There’s no disputing the fact that we all love a bargain if we can find one. Perhaps this is the reason why Free Camping has become so popular. There are so many places now where free camping is available and this gives the budget conscious traveller a whole range of new choices.
In the caravanning community, most people make it a priority to have their van set up for free camping. This at a minimum generally means water tanks, solar panels, a toilet and shower and now quite often a grey water tank as well.
Having previously travelled in a camper trailer (with a teen daughter in tow) we hadn’t really had the opportunity to do a lot of free camping. So on one of recent caravan trips around Carnarvon Gorge, we certainly took advantage of our self-contained status and found a couple of awesome free camps to spend a night or two in.
Being new to free camping we weren’t sure what to expect and we certainly learnt some new tricks whilst we were away. These are our top 7 free camping tips.
1. BE WATER WISE
Water when used sensibly will last for several days, depending on the size of your water tanks of course. We found that we used about seven litres for a basic shower. This did not include me washing my hair. I used about 10 litres the one time I did wash my hair.
We were actually really pleased with how long our water tanks did last for. We always carry a couple of bottles of drinking water just in case we encounter a problem.
2. POWERING YOUR SET-UP
In order to free camp successfully, you will need a power source. Many people opt to carry a generator, but these are often frowned upon in free camps because of the noise. Another consideration is also the extra weight of carrying a generator and also the need to carry fuel for one.
The most common option is to have solar panels and extra batteries fitted. A 150 watt solar panel and 100 amp hour battery will be enough to power your lights and your fridge if you get a decent amount of sunlight during the day. Double that and you should be right for power most of the time.
As a general rule, most vans these days come fitted with at least one 9kg gas bottle. Many have two fitted and this is the better option if you intend on doing a lot of free camping. Gas will provide you with hot water and cook your food. If you have a 3-way fridge installed it will run best on gas. A compressor fridge is a better option in our opinion as they do not seem to have the issues that some 3-way fridges have.
3. TOILET TIME
There is no doubt that having a toilet on board is super convenient, but then someone gets the not so pleasant task of emptying the cassette. A task that I don’t think anyone is particularly keen on! I had done some research on the best approach to using the toilet and found that we didn’t need to use it as much as we thought we might.
Of the three free camps we stayed in, all had lovely clean toilets. Now I know this isn’t always the case when travelling.
The rest of the time we stayed in caravan parks. The good availability of toilets meant that we never had to use our on-board toilet for no. 2’s. The other thing I did was not put any toilet paper in the toilet. I bought a box of cheap nappy sacks – the scented variety – and just popped my used toilet paper into one. I then put the lot in the bin, which made the cassette super easy to empty.
Obviously the above won’t work all the time, especially in remote locations, but when possible we think it’s a good idea.
4. FINDING FREE CAMPS
There are so many books and apps around now that finding a free camp is relatively easy. We rely on our Camps Australia Wide book a lot. It also comes in an app as well but we like carrying our book just in case we are in an area with no phone service. Wikicamps is also a popular app that many travellers use. There are also lots of great Facebook groups and pages to help you find spots.
Arriving a little early at a free camp should ensure you get a good spot. If you think that the area you’re heading to might be popular arriving early is a good idea because some of these spots fill up very quickly. However we had no such problems.
We like to keep our meals simple when we are travelling. After a day on the road or exploring we don’t want to have to spend ages cooking so a barbeque and salad suits us fine. Keeping meals simple also means less washing up which means less water usage. A win when you are free camping.
Sometimes you will even find a free camp with barbeque’s which will save you using your gas.
6. PHONE AND TV RECEPTION
Don’t expect phone service, decent radio or TV reception in some regional areas. We found several spots where there was no reception for anything until you were almost inside the town limits. Therefore, some books or a few board games or even something crafty might be needed to keep you or the kids occupied of an evening.
7. LEAVE NO TRACE
If you are planning on free camping it is essential that you leave no trace. This means taking all your rubbish with you if there are no bins provided. If fires are permitted make sure you use a designated fire pit or a spot that has already had a fire on it. Don’t make a new site and as always, make sure the fire is fully extinguished with water before you leave.
If you do have to take rubbish away with you, a spare wheel bin bag, is ideal to put your smelly rubbish in.
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