Backpacking in England: Tips & Trails

Backpacking in England: An ultralight backpacker in a national park taking a rest

In this post, we'll take a look at:

Backpacking in England should be on your bucket list. The country offers abundant hiking and backpacking opportunities for everyone. With its diverse terrain, well-marked trails, and proximity to beautiful landscapes, it’s everything you could wish for.

In this post, we explore backpacking in England from an ultralight lens, equipping you with the knowledge needed for your adventure.

Among other things, we’ll list the TOP 5 trails in each category: day hikes (under 30 miles) and multi-day trips with resupply opportunities at least every two days.

Key Tips for Backpacking in England

  • What to expect: While true wilderness is rare with England’s long history of settlement, the diversity of landscapes, history and culture around every corner make for rewarding backpacking. Be prepared with proper gear, navigate stiles and gates, respect farmland, and watch for traffic on country roads.
  • Essential gear: Be prepared for rain and pack waterproof gear. Dressing in layers is advisable to adapt to varying conditions.
  • Wildlife: England is generally safe with rare venomous snakes like adders, limited dangerous wildlife, but watch out for ticks transmitting diseases.
  • Wild camping: Wild camping in England is not legal without the landowner’s permission, but it is tolerated in some remote areas like parts of Dartmoor and the Lake District. You can also camp for a few nights in certain forests and woodlands as long as you keep a low profile. Along coasts and beaches it may be allowed depending on local bylaws.
  • Best times to go: The best times for backpacking in England are the spring (April-May) and early fall (September-October) shoulder seasons, which offer milder weather, greenery and wildflowers in spring or autumn colors in fall, along with fewer crowds than summer. Early summer (June-mid July) brings long days and sunshine along with some crowds, while late fall through early spring should be avoided due to wet and muddy conditions.

Top 5 Day Hikes (Under 30 Miles)

Here are the best day hikes where ultralight gear really shines and helps you to maximize your experience:

  1. Castleton, Mam Tor, and The Great Ridge Circular (8 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. The Roaches and Lud’s Church Circular (7.7 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Yorkshire Three Peaks Circular (24.5 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. Old Glossop and B-29 Crash Site Circular (8.2 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. Glenridding and Helvellyn Circular (8 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Top 5 Multi-Day Trips

Top multi-day trips in England with resupply opportunities at least every two days:

  1. Coast to Coast Walk: St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay (185 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  2. South Downs Way (101.1 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  3. Hadrian’s Wall Path: Wallsend to Bowness (85.5 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  4. The Cumbria Way (73.8 miles).
    See on AllTrails.
  5. The Pennine Way (259.6 miles).
    See on AllTrails.

Annual Weather Averages

In England, the weather can be quite changeable, and rain is common. Here’s a general overview of the year-round weather:

  • Spring (March – May): Mild days 50s-60s°F and cool nights 30s-40s°F with a mix of sun and showers.
  • Summer (June – August): Warm, sunny days 60s-70s°F but cooler near coasts with frequent rain likely.
  • Fall (September – November): Cooling days in 50s°F and nights in 30s-40s°F with sun, increasing rain and wind.
  • Winter (December – February): Chilly days in 40s°F and cold nights in 30s°F or lower with frequent rain, snow in north and mountains.

Before you decide what gear to bring, check out the average annual weather data recorded in England (Kendal):

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
High °F434347525762656460544844
Low °F363637404550545350454037
Rain D*14111191010111211131414
Note: This table is approximate; weather can change with altitude.
D* – Days of rain.

FAQ

Can I have a campfire while backpacking in England?

In England, lighting campfires while backpacking is generally prohibited without landowner permission. Fires are only permitted in designated areas in national parks. There are some exceptions for small cooking fires using gas stoves in secluded spots, but you should avoid lighting open wood fires while backpacking across private or protected land due to fire risk and smoke pollution.

What are some safety tips for backpacking in England?

When backpacking in England, be prepared for rapidly changing weather by packing layers and waterproof gear. Carry a map, compass, GPS device, and mobile phone to avoid getting lost. Tell someone your plans and check in regularly. Stick to established trails and avoid trespassing on private farmland. Beware of steep, muddy, or uneven terrain that can lead to injury. Watch for poisonous adders and irritant plants like giant hogweed. At night, set up camp discreetly and avoid drawing attention. Overall, use caution, trust your instincts, and put safety first when exploring the trails and countryside.

How to deal with wildlife encounters while backpacking in England?

The most common wildlife encounters when backpacking in England are with farm animals like cows, sheep, and horses. It’s best not to startle them, so move slowly and give them ample space. For potentially dangerous animals like adders, back away slowly and give them a wide berth. Avoid feeding or approaching wildlife, as it can disrupt their natural behaviors. If you bring a dog, keep it leashed and under control.

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