Camping For Under 18s – Can They Go?

If you’ve gotten your kids into camping throughout their childhood, there may come a point that they want to head off on an adventure themselves. It’s no secret that teenagers are far too cool to be seen holidaying with their parents. But while they’re a little more responsible than they were a few years ago, they’re still, by law, considered to be a child. This means that there are rules surrounding whether they can camp without an adult. 

In the UK, you must be over 18 to rent a touring pitch in most Camping and Caravan Clubs locations. However, there are a number of campsites that will rent a pitch to those aged over 16; this is something that you must speak to the management about as rules will vary from place to place. 

Whether or not a child under the age of 18 is responsible enough to camp without their parents is certainly something that should be assessed individually. But it is worth keeping in mind that the Camping and Caravan Club does have a youth membership available to those over the age of 12.

Can I Camp Without My Parents Under 18?

We know what it’s like as a young person on the verge of adulthood; you’re ready to face the world alone and explore without being restricted by rules and regulations. However, the law still sees your parents as being solely responsible for you until you reach the grand old age of 18. At this point, you are considered to be an adult and are free to do (almost) anything you please as long as it is within the confines of the law. 

Many parents will be concerned about allowing their teenager to go off camping with their friends for the simple reason that they are concerned for your wellbeing. Allowing your child to explore the world is difficult so you will find that a lot of parents will say this isn’t going to happen. 

However, if your folks are happy that you are responsible enough to go it alone, you may not have jumped over all the hurdles just yet. There are many campsites that will not rent a pitch to people under the age of 18; and there is a good reason for this. 

Camping in itself is not an age restricted activity. After all, you’ve probably been kipping under a canvas since you were knee-high to a grasshopper, but that was under the supervision of your parents.

In the eyes of many campsite operators, people under the age of 18 are not responsible enough to camp alone. While there are millions of responsible teens out there, there are also those who would not respect the campsite and its rules by doing things such as drinking and being too noisy. Since the campsite is providing a service for all kinds of people including older adults and young families, they do not want to accept responsibility for the behaviour of guests who cannot toe the line. 

But that doesn’t mean there is a mass restriction on being able to camp at all. For the most part, you’re only limited if you want to hire a pitch at an organised campsite.

Places That You Can Camp Under 18

If you don’t want to head to one of the campsites that allows under 18 guests then there are a multitude of other options. 

Wild Camping

Wild camping is camping on any land that is privately or publicly owned. This might be a beach, a field on a farm, woodlands or anywhere else that takes your fancy. It is vital to keep in mind that all land is owned by someone so there will be some restrictions on where you can camp and this means that you must have express permission from the landowners to pitch your tent for the night. 

In many cases, you will need to approach the local council. They own a lot of public land and while you probably aren’t going to get moved along if you’re camping in a super remote field, it’s always best to follow the rules and cover your back. 

What’s great about wild camping is that it truly exposes you to nature. You’ll need to take all your camping equipment and be self-sufficient for the duration of your stay. You will have the opportunity to camp in some exciting places and watch the stars overhead as you drift off to sleep. 

When you have finished camping, it is important to make sure that you remove all waste and rubbish from the site, leaving it exactly as you found it. 

Make Use Of Your Back Garden

OK, it might not seem the most exciting adventure but if you’re really limited on where to go then it’s worth considering that you have open space right there at the back of your home. If you’re lucky enough to live in a property with a very large back garden, you can head as far away from the main house as possible and not have to worry about the possibility of bumping into mum or dad. 

The great thing about camping in your back garden is that there are no restrictions, no rules and nobody to get permission from (apart from your parents, of course.) 

You will need to think about your neighbours and show them the courtesy of keeping quiet after a certain time. In the UK, you can be investigated for excessive noise at any time of the day but between the hours of 11pm and 7am, things are a little more strict. 

Kids love outdoor cooking

Camping and Caravan Club Youth Membership

The Camping and Caravan Club offers a youth membership to anybody over the age of 12. When you join, you are allowed to camp without your parents from the age of 14, provided you have passed your test (more on that later). If you have not passed your test then you will still be able to camp alone when you reach 16.

The National Youth Test is designed so that young campers can demonstrate their ability to camp alone while remaining safe and efficient. You will have to undergo a series of oral and practical tests to demonstrate your knowledge and you’ll be eligible to take the test between the ages of 12 and 17. Everything in the test is based on the Fundamentals of Good Camping and you will be given information on this to help you work towards passing your test once you join up. 

Once you have passed the test, there are so many more opportunities than just camping without your folks cramping your style. There are international rallies that allow you to meet other young people with a passion for the outdoors, not to mention this will get you travelling and exploring the world. In addition to this, you will find local and national events running all year round so you can continue to expand your camping knowledge and have fun. 

What’s most exciting is that, unlike non-members, you will be permitted to camp on any of the Camping and Caravan Club sites for a child rate up until the age of 21. When you reach this age, you won’t just be thrown out of membership but can continue your membership as a senior youth member until you reach 30!

However, there are a few rules that you’ll need to abide by when camping on one of the sites without your parents. 

  • Upon arrival at the site, you must report to a youth leader. If there is not one present, you must report to the campsite manager.
  • You may play ball games onsite, provided you have permission from the youth leader or site manager. However, certain activities are not permitted such as using drones, flying kites or model aeroplanes and the use of any weapons such as guns, catapults and archery equipment. 
  • Respect to the property must be paid at all times. 
  • No noise is permitted between the hours of 11pm and 7am. At all other times, noise is to be kept to a reasonable minimum. 
  • You are not permitted to have an open fire unless you have prior permission from a youth leader or site manager. 
  • Learner drivers are not permitted to drive onsite and all vehicles are limited to 5mph. 
  • When finished at your pitch, you must leave the space clean and free from any rubbish. 

Conclusion

If you’re a young person cruising towards adulthood, you’re probably over the idea of camping with your parents but unfortunately, you are restricted as to where you can camp. Most UK campsites will not rent a pitch to anyone under the age of 18. There are some that will but they are few and far between. 

That said, there are other ways you can enjoy camping alone. Joining the Camping and Caravan Club youth membership is one of the best ways to enjoy this hobby without having an adult present. You can camp alone from the age of 14 provided you’ve passed your test and there is so much more to being a member. Failing that, there’s always the back garden or, with permission, some private land. Always remember to camp responsibly and be careful!

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