Unless you are a very hansomly rich indeed, a trip like ours would not be possible without wild camping. There is also the issue that there may not be anywhere to stay in the place you end up in at night. Although we have both done lots of camping, it has taken a long time to feel totally easy with lowland wild camping, so I thought I would write of our experiences here.
A green tent is much better. We have a blue one, which I wish I could paint!
A ground sheet protecter a bit smaller than the tent footprint is essential to stop thorns ect comming through a lightweight tent. We use a lightweight neoprene sheet and a plastic sheet under it. Plastic sheeting is easy to buy off the roll in Ukraine and Russia in any market. Head net for Siberia.
1 ) Some truly romantic locations that can not be reproduced in camp sites: Crocus filled woods, lake shores in the sunset, snow clad pine forests and more
2) Freedom to stop when you feel tired.
3) no cost
4) Contact with wildlife: I never knew there were so many owls in france. I have a love of unusual millipedes, spiders, crickets and beetles. One night over 15 dung beetles congregated round the tent (I guess maybe it was due for a wash) A red spider laid a whole clutch of eggs in the dome of the tent one night in France. The woods of ukraine are alive with hedgehogs. The only small creatures I really see too many of in England and France are slugs. After a wet night they lye in wait wedged into panier and stove corners to slime the unwarey. Although they are revolting, they are quite clean creatures really.
1) Risk of being unheigenic: hidden camp spots tend also to be used as hidden loos spots
2) The need to carry about 4 litres of water for one night per person.
3) Risk of upsetting locals: We have now camped in England, France, Italy and Greece for six months without knowingly upsetting anyone. About one in ten nights someone will come past the tent. They have always been friendly, but the main thing to remember is not to have open fires as this understandably causes concern. We did have fires in Ukraine when we met with local cyclists. They gave me some good tips. Cooking over open fires
4) Fear of wild animals: Avoid pitching over animal paths in forest undergrowth. One night in France we woke to the thunder of hooves as a deer ran at the tent by mistake. Barking and even howling dogs are a feature nearly every night. They are not always barking at you, as they always have a dusk chorus. We have been approached by wild dogs about 4 times over six months, mostly in Northern Greece. They stand and bark in a most dogged fashion, but have not approached the tent. As we are now in Bulgaria, where there are wolves, I have a pack of balloons to blow up and burst to frighten them. A few rocks in the bell end are also a precaution, not that we have had to resort to this. Wild dogs are in greater numbers within a 2 km radius of a village or rubbish tip, so avoiding these areas is good. Our friend recommended carring a few bangers to make really big bangs, but we have not found any to buy yet.
5) Risk of theft: This is hard to quantify; if we are worried we tie a fishing line from the bikes to the tent, set marks motion alarm on the bike and use a small gripple (www.gripple.com) which feeds through drilled holes in the pannier buckles to tie together all paniers that are outside the inner tent. I also sometimes use a bit of wire with a loop in the end and a very (10mm) small padlock in a similar way. Having said this, we have only used these precautions on t 8 occasions over the 6 months so far.
6) Risk from shooting: There are a lot of hunters on the continent in autumn. We heard the shots about avery third night. Often hunters walked past the tent. The rifles are intimmidating but we have got used to them. We tried not to hide ourselves too effectively in the woods of France so the hunters would not mistake us for game.
7) Biting flies in Siberia: In June and July all country areas are swarming. To survive camping you will need a head net, thick gloves and repellant (you can get it locally). Without out these things your body will surely be sucked dry before you get the tent up. Open areas around bathing ponds are better, but full of celebrating Russians.
You can get some idea from the map, where is likely to be good:
|Forest tracks||Flat plains|
|Picnic areas if desperate||densly populated places|
|C class roads||very steep slopes|
|Low population and away from villages|
Once we decide that it is time to camp, it rarely takes more than half an hour before somwhere turns up.We always try to be out of sight of the road. We leave the bikes at the road whilst one goes to investigate. Sometimes it takes two or three investigations to get somewhere good. Some local features we look out for are:
1) Little used tracks, and trees
2) Above the road is less noticable than below.
3) Remote old or half built buildings on a saturday night have sheltered us on one or two occasions. We decided work gangs were unlikely to be there on a sunday morning, hence the reason for the saturday night.
4) Large road bridges have unseen areas under the pillars that have sheltered us twice from rain.
5) We have asked to camp on farms on one or two occasions. This is daunting when you only speak a few words of the language, but on both occasions the farmers said yes. The usual problem is to know who to ask. This is the best way on open plains and has the advantage of our seeing all the farm animals.