continuous rain. Or it can go the other way, and you can be camping in extreme heat. I have stayed awake many nights when we have camped during high winds. Re-pegging my tent and wondering if my pole will snap as they bend in the wind. It also can be hard to cook in the rain and high winds, so you need additional cover for shelter.
  • Basic facilities – Facilities are very basic. Often the washing up facilities are in the open, nove cover. You have to wait for the shower or toilets to become free. However, this does depend on how big the campsite is. I always take toilet rolls with me, as you can never be sure if there will be any. 
  • Lack of comfort – Not only will the weather affect comfort, but it also depends on basic amenities like a fire pit, EHU connection, uncomfortable beds, or your bed deflating the night if it’s wet and cold. Nothing is worse than going to the toilet in the middle of the night.
  • Accessibility – Not all campsites have suitable access for families with more young children. Some family campsites can be located in remote or secluded areas, pos accessibility challenges, especially for families with young children or those with limited mobility. Distance from shops can also affect the availability of essential services and supplies. 
  • Availability of pitches – It can be hard finding a campsite for families. They book up quickly, especially pitches with EHU. You must book between October and December to ensure you have a great pitch, keeping the prices down. I always try to book my next trip at the latest in December, although not all campsite will have their booking system open. But if you can book in advance, you can save a fortune.
  • No EHU – If you like your luxuries such as TV, cooking using hotplates, fan heater and recharging devices easily, it can be hard to find pitches with EHU. They get booked very quickly. You can use portable power banks for mobile devices and iPad charging or invest in a generator. However, generators are restricted on some campsites, you can only use solar generators. About 80% of our camping trips are without EHU. Not only does this reduce the cost of pitches, but it provides us with flexibility on where we camp. It is important to choose the correct generator. Read our guide on the different types of generators available, including maintenance and servicing.

If you are unsure if family campsites are for you and want to try wild camping, try semi-wild camping. You pitch in one location, and the site normally has an eco toilet. Possibly water, but there will be no shower facilities. It is a very basic campsite, and it will give you a partial insight into wild camping. The pitches are normally out of view, and you have privacy compared to the main campsite. Semi-wild campsites are a great opportunity to enjoy nature at its best. We often camp on semi-wild campsites, and our pitches have been enclosed in woodlands offering shelter from bad weather. Find out more about semi-wild camping and great some amazing memories for you and your family.

Budget considerations: Wild camping vs campsites

Regarding camping, there are different options, each with cost considerations. Comparing wild camping to family camping, costs will vary significantly. Depending on gear cost, duration, location and amenities.

Wild camping costs you need to consider

Wild camping is normally in remote locations, but there will be some costs you will need to consider. 

  • Campsite fees – You can save money on wild camping as you are not camping on a campsite. You may have parking fees depending on where you park your car. Always check the car park signage or if you are parking in a layby to check fees and if you can leave your car safely overnight.
  • Equipment – With wild camping, you will need to have all of your gear, although it is still not as much compared to a campsite as you want to travel light. You must invest in camping essentials such as a tent, sleeping bag and pad, cooking gear, waterproofs, reliable lighting and a power bank to keep your mobile charged for emergencies. Initial costs will vary depending on the quality of the gear your purchase. Expect to Pay on average £300- £400 for your basic equipment, which includes a tent, cooking facilities, and sleeping mat. Your sleeping bag will vary depending on your desired type and season. Also, ways go up a season just in case the weather is colder than you expect. Allow an additional £50 – £150. I advise visiting a local camping store and testing the sleeping bag first for thickness and comfort. Every bodies personal preference is different.
  • Supplies – You cannot access the local store, so you must bring your food and drink. This will require planning and budgeting, ensuring that you have ample supplies and snacks to keep your energy up. It is also important to have sufficient fuel for your cooking stove.

Amazon shopping list for essential wild camping gear

I have not included cooking utensils, knives and forks, as you can use items from your home.

Family camping costs 

Family campsites are more expensive than wild campings, and you are paying for using the facilities on a campsite. 

  • Campsite Fees – The cost for campsites can vary, depending on location, size and facilities. Prices will be a lower pitch rate for early-season camping, such as April and out-of-school holidays.
  • Facilities and activities – Some campsites offer onsite entertainment for children, such as play areas, swimming pools, games rooms or activities that will cost extra money. Although these activities will increase the cost of your holiday, there is a cheaper way to have a fun holiday without costing a fortune. I check for free activities per location on Event Bright and have booked park ranger days for my son for free. Plus, I belong to English Heritage and have free entry and parking to many different events and locations during the year. English Heritage is a budget way to explore historical areas of the UK. I have a single-parent membership which allows one adult and 6 children. This allows me to take some of my son’s friends with us on days out and whilst camping. You can either pay monthly or yearly and receive additional discounts for weekends away, hotels and concerts.
  • Food and supplies – Like wild camping, you must budget for food, drink and other family provisions. There may be local stores nearby where you can stock up or buy your food before your trip. Some campsites have onsite mini-stores offering essentials such as milk, tea, coffee, and sausages. You can often buy fresh eggs and bread when camping on a farm.
  • Camping gear – The most expensive part of family camping is buying all the gear. You can use a lot of home equipment to keep within budget. Mainly kitchen and sleeping items. Your main initial cost will be a tent. They can range from £200 to £1500. However, you can reduce costs by buying second-hand or waiting for the sale. My first camping trip cost me under £300, which included a tent, pitch, and cooking equipment. Our article on how to camp on a budget provides a list of items you will need for family camping and items you can use from your home. You will be surprised how many items from your home can you find.

Related articles that will help you to buy camping gear on a budget

Related questions

Why is wild camping good for children?

It can be scary taking a child wild camping for the first time. They need full supervision, correct gear and be aware of their surroundings and safety. Taking a child wild camping is an amazing experience to share with them and has some unique benefits. It is ideal for creating stronger family bonds and your experience living in nature for the first time with them.

  • Connecting with nature –  Wild camping exposes children to the wonders of nature firsthand. Allows them to explore and engage with natural landscapes, connecting to the environment. They can learn about plants and animals, creating a sense of wonder about their environment, and hopefully, they will continue as they grow into adulthood.
  • Self-reliance and problem-solving skills – Wild camping allows children to develop self-reliance and problem-solving skills. They learn from you how to adapt to situations, make decisions and overcome any challenges. Learning how to e self-sufficient in an unknown environment, such as building fires, pitching tents, and navigating, is a great skill for them to develop and increase their self-confidence.
  • Physical activity –  Wild camping encourages physical activity and gets them away from their iPads, mobile phones and gaming consoles. It helps to promote healthy habits and increase their fitness and stamina as they explore their surroundings.
  • Creativity and imagination – It is a great way to encourage children to use their imagination and use the natural surroundings to invent games and build dens.
  • Appreciation for simplicity – Wild camping introduces children to the simple aspects of life. Removing everyday conveniences of home life. It helps them to adapt to their natural environment and understand the simplicity of life and nature. 

What skills do you need for wild camping?

Wild camping is a simple experience, enabling you to immerse yourself in nature. However, there are skills you should have to enjoy wild camping and keep safe.

  • Finding a camping area – Finding a safe area to pitch your tent and enjoy comfort is vital for wild camping. You need to be aware of surrounding hazards, level ground, and being aware of wind direction. It is also important to understand the local regulations when selecting your area.
  • Navigation – You need to be able to navigate in unfamiliar terrain to avoid getting lost and understand how dangerous the area may be. You need to understand how to use ordinance maps, use a compass and GPS. 
  • Survival skills – Knowing how to build a shelter if anything happens to your tent, start fires, and forage for edible plants in emergencies.
  • Storage of food and cooking – Understanding the need to keep food stored to distract any wild animals. It is also important not to leave food scraps in your area to avoid harming wild animals. Not. all areas will allow campfires, but you need to know how to build a fire in a clear area to avoid fire hazards. However, I do advise having a mini portable camping stove for safety, cooking speed, and convenience.
  • Leave no trace – One of the main rules of wild camping is to leave no trace and protect the environment and wildlife animals. Always remove any rubbish and take it home; the motto is to leave the area as you find it.
  • Be prepared for emergencies – Having basic first aid skills and carrying a first aid kit is essential. It is also vital to have a mobile device to be able to contact the emergency services if need be. For additional power, invest in a portable power bank, ensuring your devices are always charged. Keep a good light that has an SOS / emergency setting to aid in the rescue.
  • Be aware of weather conditions – Before travel, check weather conditions, as they can change instantly. Always watch your surroundings, especially if you a mountain wild camping, as conditions will be different and more severe. Do not hesitate to leave for your safety.


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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