Wild camping with children

Children love wild camping. Camp next to a stream in the middle of nowhere and they are happy for hours. Until the midges come out anyway. The key to success is to choose a suitable camping spot with an interesting but not too long walk to it, good weather and a lack of midges, but I don’t always get this right.

I first took Hannah wild camping when she was 4. We camped next to Goats Water underneath Dow Crag in the Lakes in a howling gale and I did doubt my sanity for a few moments in bringing a 4 year old to camp at such a place. But all was well – our Mammut mountain tent could withstand all weathers and Hannah loved it. I also loved it because by carrying an enormous and very heavy rucksack I could walk at Hannah’s pace and feel like I was getting some exercise.

The next wild camp was not such a great success. The following August when Hannah was 5 we had a trip to the wilds of Galloway. We walked up the Gairland Burn from Loch Trool and planned to camp at Loch Valley. It didn’t look far on the map but I’d reckoned without stumbling over a boggy, tussocky, indeterminable path carrying a heavy rucksack and followed by hoards of midges. It took us what seemed like hours to reach the Loch and then the trouble really started. I tried to put up the tent but the midges got worse and completely overwhelmed me. I struggled to figure out which tent pole went in which tent sleeve and started to panic. I forced myself to calm down and concentrate and eventually got the tent up. We rushed inside and didn’t go outside for the rest of the evening.

I didn’t feel inclined to wild camp again for two years and then I chose a breezy day! We camped up at Great Rundale Tarn in the North Pennines after walking up from Dufton. This worked well. Hannah had a swim in the tarn and there was not a midge in sight. Next day we followed Maize Back down to High Cup Nick and followed the Pennine Way back to Dufton.

In 2019 we had a little expedition to the northern fells in the Lakes. We walked in from near Mosedale and camped below Great Calva next to a stream. It rained heavily in the night and the tent started to leak, so I made the mistake of getting out of the tent in my underwear in the rain and the dark to tighten the guy ropes only to be attacked by midges. Next day we walked up Great Calva then over Great Lingy hill and Carrock Fell before descending very steeply off the end of Carrock Fell to the road.

Our 2020 wild camping expedition has been to the North York Moors with some friends. It was midgy!! The highlight of this trip was seeing an adder, although I didn’t dwell too much on whether snakes might join us in the tent in the middle of the night.

Wild camping alone with a child does often lead to sleepless nights in bad weather wondering whether you’ve done the right thing. Children are blissfully unaware of such worries and will trust you implicitly to sort the world out for them – including stopping the rain and making the midges go away. If only I could……!

Published by alpinejane

Explorer, hill walker, mountaineer, backpacker, scrambler, Mountain Leader and lover of wild places

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