With backpack camping in the spotlight, Dartmoor National Park Authority has reiterated its guidance on how to backpack camp following the ‘leave no trace’ principles. 

It comes after the well-publicised legal challenge focusing on the proper legal meaning of ‘open air recreation’ and whether wild camping – a term commonly used to describe backpack camping - was included in that definition. 

In a ruling published on 31 July, the Court of Appeal declared open air recreation did include wild camping provided it was ‘in strict accordance with the applicable byelaws.’ 

In line with the National Park’s purposes, the Authority wants to ensure people understand backpack camping regulations so their night under canvas is a memorable one. 

The right to backpack camp covers 98 square miles of common land – 70% of common land within the National Park – including areas owned by the Authority. 

It has long been the case that backpack camping is not permitted in some places - for example to protect rare and fragile habitats, wildlife, archaeology and the historic environment. 

The Authority provides a map which shows the areas where backpack camping can take place, provided the ‘leave no trace’ principles are followed. 

The Authority is meeting with landowners, access groups and conservation organisations to develop fair, consistent and transparent processes for how land can be added for backpack camping in the future. Until that is concluded the area of nearly 100 square miles remains as identified on the map

Dartmoor National Park Authority’s Chief Executive Dr Kevin Bishop said: 'We welcome the Court of Appeal’s judgment and the emphasis it places on backpack camping in accordance with the byelaws. 

'Planning is essential, and we’d urge everyone to check our map to make sure you're in the right spot. It's always been the case that camping is prohibited in some areas and pitching a tent in those places’ risks breaching National Park byelaws. 'We’re committed to working with organisations and individuals to explore how more areas can be made available for backpack camping in the future. This needs to strike a fair balance between the environment’s needs, public access and enjoyment, and socio-economic demands.

'Please follow our code of conduct and leave no trace. By doing this, it keeps Dartmoor special for those who live, work and visit our National Park.'

Backpack camping is:

•    Staying where backpack camping is allowed •    Carrying all gear (including a lightweight tent) in your backpack •    Staying for one or two nights, away from roads and buildings •    Not using barbecues or starting open fires •    Going to the toilet away from watercourses and burying human waste under at least 15cm of turf •    Taking all rubbish home including toilet paper and sanitary products.   

Backpack camping isn’t  

•    Breaching byelaws or camping where it’s prohibited •    Staying in one place for longer than two nights •    Leaving litter, human waste or used toilet roll •    Damaging trees, moving stones, or digging pits for fires  •    Making lots of noise and playing loud music  •    Parking up and pitching a tent close to the road/someone’s home.