Free Camping Australia
Some thoughts on how to setup a motorhome for free camping
Written June 2008
Before beginning any discussion about setting up a motorhome for free camping, it is perhaps important to define what is meant by the term “Free Camping”.
What is Free Camping?
Quite simply, I use the term free camping to describe any type of camping that is with out cost (or perhaps incurring very minimal cost). This includes bush camping, staying at road side stops and extended camping at remote locations such as beaches, state forests and areas not necessarily set aside for camping.
This is of course as opposed to using paid camping areas and caravan parks.
Let me make it very clear that I have nothing against caravan parks and I mean no disrespect to those who elect to use them. We have simply chosen an alternative that better suits the way we wish to travel. Traveling Australia from caravan park to caravan park is just as valid.
We feel that there should be freedom of choice. You should not be forced into a caravan park any more than you should be forced to free camp.
The argument for caravan parks suggesting that you should use paid accommodation because it is there – is like prohibiting us from drinking tap water – just because the shops sell bottled drinking water!
Why free camp?
We made the decision to set our motorhome up for free camping for a number of reasons – the most obvious of these being the economics. As full time travelers, the prospect of having to find an additional $11,000 each year ($30 X 365) would mean that we would have to work many many more days than we do currently.
Some of the less obvious reasons for electing the free camping route include:
- The ability to visit and stay in places that few people are able to visit.
- It becomes possible to really get away from the crowds.
- Caravan parks are normally located in towns and cities – not good places for observing and photographing native wild life.
- Some parts of the country have large areas set aside for free camping – these can be very social areas with many travelers returning to the same location year after year often for months at a time (one such place that we spent a few weeks even had a friendly truck driver deliver fresh fruit and veg each week).
What are the basic things you need to free camp for just a few days at a time? Power – most of us like our creature comforts; TV, radio, microwave etc. These all need power. If you are going to camp away from a power point for more than a night or two, you are going to need to generate some power. Solar is the ideal solution – but generators are also popular and more economical for short stays. Water – You are going to need to carry water. This is very likely going to be your main limiting factor when determining how long you can stay “out bush” for. 50 – 100ltrs is enough for camping out for a day or two. Food – Well that’s obvious – ya gunna need to eat. Toilet – And with all that food, you are going to need a toilet. Gray water storage – Depending on the location, it may not be appropriate to simply drop your waste water. This is not normally an issue in most places, however we sometimes camp in the middle of towns or in the car park of a hotel for a night (if for example we want to eat out and have a bottle of wine with the meal). It is not nice to simply drop gray water in these circumstances.
A more advanced setup
As stated, we free camp almost 100% of the time. Our motorhome is setup to do just that, it has been adjusted and modified almost constantly over the last five years to make life on the road and free camping easier. With care, we can normally camp out for up to three weeks before we need to move the motorhome (normally to take on water).
Here is a description of what we think are the most important parts of our motorhome relating to extended free camping:
Power – we have 586 watts of solar supplying 220Ah of batteries at 24 volts. In
good conditions this supplies 100% of our power needs. We have a 24v electric fridge/freezer, we use an electric bread maker every second day and computers for several hours each day. We also have a Honda 2.0i generator for when the sun won’t shine.
To augment this, the motorhome is fitted with a huge 140amp 24v alternator that makes sure we always arrive with the batteries fully charged.
See the Article – Motorhome Electrics for more info
Water – we carry about 500ltrs of fresh water. However this is stored in two tanks that are completely separate. 300ltrs is for washing, showering, dishes, clothes washing etc. The other 200ltrs is in a polypropylene tank and is delivered to a spout over the sink by a pump operated by a foot switch. This is the drinking water. Why separate? Well if we happen to be camped by a river or a stream, it is really nice to be able to use that water without the fear of possibly contaminating the drinking water. We have a small portable lift pump that allows us to pump water from a water source directly into our main water tanks.
Toilet – We have a simple cassette toilet. This works well for us as its capacity allows us to empty it about one each week. As we have a second vehicle, we can take the cassette to be emptied without having to move the bus. We use eco-friendly chemicals that do not cause issues with pit or composting toilets.
Gray Water – our gray water tank holds 200ltrs and we can drain this using a long flexible hose if this is appropriate for the location.
Gas – We carry two 9kg gas cylinders. Each of these lasts us for between 5 and 8
weeks (largely depending on the weather – hotter conditions require less gas to heat water for showers and we tend to do a lot of our cooking outside.)
TV – Satellite TV is of course the only option if you plan to spend time more than a few km’s from a town. See Satellite TV for Motorhomes for more info.
Communications – For safety we carry a satellite phone. While this is expensive to buy and keep connected, the day you really need it is the day it will seem like the best thing you ever bought. If you are going to be traveling and staying in remote areas, it is a very wise investment. We also have a Telstra NextG phone, car kit and a very large external antenna. This is our main form of
communication and it used to double as our internet connection (we now use a satellite internet system). The external antenna makes a massive difference to the coverage – we have found very few places where we do not have at least some mobile phone signal.
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Thanks and happy Motorhoming and Caravanning - Gavin & Tracey.