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The ultimate guide to free camping

There’s no doubt we live in one of the best countries in the world for camping, and if you have the right setup there’s no reason you can’t camp anywhere you want to setup for the night (providing you are allowed!). That means remote beaches, crystal clear hot springs and ancient red rock gorges, or somewhere else of your choice that’s truly incredible.

Caravan parks are fantastic if you don’t have all the gear (and even if you do!) but with a few bits and pieces you can leave civilization all together, and still enjoy significant comfort. Today, more than ever you are spoilt for choice when it comes to gear to make your camping and 4WDing easier, and you can literally stay off grid for months with the right setup.

It is actually possible to have pretty much all the luxuries you have at home when you go camping, as long as the budget stretches far enough. This includes everything from a toaster to a microwave, air conditioner and hot water on demand. Of course, this is not the type of free camping that a huge majority of the population does, but it is achievable with the right budget.

Cosy Corner Albany

There’s some amazing free camps in Australia, like this one at Cosy Corner

What do you need for free camping?

Free camping, or freedom camping, or low cost camping generally means you have little or no amenities at your disposal. This means you need to be able to eat, sleep, drink and go to the toilet in relative comfort, and today its easier than ever.

Water to drink and wash with

Water is the one thing in life you wont live for very long without, and having access to a good amount of clean water suitable for drinking, bathing and washing your clothes and dishes is imperative. Carrying water today has never been easier; there are a range of tanks on the market to fit in every place possible, along with bladders, jerry cans and plenty of pumps to go with it.

The amount of water that you carry should be directly related to how warm it is, how many people you are going with and whether you have access to relatively clean water for bathing, washing clothes and yourself. If you are camping near a nice creek or river you can substitute the use of this instead of using your drinking water for the less important tasks, like a bath each day.

Don’t risk running out of water. Always have a plan B, and take enough to suit what you are doing. The amount of water that you carry is largely dependent on how heavy your setup is, and how heavy its allowed to be.

Our Reconn R2 and Dmax have a combined water capacity of 320L, and that’s without throwing any jerry cans in, which we could easily do. This is generally enough for a family of 4 to live off grid for two weeks, providing we are careful with the water, and we have short showers every couple of days.

You do not need anywhere near this amount of water for a lot of camping in Australia.

Quickpitch Shower

Sarah having a shower in our Quickpitch Shower Tent

Food to eat

No mater where you stay, you need food to eat. Today, when free camping your food choices are hugely increased, thanks to quality fridges and freezers, vacuum sealed food, and a huge variety of food that keeps for a very, very long time.

We love to catch food from the ocean; its fresh, tasty, and super healthy and you can generally keep the circle of free camping going for much longer this way. We take a mixture of long lasting food and fresh food, and plan meals around this.

If you are looking for a number of different camping meals to enjoy, you can find them all here – Camp Cooking.

Camping kebabs

Camping food always tastes better

Power to run appliances

12V power has come in leaps and bounds over the last two decades. It is now entirely possible to run an air conditioner in a caravan off batteries alone, and that means you don’t necessarily need a generator. 

For a huge number of people though, power is only used to run a fridge or two, lights, water pumps, charging phones and laptops, and perhaps an inverter to do the odds and ends that you’d normally run at home.

If you want to do it in comfort and style though, go down the path of a good quality lithium battery setup, with an inverter and you can easily run your induction cook tops, microwaves, coffee machines and plenty more. 

The key is to match your power requirements to the battery/solar/generator system that you install. Get it right, and you’ll be happy as even when its cloudy. Get it wrong, and you’ll be running your vehicle to top the batteries up, and it won’t be much fun at all.

It is important to note that you don’t need power. Some people are happy with solar lights and the basics without a 12V system, and that’s just fine too.

Inverter review

A small inverter for charging our electronics

Toilet system to do your business

Whilst there’s nothing wrong with digging a hole in a suitable place and doing your business, a lot of locations in Australia are putting an end to this. Where the area’s are extremely popular, its just not sustainable to do this as you end up with land mines everywhere.

The most common option is a portable toilet, which you can get for about $100. These are emptied at dump points, along with the usual caravan toilets. Of course, you can use the public toilets around the place and get away without carrying a portable toilet, but it does make life much easier.

Portable toilet

We travel with a Thetford Portable Toilet

Grey water collection as required

Another camping prerequisite that is taking off at a rapid rate is grey water collection. A huge number of places stipulate you must take your grey water out with you, which can be problematic. Essentially, any water that you use to wash dishes or yourself with needs to be contained in a grey water tank, and emptied away from the camp ground.

Grey water released carefully onto the ground (where allowed) is perfectly fine. The real issue though is that grey water turns into black water after storing it for a long time. Grey water tanks can stink after a while, and the fluid inside can be quite dodgy after 48 hours of storage. If you store grey water, you need to dispose of it carefully.

Showering in the bush

Some places require you to collect your grey water

A legal place to stay

Freedom camping can often refer to not paying, and unfortunately there are plenty of people who like to buck the system, and stay where they really shouldn’t. 

Do the right thing, and make sure where your staying for the night is legal, and that you leave no trace. If you are supposed to pay, or there’s a donation box, chuck some money in, or the sites will end up closing and you’ll have no where to enjoy.

Wikicamps is the ultimate camping app to help you find amazing camp sites, and should be purchased by everyone. You can actually filter camp sites in Australia by cost, and select Free Camping only which is super useful.

If you see signs that say no camping, they mean exactly that, and there’s no flexibility here. Another great place to find free camping in Australia is Facebook, on the specific free camping in WA (insert other states here) groups.

Sunset at a free camp

Make sure that your ‘free camp’ is also a legal place to stay!

Rubbish bags

What you take in, you should take out. Burn any food scraps, paper and cardboard where allowed, but all other rubbish needs to go with you when you leave and be disposed of correctly.

Bin Bag on the Reconn

Take your rubbish out and dispose of it correctly

Adequate shelter and gear

There’s lots of ways to camp. Some people live out of a swag, and others prefer a caravan or camper trailer. The only thing that matters is that it works for you. That means the gear must match where you are, and the weather you are staying in. Trying to sleep in a hammock bed when its snowing is probably not going to end well.

Oztent stretcher

You can camp out of lots of different setups

Laundry on the road

In terms of washing your clothes on the road, there are plenty of options. Some people just hand wash, and others just stay in a caravan park for a day every few weeks to get it all done. Alternatively, there are still laundromats in many of the towns that you drive through.

We do a combination of all 3, and find that it works just fine.

Drying clothes when camping

Drying clothes when camping

You have to be comfortable

Camping and comfort are not things that need to be separate. You should be comfortable when camping, and its not too hard to arrange. With the right gear, attitude and planning your camping trips should be comfortable, relaxing and enjoyable.

That’s not to say that it will always be this way, as things go wrong, but for the most part you should be comfortable and enjoying yourself, even when you are miles away from the nearest caravan park.

Reconn R2 diesel heater

You can literally take a diesel heater and be toasty warm each night

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