Personally, I believe both are still camping, but they have their own benefits and drawbacks. I think they are almost incomparable, simply because they offer very different experiences of camping. Each individual has their own wishes when it comes to camping, and I think, depending on personal preferences, the folk you're camping with and, quite frankly, what you're feeling at the time can change which would be the best option. Below are my top considerations when trying to decide between the two. Hopefully if you're a bit stuck between the two options, this might give you a little help!
1) Looking for a challenge or an adventure?
Of course if you are staying in a campsite you can still have adventures outside of your tent! But the thrill of a wild camping adventure is one that cannot be compared. You have the freedom to choose whatever you wish, and it can be a great adventure choosing a spot to call your own for the night. Everything from getting a fire going, to adventuring out to the toilet can be an adventure! Dealing with the weather with no pub or shared-area to turn to can be an adventure too. But obviously, if you'd rather have a little less to think about and more options if the weather should turn or should you forget an item, you may prefer to stick to the campsites. Read here about our adventure getting lost on our first wild camping trip as a couple.
*Wild camping in the Cairngorms*
2) Hoping for some family time?
If you're looking for family time, both of these have their advantages. With wild camping, you'll be showing the kids the great outdoors, or having a romantic weekend away with your partner. Regardless of who you are with, it's some amazing and often much-needed time with your loved ones. No interruptions from the family in the tent next door, and no noisy neighbours. Unless you are the noisy neighbours, in which case, you have far more freedom to play your guitar all night too! Campsite on the other hand can be a great environment if there is a large group. For example, at Blair Atholl there is a large park area right in the centre of the camp grounds, where kids all gather to play football. It can be nice to meeting other families, especially when you have kids.
3) First-time camper?
If you're a first time camper, it really depends on your level of skills. A campsite can be extremely useful, as you've often got a local shop in case you forget anything, and you don't have to worry about creating a fire, as there's often no fires allowed. There will also be plenty of other campers aruond to help with any tent issues, for example. On the other hand, as mentioned above, if you want a challenge or privacy from other people, wild camping may be the way to go. But be prepared. Make sure you've given yourself some sort of instruction on creating a fire. Make yourself aware of any laws to do with camping, and remember to keep to the camping code (don't leave your rubbish around, don't camp for long periods of time in one spot). If you're not prepared when wild camping, it can turn an incredible trip into a difficult and rather dire one.
4) Home-comforts-lover or nature-and-outdoor-lover?
If you like your home comforts, choose a campsite. Quite frankly, there's no WiFi when you're wild camping, and no back up if you've forgotten kit, and no pub you can seek shelter in if it rains. When you're wild camping you've got to work for a fire, pee outside in the rain/snow and generally get back to nature. Personally this is one of my favourite things about camping. But I also know a lot of people who would have their camping trip completely ruined or would complain a lot, if they were stuck in the rain with no phone signal. If that sounds like you, I suggest you pick a campsite. As said above, there's normally a shop to grab some chocolate at, or a pub you can retreat to if you're wanting a break from tent-life. There's also often a wifi hotspot somewhere, or at least phone signal.
If you're feeling a little in between the two, there are a growing number of "wilder" campsites. Check out this article from The Guardian or this article from The Telegraph for some examples for wild-ish campsites around Britain.
What's your thoughts? Campsite or Wild Camping? Let me know in the comments, I'd love to hear what everyone thinks!
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