Bothy Etiquette: The do’s and don’ts of bothying

Author: Phoebe Smith

Bothies are tiny buildings in mountainous areas of the UK, left open for hikers and climbers to use for free. Much like wild camping, to be a good bothy guest you need to follow good etiquette. Here, Phoebe Smith gives us a common-sense set of guidelines…

Grwyne Fawr, Wales

Look after your bothy

From tiding up food after you make it to taking out rubbish someone else has left behind, it’s all about doing as much as you can to make bothying a great experience for everyone else. So if you’ve got room left in your backpack, take out that rubbish that was there when you arrived – even if it’s not yours.

Look after its surrounds

Don’t cut live trees or nearby fences for your fire, and don’t light a fire outside your bothy.

Observe bothy toilet etiquette

Everybody’s got to go, but when you need the toilet, be courteous. If there is a toilet (which is rare) follow the instructions to the letter. If it says not to drop down anything but tissue and human waste, then don’t throw down a wet wipe. If it asks you to refill the bowl from the stream once you’ve flushed, then fill the bowl from the stream when you’ve finished – no matter what the weather.

In the much more likely case that there is no toilet, note the spade in the corner. It’s there for entirely this reason. Remember to go at least 200m from the bothy, 50m from a path and 50m from a watercourse, downstream from the bothy. Try and carry waste out with you, but if you can’t, go in a hole at least 15cm deep and carry out all loo roll and sanitary products.

Grwyne Fawr, Wales

Make sure everyone is welcome

It’s not first come, first served; try to accommodate everyone who turns up – no one should be left out in the cold. Don’t like crowds? Take your own tent or bivvy to give yourself a Plan B.

Be generous… to a point

While it’s good to leave things for the next guest, be sensible. A few pieces of coal, some firelighters or tinder is great; rubbish that you think would work as kindling and can’t be bothered to carry out is not so good. Want to share your food? Think about it – what food would you be prepared to eat when you don’t know the source? Unopened tinned food – yes; a half-eaten bag of nuts – no. And remember, mice are frequent visitors too so don’t encourage them by leaving opened food.

Don’t outstay your welcome

If an estate asks users not to visit the bothy at certain times of the year, it’s for a good reason. So respect their wishes, and if they ask you to call ahead to check it’s safe, then do.

Grwyne Fawr, Wales

Keep it brief

The whole point of a bothy is that it’s a temporary refuge for walkers. Don’t turn up and set up home there for a week. One or two nights is fine, but any longer and you’ll need to ask permission first. There are plenty more bothies anyway, so get exploring.

Keep it to the minimum

Bothies are not the place for large groups. With other users turning up all the time, you cannot arrive en masse and expect to fit. A maximum group size should be six or fewer. Any more and you will need to ask for permission from the owner first.

When you leave, go gracefully

Check the fire is out, and if it’s not, put it out – never leave it unattended. Close the door – cattle, deer and birds can all get inside if you do, but then can’t get back out. And take rubbish with you.

Intro photo: Kris Williams