Free camping is referred to by many terms including bush camping, off power camping, dry camping and boondocking.
It can be a great way to enjoy your caravan, rv or camper trailer or motorhome. Get away from it all, set up your camp chair, and just relax by a river and enjoy the serenity. You’ve got everything you need, plenty of drinking water, gas for cooking and perhaps a generator to top up those batteries if the weather turns bad. What would be better. There’s no fun in wanting to get away from it all and heading to a campground only to find yourself all plugged in, but listening to your neighbours TV all night. You could have just stayed home for that.
You need to remember however, that just because you are out of the city and away from civilization that there aren’t still rules to follow ! Away from civilization you have only yourself to rely on so steps need to be taken to make sure you keep yourself safe.
With the introduction of various free camp books available on the market today, camping away from the general bustle of crowded caravan parks has become extremely popular.
The first question you should ask yourself is – is it legal? The answer is yes or no, depending on where you decide to park your caravan/rv. If you park where it’s not okay, that’s called “trespassing” which is quite illegal.
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Be Familiar With The Area
Before you pull your awning out or even before you leave home it is best to do some research via the numerous camp books available. You can also find up-to-date listings and general free camp updates online. Check that the roads are suitable for your rig. The excitement of that free camp spot can easily turn sour if you find yourself on a rough road and perhaps having to turn around on a road that has suddenly become too narrow for your rig. A chat with the locals and a little research can prevent disappointment.
Plan to leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but your rubbish when you leave. A lot of these free camp areas have rubbish bins, but if they haven’t been emptied for a while an appear overflowing, don’t just add yours to the top creating even more of a risk for birds to come scattering or a gust of wind to blow it all over the campsite – take it with you ! A little thought and consideration makes it easier for the next person to use the campsite and the local authorities will certainly appreciate your efforts.
To be totally self sufficient when you free camp takes a little planning. Make sure you’ve got plenty of water, good gas supply and perhaps a generator should the need arise.
Power Needs (Solar, Inverter, Batteries, Generator)
Power issues when free camping can be very confusing for most people. Most of your lighting should run from your batteries drawing minimum power, however electrical items such as heaters, air conditioners, microwaves, toasters and electric jugs are best kept for powered sites.
Depending on the size and type of inverter you may have, the number and type of batteries and whether or not you have solar panels to replenish power, can allow some of these items to run for a VERY short period of time. The draw from some of the larger items such as heating / air conditioners on the battery will kill even the largest bank of batteries.
Do your homework and know the power usage of all your appliances you intend to use via the inverter. The labels on each of the appliances will be useful in telling you what draw they use. There are also many sites available online for this research by using the Google Search button at the bottom of this page. Remember, whatever power you use from your stored battery supply will need to be replaced.
Never discharge the batteries below 50% or 12.2 volts as this may damage or shorten the life of the batteries. Your choice of batteries is important if you intend free camping on a regular basis, as deep cycle batteries can be discharged many more times than regular starting batteries.
Consider Your Neighbors
We all like to get away from it all, but if you find yourself sharing a peaceful free camp spot with a small group of people – please, be considerate. They are also out to enjoy the peace and quiet a good bush camp spot provides. Keep radios and TV noise to an absolute minimum. A great idea would be to switch them off early in the evening and sit outside and take in your surroundings. Enjoy the peace and quiet, look up once in a while and enjoy the clear skies and the numerous stars.
If you need to run your generator, place it as far away from your neighbours as possible. Remember – it’s your generator and if the noise needs to be heard by anyone at all, it should be you – not your neighbour. Take a walk towards your neighbour to see if the generator engine can be heard by them. If it is audible to them inform them how long you intend to run it for and ask if they mind. A little courtesy can ensure you all enjoy your bush camping spot.