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 find that we use about seven litres for a basic shower. When I wash my hair, I use about ten litres. When showering you will save a lot of water if you turn it off whilst washing yourself and then turn it on again to rinse off.
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. If there is a toilet close by we will generally use it instead of the one in the van. It’s surprising how often there is at least one toilet, even if it is just a long drop, in free camps.
We have always used the Walex brand pods in our toilet cassette as we have found they work very well at breaking down the waste and helping to keep any smell at bay. We just use regular toilet paper and haven’t had any trouble with it not breaking down properly.
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 BBQ and salad suits us fine. We don’t have an oven so we do all our cooking outside on our Weber Baby Q. 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 have found several spots where there is no reception for anything until you were almost inside the town limits. Even Telstra doesn’t work everywhere you go. 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.
What other tips do you have for free camping?
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