Free Camping Explained
Free camping is a misused expression. Free refers to freedom, not free of charge.
Usually it is a camp ground in the bush and often beside a river or beach. That being said, small towns often provide a short stay area for caravanners who are passing through. These towns have seen the potential for stopping the tourists when they are on their way to somewhere else. Also under the banner of free camp I should mention roadside overnight rest areas.
Cost wise, free camps maybe free of charge or a gold coin donation to a local body or there could be a minimal charge per head. Because of reduced facilities this charge will be much less than that of a caravan park.
The facilities provided in free camps are usually basic, toilets or long drop toilets if it is in a remote area. State and National Parks sometimes provide fire pits and water for campers. However their costs vary considerably from state to state.
What do I need?
To make the most of free camps you need to be self contained. You’ll need your own 12 volt power, generated by either solar panels or a generator. As well as gas, a supply of water and your own toilet, then the world of free camping awaits you. Twelve volt power will run your lighting, LED lighting uses very little power. Gas will provide your cooking and run the fridge. Most caravan fridges are three way these days (240, 12 volt & gas). Water of course is required for drinking, cooking, washing and showering. If you don’t have an on board shower then a pop up shower tent and a cheap 12 volt shower pump will suffice.
The advantage of a roadside rest area is purely financial and offers a free night when in transit.
Small town camps can provide an insight into how people make a living in that particular region and can be a good chance to learn about their history, crops and industry. You’ll come away with a new respect for the small town that you once passed through with haste.
Bush and beach camping is another thing altogether. It’s a chance to get away in peaceful surroundings and appreciate nature at its best.
How to find free camps
The best place to start is by using the WikiCamps app or the Australian Camps Guide. Don’t forget to ask the local Information Centre. We’ve also found that butchers, publicans and other campers can provide a wealth of information.
Now that you have a rough idea of what free camping is, if you have a van, assess what you need. It really doesn’t take a lot of equipment to ‘go off the grid’ for a few days. If you like it you can easily improve your van to enable you to stay longer.
Getting out there
Once you have the basic essentials for an overnight free camp then choose a camp and give it a try. The rule of thumb is that if no one else has turned up by late afternoon then the safe option is to move on and find somewhere else to spend the night. Allow yourself plenty of time to move on to another place. If it is only an overnight stop, stay hitched up and make sure that you won’t be blocked in if there is an emergency. And the last thing that you want is to have to wait for someone else to wake up in the morning before you can leave.
It is etiquette to introduce yourselves to the other campers. It makes sense to make everyone feel at home and sometimes you just may be lucky. As I write this blog we are camped with the very first person that we ever met free camping.
If no bins are provided, take your rubbish with you.
Once you’ve tried it for one night look at camping for a few nights. Monitor your battery power and water tank levels and learn to know how much that you use each day. Most modern vans are fitted with electronic gauges for this purpose.
Hint: We buy drinking water by the slab when it is on special and only use our tank water for washing.
Remember, once you are set up for free camping your accommodation options are limitless.
Longer free camping may require:
A second caravan battery for extra power storage
Additional water tanks
240 and 12 volt TV
Gas or diesel heating for winter or those cold inland nights
12 volt fan for cooling
Roof mounted solar panels
12 volt car fridge
An inverter to charge your electronic gadgets, phones, tablets, laptops, kindles, even CPAP machines
We have friends who have enough battery power to operate their espresso machine. Ourselves, we carry an Italian stove top coffee pot for free camping.