Cindy’s Perspective on Free Camping

It’s one tight space! One person has to lean against the side of the van if the other wants to pass by. “Excuse me,” was said quite often. It’s amazing we weren’t in each other’s face more often, more like, “Get the !!#^” out of my way!” Everything is quite compact. When you’re facing one way cooking over the two-burner stove, your back almost touches the tiny wardrobe that two people are allotted for their possessions. Everything has its place (slots for plates, bowls, cups) and you have to put things back where they belong (1) because there is no room to put it anywhere else, and (2) it’s the only safe place to put it without it falling and breaking while driving. There’s a table for two that needs to be converted to a bed every night before you can retire. The first night we couldn’t figure out how the bed was supposed to go, so my feet hung off the end. I knew something wasn’t right. If my feet hang off the side at 5′, what would an average sized person do? We got the bed configuration correct, but it took a few more days to realize the cushions should be placed in a certain order so you didn’t wake up with a sore back every day, though we couldn’t prevent Bill from waking up with a sore neck that lasted for a few days. And that’s just about the size of the camper!

We rented the large van so Bill can stand up

We rented the large van so Bill can stand up

Now for the beauty of freedom camping. We were told that as long as you’re self-contained, you can pull over anywhere if you’re tired, and camp for the night. Self-contained means a toilet on board, but since Bill didn’t want to use it, it made our options limited. But in many places you see signs posted saying “No Overnight Camping”. Tourist Information Centers also discourage freedom camping. They issue brochures on where to camp, but they all say the same thing. “Don’t assume it’s OK to camp anywhere. You must be over 200 meters off the road. Not on private land. Not near the center of town.” They also state that they prefer you sleeping in Holiday Park campgrounds which is like camping in a parking lot. Your neighbor is no more than five feet away. No privacy at all! The Holiday Park campgrounds cost around $50 per night and you get a hot shower, you can dump your waste and fill your water tank. The government sites, while inexpensive, offer no hot water showers, no waste dump and no fresh water to refill your storage tank. Some don’t even have flush toilets. This is not what I signed up for. So we spent a lot of money for the camper van thinking we would enjoy the experience as well as save some money. We were wrong on both counts.

Holiday Park accommodations. You get to know your neighbor quite well

Holiday Park accommodations. You get to know your neighbor quite well

Finding a free site that we both like isn’t easy. Bill prefers a deserted spot while I prefer to have at least one other camper around. I want to find out if it’s OK to camp in a particular place and Bill is content to set up camp anywhere and assume it’s OK as long as there’s no sign indicating otherwise.

You always have to worry about your water usage. We have a 10 liter water tank, and if you fill a few water bottles for a day hike, that doesn’t leave much for anything else. Water is a precious commodity that I’m learning to conserve even more than before.

Looks isolated now, but in the morning there were about 10 other vans

Looks isolated now, but in the morning there were about 10 other vans

With all this being said, as I’m sitting here writing this, we are freedom camping at this gorgeous place overlooking an inlet with small birds feeding at low tide and lush green mountains rising over the other side.

View from freedom camping site

View from freedom camping site

I could stay here another night or two, but, alas, we need to get moving. We have 5 more nights (and 7 hours, 13 minutes and counting) in this van and we have lots to see and do before we return it.

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3 thoughts on “Cindy’s Perspective on Free Camping

  1. Hi Cindy and Bill,
    Now more than ever we’re interested in your blog; we arrive in NZ in a couple weeks, then pick up our campervan in CHC for 2 weeks on SI, then fly to AUK and pick up a regular car and do B&Bs.
    We are also interested in wild camping. ( ours is slightly bigger )
    Our campervan is definitely self contained too. I assume we will have the requisite stickers.
    So what I want to know is: if the sign says ‘ no overnight camping’, does that Not mean us, or does it?
    I had heard that the sign applies to ‘non-self contained’. How do you see it?

  2. Well camping in tight quarters is still better than commuting to work in tight quarters. I would invoke some Brooklyn experience in the camping issues and either find some kind of inflatable campervans and blow them up every night so other campers would think the lot was full and go somewhere else. Or just cover up or rip out the “No camping” sign. That always worked when parking in NYC LOL. Sounds like a lot of fun even with the limited space. Happy motoring

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