Free camping Australia (how you can too)
I had been wanting to go off grid for most of my life, to start sourcing for myself and now with my recent lifestyle changes I am actually living that dream. I look back and realize I had been planning a similar lifestyle to this for years.
I first learnt about free camping as boondocking as there was so much more information readily available out there in the land of YouTube and google from America and beyond. Here in Australia it is known as free camping and that’s pretty much what it is. Camp sites that are available free of charge. Not to be mistaken as stealth camping which is camping/sleeping in your vehicle where you’re not legally allowed to. I have yet to stealth camp as Kalypso is way too inconspicuous to blend in around suburbia.
So, after I came to the realization that I was done with the system I was in, I prepared to make way for a new lifestyle by making the purchases needed to sustain me and the free camp lifestyle.
The following is the list of items I gained however as everyone’s lifestyle is different this may just be a basic guide for you.
Kalypso the home/vehicle package who came with:
· The usual tiny house style home with basic plumbing and water storage
· 1 x 100 gel battery
· 2 x small gas bottles
I made more purchases to ensure I could live without being hooked into main powers.
· 150w solar panel
· 1 x 100 gel battery
· 120w Solar blanket
· Extra 20 litre water bottle
· Diesel heater
I was finally set however I just had to learn how to use everything!
My full-time travel is mostly free camping with one night per week spent at Families house (using my own power) in order for me to meet my work commitments in Sydney. I may have one night per fortnight at a cheap camp to get a good hot shower in however otherwise its free camps and my own power every other day/night.
I mentioned in one of my other vlogs that I don’t actually use very much power at all, ie laptop, phone charger, blender in the mornings and then just the remaining items in Kalypso that need power like the lights, water pump, toilet flush, invertor, fans, rangehood ect. Most of the time I have enough sun to power up the batteries in order to charge up the things needed and if this doesn’t work, I can use the generator. The only issue was that when it rained with no sun for days, I was really low on power however due to my vlogging I had someone send me the solution of placing the generator in a pet shelter to keep it dry! Great advice, thank you!
While I’m here I think I should also give a shout out to the many others who have supported me with questions I have had. There are so many out there willing to give support when needed and boy I certainly needed it! Some of these kind people came from The Grey Nomads Forum, Motorhomes Australia on Facebook and many other Facebook pages as well as some amazing Family members.
I guess growing up with the basics prepared me to live minimally however over the last decade of my life I learnt more about consumerism and the detrimental effects to not only the environment and animal kingdom but also human kind. I started to take a stance in moving away from the system whose focus is to use up all of the earths abundant resources whilst preying on humanity’s weaknesses in order for more power and coin. Hence the start of my new free camping lifestyle.
So here it the how to of free camping or as many others call it, Boondocking.
Before rolling in
Find out as much as you can before rolling into a free camp. Wiki camps is one way you can do that. I paid around $8 top purchase this app however I use is daily and it covers just about everything needed to find out about each camp.
Here’s a list of what they provided information on:
· Description and exact location of campsite
· Booking requirements
· If pets are allowed
· Wheelchair accessible
· Drinking water
· Nice scenery
· Walking tracks
· Phone reception
· TV reception
· Dump spot
· Dangerous when wet
· Tents allowed
· Motorbike accessible
· RV/Motorhome accessible
· Camper trailer accessible
· Caravan assessable
· Big rig/Bus assessable
· Weather forecast
· User ratings/Reviews
· Links to maps
· Public notices ie flood/fire warnings/closures
When choosing accommodation – If using Wiki camps, you can filter out all other paid and donation camp options so that you only have free camps that come up. Otherwise you can search online through national parks, NSW water and even just the basic google searches or asking people you come across online or face to face.
Many national parks require bookings now since Covid, some at a cost of $6 however will cover you for your entire stay. The length of stay varies from place to place however I have come across many different sites ranging from 24hrs to 10 days and beyond if making further bookings.
There are many free camps that require you to be self-contained ie having your own toilet etc. I have stayed at places which are only friendly to motorhomes and caravans however in saying that there are many more places which are only friendly to tents and accessible by car or 4WD. Living in a motorhome has its bonuses, however each to their own.
Ensuring you have researched the space before you stay will assist in finding the perfect spot.
I want to also state that it is always good to know what land you’re venturing into, to know who the traditional land owners are. There are a few ways in which you can discover the lands and I will provide some links below for those of you who are in Australia.
When rolling in to park up
There are some other important things you need to consider when deciding where you park up in a free camp. Here’s what to keep in mind:
· Where will I have sun so that my solar will get full coverage? (and yes solar is a must unless you want to go completely into the wild) which is also wonderful!
· Where will I have shade if the sun is too hot and I need to cool down?
· Are there trees with large branches above that may fall in heavy rainfall or storms?
· Where could I get bogged if the rains fall in?
· How far away are the toilets/BBQ facilities/dump point/river etc?
· Can I park up close to some bushes/shrubs /trees for my fur baby (if you have one) to check out the wildlife?
· Who do I want my neighbors to be over the next period of time (if there are other campers)?
· Are there black spots with no phone/internet coverage?
· In an emergency what’s the quickest way out?
At your chosen free camp destination
Sun– Shines down to the two solar panels I have. The one on the roof is a 150w and then I have an extra solar blanket which is 120w. This energy is given to my 2 x 100a batteries. The batter power is then dispensed to different ports around Kalypso. One is my invertor which will then convert the DC power to AC so that I can plug in my laptop charger and shake. Another is through the solar charge controller which holds space for my iPhone charger using the USB ports and another through my TV point where there are a couple of 12-volt DC sockets. I use these for my sirocco fans which are great by the way. Kalypso also has one PowerPoint which can be used when I’m plugged into main power or my generator however, again, I rarely use either.
Generator - Unfortunately, the only time I can use my air con or microwave in Kalypso is when we are plugged into main power or generator. The microwave I’m not fussed about however the air con is definitely needed in the Australian summer so I will need to be using my generator much more in the summer time. I am currently working on more options for heat reduction to keep myself and Kali cool. The generator takes 95 fuel however you can purchase many other types of generators such as diesel or even solar.
There is a process for calculating the amp hours your equipment requires which then allows for you to know how much power you need to generate. It took me forever to understand this and my brain is still in comprehend mode so I’m not even going to try and explain it! I will provide a link down the bottom for you to check out!
Fuel – If I get completely with no power, sun can’t use my generator I can always start Kalypso up for a short while to charge my phone etc.
Food & Water
Food storage – I have two small gas bottles; with one lasting approx. ten days before needing another fill up. This means I have up to twenty days’ worth of cold fridge if I start with two full gas bottles. I have found that Bunnings is cheaper to refill rather than have it done at the service station along on my journeys. If I Plug into main power or the generator, my fridge will automatically connect to that power source. When driving around my gas is turned off so it will automatically connect to the main battery. Occasionally some paid camp spots have a small shared kitchen and fridge available but it’s always great to check on Wiki camps or the website first. If you’re ever stuck you could always throw those cold drinks in the water if your close by.
Cooking – Along with the gas keeping my fridge running it also covers my stove usage which I use up to five times per day. I occasionally cook on an outside burner stove which uses the smaller butane gas bottles however I don’t particularly like that these end up in landfill so will be looking at alternative options to outside cooking. Many free camps have BBQ facilities free to use, they just need a good clean down prior. In the colder season when fires are permitted you can cook over the camp fire using the appropriate cooking gear.
Water – I’m lucky I have the option of filling up once per week at Families however I always make sure to fill up if staying over at a paid camp spot on that once per fortnight trip. Some free camps have drinking water where you can fill up your bottles etc however most free camps spots that I have attended in Sydney have water that isn’t suitable for drinking. You can use this for other uses such as washing up and some water you can boil up or use a solution to make it safe to drink. Always check the water protocol for that area which may be located on signage or their website.
Most places will have bins available for rubbish however some require you take your rubbish with you. Please respect the lands in which you visit.
Showering – I get at least one nice warm shower in each week at Families. Other days I use public showers, my cool shower within Kalypso, the wash down method and I’m sure in the summer time I will be using the river to wash (ensuring no soap enters the water ways). My ‘warm water system’ is heated by gas but I use it minimally. I have the luxury of my own bathroom within Kalypso so I can clean up and brush my teeth at my own leisure within my own space however I normally see others outside in the morning brushing their teeth.
Toilet – I know many don’t like public toilets as I’m sure many wouldn’t use a public shower however when your free camping, public toilets it is! Some are super clean others not so much and then there are some that I wouldn’t enter. In quieter times I go into the wild using the leave no trace policy. Whilst I use public toilets wherever I can I still use my cassette toilet in Kalypso however this need to be emptied at a dump point around every 5 days.
Washing clothes – I am again lucky as I have my Family’s house once per week where I do a load of washing. Failing that I have a small washing machine that I can use which is powered by me. There are also facilities at many paid campgrounds and normally cost around $4 or $5 per wash.
When you have found your perfect free camp, create the vibe you want. This will be your home for that period of time so it’s important for you to make the most out of it.
The Land -
Many free camps provide bins however some require you to take your rubbish with you. Please respect the lands in which you visit. Another important factor to take into consideration is finding out who the traditional land owners are, there is so much to know about the history and culture. The land gives us so much in life, it would be great for more people to give back by listening, being present and giving back.
Numerous people have mentioned that living this off-grid lifestyle is a dream they also share. I say that for most people, anything is possible if we dream big enough and you don’t need to buy an RV to do this. I have seen countless people living full time in vans and cars. Whether you are choosing this lifestyle or it has chosen you, I hope this vlog has helped you to live a life more comfortable and freer.
As I am still a newby at this I would love to hear your suggestions or ideas on how free camping works for you so drop us a comment below!