by Collyn Rivers
Free Camp Safely
RV users free camp (known as boondocking in the USA) safely in Australia to avoid often crowded caravans, some 500 km apart. Many self-contained RVs need only a safe space overnight. This article shows how to free camp safely in Australia.
The author’s Nissan Patrol and TVan in camp in Australia’s far north Kimberley. The closest town is over 650 km (400 miles) away. Pic: copyright: rvbooks.com.au
Free camp safely in Australia – the golden rules
Whilst more of a nuisance than a risk, bored drunks in cars may hassle those free camping alone. Avoid this by never free camping closer than 40 -50 km of any town (particularly on Friday nights or weekends). Physical attacks are fortunately rare. It travelling alone, however, it is safer to use an RV offering internal access to the driving cab. Always park such that you directly facing the exit. Pack up everything before going to bed. This enables you to drive straight out if subsequently necessary. Lock all external doors. Always leave the ignition key in the same accessible place.
Where feasible camp out of sight of passing vehicles. On many outback roads, there are areas where road builders have huge soil mounds. It is often possible to camp totally unseen from the road. In any such site, it’s best not to light a fire. Doing so lights up the top of nearby trees, thereby drawing attention to your presence.
Always set off early in the morning. To free camp safely in Australia, start to look for an overnight camp long before sun-down. It is close to impossible to spot safe campsites after dark. Try to find alternatives, e.g, a caravan or known rest area, even away from your intended route. See below re this.
Official rest areas
Most major routes have official free sites for overnight camping. Many have barbecue facilities and usually a toilet. Most rest areas limit stays to overnight (some allow up to three days).
Rest area at Granite Creek (Queensland). Pic: Explore Australia.
Australia’s many national parks and huge state forests allow overnight camping. Most have an overnight charge. Several free-camping guides list thousands of possible free campsites.
Mobile phone coverage is good along most of Australia’s east coast. It is also good within a 20-50 km(12.5 – 31 miles) radius of most small towns. It exists along most major highways but there are still gaps. Apart from close to Aboriginal communities, mobile phone coverage is all but non-existent inland.
The only 100% reliable outback communication is via a satellite phone. These work anywhere but need unobstructed line-of-sight to a communications satellite. The units are costly but can be rented. Do not use them as chat phones as call costs are high. They are, however, a potential life-saver. For free camping safely in Australia, they are essential in the more remote areas.
Author’s Australian-built OKA crossing the crocodile-infested Wenlock in far north Queensland. The dome on the roof is the antenna of an early (1993) Westinghouse satellite phone. Pic: Copyright rvbooks.com.au
Water is scarce in much of Australia outside the major towns. Most rest areas have bore water but it’s essential to carry your own. Have at least two litres person a day for drinking (ideally three litres in hot, dry areas). Excellent water is available however in strong 12-15 litre containers. It is stocked by almost all supermarkets, outback stores and fuel stations.
Not getting lost
There is a real risk of becoming lost if straying away from a remote campsite. Be ultra-careful. To anyone but an Aboriginal person, much of the Australian bush will seem identical. Take this seriously (particularly with children). Bush may be so dense it may consequently take rescue authorities time to locate you. If planning to bushwalk, consider buying or renting a Personal Locator Beacon. Or an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon – see http://www.epirb.com
Overseas visitors should be totally aware that Australia has no ‘gun culture’. Carrying any form of an offensive weapon is a truly serious offence. Carrying one that is concealed is even more so. Do so and you may end up in prison.
How to free camp safely in Australia is specifically covered in my Caravan & Motorhome Book. This book is potentially a lifesaver for overseas visitors. Few realise just how isolated many areas are. The Kimberley alone (top of Western Australia) is the size of France.
See also the Camper Trailer Book, Caravan & Motorhome Electrics. Solar That Really Works is for cabins and RVs. Solar Success for homes and property systems. For information about the author Click on Bio.